Microsoft Surface: Beauty is in the ear of the beholder

Microsoft is a company well-known for Windows, but in the last few years, it’s also now known for producing excellent hardware.

I remember reviewing the original Surface RT back in 2012, but the Surface line has expanded greatly since into a range of premium and highly sought-after products.

The Microsoft Surface headphones are not an inexpensive offering at €379.99.

These are premium noise-cancelling over-ear headphones that are priced and featured to take on the likes of the Bose QC 35s and Sony MX1000M3’s.

I’m not sure why Microsoft has entered the consumer space with headphones that are ready to take on audio giants like Sony and Bose, but the Surface headphones are worthy of serious consideration for those who love good sound and want the convenience of noise cancelling.

The Surface headphones come in a hard, fabric-covered case that has the four squares Microsoft logo centred on the front. In terms of colour, you get one choice and that’s light grey. A choice of colours would have been nice, but I do like the design and shape.

I also like the colour, but would be concerned that over time, the light grey will become grubby looking.

The look is one thing, but comfort is essential and in this area, the Surface headphones don’t disappoint.

The ear cups have lots of space to fit my big ears in and they feel soft and comfy while wearing them, even for long periods of time.

The ear cups are plenty big enough and offer decent passive noise cancelling and can swivel out to flat for storage.

This design works well but does mean that the case is larger than the Sony MX1000X M3 case.

In the case, you’ll find the headphones along with a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable and a USB type C cable for charging and updating the firmware.

Weighing in at 0.64 lb or 290g the Surface headphones are 50g heavier than the Bose model. I didn’t find this an issue in use thanks to the overall comfort, but it was noticeable.

I love that the Surface headphones have both physical and touch controls. Both sides are touch enabled.

Tap once to pause, twice to skip forward and three times to skip back.

Of course, the headphones will work via the supplied 3.5mm cable but essentially, these are Bluetooth headphones and if connected to your smartphone you can tap and hold for Google Assistant or Siri.

A feature I found extremely convenient is that they automatically pause when you take them off.

Strangely, and although the Bluetooth never gave me trouble connecting, there’s no support for AAC or aptX for higher quality audio streaming.

Also, occasionally, I did have out-of-sync audio while watching videos on YouTube.

Both cans have a physical rotating ring/dial. Volume is controlled by the right dial, while the left controls the noise cancellation level.

I love having a dial that I can move to control the volume and it’s so smooth, making it easy to get the correct volume for what you’re listening to.

Also nice is the short beeps you get when you reach the maximum or minimum settings.

On the right side is a small power button, the mic mute button and the USB type C socket.

As noise cancelling headphones go, the Surface headphones are excellent. However, I would consider them slightly less effective than the best in class, Sony’s, but only just.

This can be subjective but suffice to say, you won’t hear too much around you if you’ve got noise cancelling on max with music playing in your ears.

In terms of sound quality, the Surface headphones are stunning. I was really surprised considering how good the competition is in this area.

Again, this is a very subjective thing and it will greatly depend on the type of music and movies you listen to.

The sound is well balanced, with warm mid tones, strong tight bass and highs that didn’t pierce my ears.

The stereo soundstage is also excellent, with good separation, especially when watching movies.

Battery life was fine, but not as good as the other high-end offerings that provide up to 30 hours of listening.

I didn’t find I was able to get the stated 15 hours of battery during my time of testing. However, it was never an issue either because you can charge while listening if you really got stuck.

Overall, I really liked the Microsoft Surface headphones, which offer all of the essential features for a premium pair of cans.

The sound quality is excellent and if this is something that you most care about, they’re worth a look if you don’t mind paying the premium price.

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