Microsoft accomplished something very remarkable with the initial Surface area Earphones: the business was able to leapfrog veterans of the noise-canceling headphone market (like Bose and Sony) with an ingenious method for managing them. With a twist of the smooth-turning dial on either ear cup, you might adjust volume and the level of active sound cancellation. It felt immediately intuitive and so satisfying– one of those things that left you wondering how no one else had actually taken on the concept quicker. The Surface Earphones fell short when it came to battery life and sound quality. And Microsoft tried to offer them for the very same rate as the leading designs from Bose and Sony, which was risky for a brand-new product that had not amassed the reputation of its rivals.
Now, Microsoft is back with the Surface Earphones 2.
The Surface area Headphones 2 keep the downplayed design of their predecessors. Other than for a shiny Windows logo design on each side of the headband, there’s no branding to be found. The matte black design is very sophisticated– albeit less identifiable than the light gray color, which stays available– and I’m happy to report that it avoids collecting finger prints unless you’re handling the headphones with greasy fingers.
Microsoft made one welcome change to the ear cups: they now turn 180 degrees, so the Surface Earphones 2 can rest easily versus your body when twisted around your neck. The headphones do not fold, sadly, and the carrying case eats up a good amount of room in a backpack.
Whatever else feels very familiar. Other than for the dials along the border, the entire area of either ear cup can be tapped to stop briefly or play music, skip tracks, and answer calls. In leaving volume and sound cancellation to the dials and separating them from the touch controls, Microsoft makes whatever feel more concentrated and simple to bear in mind. The only physical buttons on the earphones are for power– you hold this down to match new devices– and a mute button. The latter is uncommon for headphones nowadays, however I have actually pertained to appreciate it in this new reality of continuous video calls. There’s likewise a 3.5 mm jack at the bottom of the best ear cup if you want to plug in. (The dial controls will still work over a wired connection as long as there’s staying juice in the battery, but the tap gestures and mute button are disabled.)
On your head, the Surface area Headphones 2 are happily relaxing, thanks to their spongy, big ear pads. The one location where I believe Microsoft still requires improvement is the headband. My ears never ever felt tired out from wearing the Surface Earphone 2 for extended periods, though they can get sweaty if I’m outside.
Microsoft’s noise canceling isn’t quite as reliable as what Bose or Sony can attain, but the Surface area Earphones 2 are perfectly capable of quieting the types of ambient sound and consistent hums that can grow irksome when you’re attempting to focus. And the transition from full-power sound cancellation to off mode (where outside sound actually gets magnified) just takes a single turn of the dial, so it all feels extremely effective.
Another welcome modification is, after awkwardly attempting to incorporate Cortana as part of the original Surface Headphones, Microsoft’s assistant has actually been provided the boot this time around. You can still access Google Assistant or Siri by tapping and holding on either of the ear cup touchpads. The integrated mics get your voice well whether you’re on a call or telling your phone’s digital assistant to play a specific song.
While they do not consist of any hands-free voice controls, the Surface area Earphones 2 still excel at software in one sense: they continue to use great multipoint Bluetooth support, indicating you can match them with more than one device at the exact same time, like a PC and a phone, without having to do the Bluetooth hopping dance in settings. Handoff in between gadgets is seamless and works similar to you ‘d anticipate. As long as you’re not trying to listen to audio on two paired devices at the exact same time, the Surface Earphones can effortlessly manage content and switch from one to the other and back again. This is a terrific benefit, and it’s something that Sony’s 1000 XM3 headphones can’t do. The only drawback I’ve encountered is that in some cases you may see minor audio sync problems while watching a video just when you’re matched to two devices all at once. If you detach among them, this disappears.
Microsoft has actually enhanced battery life to 20 hours with noise cancellation made it possible for. That’s at par with the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 but well under Sony’s 30 hours. Still, 20 hours suggests you’ll likely only need to charge these when– maybe twice if you’re using them continuously– each week with the included USB-C cable. When you power the headphones on, a voice tells you the number of hours of battery life are remaining, which is more useful than hearing a random battery portion.
And as for sound, the Surface area Earphones 2 strike a balance that I ‘d classify as “sufficient.” They do not have the expressiveness and clarity of the 1000 XM3s but still use a well-rounded noise signature that can move across genres adequately. The overall mix is less dynamic than I ‘d like, with instruments and vocals smushed together a bit. And the low end can have a muddy quality on some tracks. These aren’t immersive audiophile headphones, however if you want optimum detail, using them wired can assist. Microsoft supports aptX and SBC codecs, though not the AAC favored by Apple devices. You’ll only get bare-bones Bluetooth audio on an iPhone. And honestly, that still sounds fine. I attempted the Surface Earphones 2 with the Galaxy S20 and LG V60 to sample aptX, which transmits data more efficiently, but it’s hard to inform any distinction by ear. (aptX HD is the codec that’s more concentrated on enhanced sound quality.)
As you may have recognized by now, the Surface Earphones 2 don’t best Sony and Bose in every category. If these expense the same $350 as the original Surface area Earphones, I ‘d expect something more than respectable sound quality.
However for $250, which still isn’t cheap by any measure, the Surface area Headphones 2 are a great all-around worth. They have actually still got the best control scheme of any earphones on the market, their noise cancellation does the task, and the multipoint pairing is something you will not desire to offer up as soon as you have actually had it.
Photography by Chris Welch/ The Edge