Thursday, October 22, 2020

Moving on from Google Play Music

I was a happy customer of Google Play Music. However, as you may have heard, Google has decided to shut it down. Googles reasoning is unknown, but if you have been a user of any of their platforms you would know that Google has a culture of killing and replacing their services instead of improving them. The notable exceptions being Gmail and Calendar. Googles replacement for GPM is YouTube music. This has several notable issues. Though the two services do not have feature parity, I don't actually consider that the biggest. The biggest is that if you are an actual user of YouTube, using it as a music service completely screws up your ability to effectively use YouTube for video. Once you migrate your GPM music and playlists to YouTube, you have now merged all your recommendations. If I'm browsing YouTube on my TV, I don't want recommendations for music.  Maybe Google will solve this with time, but for now it's a complete mess. Something that is preventing me from even trying it as I don't want it screwing up what I have. The above knowledge is from countless reviews that have listed this as a big negative.

So I'm forced to seriously look at other services. The ones I've chosen to compare are Spotify and Tidal. Spotify, because it has great integration into the platforms I'm already invested in. Tidal, because it's the only service that provides high quality audio, which I have the hardware to take advantage of. I also included Amazon Prime Music simply because I had it for free with my Amazon Prime account.

After having tried these other services, I've put together a list of features, how important they are to me and weather that service fulfills that feature.




  Google Play Music YouTube Music Spotify Tidal Amazon Music
Sound Quality ๐ŸŸก ๐ŸŸก ๐ŸŸก ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸก
Catalog Depth ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸก ๐Ÿ”ด
Digital locker ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸก ๐Ÿ”ด ๐Ÿ”ด ๐Ÿ”ด
Music Discovery ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸก ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸก ๐ŸŸก
Google Home Integration ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸก ๐ŸŸก
Android Auto Implementation ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸก ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸก N/A
Ease of use / UX ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸก ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸข
Price ๐ŸŸก ๐ŸŸก ๐ŸŸข ๐Ÿ”ด ๐ŸŸข
Music Categorization & Sorting ๐ŸŸก ๐Ÿ”ด ๐ŸŸข ๐ŸŸก ๐ŸŸก
Device Follow ๐Ÿ”ด ๐Ÿ”ด ๐ŸŸก ๐Ÿ”ด ๐Ÿ”ด

Sound Quality

Before I talk about sound quality, I want to talk about my music listening use cases. There are three primary setups in order of importance: 

  1. At my desk using an External DAC and high end headphones.
  2. Walking around using my phone and either wired or Bluetooth headphones.
  3. In the car using Android Auto. 

Sound quality is really only an issue at the desk setup. You can't really tell outside or in the car unless you have an exceptional setup and quite environment.

That being said, when at my desk the sound quality of Tidal is noticeably better then the rest. The stereo separation is noticeably better. You don't get any of that compression warble (technical term :) from compression of complex tonal arrangements. You'll often times hear the term sound stage used to describe audio quality. This is noticeably better using Tidal, where you can place the musicians in a room/hall/studio as if they were live.

Catalog Depth

Google, Spotify and Amazon Music Premium have a good amount of music. Tidal has a more limited selection. I'm assuming this is due to them re-encoding everything themselves at a higher quality. And of course Amazon Prime music (non-premium) the smallest. I used Soundiiz to transfer my library to the different services from GPM. With Spotify I was missing a few hundred out of approx. 8000 tracks. With Tidal I was missing approximately 2000. With Amazon Prime (non-premium) I was missing about half. Keep in mind that my music catalog is a lot of self ripped MP3s uploaded to the Google digital locker. So there are a lot of obscure electronic and alternative rock albums from the 90s and early 2000s in there.

Digital locker

Not much to say about this. Only GPM and YouTube music have it. And the implementation of the one in YouTube Music is less than ideal. It keeps your personal catalog completely separate. Of note is that Spotify, if you're on Windows, will play your music from OneDrive. Sadly, this feature is not available on mobile which would be the killer app here.

Music Discovery

This is a draw between GPM and Spotify. GPM has the superior algorithm for it's radio stations and artist playlists. Spotify has the far greater social reach with curated user playlists. YouTube music lost a lot of the features of GPM. Most notably the auto playlists are garbage. Possibly the worst of the review group. Which is impressive as GPM was the best. However YouTube Music has gained the playlists of YouTube users. This can be hit or miss though as there is a lot of trash on YouTube. A service like Tidal is good if you like Hip Hop as that is their main focus.

One thing that all these service miss with the exception of Spotify, and is a big one for me the ability to search by label. This is something I sorely miss from being a customer of emusic.com for many years. Searching by label for the type of musis I listen to was single handedly the best way to find new and interesting msuic for me. This was mostly because I listen to a lot of electronic music from small independent labels. The only service that has this in any capacity is Spotify. There is no UI for it, but spotify supports advanced search syntax, which includes searching by label. Not ideal to type that out, especially when on mobile, but generally I do music discovery on the desktop, so this works fine.

Google Home Integration

Googles own services of course have Google Home Integration. The only other service that has it is Spotify. The rest only work as Google cast devices. Meaning you can cast your music to your speakers from them, but they are not integrated players. This is frustrating and as someone who uses Google Home, a deal breaker for me. Being able to just say "Hey Google, play some Tragically Hip" and have it work well is great. In contrast to "Hey Google, play Tragically Hip on Tidal" and hope it gets it right (which it sometimes doesn't).

Android Auto Implementation

Now you'd think Google's own services would work spotlessly here too, but you'd be wrong. Only Google Play Music works spotlessly here, all the other services have issues. Annoying issues like forgetting what you were listening too. Normally, when you get into the car, Android Auto just starts playing whatever you were listening to on your phone. However, all the other apps "forget". That and the UI for GPM was fine tuned for the car and worked well. The other services I found clunky in the Android Auto interface. The worst app however had to be Tidal. It seemed exceptionally laggy and would constantly forget what I was listening to if I shut off the car for gas for instance. This was also a deal breaker for me as I use Android Auto for long trips.

Ease of use / UX

I'm not a UX expert, but do implementing UIs for a living. That being said, it's hard to separate myself from what I'm used to vs. what is subjectively better. I personally feel GPM and Tidal had the best UIs. Spotify is ok, but have some quirks, especially when it comes to playlist management. For instance, on Android it's not easy to remove the current track from the playlist you're listening to. In general, playlist management seems to be less than ideal on Spotify, which is surprising considering how playlists are such a key feature of the platform. The worst, hands down is YouTube music. The confusing UI, mashup of Video and Audio and the complete separation of your digital locker music make this an un-intuitive mess. But the most unforgivable YouTube Music issue is how slow and laggy the browsing of music is. In GPM, the scrolling through your playlists was fast and seamless. This was not an issue on any of the other services.

YouTube music has a lost of bugs and UI issues, missing features. So much so that I'm not going to duplicate the great effort made by a reddit user on the subject, just go check it out.

I also have to bring up the issue from above where the apps forget what you were listening to. There are two stages to this: on some apps, like Tidal, the app completely forgets what you were listening to. For Spotify and Tidal, only the widget forgets what you were listening to. So once you click through and open the App, Spotify would remember, but Tidal would not. This is incredibly frustrating and I really miss how this always worked in GPM. I did not test this functionality on YouTube Music.

Price

Amazon Prime Music is "free" with a limited catalog if you have Amazon Prime. This is a tempting proposition for those who already have it. However, it's a lack luster experience otherwise. The app is fine, but lacks Google Home integration and it's music discovery is average at best. Otherwise, Amazon Prime Music Premium costs about as much as the others at $8 CAD. Tidal has quality tiers. So at it's normal quality, it costs as much as the rest at $10 CAD, but at it's premium quality tier, it's twice the price of the others at $20 CAD. Honestly, if you're not going to Tidal for their premium quality tier, don't bother.  Spotify has one advantage in that they have a "duo" plan which is like a family plan for only two people. This was great for us and is less expensive than family plans. Lastly, if you stick with YouTube Music, it only costs a few more dollars (or is outright included in some countries) to get YouTube Premium, which is a feature I can't live without. 

Music Categorization & Sorting

The only reason I added this category is because of how badly Google screwed up with YouTube Music. Especially when it comes to sorting and categorizing your own uploads. Now of course, this is not a problem with other services as they simply lack that feature entirely. As in the ease of use section, I defer to the long list of tracked features on this reddit post. There is just too many issues to go over.

Device Follow

Now this is a category I didn't initially have in the list, but added it because it's a feature that only exists in Spotify. All the other services don't track you over all your devices. So in GPM, whatever song I was playing last on my Phone, is what I'll return to when I pick up my phone, even after listening to something else on my desktop or Google Home speaker. Spotify remembers, and will track your track, playlist and position. So you're listening to Ahead by a Century on your Desktop and are half way through it. Stop, get into your car, plug in your phone and you continue right where you left off. Now, that's the theory anyways. It works about 50% of the time. Still, if Spotify works on improving the reliability of this feature, it's rather nice.

Conclusion

I can't tell you which service to go with. What you choose is dependant on how you weigh the features of these different services. If ultimate sound quality is the most important, or Android Auto support etc. you will choose the right service for those features.

For me, it was a mix of convenience, and platform support. I wanted a service that continued to work just as well on Android Auto and Google Home as GPM did. That service was Spotify. I miss some aspects of GPM, like the digital locker and the superior playlist algorythms, but overall I'm happy with Spotify. However, if Tidal gains Google Home integration and fixes a few of their minor app bugs, I will most likely switch to it. Having higher quality music is noticeable and something I appreciate. As it is Tidal is not there yet so Spotify will do. Thankfully, services like Soundiiz make switching easy now.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Response to bikelanes.ca

Someone who hates bike lanes registered bikelanes.ca and posted a bunch of nonsense about cycling in Ottawa.

Here is my response to their main points:

"Cyclists must be licensed"

Why? Every study by every city that has looked at this in North America shows that it would be a giant waste of time. Here is the city of Toronto's take on it. Most importantly, unlike cars, it's rather hard to cause damage or injury/death with a bicycle. You could argue that we should charge as much as required to cover the cost, but considering that would be in the realm of $100-200 which is about the average value of bikes on the road, that would be ridiculous and unreasonably punitive. That, and many cyclists already have drivers licenses. So it's kind of a moot point.

"Cyclists must have insurance"

Most people are already insured for cycling. Bodily injury is covered by your provincial health coverage and the property is covered by your home/property insurance. The Insurance board has already stated that it's not worth their time to pursue liability insurance because of how little there is.

"Cyclists must have a licence plate"

Car drivers don't have license plates. Cars do. So what you're actually asking for is registration for bicycles. This is the same argument as the licensing issue above.

"Cyclists must not be allowed to ride on sidewalks, pedestrian overpasses, or the Sparks Street mall. to name a few"

Cyclists are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk. Multi use paths are fair game though. There are exclusively pedestrian overpasses which are signed as such and then yes, cyclists should not ride but walk their bikes.

"Cyclists must not be allowed to break numerous laws, including running red lights, running stop signs, excessive speed on shared pathways; and riding the wrong way on one-way streets, to name a few"

Let me know as soon as you've figured out how to prevent car drivers from doing the same and then we'll talk.

"Cyclists must be required to have all necessary safety equipment"

You didn't list what you think is necessary safety equipment. I don't know how this differs from the safety equipment a cyclists is required to have by the MTO.

"Cyclists must be treated the same as car users in all forms of enforcement."

I wish they were. Instead, cyclists are generally treated far worse by law enforcement. Car drivers are treated much more leniently.

"If you applied all these requirements to cyclists, I can guarantee you that there would not be such growth with cycling in this city."

So if you're goal, is simply to stem the growth of cycling, then sure, go do all these things. But that is an incredibly callous thing to do just because you don't like the chosen form of transport.

"However, as a mode of transportation, it is barely adequate at best. If done according to the law, it is not an efficient way to travel."

That is simply not true. Many people, like myself, routinely drop off their kids and school, go to work, do groceries and other shopping all by bike. It's not only far cheaper than driving, but far healthier as well.





Tuesday, November 13, 2018

What you need for Winter Riding

I ride year round. Every day, whether it's raining or snowing I'm out there. When the weather gets really bad, you need to dress correctly for the conditions. You also need to make sure your bike is ready.


Getting your bike ready for winter

I'm not a fan of the winter beater bike concept. I like riding a good well maintained bike all year. So instead I just make sure my bike is up to the task of winter. Either grease and oil the bike for the oncoming salt storm or get a bike shop to do it.

What you should service/grease/oil before winter (and after)
  1. pedals
  2. derailleurs
  3. hubs
  4. bottom bracket
  5. chain

Tires

The next big thing is tires.. Chances are your regular tires are not up to the task unless you are riding a mountain bike, and even then, I recommend winter specific tires. I personally use the Continental Top Contact Winter tire. There is now a version II sold by MEC.


This is a winter compound tire without spikes. For most people this is sufficient for winter riding in the city. If you really want to be safe, you can get the Schwalbe Winter tire from MEC. You will gain the piece of mind of protection against slips on ice, but at a cost of lower rolling resistance and weight. 

If you plan to only ride during clear snow free days, you can get away without using winter specific tires. The city does a good job of clearing and salting the roads.

Fenders

Cascadia II Hybrid Fenders Black
This is probably one of the most important parts on this list. Nobody wants to be covered in road sludge. MEC carries an excellent line of inexpensive yet durable fenders from Planet Bike. I personally use the Cascadia Hybrid Fenders

Lights

https://www.sweetpetes.com//images/library/zoom/lezyne-hecto-drive-400xl-femto-pair-307216-1.jpg

You need to be as visible as possible in the winter conditions. It's dark out there, and if it's snowing, visibility is poor. The crappy blinking lights you probably have are useless in these conditions. You need a set of high quality bright lights on solid (not blinking) mode. I'm personally a fan of the Lezyne lights. I find them great build quality, good battery tech and bright. I have something similar to the Hecto Drive Pair.

Your Head

As you can see from the picture above, when it gets really cold, I leave no skin exposed. I need glasses to see, so goggles with prescription lenses are a must. If you don't need glasses, then I actually recommend just using a balaclava and leaving your eyes uncovered to prevent fogging up. I also use a Bern "Snowbording" helmet instead of a bike helmet. They are the same as their bicycle helmets except for the liner and the clip for the goggle strap. You don't need to go that far unless like me, you need glasses and don't want to wear contacts (and maybe already ski and have goggles already). 

Some recommended products for cold/wet/winter weather:

  1. MEC Helmet Cover
  2. Ice Breaker Marino Wool Beanie for under your helmet
  3. Ice Breaker Chute
  4. A balaclava that has good ventilation but full coverage
  5. The new version of the balaclava I use, which has a flip back feature so can be used just as a neck warmer easily. 


Your Body

There are several problems you're trying to solve when cycling in cold and wet weather.
  1. Water/Wind proof
  2. Breathable 
  3. Reflective/visible
Unfortunately, an article of clothing that has all of the above costs money. Compromising on the first two points means you'll be miserable. Compromising on the last means you could not make it to your destination as riding in the winter means poor visibility for all.

You can get insulated winter tights, and for longer commutes of greater than 10kms, that's what you might want to get. But my commute is short enough that I like having shells over my regular pants.

You'll also want a warm layer. You probably have something already, but any Marino Wool base layer is great for this application. Ice Breaker has a line of high quality stuff, but MEC has it's own less expensive line as well.

My kit is mostly Gore Bike Wear stuff. However, it seems they have gotten rid of their commuter line, so I'll try to choose the products from their current line that make the most sense:

  1. Gore Active Jacket
  2. Gore Pro Jacket (better but far more expensive)
  3. Gore Active Pant

If you want to spend a less money, and have slightly bulkier clothing, MECs line of cycling specific gear is good value.

  1. MEC Revolution Jacket
  2. MEC Revolution Pants
If you already have good high tech breathable gear, but is none reflective, consider getting:

Your Feet

Now this is the easy one, just wear whatever you want that keeps your feet warm and dry. There is nothing special here. 
Image result for shimano XM9

Unless you want to ride clipless pedals. I highly recommend ordering the Shimano XM9 Gore-Tex shoes. Though they are available in North America now, they are far cheaper from Chain Reaction in the UK.  I have the previous generation of these and they are great. Shimano has very consistent sizing, so if you can figure out what Shimano shoes fit you, it's safe to order them online here.

Your Hands

C5 Gore-Tex Thermo Gloves Neon Yellow/Black
I've left the worst for last. So maybe I'm crazy, but I find that I need a different pair of gloves for every 10 degree temperature difference outside. Having hands that are too cold is horrible, especially for longer rides. Having gloves that are too hot is worse, as first you sweat, and then the damp makes it even colder. Gloves are also highly subjective due to fit and your natural body temperature. 

Here are my recommendations for different temperature ranges.

You'll notice the last option isn't a glove at all. It's actually a giant mit for your bike you slide your hands into. For your hands, then you only need a thin liner. Only for the truly crazy I guess.

Final Words

There are people who are going to read this and scoff. I've spent too much money and it's unnecessary. I've been riding year round for years now and I'm willing to spend the money to be comfortable and dry. This is what I've found I needed to do. Your mileage, of course may vary.


Saturday, July 09, 2016

LG X Power quick review

So my trusty old Google Nexus 5 was starting to be a little less trusty. Specifically the GPS stopped working properly. Looks like the antenna isn't working right but I haven't been able to fix it. At about this same time, I see an announcement for the LG X Power. A mid range smartphone with a huge 4100mah battery. Not only that, but it's available on Wind for free on Wintab. As a Wind customer, I decided to try it out as a temporary replacement until the HTC made Nexus line gets released later this year.

For $250 CAD, this is a great phone. It's got middle of the road specs, but in every case that is fine. I Quad core 1.3Ghz Processor that felt adequate. 16GB of Storage, which is fine since it has a Micro SD card slot. The phone is rather large for my tastes, which makes the 720p screen more noticeable that it would be on a smaller screen. It lacks NFC, but in Canada that is not a huge deal as mobile payments are still being neutered by banks and carriers. LGs flavour of Android is ok, but most can be quickly replaced with stock Google apps, like the launcher. The biggest feature of this phone though is the huge battery. Something that other phones these days is sorely lacking. The big phone of the moment is the OnePlus 3. It's a great phone, if your battery lasts long enough for you to use it. This phone doesn't excel at anything except that you can seriously use the phone all day and still have battery life leftover. 

The biggest let down, and why I ultimately returned the phone, is that the bootloader is locked. This is also why I didn't get any photos of the actual phone I had. LG provides a tool to unlock the bootloaders of their phones. That tool did not support this phone at the time of writing. Even if it did, unlocking is irreversible and voids the warranty. For me this is a must, but if you don't care, I highly recommend this phone as a middle of the road phone.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

While the Britain ponders leaving the EU

I came about these two quotes:

"A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they are not true...I do not deserve a share in governing a hen-roost much less a nation. Nor do most people...The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters."

- C. S. Lewis, Equality

"The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter."

- Winston Churchill

Sad but true.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Biking and camping trip in Quebec's Eastern Townships

+Laura Krick and I along with our friend +Tee Lew took a trip to Quebec. There are many reasons to do this.

  1. Quebec, especially the Eastern Townships, have cycling infrastructure dedicated to long distance cycling.
  2. Quebec cheese.
  3. Quebec Beer.
  4. Beautiful scenery that contains mountains.
Our original trip had to be modified because the weather in the places we wanted to go was not going to be pleasant on the first few days. So instead of going right into the townships, we went to Montreal first.

Day 1

A long drive from Toronto to Montreal. We decided to see a lock on the west end of Montreal and eat at one of the many restaurants on the river shore.

We stayed at a motel that was not that great and I would not recommend it. The rooms smelled of dust and the AC was loud. The WiFi was next to unusable.

Day 2

Tania wanted to see a furniture supplier in Montreal near were we were staying, and we got a chance to tag along to see if there was anything we liked for the house. Tania was successful, we were not. Then off to the first location for our camping trip, Granby. 

We actually stayed in Parc national de la Yamaska ("National" park of Quebec).  It was a very nice park on a man made lake. Sadly Granby seems to the location of at least one abattoir, so depending on which way the wind was blowing, the smell could sometimes be unpleasant.


Laura got very comfortable in no time in her new camp chair. 


It was a lot of setup for one night, but the weather forced our hand.



Day 3

We had breakfast and packed up. This was going to be our first day of biking. Approximately 54KMs from Yamaska to Mt. Orford via Magog.


I had a new setup where my Nikon AW100 was mounted to my handlebars allowing me to take convenient photos as I was riding.

Here you can see the damn that made the lake the park surrounds.


We managed to meet up in Waterloo to have lunch.


The scenery was beautiful.

It took a long while to get to Mt. Orford and setup. So much so that we didn't have enough time or energy to make a meal, so we went to St. Hurbert's which was close to the park for dinner.

Day 4

No biking today.
   
 Magog is a nice little town the the surrounding countryside has a lot to offer. One of the most important orders of business in this area is visiting the Abbaye De St-Benoรฎt-Du-Lac. This is a modern Abbey, where the monks make cheese and hard cider. We all had a lot of fun shopping there and checking out the Abbey.


Afterwards some more shopping of local fare like jams and soaps.



We also dropped by the local big bike store in Magog where Tania picked up an nice pair of Specialized Cycling shoes and I picked up a Specialized cap. That nights dinner was Steak!

Getting ready to cook.

Day 5

Another day, another camp site to pack up. Due to weather, we had to setup and takedown too often in a short period of time. It put a bit of stress on our trip but that's how it was. Due to how unmotivated we were to take things down quickly, we decided not to do the full ride today from Mt. Orford to Sherbrooke. That would have been over 50KMs. Instead, we all drove to Magog and then set out from there.

This also gave Laura and I the opportunity to take a very special photo. Here we are aprox. 5 years after I proposed to Laura on this spot (or abouts).





Lots of long steady inclines.


Lots of train track crossings as well.


Getting close.

We also decided that we were tired of camping, so we stayed at Hotel Jardins de Ville. It was relatively convenient and very close to the bike highway. Our first order of business after finding a place to stay was dinner. 

+Stephen van Egmond once showed me a place on Rue King that made a great baked potato dish and had a great selection of micro brews. Micro-Brasserie La Mare au Diable, and they now brew their own beer! 


Day 6

We started out our day by having breakfast at one of the Eggsquis location in Sherbrooke. It's similar to Cora's or Egg Smart here in Ontario, but far better than Egg Smart and slightly better that Cora's. We then went to the mall to check out some Quebec brands. Lastly, we went to the best bike shop in Sherbrooke, Vรฉlomania. It's amazing how nice a store like this is in a town much smaller than Toronto.

Now one thing we were dissapointed with up to this point in our trip, was the poutine. Tania was having none of it and directed us to La Belle Province. A chain of diners in Quebec that does indeed serve a very good poutine. 



It was a nice day, but sadly, not warm enough for any swimming.



Observe, Laura on a bike!


Tania with her new matching cycling shoes!


Day 7


This is it, the last day of our trip. We of course had to go back to Eggsquis for our last vacation breakfast.




Then off to a hydro electric power station on our way home, the Beauharnois Hydroelectric Generating Station.


The ride home was otherwise uneventful. Except for this.


Nothing like a fellow cyclist in training!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

PSB M4U 2 headphone failure and fix

I had wanted a nice pair of noise cancelling headphones for some time. The undisputed champion of "noise cancelling" is Bose. At the time this was the QC15, more recently replaced by the QC25. I have tried many NC headphones, and can confirm that the noise cancelling system in these headphones is amazing. However, they are rubbish to actually listen to music on. So after trying out a bunch of headphones, I went with the PSB M4U 2s.


These headphones appealed to me for many reasons. The sound out of them was excellent. They offered not only noise cancelling, but also had a built in amplifier that could be turned on without NC. The cable was removable and could be attached to either side of the headphones. They functioned as a headset. They functioned and sounded great with no battery at all (passive). And lastly, they seamed very well built. No plastic snaps but screws all over, with metal and high quality polycarbonate.

If there was one downside it was the price. And really, the price was justified but I didn't want to spend $400 at the time. I managed to find them used for half that. I have enjoyed wearing these almost every day for over a year. But two weeks ago the left channel just stopped working.

Customer Service & Warranty

I contacted PSB about getting them fixed. I didn't expect warranty service because I purchased them used, but I was expecting to be able to pay to have them fixed. This proved to be false. Unlike PSBs other products, which are made right here in Ontario, Canada, their headphones are made in China. PSB informed me that they do not service out of warranty headphones. I called the two closest authorized PSB dealers, and was informed that they cannot service them because PSB does not supply parts and I should contact PSB directly. I contacted PSB again about getting parts, and they informed me that they do not provide parts. So it appears, that if you have a fault with your M4Us after the 2 year warranty has expired, you're on your own.

The Flaw

First off, these headphones were purchased used. It's very possible that this flaw was fixed in later units. I took apart the left side of my M4Us. As expected, the headphones are well built using hardware instead of glue and plastic snaps. This was until I get it all apart. On the inside it was apparent that PSB chose form over function. The cable used to connect the two halves of the headphones together was wholly inadequate. It was tiny, to facilitate hiding it within the head band.

I've created an image with two areas highlighted. You can see that the individual cables fray where they come out of the sheathing a 1. One of the cables for the speaker was being held by just one copper strand when I took things apart. You can see in the area marked with 2 that another wire had completely come disconnected. 2. also illustrates what I would call the main design or assembly flaw. The cable sheathing terminated right where the housing ends for the main body of the headphone earpiece. I've pulled it out to work on it, but this explains the fraying. The cables were rubbing up against the plastic here. 

Overall, there are 12 conductors coming in through that tiny cable. They are small and fragile. I had another 3 come off their solder joints just while trying to take the unit apart. 

The Fix

You will need the following items to fix these headphones:
  1. #0 Philips screwdriver
  2. #6 Torx Screwdriver
  3. tweezers and/or small needle nose pliers
  4. precision wire cutters
  5. thin masking or electrical tape
  6. precision tip temperature controlled soldering iron
  7. flux
  8. heat shrink tubing
  9. heat source for shrinking the tubing



  1. Take apart the headphones by fist removing the ear padding on the side that has stopped working.
  2. This will expose 4 Philips screws holding the speaker into place.
  3. Be careful pulling the speaker housing away as there is very little slack in the cable.
  4. Twist the speaking housing to get to the two Philips screws holding the main body together.
  5. Place the speaker housing back into the cover for the main body to prevent accidentally dislodging any cables further.
  6. Again, be careful pulling this second part away as there is little slack in the cable.
  7. Use your pliers or tweezers to remove the tape holding down the wire. 
  8. At this point you have enough clearance to start unscrewing the part of the headband that holds the speaker in place. This is where you need the Torx screwdriver. 
  9. Take apart the two halves of the speaker holder, pay attention to the copper spring attached to the metal armature and remove the cable from the cable guide.
  10. Now you have slack in the main cable which will allow you to pull it into the main part of the speaker housing so that you can work.
  11. At this point I would take a photo of all the cables so that you have a reference of what goes where if something has gone wrong later.
  12. Cut away any excess wire that has frayed from any split connections.
  13. Add flux to the two halves of the cable you have to repair and lightly tin the ends (360c was good for this application) 
  14. Cut a small amount of shrink tubing and slide it over one end (I used too much)
  15. Use pliers, or ideally self closing ones to hold the two halves of the cable with a bit of overlap and use your soldering iron to melt the solder together. Try not to burn a whole in the ear padding of the other speaker :(
  16. Let the joint cool sufficiently and then slide the heat shrink tubing over the connection. 
  17. Tug on both ends of the cable to make sure you have a solid connection. 
  18. Use a heat gun or other source to shrink the tubing over the solder joint.
  19. I would also check all the other solder connections at this point and re-solder them if needed. 
  20. At this point I would test the headphones by plugging in a source, putting in batteries and make sure everything works.
  21. Once the test works out, pull the cable out so that only a bit of the housing is left inside the headphones. I used some electrical tape to add some buffer for further fraying.
  22. Then use more tape to hold down the cable so it doesn't get in the way of re-assembly. 
  23. You now have to re-assemble the armature that holds the speaker unit. First lay out the headphone cable into the cable guide. The slack goes at the head-padding end for extension. 
  24. Make sure to place the copper spring in place into the metal armature.
  25. Getting the two halves of the speaker holder together while keeping the cable in place was probably the hardest part of re-assembly. I have no advice other than growing another few limbs
  26. Then re-assemble the main speaker housing in reverse of how it was taken apart. 
There you have it. If you have any questions feel free to comment below and I'll try to answer them. 

Hopefully PSB has fixed this issue in later production runs or plans to. For what is otherwise an excellent pair of headphones.

Update

Independent of this blog post, I have been in contact with PSB above.  Before I published this info, I sent them a further update via their support forums about the issue that I had found. They have offered to sell me a discounted set of M4U 2s. I am taking them up on their offer. First, these are a great sounding pair of cans with great features. This will allow me to have two pairs, but more importantly, a whole spare set of parts for the one pair I really need.