Microsoft Surface Headphones review round-up: here’s what the experts are saying

Surface Headphones on table

Microsoft’s Surface Headphones were designed with completing the Surface experience, with sleek design and great audio in mind.

Slipping comfortably over your ears with spectacular sound quality and 13 levels of ambient noise control, the Surface Headphones help you focus on the sounds you want to capture allowing for clear call experiences. You can also easily adjust volume and noise cancellation levels with new, intuitive on-ear dials.

While they’re optimized for Surface devices, they can also be paired with any Bluetooth-enabled device, so when you’re switching between PC and phone, you can stay connected to your music, meeting or call seamlessly.

We’ve rounded up thoughts and opinions from various reviews on the Surface Headphones from a selection of online tech experts below, to provide an overview of their performance. Feel free to click on through to the full reviews for more information.

The Verge on…

Design: “The design of the Surface Headphones reminds me of Bang & Olufsen’s, both in look and feel. That means a stylish, minimalist exterior, featuring aluminum yokes, a steel headband, and a lot of high-quality plastic. The finish of these headphones is really pleasant to the touch, and that’s complemented by soft memory foam pads that seem to melt around the ear.”

Controls: “My absolute favorite feature of the Surface Headphones is the way you control the volume and active noise canceling. The perimeter of each ear cup is a rotating dial, with the right one handling volume (in increments of 7 percent on Windows) and the left one stepping through the 13 different levels of NC. The rotation has a satisfying friction to it that makes me want to fiddle with each dial just because it’s fun. It’s no overstatement to say that I think this control scheme is the best, most natural, and least frustrating one that any pair of wireless headphones has yet offered.”

Performance: “I especially liked them while listening to The Internet’s Hive Mind and Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun, both records that feature strong bass lines contrasted with sweet female vocals. The bass doesn’t bleed too much into the midrange, and if you stick to modern electric music, you’ll probably find a lot to like about these Surface cans.”

“There still aren’t any truly great-sounding NC headphones, but the trade-off you make is the tranquility of being able to tune the world out. That’s where Microsoft’s cans acquit themselves very well, including the reverse option of amplifying ambient sounds to make you more aware of your surroundings.”

Overall thoughts: “I absolutely believe Microsoft will be one of the important headphone makers of our future. This is far from a one-off experiment.”

Read the full review

Windows Central on…

Design: “The Surface engineering and design team nailed the looks and feel of Surface Headphones. The smooth platinum finish, large ear cushions and clean, minimalist look skillfully match the rest of the Surface line. There are no visible screws or seems in the headband. Everything seems balanced with a focus on symmetry, and it makes the Surface Headphones simply stunning.”

Controls: “The right ear cup of the Surface Headphones acts like a giant volume knob. The left ear cup controls noise cancellation, giving users 13 different ambient sound levels. The execution of this is perfect. Surface Headphones are easily the most user-friendly headphones when compared to Sony and especially Bose. The dials are smooth, gentle, accurate and a joy to use versus physical buttons or using an app.”

“Another genius feature is auto-pause. When users take off the Surface Headphones or put them around their neck, the headphones pause whatever is playing through them whether, it’s music or a movie on a PC.”

Performance: “But headphones — especially ones priced this high — do not exist in a vacuum. So, when compared to some of the best on the market right now including, the Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) and Sony WH-1000-XM3, it is surprising how good the Surface Headphones are.”

“Audio quality when playing music, listening to movies, or during a Skype call is brilliant on the Surface Headphones. Microsoft has always had a knack for audio as Surface Pro and Surface Laptop demonstrate. That carries over to the Surface Headphones, which are a delight to use for music or movies.”

“Compared to the excellent Sony WH-1000-XM3s, the Surface Headphones sound very similar. Music is rich, full-bodied with bass, and it has a remarkable fidelity.”

Cortana: “Cortana works quite well on the Surface Headphones and is especially useful for those who plan on using them with a PC, where Cortana can do much more compared to Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, which have no presence or abilities.”

Overall thoughts: “Microsoft brought serious innovation to the table with Surface Headphones. It still has room to improve, but the company has established that it can offer some genuine competition to Bose and Sony.”

Read the full review

Stuff on…

Stuff Microsoft Headphone photo

Design: “And in terms of the quality of the plastics they use, the comfort of the headband and earcup padding they’re fitted with, and the integrity of their construction, the Surface Headphones are entirely competitive.”

Controls: “The dials on each earcup function flawlessly, though, and feel really good while they’re doing it. They feel smooth, well-damped and beautifully integrated into the structure as a whole – it’s a control method we’d expect any number of rivals to adopt/rip off before long.”

“The left dial has 13 steps of noise-cancelling adjustment – the first actually boosts exterior sound, just in case you don’t want to be absolutely dumb to what’s going on around you. Dial up the effect and your increasingly isolated from the world outside until, at position 13, it’s difficult to hear yourself clapping. And Microsoft manages to achieve this level of cancellation without the sensation of your eardrums being pressurised that some rival designs impose.”

Performance: “The midrange, though, is the Surface Headphones’ real forte. The voice during Swept Away by Half Japanese is detailed and communicative despite the recording’s significant vocal treatment – it’s immediate and utterly believable. Switch to a vocalist worthy of the description (Nina Simone’s hair-raising pass through Wild is the Wind) and the Microsofts deliver in spades. Her mannerisms, the sheer emotion she freights her deliver with, is all served up intact and in full.”

Overall thoughts: “From a standing start, Microsoft has produced a very effective pair of wireless, noise-cancelling headphones at its first attempt.”

Read the full review

Tech Radar on…

Tech Radar Microsoft Surface Headphones

Design: “That said, the Surface headphones were designed with comfort in mind, with Microsoft taking inspiration from gamers who spend long periods of time wearing headsets. To make them feel as soft as possible, the cups are made from memory foam, which also cushions the top of the headband.”

Performance: “In short, the Surface headphones sound fantastic, and the bass frequencies are particularly impressive, with even the subbiest bass coming through beautifully on tracks like James Blake’s ‘Limit To Your Love’, thanks to its 40mm free-edge speaker drivers.”

“These headphones really shine when it comes to vocals however; we tried them out on ‘This Is The Last Time’ by The National, and we were really impressed with the warm and generous mid-tones that made every lyric sound resonant and emotive.”

Controls: “What’s really impressive about the Surface headphones is the functionality of the inbuilt dials on each cup – simply turn the left dial backwards and forwards to control the noise cancellation feature, which is fantastic if your walking on a busy road and want to hear your environment without turning off your music. The same gesture on the left dial controls the volume of your music.”

“One tap on either housing stops and starts your music, while two taps skips to the next track, and three taps skips back. A long tap on either housing will activate the voice assistant on your device, which isn’t relegated to Microsoft’s Cortana; these features work on Windows 10, iOS, Android, and MacOS.”

Overall thoughts: “Overall, Microsoft’s Surface headphones are surprisingly good, with a stunningly warm sound, and generous bass frequencies, which means your music will sound great whether you’re listening to subby hip-hop or acoustic singer-songwriters.”

Read the full review

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