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.

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.


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 considered 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.


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 are 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 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.



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.


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 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.



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.


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.


Google Nest Mini Review: A Smart Speaker With Value

In the past few years, virtual assistants have become commonplace in homes. More and more products are gaining smart home functionality to work with these virtual assistants. With growing popularity and need for functionality, it is key that companies making these assistants put out products that are fast and effective.

The Nest Mini 2 improved from the original Google Home and is one of the best value options when looking to invest in a virtual assistant. Not only can you get arguably the best virtual assistant but you get a pretty decent speaker to tie in the experience.

Let’s find out if the Google Nest Mini 2 is truly good and investing in Google’s Assistant will benefit you.

Google Nest Mini

The Verdict

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If you have been looking for a smart speaker with great value, the Google Nest Mini (2nd generation) is a fantastic option to consider. It is a speaker with good sound and even better functionality.

For those who want a greater smart home experience or just want a virtual assistant. You get a lot of support with the Google Home App and arguably the best virtual assistant with Google Assistant.

Google Assistant can answer a countless number of questions while being quick. You can settle disputes or ask or get work done faster through fast translations and calculations all with a virtual assistant.

You can even use the Nest Mini as a desktop speaker. It can sit on a desk or be moved around due to its compact size.

The sound quality is pretty solid especially for the price and it is a step over a monitor and even phone speakers.

Google’s Nest Mini also has a great build and look. It can fit in any environment with a stylish but minimalistic build and multiple color options to choose from.

If you want something more powerful or a more premium setup then getting something like the Nest Mini’s bigger brother, the Google Nest Audio Speaker, or a more premium speaker setup if you don’t want or need a virtual assistant..


In The Box

Google Nest Mini Unboxing

When you open up the box everything is packaged quite nicely.

Included in the box are all the essentials you need to use the device and get started. Aside from the speaker, inside the box you will find:

  • The AC Power Cable: You get a standard single pin AC power cable. It’s quite nice quality and doesn’t distract from the look of the speaker.
  • Manual/Quick Start Guide: This will tell you the basic functions of the device and how to get started.

If you ever lose the manual or need more help the google home app can provide you with the resources you need, as well as just asking Google Assistant.


The Build and Style

Close up of Google Nest Mini

Google gives us quite a nice looking and well made device with the Nest Mini 2.

The frame of the device is made from sturdy plastic and is quite rigid. There is no flex in the device anywhere. On the outside of the device, it is made from some sort of mesh fabric and rubber.

The bottom and sides are made from the rubber allowing it to stay in place well and not move around on a surface no matter how slippery. The top of the device looks and feels quite nice due to the use of the fabric. The fabric is inviting when wanting to use the touch functions for doing things like changing volume. It also makes the device look better rather than the use of all plastic which can make a device look cheap.

Google made the Nest Mini very compact with a diameter of about 3.85 inches a height of 1.65 inches. It is also quite light, weighing in at only 0.4 pounds. This makes it a great option on the go. You can easily bring the device to a hang out with some friends or move it to different rooms when you need it.

Google gives you four color options to choose from. Chalk (White), Charcoal (Black), Sky (Blue), and Coral. All look pretty good with a slight contrast from the fabric to the rubber.

As for the interface, the Nest Mini has one physical switch and three touch-sensitive buttons. The switch is used to mute the microphone. Then you have the three buttons for volume control on each side. The button top button is used to play and pause media, stop an alarm or timer, and if you press and hold for 15 seconds you can factory reset the device.

On top of the device, there are four LEDs. These turn on when you are talking to Google Assistant, the mic is off, or you are pressing any of the buttons. On the sides, there are two additional LEDs but those only turn on when pressing any of the buttons to show you where to press to increase or decrease volume. When changing volume the LEDs will be used to show you what volume you are at by using different brightness for the four LEDs.

Google Nest Mini on mute

When you mute the mic the lights will turn red and will not turn off until it is unmuted. For all other situations, the LEDs will be white. When you are talking to Google Assistant the four LEDs will activate and have a breathing effect as you talk to it. Overall the system is quite intuitive and works well.

To power the device there is one plug for AC power that goes to a plug, in the wall. It is a bit unfortunate that the Nest Mini 2 doesn’t use USB, but not a huge deal.

Overall the Google Nest Mini 2 is has a great build, especially for the price. The build of the device is strong and it has an appealing look. The use of materials even competes with smart speakers in higher price ranges. I’m quite impressed here.


Sound Quality

Since this is ultimately a speaker one of the most important factors is the sound quality. In comparison to the competition and for the price the quality of sound is pretty good.

The sound quality is probably good for most people in general. It is cleaner and packs more of a punch than the different monitor speakers I tried and the speakers from modern smartphones including the iPhone 11 Pro and Oneplus 7T Pro.

If you are used to using monitor speakers these will have a lot more clarity and will deliver a lot more bass. As for phone speakers, the sound will still be better with minimal improvements in clarity, just punchy bass, and an overall fuller sound where you can hear more of each sound.

This is not mentioning the fact that this speaker can get considerably louder than both monitor and phone speakers. Either may be good in a situation where you are right next to the device but if you want to actually fill a room with good sound, the Nest Mini will blow the other two out of the water.

When comparing the Nest Mini 2 to dedicated speakers it is able to compete in lower price ranges. The Nest Mini delivers similar sound quality with bass and treble that is solid to those of speakers in the sub $30 category. If the speaker unit does have a subwoofer the Nest Mini just can’t compete as it won’t be able to provide as much clarity and bass as those units.

For a single speaker the sound is good and it will be just as good as many portable speakers.

If you want to use this speaker as a desktop speaker you can connect to your computer, assuming it has Bluetooth, there is some latency added. This is not an issue when listening to music but it is not recommended to use this speaker for gaming if you wish to use your Nest Mini as a desktop speaker.

I have been using the Nest Mini as my desktop speaker for the past few weeks and although it may not be good as super high-end speakers it is definitely solid at this price range especially considering it can do a lot more besides just being a speaker.


Google Home Support

One of the key things that enables almost all the functionality of the Nest Mini 2 is the Google Home app.

The Google Home app is essential to setting up the app, connecting to services such as Spotify or YouTube Music, and gives you functionality with smart home capable products such as Philips Hue lights. The software also allows you to change things like the language or languages you want to speak in, the voice of Google Assistant, and much more.

Besides changing the virtual assistant settings and connecting to services you can also edit the EQ to add more treble or bass, play and pause media, and control the volume.

The app enables you to control everything “smart” about the speaker. It has a lot of functionality and for the most part, is pretty easy to use. It’s what makes smart speakers so special.

Google Assistant and Special Features

Google Next Mini next to a plant

The fact that the Nest Mini is a smart speaker provides a ton of functionality to the device and is what makes it special. Google Assistant can do many things from starting timers to setting reminders to answering questions.

Having the functionality of a device that will answer most of my immediate questions right away is very useful. I can have the Google Assistant do a command to figure something out while I am working on another part of the issue as if Google Assistant is a real assistant. Depending on your use case you could greatly benefit from a virtual assistant not just for smart home use.

One capability on the device that I found to be very useful was the ability to pair the speaker via Bluetooth to my desktop. If your device support Bluetooth you can use this speaker rather than something like monitor speakers and you will notice a sound improvement.

To further add to the sound Google also allows you to pair the speaker with multiple other Nest Audio speakers more a more full and potentially more immersive sound. I wouldn’t recommend buying two Nest Minis for this specific feature but if you have two of them it is a nice feature to have at any time

If you want to not have the speaker resting on a desk or counter you can hang it on a nail from the wall. This causes the sound to fire towards you which is nice in situations where just you are listening from the speaker. Hanging the Nest Mini from the wall also can provide a potentially cleaner look or may just blend well with your wall.

Although the small size is not intended for good portability it does make the Nest Mini great for being a device that you can take to a party easily. It is not as good as a portable speaker but if you don’t want to spend the extra money on a portable speaker and you have access to a wall outlet you can use it in most places as it is compact and light.



Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen

The main competitor to Google’s Nest Mini 2 is the Amazon Echo Dot 4th Generation. Overall the build, sound quality, and app support are about the same. The major differences are a few more minor features and the amount of support for each ecosystem.

With the Google ecosystem, you could interact with the speaker and an android phone and everything would be seamless. Also, some smart home products don’t have support for Alexa but only Google and Apple Home.

The Nest Mini is smaller in size in comparison to the 4th generation of the Echo Dot. The Echo Dot has more of a rounded shape making it take up more space. As for the construction itself, the materials used are mostly consistent except the Echo Dot uses some plastic where the Nest Mini uses rubber.

The sound is mostly the same but Google takes the edge just by having slightly more clarity and less of a “hollow” sound.

The main difference between the two besides the looks is the virtual assistants. They are quite similar in functionality with apps that can both do basically the same things as well. Google’s Assistant does take the edge in some situations for the most part but it is negligible.

Overall whatever you choose is up to your preference and there are a few minor features to look out for like if you want to hang the speaker from a wall with the Nest Mini or if you want to pay a bit extra and get an integrated clock with the Echo Dot.

Google Home Mini (1st Generation)

Google Nest Mini vs Google Home Mini

The Nest Mini (2nd gen) looks quite similar to the Home Mini (1st gen) with the only build difference is that the sides of the Home Mini use plastic rather than rubber. To power the devices you use AC power for the Nest Mini compared to Micro USB for the Home Mini. Single prong AC power is easier to plug in as it is the same shape all the way around compared to micro USB.

As for sound, there are minor improvements all around but it is not big enough to make an upgrade if you already have the 1st generation. Another minor improvement is the UI. There are now lights to mark where you change the volume just to make it more obvious on the Nest Mini.

The assistant is still the same between the two so both are equal in performance in that field.

Overall the Nest Mini is better than the Home Mini and getting the Nest Mini is definitely the better option even at a slightly higher price but if you already own a Home Mini there is no major reason to upgrade.


Apple HomePod Mini?

If you are in the Apple Ecosystem or want to get into it then your cheapest option is to go with the Apple HomePod Mini. This isn’t the fairest comparison to the Nest Mini 2 as it is double the price usually so for the sake of argument we will mostly compare the functionality.

The HomePod smart speakers are only truly good if you are in the Apple ecosystem as you will need Apple-specific devices for it to work best. As a result, you pay Apple’s premium for this seamless experience. If you use android or like to use services that are competitors of Apple’s your best experience would be with something from Google or Amazon.

After comparing Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant I found that Google Assistant and Alexa had the most functionality and could answer the most questions. Google Assistant has some exciting features that neither have like taking calls for you too.

Although Apple is known for having products with quite a good sound quality I don’t believe that investing in the HomePod mini is worth it over getting either something from Amazon or Google unless you are looking for the seamless and easy experience that Apple provides with their ecosystem.


At the $25 to $50 price range, the Google Nest Mini (2nd generation) is a great option for a smart speaker.

It could be the first step in creating a smart home or the final piece to bring everything together. The Nest Mini is a great option for those who want a small yet very functional device at a great price.

Google’s Nest Mini has a great virtual assistant, a ton of support for smart home devices, and has support with the in-depth Google Home App.

The build and sound quality are both strong with the build quality competing with speakers at higher price ranges.

Overall the Nest Mini is quite impressive and a strong option to consider.

If you enjoyed this article consider checking out some of our other posts.


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