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.
Above-average for mixed usage. They have an average sound quality that may be a bit warm and suitable for bass-heavy genres but not ideal for vocal-centric music. Their wireless design paired with a good ANC feature makes them a good choice for commuting and traveling if you don’t mind the slightly bulky over-ear design. They are also stable enough for sports if you don’t mind the extra sweat. They are comfortable to wear during long listening sessions at work and don’t leak too much. However, they have too much latency for watching TV and gaming, but you can use the included audio cable to get rid of it.
Average for neutral listening. They have an overemphasized bass and low-mid ranges, making mixes boomy and cluttered and won’t be ideal for vocal-centric music. Their treble is also veiled, meaning vocals and instruments lack presence and detail. However, you can customize the sound profile a bit with the 5-band EQ that’s in the Surface Audio app, but overall they sound warm and might be better suited for fans of bass.
Above-average for commuting and traveling. They have a good ANC feature that reduces engine rumbles by quite a lot, but they are a bit bulky since they are over-ears. If you don’t mind their size, they are a good option for your daily commute. They are also quite comfortable for long flights, but the shallow cups might not be a good fit for everyone.
Decent for sports. The Microsoft Surface Headphones are fairly lightweight and stable for sports, but their over-ear design might not be the most breathable option for physical activity, and you can expect more sweating than usual while wearing them. However, their bass-heavy sound signature will get you pumped during workouts.
Good for office use. Their 13-hour battery life will last you a whole work day, and they are comfortable for long listening sessions. Their ANC feature isolates a good amount of ambient chatter and will let you focus on your tasks, without disturbing people surrounding you thanks to their good leakage performance. They also have great wireless range if you leave your desk often, and they can also connect to two devices simultaneously, which is convenient.
Sub-par for gaming. The Microsoft Surface are comfortable headphones, but their sound quality isn’t the best and might sound too boomy. Also, they are Bluetooth headphones that have too much latency for gaming, and their integrated mic is sub-par. However, if you use them wired, you’ll get rid of latency issues and will be able to use the better performing in-line microphone.
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 B&O Play Beoplay H9 Gen 1 Wireless. We have adjusted the comfort score to reflect this.
Update 16/06/2020: We previously reported that you could adjust the level of their talk-through setting. However, this setting can't be adjusted, and it can only be turned on/off. The Controls score has not changed.
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.
These over-ears aren't very portable and have a bulky design. However, the cups swivel for the headphones to lay flat, making it easier to slide them in a bag, or to fit them inside the included traveling case.
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 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 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 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.
Their active noise isolation performance is great and they actually block out slightly more noise than their second-generation counterpart, the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 Wireless. While they're okay at cutting down bass noise like the rumble of bus and plane engines, they do an excellent job of reducing mid-range noise like speech. They also do an outstanding job at blocking out higher-pitched sounds like the hum of an A/C unit.
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 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 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.
Update 05/11/2020: The Cortana app has been discontinued and we've changed this box to better reflect the new replacement app.
The Microsoft Surface Wireless have a great companion app called Surface Audio, which is available on Windows, iOS, and Android. You can easily customize the way these headphones sound with either the 5-band graphic EQ or presets, and you can check up on your battery life. This app also lets you adjust the level of active noise cancelling (ANC), see all your paired devices, and even change the voice assistant's language. However, the ANC feature can't be controlled directly from the mobile app main page, which may be a small inconvenient for some.
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.
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.
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 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 Surface Audio 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 wireless headphones and the best noise-cancelling headphones.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 Wireless are the second generation of the Microsoft Surface Wireless Headphones and are alike in looks and performance except for two small updates. The second-gen are now on Bluetooth version 5.0 and they support the aptX codec. While both headphones have an adjustable active noise cancelling feature, the first-gen can block out slightly more noise. They're also a bit more consistent among different users or reseats. However, their battery life is slightly shorter than the second-gen's 16-hour continuous playback time.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018 are better headphones than the Microsoft Surface Wireless Headphones. The Bose have a more neutral and well-balanced sound profile, are one of the most comfortable headphones we’ve reviewed to date. The Bose also have a much better ANC feature. However, they don’t have the satisfying touch-sensitive control scheme of the Microsoft, they leak more audio, and don’t have any EQ options in their dedicated companion app like the Microsoft.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 are better headphones than the Microsoft Surface Headphones. The Sony are better-built headphones that have a better-balanced sound profile and superior ANC. Overall, the XM3s are more versatile and more customizable thanks to the great companion app. On the other hand, the Surface Headphones have a more complete control scheme and longer wireless range.
The Microsoft Surface Wireless 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 Microsoft 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 Microsoft have better noise isolation performance but have about half of the Beats' battery life.
The Microsoft Surface Wireless Headphones and Dolby Dimension Wireless perform quite similarly in most categories. The Microsoft 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 have head tracking and virtualization features to enhance your listening experience but don’t have an EQ like the Microsoft have. The Surface Headphones also have great wireless range and can also be used wired, even if the battery is dead.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones are similar for mixed usage to the Bowers & Wilkins PX Wireless, but both take the edge in different categories. The Microsoft are more comfortable for long listening sessions, have a better control scheme, and deliver a more consistent sound quality. On the other hand, the Bowers & Wilkins 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.