Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 Review: ANC, Bluetooth, Style

The Surface Headphones 2 are a pair of headphones for enjoying music especially while on the go.

Microsoft positions the pair in a highly competitive market of Bluetooth, ANC headphones with an interesting twist on having a more unique interface and look.

Let’s dive in and take a look and see how they compete.

Angled view of Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

The Verdict

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you want an excellent pair of headphones that has Bluetooth, ANC, and a solid build, the Microsoft Surface Headphones are a great option to consider. They are a great option for music listening at home or on the go.

If you want everything that the top Bluetooth headphones deliver at a slightly cheaper price this is a great option. Microsoft’s Surface Headphones 2 are still very competitive but have a better value over some of the more expensive offerings on the market.

The Surface Headphones 2 are often compared to more expensive options like Sony’s XM4s or Bose NC700s. Although the Surface Headphones are 100 or more dollars less expensive, they compete very closely with these options and are often compared to both.

The build is strong along with a comfortable design that makes these a great option no matter where you are. You can use them throughout the day. Along with this, you get similar sound quality as other premium Bluetooth headphones.

The interface is one of the most unique things about this pair and the inclusion of dials makes interacting with the device very easy while still having a lot of functionality.

Additionally, there is support from many other features like a carrying case, software support, fast charging, ANC, and ambient sound.

If your main priority is having the best sound quality then there are other options to consider but for a Bluetooth pair, this is excellent.

You can find the Surface Headphones 2 on Amazon for a great price.


In The Box

Unboxing of Surface Headphones 2

Everything is packaged very nicely. In the box you will find the headphones and some accessories.

  • Carrying Case: A carrying case holds almost everything that you will need to use the headphones, including the pair themselves. It is a well-made, hard case with fabric.
  • Headphones: Inside the carrying case are the headphones with some protective paper that you can peel off.
  • USB-A to USB-C: You get a rubberized cable for fast charging the device at 4.1ft (1.5m) .
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm adapter: If you want to use the pair wired, you get a 3.1 ft (1.2m) long cable.
  • Instructions: In the case, by the cables, you will find the instructions on how to use the buttons and gestures.
  • Manual: You will also get a manual that covers everything that you may need to know like contacts and support.
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Technical Details

  • Drivers: 40mm Dynamic Drivers
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Sensitivity (Sound output): 115dB with cable or Bluetooth
  • Noise cancellation: Up to 30dB for active, up to 40dB for passive
  • Inputs: USB-C, 3.5mm
  • Weight: 0.64lbs (290g)

The Build

Top view of Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

The build of the Surface Headphones is quite good. You have good use of aluminum, plastic, fabric, and pleather. Plastic is used for most of the design with aluminum for the frame. You can also see aluminum connecting the earcups to the headband. The earcups and top of the headband use pleather with fabric inside the earcups.

I have accidentally dropped the pair and they have been fine. Through regular use, you should have no issues. You get the standard build with other headphones premium ANC headphones.

There is no sweat rating on the Surface Headphones but I had no issues with regular use or exercise. I wouldn’t want to risk anything with more premium headphones but I have taken the pair on runs and to the gym and had zero problems. They are fine from my testing but there is no official rating to back it up. I would also not recommend using the pair in the rain as there is a high risk of damage.

After using the pair for about a year, there are some sweat stains on the inside but it is nothing too bad and there is no effect on the performance of the device.

To back up the build of the device is a 1 year warranty.

The pair feels well build and nice to the touch. I have no complaints.

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Style and Comfort

You have two color options with the Surface Headphones 2. You can get a matte black or a light gray. Both look quite nice and are resistant to scratches and other cosmetic issues.

There Microsoft logo is on the lower part of the headband on both sides. It is a reflective material that is consistent with the logos on the other Surface line’s products. Overall this style looks quite nice, especially if you own other Surface products.

The comfort of the Surface Headphones 2 is pretty good and it is among the best for Bluetooth headphones. There is a decent amount of cushioning on both the headband and earcups so there are never pressure points. I only found that there would be too much pressure if you are using the headphones for extended periods of time of two or more hours.

Using glasses with this pair is not as good as some other headphones that I have tried but it is pretty good.

Although there isn’t too much pressure, the Surface Headphones stay on your head really well even if you are running or jumping. The Surface headphones are a decent option for working out but they don’t support any official sweat rating so use them at your own risk. I have not had any issues with my pair and I have had them since they came out, using them for everything from working to going to the gym.

The earpads use of pleather makes them very comfortable but if your ears get hot easily then you could run to comfort issues. My ears get hot no matter what headphones I use. With the Surface Headphones, my ears get uncomfortably hot after about 45 minutes of usage. For most people, you could probably use the pair for upwards of two hours.

Another potential issue you may encounter with the Surface Headphones is that your ears may touch the drivers. The material on the inside is some sort of soft fabric so it doesn’t get uncomfortable.

Most people will not have an issue with the size of these headphones unless you have a very small head. Most small heads will fit well but children may encounter problems.

The headphones are quite light at 290g or 0.64lbs. This helps them not feel heavy on your head even after long periods of time. The low weight also makes the headphones very portable.

Sound Quality

Frequency Response of Microsoft Surface Headphones 2
Frequency Response Results From Sonarworks

The Surface Headphones have a more “appealing” and “fun” sound signature that is mainstream among Bluetooth headphones. There is more of a V curve meaning there is more of a boost in bass and some of the vocals.

The bass hits quite nicely and vocals don’t sound harsh but unfortunately, the mid-range controlling most instruments is a bit recessed.

Although these headphones have the same sound profile as many consumer headphones there are some other factors consider like the clarity of the sound and separation between different sounds.

I would say that you get what you pay for. The sound quality is better than most of the cheaper offerings and even options at the same price range. The quality is quite good but not as good as maybe the Sony XM4s, although they are more expensive.

I noticed that the quality of the sound was the same between wired and Bluetooth. This is also due to the fact that most audio platforms, like Spotify or Apple music, only playback audio at a quality of 320kbps. The amount of information in the music would have to be much different to notice much of a difference between wired and wireless.

Overall the sound is quite good and unless you are used to very premium headphones or audiophile quality pairs the sound is amazing for most. The only issues I felt were that the mid-range instruments were not as present as I hoped and although there is quite a lot of bass and it is able to hit hard, it was not necessarily always clean. This is common among popular noise-canceling headphones.

That being said, this is a deep-level analysis from someone who has tried more premium sounding headphones so the sound signature and quality will be great for most people in the market for Bluetooth headphones.

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The Interface

One of the most unique aspects of the Surface Headphones is the interface. Most high-end Bluetooth headphones will support gestures to skip songs or change the volume but Microsoft takes it a step further.

Microsoft uses two dials, two buttons, and both earcups ae touch capacitive.

One button is used to turn on and off the device and the other button is used to activate either Cortana or your device’s virtual assistant. This makes communication with Google Assistant or Siri very easy, even if you don’t have your phone is in another room.

The controls on the earcups allow you to skip or go back to a track as well as pause and play. It doesn’t matter which earcup you use because the controls work on both.

Finally, arguably the most unique thing about the Surface Headphones, the dials. These dials are smooth and continuous. On the edge of the earcups are two dials. The left one controls the level of ANC as the dial on the right controls the volume.

The control that is given to you from the dials makes the Surface Headphones very easy to use and the interface is one of the best on any headphone. It is very easy to use and you have a lot of functionality without needing your phone.

Software

Software for Surface Headphones 2

Software is always a great thing to go alongside a pair of headphones. With the Surface Headphones, Microsoft has their Surface Audio app both on the PC and phone.

The software allows you to monitor important things like battery or volume and gives you access to in-depth functionality.

With the software you can change the name, edit EQs, change language, and update the device.

Over the air updates can improve things like battery life and even sound quality.

Cortana and Voice Assistants

One interesting feature of the Surface Headphones is the inclusion of a voice assistant, Cortana. You can use Cortana to do things like read emails to you or interact with any Microsoft app.

Ultimately I don’t find Cortana to be useful but you can still use the headphones with the virtual assistant of your device. To interact with the assistant of your device, simply long-press the side of either earcup.

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Connectivity

The Surface Headphones support the industry standard Bluetooth 5.0.

I was able to go about 100 feet (30.5 meters) away from my computer or phone with obstacles in the way before the audio started to cut out. Without walls or other obstacles, you can probably be over 200 feet (61 meters) away from your device without it cutting out.

You could leave your device and walk anywhere around most apartments and even many homes without the audio cutting out. At the gym, you could potentially leave your phone in a locker if it is close enough to you.

Pairing the device is also easy. Simply press the power button and then press again and hold for about five seconds until you hear, “You’re ready to pair”. Whenever you turn on the device it will automatically connect to paired devices.

You can pair with multiple devices for seamless switching from a phone and computer with audio plays from a different device.

Overall this is standard Bluetooth performance with options from the likes of Sony and Bose but it is still quite good and works with few issues.

You can also use the Surface Headphones wired if you want via the 3.5mm cable.

Battery and Charging

The battery and charging are not as good as some of the industry leaders but the performance is still quite good, especially for the price.

Microsoft’s Surface headphones can charge to 100% in under two hours and get an hour of playtime after 5 minutes of charging. Sony has a charging speed with their XM3s of five hours in just 10 minutes.

As for the battery, you can get about 20 hours of music playback while using Bluetooth and ANC. I found that this was enough to last me over a week with two to three hours of daily usage. While using them at work, they can last me a few days if using them for the majority of the day.

Microphone

Close up of earcup for surface headphones 2

In order to have noise cancellation, the headphones need multiple mics. As a result, the Surface Headphones have a better mic than most headphones I have tried and on par with more premium Bluetooth Headphones.

They are better than the mics of AirPods but still worse than a dedicated microphone.

The sound is good enough for calling but I would not recommend using Surface Headphones for any recording.

ANC and Ambient Sound

One of the defining features of the Surface Headphones is ANC or active noise cancellation alongside an ambient sound mode.

In total you have 13 levels of ANC adjustment from amplified ambient sound to full noise cancellation.

The ANC performance is not the best but it can block out the surroundings while in a bus and remove a lot of the sound of a plane or vacuum. It is pretty good and definitely one of the best options but still trails the likes of Bose and Sony with their flagships.

As for the ambient sound, it is quite a clean sounding. It sounds as if you were hearing all the sounds around you with your own ears.

There is an amplified ambient sound mode. This makes everything louder than it actually is. I found it very useful to listen to people talking to me from another room and it helps you to hear your surroundings while still listening to music.

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Alternatives

Many of the alternatives to the Surface Headphones are at higher price points but they are still able to compete in many areas.

Sony XM4

The Sony WH-1000XM4s is arguably one of the best headphones in this category of Bluetooth, ANC headphones. Compared to the Surface Headphones 2 they can’t compete with the dials and the build is very similar. They both share many features like being able to connect to different devices, fast charging, and more.

The XM4s do perform better in multiple fields though. Sound, ANC, and Battery are all a bit better with the Sonys. The performance is not huge but the XM4s deliver some of the best performance in these fields for Bluetooth headphones. You get 30 hours of battery life, a cleaner sound, and arguably the best ANC in any headphones.

It is important to mention that the XM4s are often $100 more than the Surface Headphones 2 and understanding if spending the extra money is worth it is essential to understanding which one is best for you.

Bose NC 700

The Bose NC 700s are another fantastic option that is positioned often at a higher price point than even the XM4s. They deliver a minimalistic look, a similar design concept to the clean look of the Surface Headphones.

They have similar build quality, comfort, Bluetooth performance, and battery life. Where the Bose NC 700s pull ahead is in cleaner sound and some of the best ANC. The ANC is better at blocking out consistent sounds like an airplane and sudden sounds like a door closing.

Again the Bose NC700s are also, usually, over $100 more than the Surface Headphones 2. They may have less value but then looks, and improved ANC and sound quality may make it worth it for them.


Conclusion

Angled view of surface headphones 2 on a desk

Competing with the best Bluetooth headphones, the Surface Headphones 2 delivers great value and performance competing heavily with the top options.

They are a great option to use both while you work and while you work out and they can get you through the day with long battery life. Microsoft delivers on giving a solid build with great sound quality and ANC.

All this is supported by the abundance of other features like fast charging, a carrying case, software support, and the interface with dials. The interface itself makes the headphones such a great option along with everything else.

The Surface Headphones 2 are well rounded and will deliver everything most people need at a price that is cheaper than its competitors

If you think these are a great option for you, then check out the Surface Headphones 2 on Amazon.

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