Microsoft has just announced the release of a pair of new Surface headphones, available to preorder now. The first is the Surface Headphones 2, a revision to their well-received noise-canceling Bluetooth over-ear headphones, originally released back in 2018. The second is the Surface Earbuds, a set of wireless Bluetooth earbuds originally scheduled to release back in October 2019 at a price of $249, but were delayed, and are now releasing in May 2020 at a price of $199.
Here’s a look at what these headphones offer.
Surface Headphones 2
Microsoft’s flagship headphones are refined here with boosted battery life, tweaks to the design, and some subtle aesthetic changes.
Microsoft says about the improvements made to this new iteration of the Surface Headphones:
“Surface Headphones 2 are designed to slip comfortably over your ears and surround you with spectacular sound quality, including 13 levels of ambient noise control. We improved sound quality and battery life, bringing you up to 20 hours of clear sound.”
20-hour battery life is up from 15 of the old model, and that could be very helpful on long trips or for when you don’t have regular access to a charging point.
This new iteration increased the version of Bluetooth supported from 4.2 to 5.0, offering a bandwidth of up to 2 Mbps. They have also added support for Qualcomm’s aptX Bluetooth codec, for high-quality audio playback from mobile devices.
Just to remind you who made these headphones, there’s integration with Microsoft Office, so you can pair these headphones with Office to use during PowerPoint presentations or have your Outlook emails read out to you. These are kind of niche features but may appeal to some users.
These new Surface Headphones 2 are retailing for $250, down from the original selling price of $350 for the original Surface Headphones. They now come available in either Matte Black or Light Gray.
In addition to the new revision for their larger overhead headphones, Microsoft have launched a new product line, the Surface Earbuds. These are small wireless earbuds, designed for portability.
This product category, small portable wireless earbuds, has exploded in popularity in recent years, so it’s no surprise to see Microsoft try their hand at it. Each earbud here weighs in at 7.2g, and each contains a 13.6mm driver.
They have an IPX4 rating, for protection against rain and light splashes, but these are water-resistant rather than waterproof. They have 24-hour battery life including the charging case, and a ten-minute charge can provide up to an hour of listening.
These also feature similar Office integration to the Surface Headphones 2.
Microsoft says of these new Bluetooth earbuds:
“Featuring an ultra-comfortable and stable fit, Surface Earbuds offer intuitive touch controls so you can start a phone call or change the song without taking out your phone. Experience rich, immersive Omnisonic sound and instantly play Spotify from your Android phone with a triple tap on either earbud.”
These don’t offer any kind of active noise-canceling, and at $199 that feels like something you might expect in this price range, especially when their strongest competitor the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds are in similar pricing territory, and offer a lot of what the Surface Earbuds do, plus active noise cancelation.
This is a competitive time to be releasing new Bluetooth headphones, with major industry players like Apple, Google, Samsung and Sony all vying for space among established audio specialists like Bang & Olufsen, Bose, Sennheiser, JBL and Shure.
Microsoft did impress with the first version of the Surface Headphone, so it’s going to be interesting to see what the response is when these get into users’ hands and onto their ears. The Surface Headphones 2 I think are a nice update to a well-received previous model, and it’s priced competitively compared to similar top-end active noise-canceling headphones, but for me I think they’ve perhaps missed the mark with the Surface Earbuds, where they might have been better either aiming for a more premium feature set, or tried to come in at a more budget friendly price.
Either way, it’s nice to have more options for bluetooth audio, and see continued intent to try new products in this space in the case of the Surface Earbuds, and to refine existing products with the Surface Headphones 2.
Do you think you’ll be giving either of these headphones a try? Is active noise cancelling an essential feature for you? What are your current bluetooth headphones of choice? Let us know in the comments.