Here at Sound+Vision, we've long respected Paul Barton's engineering and design prowess; his years of experience working at Canada's National Research Council are evident in the solid design behind PSB's products, which have consistently earned our Certified & Recommended seal.
So when Barton showed us some early prototypes of PSB's first venture into the headphone category in the fall of 2011, we knew we'd have to put aside our reservations about speaker manufacturers jumping onto the personal audio bandwagon. It was clear he had put aside all speaker-design preconceptions and immersed himself in headphone theory. Even at the prototype stage, it was clear his first headphone would be a product to be reckoned with.
Lo and behold, the finished M4U 2 ($399) more than met our expectations. They're comfortable, stylish, and about as close to a flawless integration of aesthetic and sonic features as we've run into in a headphone recently. Beyond the downright great sound, not only did Barton manage to fit in an onboard amplifier and a highly effective noise canceling circuit, but the 'phones perform fantastically in passive mode too. In fact, he managed to maintain remarkably consistent sonics in active, passive, and noise canceling modes — no mean feat, in our opinion. Noise canceling has traditionally come at the expense of great sound; the M4U 2 gives you the best of both worlds, and plenty more.
2012 might be remembered as the year of the headphone glut, with dozens of outstanding models coming on the market alongside countless pretenders and also-rans. But even in such a packed field, the M4U 2 stood out. As Brent Butterworth put it, the M4U2 not only "sounds like a really great speaker, it sounds like a great speaker in a great listening room" — and we liked it enough to name it 2012's Product of the Year.
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