- Minimalist Design
- Decent Build Quality
- Impressive Noise Cancelling
- Uses USB-C Port for Charging
- Simple and Friendly Controls
- Nice Protective Case
- Lack of AptX or other High Res Audio Codec
- Mids are missing
- Only Available in US
Microsoft surprisingly pulled out a good headphone for the masses. Sure it has its flaws but it actually gives me more anticipation on how the next Surface Headphones is going to be. I am honestly intrigued.
Microsoft is no stranger to the whole tech scene. In fact, they also became of the companies that offers things like the Surface Laptop, Tablet and much more. One product that was announced last year by Microsoft was the Surface Headphones. It was relatively new for a company announcing a Headphone and that has been focusing mostly on Software and PC side of things. In fact, the headphone offers certain feature that the audiophile grade brands like Sony and Bose are known for – such as ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) and much more. But is it a worthy headphone to pick up? Find out in this Exclusive Microsoft Surface Headphones Review, here at The Adventures of Vesper.
Design and Build Quality
Microsoft has this tendency to keep their design simple and sleek like we have seen with their other Surface products and the Surface Headphones shares the same DNA as the rest. On the outside, it has a muted off-white finish – grey tone to be specific and it’s possibly one of the minimalistic headphones I have ever come across. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s minimalist with no flashy colors and still has a modern design like the curves at the bands and the way the headband holds the earcups in place. It’s beautiful. The outside of the headband has a lighter grey finish whereas the inside has a darker tone. Overall, I have to say, I am a fan of the design.
As for the build quality, the Surface Headphones is constructed in a high-grade plastic material. I wouldn’t say it’s the most premium feeling headphones, but it’s well put together and yes, it does feel a lot polished for what it is. The head band is adjustable, and it’s constructed in metal to give a better structural integrity. The earcups swivels flat and the whole thing is smooth and sturdy. Not just that, as you move the earcups, it’s adjusts up or down according to your position which is nice. Other than that, there’s nothing to complain about the headphones in this particular department as they have gotten pretty much everything right.
Comfort and Protection
This is where things get a lot interesting. The Surface Headphones uses a Foam type of Earcup that is extremely comfortable to the ears and during my time using it, I barely ran into any issues wearing the headphones for a longer duration as it was really comfortable to the ears. The Headband has a soft rubbery band that gives a comfortable feel too. One thing with the headphones is that, it does tend to slip a little when I was moving around. But none the less, if you plan to wear the headphones for a longer duration, you’ll will not run into any issues and it feels really great.
As its $350 headphones, it sure is a premium price tag to pay and you’d need a good protection. With that said, the headphones come with this hard-shell case that allows you to store the Surface Headphones safe and sound. The case has a pouch up top where you can store the cables, and, in my case, we have the cables and a quick guide on how to control the headphones. The case comes in this grey finish as well with a Windows logo on it. Good thing they didn’t go for a soft pouch as it wouldn’t really protect the case as well as it should.
The Surface Headphones has some simple and interesting design choices going for. On the Left side, there’s no button but the huge cup is a dial that allows you control the Active Noise Cancelling – which we will get into it in a bit. On the Right side, it also has a huge dial, but this allows you to control the Volume instead. Both side of the earcups has a touch pad – it means you can control your songs, answer and decline calls either of the side. I am a leftie, and this is a thoughtful addition as I can still control with my Left hand – which is my dominant hand.
If you use with your smartphone, you can make the dial control the headphone’s Volume whereas if you were to connect with a Windows machine, it syncs the audio control. Following that, you’ll find things like a Power Button, Mic Mute button, a USB-C Port which I love and a 3.5mm Jack to have a wired connection.
The buttons are easy and nice to press, and I have to say both the Volume and ANC dial is super smooth to movements and adjusting the audio accordingly is quite the fun. It gets pretty addictive. What’s even interesting is that the headphone’s touch pad works like a charm. The input is very accurate. If you are listening to music and if you take your headphones off, it will automatically pause the song and then wear it back to resume – which is a nice touch.
Noise Cancelling on Surface Headphones
As we have mentioned earlier, the Noise Cancellation works by adjusting the dial on the left Earcups. The Surface Headphones has a Adjustable Noise Cancelling to it. The more you dial it up, it reduces the intensity of the ambient noise and slowly compresses the sound. Once you hit the highest, it will turn off the ambient mode and starts cancelling the noise. The whole way of controlling ANC is different a lot more intuitive as we have never seen such control before and the best part is that it works.
Now, this particular sound quality is where we are going to talk about how the headphones sounds in it’s lows, mids and highs. As it’s an ANC headphone, we will be dividing this test into two parts. Listening to the songs with no Noise Cancellation and with the Noise Cancellation respectively. We have hand selected 6 songs for this test.
- Justin Timberlake’s Supply
Under Ambient Mode, vocals were high. Mids missing. Bass isn’t as intense. Instruments sound flat. Outside noise well aware. ANC on, vocals were a lot more surrounded, instruments had a depth and the bass is better with a bit of a depth. Noise cancellation works like a charm.
- Kodaline’s Born Again
Ambient, Bass subtle. Vocal has a wider stage. Instrument tends to take over the vocals. The mids is missing. Ambient Mode works. ANC on, Bass intense. Vocal is distinct than Ambient. Has an echo and depth to it. Vocals in mids is missing. Instruments is nice to hear and the vocal blends in well.
- Halsey’s Without Me
Ambient, Instruments are sharp. Voice is a lot clear. Bass is alright. A limited sound stage feels to the music. ANC on, Instruments sound the same. Bass is amplified. Vocals a little less clear, like the small depth in it is missing. The sound stage feel is a lot more surround. The quality is nicer.
- Ta-Ku’s American Girl
Ambient, bass missing. Mids is okay. Instrument is wide. Vocals has a depth. Overall Flat sound to it. ANC on, bass is distinctive. Vocals is better, but something is missing. Instruments sounds richer. Struggles to bring the beat from the lows.
- Arianna Grande’s R.E.M
Ambient, Bass subtle. Vocals nice to hear. Instruments sound suppressed. The vocals tend to miss something. ANC on, the bass is enhanced marginally. Vocals has a depth to it. Instruments amplified. Mids is a little better.
- Billie Ellish’s Lovely
Ambient, instruments sound suppressed. Vocals isn’t as quite there yet. ANC on, Instruments sound better, little part of the bass tends to mask the essential part of the instrument. Vocals are a lot better but the mids are still not that distinctive. Has a better surround sound staging.
In Ambient Mode, the sounds are a lot suppressed because of the fact that it uses the built-in microphones to make sure that you can still hear what is happening around you. The moment you turn the world off, that is cranking the dial up to maximum Noise Cancellation – it is a completely different story. The bass is intense with songs, instruments has a much more dynamic sound staging and what’s even better is the voice is sharper. I have to say the noise Cancelling feature works surprising well for what it is, but it does have its fair share of hiccups where sometimes it refuses to cancel off. So, you’ll have to switch to ambient mode and then switch back to NC.
But by now you can tell the part where the Surface Headphone is lacking. It’s in the mids. The vocals tend to go missing or it’s not really distinctive. So, if you are someone who likes the details in the music – it might not deliver as close to an audiophile grade headphone like the Sony WH-XM100M3. But here’s the part that’s intriguing. The Surface Headphones does not have support for Qualcomm AptX or any High Res audio streaming and it comes with Bluetooth 4.2. It uses an SBC and surprisingly, there was no interruption or any connectivity issue during my time using. Previously we have ran into a lot of interruptions with other headphones that doesn’t have AptX but this one caught our attention.
The Surface Headphones offer 14 hours of battery life wirelessly and about 40 hours of usage time with you use it with the wires and with ANC on. During my time using it, I charged the Surface Headphones 3 days once and to me the battery life was fine. It does not offer as better life as the other top dogs in this category, but the Surface Headphone does it okay. As for charging, it takes about less than 2 hours to get a complete charge out of it.
Spending a week with the Surface Headphones was really fun if you ask me. I used it during my commute and was able to listen to my favorite artists on the go and at home with – of course ANC turned on. It does have its flaws, like the Mids missing and the lack of AptX but for a company that has zilch experience in such area, they surprisingly pulled out a good headphone for the masses. It actually gives me more anticipation on how the next Surface Headphones is going to be. I am honestly intrigued.
If you’re someone who’s looking for a decent ANC Headphones, the Surface Headphones is one of the options that’s worth recommending if you are in US that is as it’s only available there for $350 respectively. If you want better audio quality, then you can check out other options – like the Sony WH-1000XM3 or the Bose QuietComfort 35 as it’s available throughout everywhere in the world.
Nice to see a new pair of headphones joining the game and Microsoft, if you’re reading this – we are looking forward to the next Surface Headphones.
Thanks to our kind friend Ace for kindly providing his personal Surface Headphones to make this review happen. <3