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Reviewed on Dec 24, 2018 , Sam Vafaei, Simon Barbier, Jean-Simon Bonneterre, Yannick Khong

Microsoft Surface Wireless Headphones
HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

Test Benches:

  • 1.2: Winter 2018
  • 1.1: Summer 2017
  • 1.0: Winter 2017
  • 0.9: Winter 2016
6.9
Mixed Usage
What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
6.8
Critical Listening
What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.4
Commute/Travel
What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
7.1
Sports/Fitness
What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
7.4
Office
What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
5.6
Gaming
Type : Over-ear
Enclosure : Closed-Back
Wireless : Yes
Noise-Cancelling : Yes
Mic : Yes
Transducer : Dynamic

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.

Pros
  • Comfortable design.
  • Easy-to-use and complete control scheme.
  • Amazing wireless range.
Cons
  • Subpar microphone for making calls.
  • Warm and bass-heavy sound signature.

Test Results
Design 7.2
Sound 6.6
Isolation 7.7
Microphone 5.9
Active Features 8.1
Connectivity 6.4
Update 2/14/2019: We've updated the App section of the review to account for mobile support after user feedback.
Update 1/9/2019: We've updated the comfort section of the review to better reflect user experience.

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7.2

Design

Score components:

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.

Style

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.

7.5 Comfort
What it is: Adjustability and degrees of freedom, pressure, stiffness and weight.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used for long durations.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Weight : 0.6 lbs
Clamping Force
What it is: The force that the headphones exert on your head, once you have them on. This is purely a measurement of the force applied, which does not take into account the earpad's surface area and the resulting pressure you will feel, on or around your ears.
When it matters: The tighter the headphones, the more force they put on your head. This can get uncomfortable or cause pain and soreness during long listening sessions.
:
1.0 lbs

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.

9.1 Controls
What it is: The control scheme of the headphones, the number of functions provided, button layout and ergonomics as well as the quality of tactile feedback.
When it matters: If you want to control volume, pause your music or make phone calls without directly interacting with your audio device.
Ease of use : Excellent
Feedback : Great
Call/Music Control : Yes
Volume Control : Yes
Microphone Control : Yes
Channel Mixing
What it is: Being able to mix audio channels directly on the headphones.
When it matters: This is most useful when using a separate chat software so that you can mix in-game audio and chat audio depending on your needs.
:
N/A
Noise Canceling Control : Adjustable
Talk-Through
What it is: A transparency feature that uses the mics of the headphones to let you hear what is doing on around you without removing them.
When it matters: If you want to be aware of what is going on around you without removing your headphones or while still listening to your audio. This is typically a feature for the noise canceling headphones and passively isolating in-ears that block a lot of noise.
Good value: Yes or adjustable.
:
Adjustable
Additional Buttons : Voice enabled controls

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.

6.0 Breathability
What it is: How hot the headphones get when you wear them for an extended period of time.
When it matters: If you often have long listening sessions or use your headphones while doing physical activities like running or working out.
Score components:
Avg.Temp.Difference : 7.0 C

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.

6.0 Portability
What it is: The volume of space occupied by the headphones when folded into their most compact format.
When it matters: If you're often on the move and need to carry your headphones in a bag, purse , or pocket.
Score components:
L : 7.6 "
W : 8.0 "
H : 1.8 "
Volume : 109 Cu. Inches
Transmitter required : N/A

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.

7.5 Case
What it is: The provided carrying options to protect your headphones when transporting them.
When it matters: To prevent damaging your headphones, if you often carry them in your bag or pocket.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Type : Hard case
L : 8.6 "
W : 8.3 "
H : 2.2 "
Volume : 157 Cu. Inches

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.

7.5 Build Quality
What it is: Durability, material quality, cheap/expensive feel.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used by multiple users (classes/studios), by children, in tough conditions, on a daily basis, or for exercise.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

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.

7.0 Stability
What it is: How the headphones are designed to prevent them from slipping off your ears or falling off your head.
When it matters: If you plan on using the headphones while doing sports or other physical activities that requires a lot of movement.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

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.

Cable
Detachable : Yes
Length : 4.1 ft
Connection : 1/8" TRRS

They come with a 4.1-foot long 1/8” TRRS audio cable and a USB-C charging cable.

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6.6

Sound

What it is: How accurately the audio is reproduced. The tests are performed with the headphones' most commonly used features enabled (noise-cancelling, wireless, etc.)

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.

7.3 Bass
What it is: Frequency Response from 20Hz-250Hz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on bass frequencies, such as those of kick drums and bass guitar.
Score components:
Std. Err.
What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in bass frequency response (20Hz-250Hz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) bass performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
4.01 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
What it is: The lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response.
When it matters: Shows how extended the bass is.
Good value: <40Hz
Noticeable difference: 5Hz
:
10 Hz
Low-Bass
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 20Hz-60Hz.
When it matters: Kick drums and low frequency effects get their 'thump' from this range. Mostly felt than heard.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.34 dB
Mid-Bass
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 60Hz-120Hz.
When it matters: Melodic bass instruments have most of their fundamental frequencies in this range. This is where the 'body' and 'punch' of the bass sits.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
5.44 dB
High-Bass
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 120Hz-250Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments get their warmth and full-ness from this range. When over-emphasized, mixes tend to get muddy and boomy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
4.37 dB

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.

7.9 Mid
What it is: Frequency Response from 250Hz-2KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on mid-range frequencies. This is the case for the majority of audio content.
Score components:
Std. Err.
What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in mid frequency response (250Hz-2.5KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) mid performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
2.85 dB
Low-Mid
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 250Hz-500Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments have their fundamentals or low harmonics in this range. Over-emphasis in this range sounds muddy and cluttered. Under-emphasis, thins out the vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
3.7 dB
Mid-Mid
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 500Hz-1KHz.
When it matters: This range is occupied mostly by upper harmonics. Over-emphasis sounds forward and boxy. Under-emphasis pushes instruments to the back of the mix.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
0.77 dB
High-Mid
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 1KHz-2KHz.
When it matters: Most instruments, especially vocals, get their intensity and clarity from this range. Over-emphasis sounds honky and harsh, under-emphasis sounds weak and distant.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-2.69 dB

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.

4.9 Treble
What it is: Frequency Response from 2KHz-20KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on high-range frequencies, such as voice, cymbals, and any other material where brightness, brilliance and airiness is desired.
Score components:
Std. Err.
What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in treble frequency response (2.5KHz-20KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) treble performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
5.98 dB
Low-Treble
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 2KHz-5KHz.
When it matters: Almost all instruments rely on this range for their presence, detail, and articulation. Over-emphasis can sound harsh and painful. Under-emphasis hurts the comprehensibility of vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-6.55 dB
Mid-Treble
What it is: The average amount of over/under emphasis in frequency response from 5KHz-10KHz.
When it matters: This is the sibilance range. Cymbals, vocals, and lead instruments rely on this range for brightness and presence. Over-emphasis sounds piercing and painful, under-emphasis sounds dull and lispy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-2.36 dB
High-Treble
What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 10KHz-20KHz.
When it matters: This range gives brilliance and airiness to the sound. Over-emphasis sounds hissy, under-emphasis sounds closed-up and lifeless.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
:
-4.44 dB

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.

Raw Frequency Response
What it is: The average uncompensated frequency response of the headphone. For in-ears and earbuds, this corresponds to the average of 5 measurements/re-seats on the dummy head (HMS). For over/on-ear headphones, this corresponds to the average of 5 measurements/re-seats on the HMS (Head Measurement System) for the mid and treble ranges, and 5 measurements/re-seats on 5 human subjects for the bass range.
When it matters: This is for those who want to see the raw and uncompensated frequency response of the headphone. Some of the more advanced users, are able to read and evaluate headphone frequency response in its raw form and without compensation. This will be especially useful to them if they have their own headphone compensation/target curve, which may differ from the compensation curve/target response used by RTINGS.com.
7.9 Frequency Response Consistency
What it is: The amount of deviation of each frequency response pass, from the average frequency response.
When it matters: Shows how consistently the headphones perform after re-positioning them.
Score components:
Avg. Std. Deviation
What it is: The average amount of deviation in frequency response of 5 re-seats, from the average frequency response.
When it matters: Shows how consistently the headphones perform after re-positioning them.
Good value: <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.42 dB

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.

7.9 Imaging
What it is: Imaging qualities are inherent to the audio content, the headphones have to 'reproduce' them rather than 'create' them. They determine how accurately the objects are positioned in the stereo image, and how transparent the imaging is.
When it matters: When accurate positioning of the objects in the stereo image, and clear and transparent imaging is desired.
Weighted Group Delay
What it is: The average amount of group delay calculated based on a perceptual weighting filter. Group delay indicates how long it takes for each frequency to reach their maximum amplitude. This is a monaural quality and can be perceived even with one ear.
When it matters: Headphones with lower group delay have more transparent imaging and a tighter bass. Headphones with higher group delay in the bass range tend to have a wimpy and loose bass, and headphones with higher group delay in the treble range tend to have a less transparent imaging.
Good value: <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
0.23
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
What it is: The Left/Right balance of our test unit, that is, the amount of amplitude difference between the left and right drivers. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When a properly balanced stereo image and low manufacturing tolerance is desired. A poor score indicates a noticeable difference in level between the left and right drivers.
Good value: <1.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
1.65
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
What it is: The amount of difference (Std. Err.) between the frequency response of the left and right drivers of our test unit. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When an even and stable stereo image, as well as a low manufacturing tolerance, is desired. A poor score indicates there may be 'holes' in the stereo image at certain frequencies.
Good value: <2
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
2.53
Weighted Phase Mismatch
What it is: The amount of difference (Std. Err.) between the phase response of the left and right drivers of our test unit. This is not a design test, but a marker for manufacturing tolerance and ergonomics.
When it matters: When an even and stable stereo image, as well as a low manufacturing tolerance is desired. A poor score indicates there may be inaccuracies in the stereo image reproduction at certain frequencies.
Good value: <16
Noticeable difference: 3
:
4.17

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.

5.6 Soundstage
What it is: Soundstage qualities are not inherent to the audio content, the headphones have to 'create' them rather than 'reproduce' them. They determine whether the sound is perceived to be coming from inside or in front of the head, how open and spacious the soundstage is, how much the headphones acoustically interact with the environment, and how strong the phantom center is.
When it matters: When an accurately produced, large and spacious soundstage, similar to that of a stereo loudspeaker setup is desired.
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
What it is: The standard deviation of the PRTF (Pinna-related transfer function) of the headphones compared to a reference loudspeaker's PRTF at 30°. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: An accurate pinna activation is mainly responsible for how natural and speaker-like the soundstage is perceived to be. The less error in the shape of the PRTF, the more natrual and speaker-like the perception of the soundstage will be. High amounts of error may indicate a soundstage that is unnatural or odd.
Good value: <2.5
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
6.01 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
What it is: The average amplitude of the PRTF (Pinna-related transfer function) of the headphones compared to that of a reference loudspeaker's PRTF at 30°. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: This value is responsible for the perceived size of the soundstage. The higher the value, the larger the perceived size of the soundstage. However, values above the reference (5.0dB) could result in a soundstage that is perceived as unnatural or odd.
Good value: >3.7
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
7.63 dB
PRTF Distance
What it is: The depth of the "10KHz notch" of the headphone's PRTF, which is caused by phase cancellations at the concha. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test does not apply to in-ears and earbuds, due to the lack of pinna interaction.
When it matters: This value is mainly responsible for the perceived distance and elevation of the soundstage. A small distance value may result in a soundstage that is perceived to be located inside the head. Larger values may help pull the soundstage out from inside of the head and bring it to the front.
Good value: >13
Noticeable difference: 1
:
16.09 dB
Openness
What it is: How open the headphones are, and how open and spacious they sound. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This test differentiates between acoustically and electronically produced crosstalk and only takes the acoustically generated crosstalk into account. This value is the inverse of the Noise Isolation test score, and could be indirectly related the acoustic impedance of the headphones.
When it matters: When a headphone with a sense of an open, and spacious soundstage is desired. A value of 10 indicates a fully open headphone, and a value of 0 indicates a fully closed headphone.
Good value: >7.5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
2.2
Acoustic Space Excitation
What it is: How loud the headphones are, and how much they excite their environment acoustically. If the headphones are loud and open enough, the sound leaking from the headphones will be affected by the environment (reflections/reverb) before reflecting back into the open headphones and to the listener's ears. This quality is monaural and can be perceived even with one ear. This value is the inverse of the Leakage test score.
When it matters: Headphones with higher excitation values, similar to openness, tend to have soundstages that are perceived as more open and spacious.
Good value: >7.5
Noticeable difference: 0.5
:
2.8
Correlated Crosstalk
What it is: How strong and solid the phantom center is. This is mostly a stereo quality and its effects on mono content are minimal. This test is sensitive to the phase of the crosstalk and whether it is produced acoustically or electronically.
When it matters: When a true reproduction of the stereo image is desired. A value of 0 indicates no crosstalk, or that the existing crosstalk is not correlated enough to affect the phantom center. A negative score means the crosstalk is out of phase with the original signal, resulting in a slightly wider stereo image at the expense of creating a 'hole' at the center of the stereo field. A positive score means the crosstalk is in phase and positively affecting the phantom center.
Good value: >1dB
Noticeable difference: 0.3dB
:
0.0 dB

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.

6.5 Total Harmonic Distortion
What it is: The subtle, unwanted frequencies (harmonics) produced alongside the intended frequencies.
When it matters: When clean and pure sound reproduction is desired, though its effect is not as noticable as frequency response.
Score components:
Weighted THD @ 90
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 90dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at moderate listening levels.
Good value: <0.100
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
7.239
Weighted THD @ 100
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion measured at 100dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: How pure the sound is at loud listening levels.
Good value: <0.300
Noticeable difference: 0.1
:
5.907

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.

7.7

Isolation

Score components:

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.”

7.8 Noise Isolation
What it is: How much outside noise is blocked out by putting the headphones on.
When it matters: If the headphones are going to be used in a noisy environment (airplane, subway, etc.)
Score components:
Isolation Audio
What it is: The simulated noise isolation of the headphones, demonstrating how much outside noise is blocked out by putting the headphones on. This recording is created using an EQ and is not an actual recording. For headphones with ANC (active noise cancellation), the playback simulates the isolation with ANC enabled.
When it matters: When the headphones are going to be used in a noisy envinronment (airplane, subway, etc.)
:
Overall Attenuation
What it is: The overall amount of environmental noise reduction in dB.
When it matters: In loud envinronments like planes, trains, offices, etc.
Good value: <-20dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-25.39 dB
Bass
What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the bass range (20Hz-250Hz).
When it matters: When the outside noise is bass-heavy, like in airplanes.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-15.36 dB
Mid
What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the mid-range (250Hz-2.5KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is mid-heavy, like in an office.
Good value: <-15dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-21.37 dB
Treble
What it is: The overall amount of noise isolation in the treble range (2.5KHz-20KHz).
When it matters: When the environment's noise is treble-heavy. Although uncommon, areas with sharp sounds fall under this category.
Good value: <-30dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
-39.82 dB
Self-Noise
What it is: The amount of noise created by the active electronics of the headphones (if applicable), measured from 300Hz-20KHz. Applies mostly to wireless and noise-cancelling headphones.
When it matters: If too loud, it could become distracting when listening to quiet material like podcasts and audiobooks.
Good value: <16dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
21.75 dB

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.

7.5 Leakage
What it is: The amount of sound bleeding out of the headphones.
When it matters: When the listener doesn't want people around them (in office, recording studio, etc.) to hear what is being listened to.
Score components:
Leakage Audio
What it is: The simulated sound leakage heard 1 foot away from the user, while the user is listening to a 100dB SPL signal. This recording is created using an EQ and is not an actual recording.
When it matters: When you don't want people to hear what you are listening to.
:
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
What it is: The amount of sound leakage heard 1 foot away from the user, while the user is listening to a 100dB SPL signal.
When it matters: When you don't want people hear what you are listening to.
Good value: <35dB
Noticeable difference: 1dB
:
36.73 dB

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.

5.9

Microphone

What it is: The microphone section shows the quality of speech capture and transmission by the mic, as well as how well the microphone under test handles noisy environments.
When it matters: For your speech to be transmitted to and understood properly by the listener, the microphone needs to have a good recording quality. If the environment the microphone is being used in is noisy, a microphone with a good noise handling performance would be needed as well.
Score components:
Integrated
What it is: The microphone integrated in the ear cup or ear bud of a wireless headphone.
When it matters: For calls, gaming and voice over IP software or for any other use of the microphone.
Good value: Yes
:
Yes
In-line
What it is: The microphone inside the in-line remote of audio cables for wired and wireless headsets.
When it matters: In-line microphone are usually better than integrated mics. If you need better recording quality and noise handling for calls, gaming and voice over IP software then use the audio cable of your wired or wireless headphone if it has an inline microphone.
Good value: Yes
:
Yes
Boom
What it is: A typically better microphone, that's also adjustable and extends so that the mic is closer to your mouth.
When it matters: Much better recording quality and noise handling than in-line or integrated mics. Primarily used for gaming and voice over IP software.
Good value: Yes
:
No
Detachable Boom
What it is: A boom mic that is detachable from the headset.
When it matters: If you want to use your headphone outdoors without the bulk and hassle of the Boom mic.
:
N/A

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.

6.3 Recording Quality
What it is: Microphone recording quality shows how natural, neutral, extended and intelligible speech would be with the device under test, in a quiet environment.
When it matters: A microphone with a good recording quality ensures that the person listening to you would hear a full, clear, and easily understandable speech. Therefore, it is important whenever a good quality of speech transmission and intelligibility is needed.
Score components:
Recorded Speech
What it is: Actual audio recording of the headphone's microphone, recorded while placed on the dummy head, with speech being played back through the dummy head's mouth simulator.
When it matters: When a clean, full, and intelligible speech transmission is required.
:
LFE
What it is: Low-frequency extension shows how deep the bass response of the microphone is, and therefore, how deep and full your voice would sound to the listener. It is the lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response.
When it matters: LFE is not a big factor in speech intelligibility and even speech recorded with a mic that has an LFE of 500Hz could still be easily understood. Therefore, it is mostly important if you are concerned with how deep and full your voice would be heard.
Good value: <150Hz
Noticeable difference: 30Hz
:
179.59 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
What it is: Frequency Response Standard Deviation shows how accurately and balanced sound is captured by the microphone at each frequency. FR Std. Dev. is calculated between LFE and HFE, and the rest of the spectrum is ignored.
When it matters: A good frequency response is desired when a natural and neutral speech quality is desired. As opposed to HFE which is more a metric for speech intelligibility, frequency response could be considered as a metric for a natural and neutral sound.
Good value: >3.5dB
Noticeable difference: 0.5dB
:
5.17 dB
HFE
What it is: High-frequency extension is the highest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response. It shows how extended the treble response of the microphone is.
When it matters: HFE is one the most important factors in speech intelligibility. The higher the HFE, the brighter, more open, and more extended the speech quality will be which makes it a lot easier to understand by the listener.
Good value: >8KHz
Noticeable difference: 1KHz
:
3517.32 Hz
Weighted THD
What it is: The unwanted frequencies (harmonics) produced alongside the intended frequencies, which cause deformation of an output signal compared to its input.
When it matters: When clean and pure sound reproduction is desired, though its effect is not as noticable as frequency response.
Good value: <1.5
Noticeable difference: 1.0
:
1681.017
Gain
What it is: Shows how much louder the microphone can go above our reference loudness level. The gain value is reported relative to our reference level, which is 94dB at a distance of 5cm from the mouth.
When it matters: A microphone with a high gain is important when the input signal (speech) is very quiet. For example when whispering, or talking on the phone in a library.
Good value: >18dB
Noticeable difference: 3dB
:
28.2 dB

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.

5.6 Noise Handling
What it is: How well the microphone is able to separate speech from background noise, so that the transmission would include more voice and less noise.
When it matters: When a clean and intelligible speech transmission is desired in a noisy situation like talking on the phone on a busy street or on the bus.
Score components:
Speech + Pink Noise :
Speech + Subway Noise :
SpNR
What it is: Speech to Noise Ratio is the difference in level between speech and background noise as heard by the listener
When it matters: If the microphone is going to be used in a noisy environment, it is important for it to be able to separate the speech from background noise, so the voice would be easily audible and understandable.
Good value: >24dB
Noticeable difference: 3dB
:
7.52 dB

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.

8.1

Active Features

What it is: Headphones with active components that require a battery. This includes noise cancelling and wireless headphones that actively reduce noise or transmit audio via a wireless connection.
When it matters: How suitable the power and wireless specifications of an active headphone will be, depending on your listening habits. The range and/or discharge time of the active headphone you select will be important if you're often on the move or have long uninterrupted listening sessions.
Score components:

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.

8.3 Battery
What it is: The power source of your headphones. All headphones with active features have a battery that will deplete over time.
When it matters: To continue using the active features of your headphones. Some models lose features or switch off completely when the battery is drained, which limits what you can do with them until the next charge.
Battery Type
What it is: The type of battery that the headphones use. Usually AAA or embedded, Li-ion rechargeable batteries.
When it matters: When your headphones run out of power. Rechargeable batteries usually charge via the headphones Micro-USB port whereas AAA batteries have to be replaced or charged with an external device.
:
Rechargable
Battery Life
What it is: The amount of time it takes for a headphones' battery to be completely drained. Battery life will vary depending on the active features used and volume level.
When it matters: For active headphones that connect wirelessly, have noise cancellation or other audio-enhancing features, that cease to work once the battery is dead.
Good value: >10hrs
Noticeable difference: 0.5hrs
:
13.2 hrs
Charge Time
What it is: The amount of time your active headphones have to be connected to a power source to charge from 0 to a 100%. However, charging time will vary depending on your power source.
When it matters: To be able to use the active features of your headphones. Especially, wireless ones that completely switch off and need to be recharged when the battery is dead.
Good value: 2h or less
Noticeable difference: 0.25h
:
1.4 hrs
Power Saving Feature
What it is: A feature that turns off the headphones, after a set time, when they're not in use.
When it matters: To prolong battery life when the headphones are not being used, or if you forget to manually turn off your headphones.
:
Auto-Off Timer
Audio while charging
What it is: Some active headphones remain usable while charging. They continue to stream audio and do not disable other active features.
When it matters: This makes sure that your headphones's battery are not being drained when you're relatively close to a power source. However, this means wireless headphones will need a wired connection to the power source during the charging process.
:
Yes
Passive Playback
What it is: Active headphones that still work when all their active features are turned off or out of power.
When it matters: If you run out of power and do not have spare AA/AAA batteries or access to a power source to recharge your headphones.
:
Yes

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.

6.5 App Support
What it is: The additional app provided to enhance your listening experience. They typically deliver a set of practical features that give you more control over the sound, noise cancelling and effects that the headphones produce.
When it matters: An app with a lot of features allows you to customize your listening experience to suit your taste and preferences. For example, additions like an equalizer can give you more bass or treble and room effects can simulate a bigger Soundstage in closed back headphones.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
App Name : Cortana
iOS : Yes
Android : Yes
Mac OS : No
Windows : Yes
Equalizer
What it is: Parametric, graphic or preset sound profiles that slightly alter the frequency response.
When it matters: If you want to tailor, your listening experience. Depending on what you're listening to you may want more or less bass for some tracks or more mid-range for vocals-heavy audio.
:
Graphic + Presets
ANC control
What it is: Control over the Active noise canceling technology. This could be either a simple on/off button, and adjustable slider or even adaptive self-regulating noise cancellation.
When it matters: If you're in an environment where you need to monitor your surroundings or completely isolate yourself from ambient noise.
:
No
Mic Control : No
Room effects
What it is: Room effects that enhance the audio quality to make it more immersive.
When it matters: If you want to further tweak your listening experience. Adding room effects, can simulate a more spacious Soundstage or deliver a surround sound-like feel.
:
No
Playback control
What it is: An in-app player that gives you access to play/stop, track skipping or volume controls directly with the app.
When it matters: It's a shortcut that allows you to control your audio without leaving the application.
:
No
Button Mapping : No
Surround Sound : N/A

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.

6.4

Connectivity

What it is: The inputs and outputs of wired and wireless headphones, as well as their latency performance and range.
When it matters: When you want to know whether your headphones will be compatible with your various audio sources, like your smartphone, tablet, gaming consoles, PC, smart TV, amplifiers, etc.
Score components:

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.

6.8 Bluetooth
What it is: Bluetooth support for wireless headphones.
When it matters: When you want to connect your headphones wirelessly to a Bluetooth source, like your smartphone, tablet, PC or smart TV.
Score components:
Bluetooth Version
What it is: The version of Bluetooth that the headphones support.
When it matters: Newer versions of Bluetooth, when paired with devices that support the same version, may have improved latency and wireless range performance.
:
4.2
Multi-Device Pairing
What it is: A Bluetooth profile that allows some headphones to be simultaneously connected to multiple Bluetooth sources, and have full call and media support on both/all devices they are connected to.
When it matters: To quickly switch between your Bluetooth sources. For example, switching from your phone to your home or work PC and still have call and media support on both devices.
Good value: 2 devices.
:
2 Devices
NFC Pairing
What it is: Near Field Communication technology that allows you to quickly, pair your headphones with your Bluetooth and NFC-enabled device.
When it matters: This makes pairing with an NFC-enabled device a lot easier than the typical and often tedious hold-to-pair procedure that most wireless headphones have.
Good value: Yes
:
No

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.

9.1 Wired
What it is: The type and compatibility of audio cables for wired and wireless headphones.
When it matters: When you want to use your headphones wired with a device that has a regular audio jack (line-out), like a smartphone, PC, or gaming console controller.
OS Compatibility
What it is: Testing the headphones' cable to see which operating system it works with.
When it matters: Some wired headphones don't support all operating systems so this allows you to check if the headphones will work with your device.
:
Not OS specific
Analog Audio
What it is: When your headphones can play analog media using a standard 1/8" TRS audio jack. Includes using a 1/4" or 1/16" TRS with a 1/8" TRS adapter.
When it matters: For listening to music with devices that have a standard 1/8" TRS audio jack, like an MP3 player, tablet, smartphone or PC.
Good value: Yes
:
Yes
USB Audio
What it is: When your headphones can play digital media using a standard USB connector.
When it matters: For listening to music on a PC. A digital USB adapter can offer some advantages over a regular audio jack, like a DAC or added software support.
Good value: Yes
:
No
PS4 Compatible
What it is: PS4 compatibility with a regular 1/8" TRS or TRRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your PS4 controller.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
Audio + Microphone
Xbox One Compatible
What it is: Xbox One compatibility with a regular 1/8" TRS or TRRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your Xbox One controller.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
Audio + Microphone
PC Compatible
What it is: PC compatibility with a regular 1/8" TRS or TRRS audio cable.
When it matters: When you want to use a wired headphone with your PC.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
Audio + Microphone

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.

0 Base/Dock
What it is: The base station, dock, or dongle transmitter of wireless headphones that receive data/audio via a specific frequency range or wired headphones that have a proprietary amp.
When it matters: When you need to know which inputs and outputs the headphones support, so you can set them up with your home theatre system for gaming or watching movies.
Type
What it is: The type of base/dock the headphones use, whether a USB dongle, charging case or docking station. Wired or wireless.
When it matters: Larger docking stations tend to have more controls and sometimes even customization options while smaller USB dongles are more portable. Charging cases allow you to keep your earbuds charged on-the-go.
:
N/A
Optical Input
What it is: Optical input for audio.
When it matters: Optical can carry a bit more data at faster speeds than typical wired connection which allows for more high quality, lossless audio.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
Line In
What it is: The regular wired input via a 1/8" TRS audio jack.
When it matters: For any device that has a line out for audio transmission.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
Line Out
What it is: A regular 1/8TRS audio jack output.
When it matters: If you need to share the audio source with other devices. A line out lets you connect other headphones or speakers to the dock/base station.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
USB Input
What it is: A digital USB input instead of a typical 1/8 TRS line-in.
When it matters: A USB connection can provide both an audio input and power to the Dock or Base station.
:
N/A
RCA Input
What it is: Audio input using via an RCA connectors.
When it matters: Provides better stereo audio to the dock/base that's then transmitted to the headphones.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with the PlayStation 4.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with the Xbox One.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
:
N/A
PC Compatible
What it is: Dock/Base station compatibility with your Personal Computer.
When it matters: To be able to use all the features of the dock/base station with out losing audio or microphone capability.
Good value: Audio + Microphone
:
N/A
Power Supply
What it is: The connector type of the power source for the base/dock.
When it matters: The accessibility of the power source. For example, a power supply with USB/USB-C connects to multiple devices, PC , PS4, Xbox One or even with your regular phone charger whereas an AC adapter is less common.
Good value: USB/USB-C
:
N/A
Dock Charging
What it is: Charging the headphones via the dock/base station instead of a charging cable.
When it matters: It makes charging your headphones easier and gives you a sport to store your headphones when they are not in use.
Good value: Yes
:
N/A

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.

10 Wireless Range
What it is: Headphones that offer a cable-free listening experience over a wireless network, typically via Bluetooth or radio frequency.
When it matters: When you don't want to be limited by the length of an audio cable. This means having the freedom to move around in your home or office with much greater range than an audio cable could provide, especially if the audio source is heavy or difficult to carry. Note that wireless range also depends on your audio source's signal strength, which may vary between devices.
Score components:
Obstructed Range
What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when the Bluetooth source was placed in another room. We test our obstructed range with a Moto E4 Plus. Results may vary depending on your phone model or Bluetooth source.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you while listening to your audio in an indoor environment. Although, the obstructed wireless range will slightly depend on your home or office layout. Note that wireless range also depends on your Bluetooth source's signal strength which may vary from device to device or depending on your phone model.
Good value: >35ft
Noticeable difference: 5ft
:
72 ft
Line of Sight Range
What it is: The range that the wireless headphones can reach before dropping any audio when in direct line of sight of the Bluetooth device.
When it matters: If you can't or prefer not to carry your Bluetooth source on you while listening to your audio in a large and open environment.
Good value: 170ft or more
Noticeable difference: 10ft
:
296 ft

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.

2.1 Latency
What it is: How long it takes for audio to play through your headphones once the audio signal has been sent from a source.
When it matters: When gaming or watching movies. High latency means you will hear the audio much later than the images you see on screen. Note that latency also depends on the device and applications you use.
Score components:
Default Latency
What it is: The base RF latency or the default sub-band coding (SBC) of most Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: When watching videos wirelessly, high latency can cause sync issues between the images you see and the audio you hear.
Good value: 50 ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15 ms
:
201 ms
aptX Latency
What it is: An audio coding algorithm (codec) that improves bit rate efficiency. It reduces latency and improves sound quality over Bluetooth.
When it matters: For better sound quality if you often stream music over Bluetooth. It also slightly improves latency when watching videos with wireless headphones.
Good value: 50 ms or less
Noticeable difference: 15 ms
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
What it is: Low latency variation of aptX that significantly reduces sync issues between video and sound when using Bluetooth headphones.
When it matters: Latency is a lot more noticeable when watching videos or gaming than when just listening to music.
Good value: 50 ms or less
Noticeable difference: 5 ms
:
N/A

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.

In the box

  • Microsoft Surface Headphones
  • Carrying case
  • USB-C charging cable
  • 1/8” TRRS audio cable
  • Manuals

Compared to other Headphones

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 wireless headphones and the best noise-cancelling headphones.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018

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.

Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless

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.

Beats Studio 3 Wireless

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.

Bowers & Wilkins PX Wireless

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.

Dolby Dimension Wireless

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.

+ Show more

Conclusion

6.9 Mixed Usage
What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
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.
6.8 Critical Listening
What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
Average for critical 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 Windows Cortana app, but overall they sound warm and might be better suited for fans of bass.
7.4 Commute/Travel
What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
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.
7.1 Sports/Fitness
What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
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.
7.4 Office
What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
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 TV. While they are comfortable and are wireless headphones, which will let you enjoy watching TV from your couch, they have too much latency for this use case.
5.6 Gaming
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.

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