The PSB M4U TW1 is a pair of true wireless earphones recently launched in CES 2018. It arrived Singapore early this month February, distributed and available exclusively at Lenbrook Asia showroom (Shaw Tower) or online, retailing at S$199.
In Singapore, PSB is known as Productivity and Standards Board. So when I was introduced to PSB Speakers, it just sounded like a Singapore-run organisation. But a quick read over Internet got me acquainted with PSB Speakers. Founded 1972 by Paul Barton from Canada, he is a veteran engineer who started his business with designing loudspeakers. PSB Speakers made a name by manufacturing high performance high value speakers at affordable prices. And like many established audiophile brands, PSB started venturing into consumer segment and created personal audio products for the masses. PSB Speakers are exclusively managed and distributed by Lenbook Group of Companies worldwide.
Paul Barton, founder and chief designer, spent years conducting research to determine listening preferences. He recently analysed that music in the past were mixed for home speakers, and so with headphones, the sound balance and staging should be compensated to create that same room effect.
The M4U TW1 earbuds are designed as earhooks coated with smooth powdery silicone texture with a slight tendency to attract dust. This design might not look pretty for the wearer but it provides absolute comfort as it alleviates pressure from the ear canals. During use, I can also loosen the eartips without removing the earbuds, unlike other true-wireless earbuds.
The power buttons are located next to the earbud nozzle which was hard to reach when the earbuds are already worn around the ears. The LED display is also near the power button and are so tiny that it would be hard to miss under broad daylight. That might be an issue because if I hold the button for too long, it would go into pairing mode.
The TW1 offers the flexibility of defining which earbud is the master by pairing the earbud directly to the audio device. During my initial trial-and-error, the two earbuds somehow lost the link between each other, resulting in both earbuds not playing audio in sync. I then found the instructions on the online manual to re-establish the link between the two.
- Forget pairing to any device.
- Turn on pairing mode for both earbuds. Both earbuds LED will flash red and blue quickly.
- On the left earbud, press and hold 3 seconds. LED flashes red and blue slowly, this is the wireless link pairing mode.
- Once auto pairing is successful, the left earbud LED will flash red and blue quickly.
- Turn off the left earbud by pressing the power button for more than 5 seconds. Both earbuds will be turned off at the same time.
- Turn back on the left earbud to proceed with the usual pairing with the device.
Once I re-link the earbuds, they remained locked to each other even when I paired the earbuds to another smartphone. When the primary earbud is turned off, the secondary earbud will also auto-power off. The timing of pressing the power button is imperative: hold for 3 seconds to turn on. Hold for 5 seconds to turn on Bluetooth pairing – even during power on. To power off, hold for longer than 5 seconds. Watch for the LED indicator to determine if you have done it correctly. Due to the position of the power button, it is hard to keep the earbuds to your ears to listen to the in-ear voice prompts.
The “psb” logo plate is actually the touch-sensitive panel that operate the earphones. Tap twice to pause, tap and hold the right earbud to skip forward, and tap and hold the left earbud will return to previous track. PSB is smart not to design for one-touch action, since that would result in lots of accidental triggers. There is no volume control from the earbuds.
There is another operational glitch I found during my review on Android devices. Sometimes the earbuds would play in dual mono channels, or the left-right channels would go out-of-sync. The problem can be resolved by turning off and turning back on the Bluetooth radio from the audio device. I do not encounter this issue with the iPhone X test unit.
The M4U TW1 produces transparent, sizzling and forward treble, with substantial sub-bass that extends upwards to the mid bass. The mids are controlled with details but not too bloomy, and the sound staging is wide and close. On Android devices like the LG V30+ and Moto Z2 Force smartphones which I tested the TW1 with, the higher frequencies exhibit static distortion akin to low bitrate. Because of that, the tweeter frequencies tend to sound a little fuzzy and rough. However, on the Apple iPhone X, there is no such audio quality issues, much to my delight.
Like other true-wireless earbuds, the TW1 suffers from occasional audio disruptions between the 2 earbuds in crowded places like shopping mall where there are full of radio wave interference. Throughout my review experience, none of the true-wireless earbuds can truly achieve zero disruptions, but some are less than others.
If you are getting the earbuds for workouts, then the distortion should not affect the enjoyment since you would be immersed in the exercise, as is the case for other wireless earphones.
The TW1 has a rated battery life of 5 hours. The is no charging case for the TW1, so charging is done by plugging the Y-split micro-USB charging cable into the earbuds, where the charging ports are exposed. Clearly, while the earbuds earn an IPX5 rating, electrical ports without cover could prove to be a demise in the long run.
During charging, the LED shows solid red, and after charge is completed, it turns blue. Charging takes about 2 hours. The only way to find out the remaining battery life is either via the Bluetooth battery icon on selected compatible phones or to wait for the voice prompt, but only when 15 minutes battery remain. The voice prompt will go on until the battery runs out.
I really enjoy wearing the TW1: they stay on my ears comfortably without any ear canal pressure, and not as large as the other earhook TWE, A&D JAAP. While earhook earphones are larger, they are more secure and allows me to ease the eartips to hear ambient sound or hold a conversation without removing them entirely from my ears. The audio balance is a delight for the mass consumer who desires clarity and fullness on the bass. While Android devices appear to exhibit wireless audio distortion issues, there is no such problem on iPhones. For that, I highly recommend them to iPhone owners. Retails at S$199 from exclusive distributor, Lenbrook Asia.