Technology

Microsoft Surface Headphones review: close but no cigar

Surface Headphones are Microsoft’s high-price, premium noise-cancelling cans aimed squarely at toppling today’s kings, Bose and Sony.

Headphones seem like a strange choice for the Xbox, Office and Windows maker, however the are increasingly being made by Microsoft’s burgeoning electronics market arm responsible for its brand of Surface computers and accessories.

Platinum, not one other option

Microsoft has aimed befitting for the top of the tree in terms of wireless, noise cancelling headphones. Designed to suit and finished on the Surface Headphones is also as effective as Bose.

The large, soft round ear cups encapsulate my ears with regards to their oval openings, as you move the angle within the band and hinge points give lots of flexibility, avoiding any obvious pressure points.

The headband can be a squishy rubber material and does a superb job of avoiding causing sore points in addition to your head during extended wearing periods.

At 290g the outer lining Headphones are heavier than their two main rivals, the 240g Bose QC35 II and also the 255g Sony MX1000M3. A further weight didn’t get a new long-listening comfort, but it really was noticeable when walking to the shops, as was the elevated bulk balanced with the Bose.

The outside type of the headphones is both distinctive and bland in equal measure. The platinum colour (the only colour available) is fairly noticeable on the head, though the simple design looks rather understated. They aren’t subtle, but neither is it ostentatious.

Dials, buttons and touch panels

Each ear cup features a touch panel, where you tap once to pause, twice to skip forward and thrice to skip back. Tap and hold to summon Google Assistant or Siri. They will also pause the music activity after you remove them.

Surrounding each touchpad is a rotating ring. The proper ring controls volume, the left noise cancellation level. Both of these are smooth and satisfying to implement, with short beeps if you hit the maximum or minimum settings.

The right ear cup has the benefit of an electric power button, which you short press to change the headphones off or on or hold for five seconds to initiate Bluetooth pairing. Additionally there is a microphone mute button for calls. In the states that button be capable of turning off or on Microsoft’s voice assistant Cortana, however it is hard to get at in great britain on the Surface headphones.

Bluetooth connectivity was strong and stable, although the Surface Headphones only retain the default SBC Bluetooth audio standard, not AAC or aptX which both offer high quality and reduced latency. It is a strange omission for premium Bluetooth headphones, which due to this fact can suffer annoying lip sync difficulty with video, particularly YouTube.

Noise cancelling

The Surface Headphones have good however, not great noise cancelling, just about matching Bose or Sony. They will likely destroy droning noises, nonetheless they let through more of the sounds with the commute and the office, particularly voices, which became annoying while trying to concentrate.

Unique into the Surface Headphones, however, will be the power to adjust the noise cancelling through 13 different levels, from maximum noise cancelling to amplifying ambient sound.

I found the utmost noise cancelling was particularly at risk from wind noise, whilst the maximum amplification generated spurious roars while in a rail station or perhaps a carriage. The headphones are noticeably better at blending outside noise with music than rivals. Disappointingly, though, there is absolutely no setting to turn on ambient sounds when paused, this is a particularly useful feature an internet to listen for public transport announcements.

No matter if you possibly could hear them ambient sound piped in your ears, dealing with someone in your headphones on is quite rude, this means you finish up taking them off. In fact I left noise cancelling at one step in the maximum.

Warm sound

Sound quality was surprisingly good, even without advanced Bluetooth audio codecs. The headphones possess a nice, warm, relatively rounded sound, with good bass reproduction where needed and crisp highs. The soundscape is quite wide too, which made listening over long periods easy.

The Surface Headphones produced decent job of the genres of music, but were best with guitar or vocals, sometimes feeling a little less sharp with electronica.

Overall, similar to noise cancelling, they are really good, but not quite as sparkling because Sony headphones, even though some might prefer these to the sometimes clinical Bose sound signature.

Battery life

The Surface Headphones lasted about 14 hours around my testing over Bluetooth with noise cancelling on, which sounds long but meant I had to charge them at least twice each week. With rivals lasting not less than 20 hours, sometimes far longer, 14 hours is not that long. Not less than they will last through the flight, and they also charge pretty fast via USB-C

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