The Microsoft Surface Headphones are above-average mixed usage headset. They are comfortable for long listening sessions and have a good build quality that should last you a while. However, their sound is a little on the warmer side, which will be better suited for fans of bass and won't be ideal for vocal-centric music. On the upside, they have one of the best and most complete control schemes we’ve tested so far with two touch-sensitive cups and great dials that are easy to use. They are also noise canceling headphones that are good for commuting and the office.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones are well-designed and well-built. They’re comfortable for long listening sessions thanks to good padding on the headband and ear cups, but the cups might be too shallow for some. Their control scheme is one of the most complete and easy-to-use we’ve reviewed so far. Both cups are touch-sensitive, and have great, tactile dials for volume and ANC control. Unfortunately, they won’t be the most portable since they have a somewhat bulky over-ear design, but thankfully they come with a nice hard case to protect them while you’re on the move.
The Surface Headphones are good looking over-ears thanks to an all-light-grey design that stands out. They have wide cups and a sleek design without too many apparent buttons. They have a very similar cup design to the B&O H9 headphones, but with a thicker headband made out of plastic. Unfortunately, they do not come in any other color variants to suit your preferred style.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones are very comfortable and lightweight headphones. The cups are well-padded and big enough for most ears. However, they could be a bit shallow for some. The headband is also well-padded and doesn’t apply too much pressure on the head. These should be comfortable enough for long listening sessions.
Update: 09/01/2019: The tight fit of the surface headphones does become a bit more bothersome after extended use when compared to other headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3 and BeoPlay H9. We have adjusted the comfort score to reflect this.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones have one of the best and most complete control schemes we’ve tested so far. Both ear cups are touch-sensitive and allows you to play/pause music, take/end calls, and skip tracks or go backwards. On top of that, there are dials on each cup; the left ear’s dial is for noise canceling control while the right ear’s is for volume control. You also get a physical button to mute the microphone and a power/pairing button as well. You also get a voice prompt and audio feedback for certain commands. Voice-enabled controls are also available thanks to the Cortana voice assistant (hands-free commands on PC app), or you can trigger your device’s voice assistant with a long press on one of the ear cups. The only downside of this control scheme is that there are multiple ANC levels, from “Ambient Noise Amplified” to “Maximum Noise Canceling”, but the dial doesn’t give you any feedback for levels in between those two.
Like most over-ears, the Microsoft Surface Headphones aren’t the most breathable since they trap heat under the ear cups. The seal around your ears doesn’t allow for much airflow, and you should expect to sweat more while wearing these during physical activity. This shouldn’t be a problem for casual listening sessions.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones come with a nice hard case to protect the headphones from scratches, minor water exposure, and light impacts. There is still small room for the headphones to wiggle around inside the case, but on the upside, it doesn’t add too much bulk and is easy to fit in a bag.
The Surface are well-built headphones and feel solid enough to survive a couple of accidental drops. The cups are made of dense plastic, and the headband is reinforced by a thin metal frame but is still sufficiently flexible. The padding is also leather and feels well-made. Overall, they feel like durable headphones that will last you a while.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones are fairly stable for over-ears and could be used for light running and sports. They have a decent clamping force that helps them to stay in place on your head and don’t move around. Also, since they are wireless, you won’t have to worry about a wire getting caught on something unless you use them with the included audio cable.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones are average sounding closed-back over-ears. They have a powerful and consistent bass, a decently well-balanced mid-range, but a sub-par treble. However, their bass is a bit muddy and overdone, while their mid-range is overpowering and cluttered, making vocals and lead instruments thick sounding. Their treble is also slightly veiled and uneven, meaning they will have a warm sound overall and would be better suited for fans of bass-heavy genres and not ideal for more vocal-centric music.
The bass of the Surface Headphones is above-average. The LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 10Hz, which is excellent. Also, low-bass is slightly overemphasized by 2.5dB, indicating that the bass of these headphones is deep and thumpy, which should be pleasing to the fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop. Mid-bass is also hyped by 5dB which gives some extra emphasis to the body of bass guitars and the punch of kick drums. High-bass is overemphasized by 4dB, which sounds cluttered and boomy.
The mid-range is good. The whole range is relatively even and flat, but the 10dB tilt favoring lower frequencies will have a negative effect on the intensity and projection of vocals and lead instruments. The overemphasis in the low-mid will make it sound thick and cluttered.
The treble response is poor. The whole range is uneven and veiled, meaning it will have a warmer sounding feel. The underemphasized low-treble range will make vocals and instruments lack detail and presence.
The frequency response consistency is good. Similar to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Sony WH-1000XM3, the Microsoft Surface Headphones seem to be using their noise canceling system to check for bass consistency. Therefore, in the bass range, they perform consistently across most subjects, and our test subject with glasses only experienced a small drop in bass. In the treble range, they are also quite consistent, showing about 3dB of deviation below 10KHz.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones have great imaging. Their weighted group delay is 0.23, which is very good. The graph also shows that the entire group delay is below our audibility threshold. This ensures a tight bass and a transparent treble reproduction. Additionally, the L/R drivers of our test unit were well-matched in amplitude, frequency, and phase response, which is important for the accurate placement and localization of objects (voices, instruments, video games effects) in the stereo image. However, these results are only valid for our test unit, and yours may perform differently.
Their soundstage, like most other noise canceling headphones, is sub-par. The PRTF response shows a good amount of pinna activation, which suggests a relatively large size for the soundstage. However, the low accuracy of the response suggests a soundstage that may feel a bit unnatural. Also, there's not a notch in the 10KHz region, which could result in the soundstage to be perceived as located inside the head.
The harmonic distortion performance is average. The amount of THD in the bass frequencies is good and but the overall amount of THD produced in the mid and treble ranges is rather elevated, which could make these frequencies sound a little impure. However, there are not sharp spikes in the THD response, and there is not a big jump in harmonic distortion under heavier loads either.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones have good isolation performance thanks to their ANC feature. They isolate a good amount of lower frequencies, where engine rumbles sit, making them a good option for commuting and traveling. They are also good for office use since they cancel a lot of ambient chatter and don’t leak too much. You’ll be able to raise your listening volume to mask even more noise without disturbing people around you. You can also control the level of isolation with the left ear cup dial, going from “Ambient Noise Amplified” to “Maximum Noise Canceling.”
The active noise isolation performance is good. In the bass range, occupied by the rumble of airplane and bus engines, they achieve 15dB of isolation, which is good. In the mid-range, important for blocking out speech, they reduce outside noise by 21dB, which is great. In the treble range, occupied by sharp S and T sounds, the isolation is about 40dB, which is very good.
They have a good leakage performance. The significant portion of their leakage is spread over the mid-range, resulting in a leakage that is fuller-sounding compared to that of in-ears and earbuds. The overall level of the leakage is relatively low though. With the music at 100dB SPL, the leakage at 1 foot away averages at 37dB SPL and peaks at 50dB SPL, which is about the same as the noise floor of an average office.
The microphone of the Surface Headphones is mediocre-at-best. In quiet environments, speech recorded or transmitted with this mic sounds relatively thin, noticeably muffled and lacking in detail. In noisy situations, it will struggle to fully separate speech from background noise even in moderately loud environments like a busy street. They also come with an in-line microphone on the included 1/8” TRRS cable that should perform better than the integrated Bluetooth one.
The recording quality of the microphone is mediocre. LFE (low-frequency extension) of 180Hz suggests that speech recorded/transmitted with this mic will sound relatively thin. The HFE (high-frequency extension) is at 3.5KHz, resulting in speech lacking detail and sounding a bit muffled, which is expected on most Bluetooth headphones microphones.
The noise handling of the integrated microphone is sub-par. This mic achieved a speech-to-noise ratio of 7.5dB in our SpNR test, indicating it is best suited for quiet environments and may struggle to fully separate speech from ambient noise even in moderately loud situations.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones have a good battery performance and are compatible with a lackluster app. On the upside, the app still offers a few customization options like a simple EQ and presets on Windows via Cortana and their 13-hour of battery life should be enough for a work day, even for more extreme listeners. They have nice suite of smart features to extend the battery life; like auto-pause when taking the headphones off (which also disables the ANC) and an auto-off feature that switches off the headphones after 20 minutes of inactivity. Unfortunately, we were only able to customize their EQ on Windows, but you can download Cortana on Android and iOS, even if it has limited functionality.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones have a decent 13-hour battery life that should last you for a whole day of listening. They also take less than 2 hours to charge, and you get a quick charge feature that gives you an hour of playback for only 5 minutes of charging. Also, if you take the headphones off your head, your music will automatically be paused, and ANC will be turned off, extending the battery life (up to 50 hours according to Microsoft’s specs sheet) until you put them back on and everything resumes. If you leave them in their standby mode for 20 minutes, they will automatically turn off. You can also use them when charging which can be useful at the office. If you plug them using the analog audio cable, they will turn on and activate ANC as well, but you can then turn them off to not use any battery life, meaning you can still use the headphones if the battery is dead. Another nice addition is that when powering on the headphones, the voice prompt will tell you the remaining battery life in hours of playback left.
The companion app of the Surface Headphones offers a few customization options on Windows thanks to a 5-band EQ and presets to enhance your listening experience. It also gives you information on your battery life, volume, and ANC levels, but you can’t control those inside the app itself and the mobile version of Cortana is very limited, which is disappointing. You can also see the names of the devices the headphones are connected to.
Update: 14/02/2019: With user feedback we were able to get EQ access on the Cortana app on Android and iOS, it just takes a bit of know how to get it working if you are not in the US. To access the device (surface headphones) settings, you have to switch the language and region in the phone settings of the Cortana app to English (United States), then a quick restart of the app should show a little device icon on the lower right that you can click on to adjust the settings. Unfortunately, this gives you no additional features when compared to the Cortana device setup app on PC but at least you can change the EQ directly on your phone which warrants the slight score adjustments.
These Bluetooth headphones can also be used passively with the included audio cable. The cable also provides an in-line mic for consoles and PCs and allows you to use the Surface Headphones completely passively even when the battery dies. When used wirelessly, you can connect them to 2 devices, which is very convenient. Also, these headphones maxed out the range of our testing facility and have a reliable connection without audio cuts. Unfortunately, like most Bluetooth headphones, they have a bit too much latency for video content and gaming.
These headphones are Bluetooth compatible and support version 4.2. They can also connect simultaneously to 2 devices, which is useful if you often switch from your computer and phone. Unfortunately, they do not support NFC for an easier and quicker pairing with devices, but their pairing procedure is already simple.
These headphones have a 1/8” TRRS connection, meaning they will support audio and microphone when used wired on consoles and PCs. You’ll also benefit from the better in-line microphone. Also, when used with the audio cable, the ANC feature can still be on if the battery isn’t dead yet. If it is dead, you’ll still be able to listen to these headphones passively without the noise cancelation.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones do not have a base/dock. If you want a versatile headset with a base that you can also use wired, check out the Astro A50.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones have amazing wireless range. They actually maxed out our testing facility range with 72ft when the source was obstructed, and about 300ft of direct line of sight range. You shouldn’t have any problem moving around while leaving your audio source at one place in an office or at home.
Like most Bluetooth headphones, the Microsoft Surface Headphones have a bit too much latency to watch video content or gaming as what you will see won’t match what you will hear. They also do not support any lower latency codecs.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones are fairly versatile closed-back over-ears that bass-heavy genres fans should like. They are comfortable headphones for long listening sessions and are well-built. Their sound signature is on the warm side and might not be ideal for vocal-centric music, but they do have a 5-band EQ inside the Windows Cortana app. They also have a good ANC feature but don’t isolate as well as other premium ANC headphones below. However, what sets them apart is their easy-to-use and complete touch-sensitive control scheme with dials on each cup for volume and ANC control, which is very convenient. See our recommendations for the best noise cancelling over-ear headphones, the best wireless over-ear headphones, and the best noise-cancelling headphones.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are better headphones than the Microsoft Surface Headphones. They have a more neutral sounding frequency response, are one of the most comfortable headphones we’ve reviewed so far, and also have a better noise cancellation feature. However, they don’t have the satisfying and touch-sensitive control scheme of the Surface Headphones, leak more, and don’t have a companion app for additional customization options.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 are better headphones than the Microsoft Surface Headphones. They are better-built headphones that have a better sound quality and ANC features. Overall, the XM3s are more versatile and more customizable thanks to the great companion app. On the other hand, the Surface Headphones have a better and more complete control scheme, and they have amazing wireless range performance that maxed out our testing facility. Being about the same price, we suggest getting the XM3 over the Surface Headphones.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones are better headphones for bass fans, while the Beats Studio3 Wireless have a more neutral sound quality with a not-so-veiled treble range. The Microsofts have a better and more complete control scheme that is satisfying to use. The feedback is better on the physical buttons of the Beats, but you get limited controls. Also, the Surface Headphones have better noise isolation performance but have about half of the Studio3’s battery life.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones are similar for mixed usage to the Bowers & Wilkins PX, but both take the edge in different categories. The Microsofts are more comfortable for long listening sessions, have a better control scheme, and deliver a more consistent sound quality. On the other hand, the PX are high-end headphones with a premium build quality and slightly better sound quality, but without an EQ isolate more ambient noise, especially at lower frequencies. This is useful for commuting. They also have a great 25-hour battery life.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones and Dolby Dimension perform quite similarly in most categories. The Surface Headphones have one of the most complete control schemes we’ve reviewed so far and their ANC feature is better than the Dimension’s, which makes them a better option for commuting. On the other hand, the Dolby Dimension have head tracking and virtualization features to enhance your listening experience, but don’t have an EQ like the Surface Headphones have. The Surface Headphones also have great wireless range and can also be used wired, even if the battery is dead.