During their hardware event on the 2nd, Microsoft surprised us with the announcement of a pair of Bluetooth headphones. Fittingly named the “Surface Headphones”, they are being pitched as an aid for people to get into a rhythm when getting their work done. The headset features noise-cancellation that can be controlled with a large dial on the left ear cup. Microsoft says there are 13 different levels of noise canceling. On the other side, there is a similar dial to control volume. The headset has large, cushioned ear cups that cover your entire ear. These dials alone are enough to make the Headphones stand out, making them easier to control than most of the competing headphones. They connect via Bluetooth 4.2 but still has a headphone jack in case you want to use them with your game console.
They should last 15 hours on a single charge. Microsoft claims that you will be able to fully charge the headset in 2 hours. Interestingly, the Surface Headphones charge via a USB-C port. The use of this port seems to contradict the lack of USB-C on the rest of the products Microsoft announced. It seems as though Microsoft is including the new standard only on brand new product lines for now, since it’s also implemented in the new Surface Go. The use of USB-C means that you won’t need to bring an extra cable to charge your headphones if you already have a USB-C device.
From their early hands-ons, much of the press had good impressions of the sound quality from the Headphones. It’s worth pointing out that all of the hands-on time was in far from optimal listening conditions. Those conditions did give an opportunity to try the noise cancelling, which reported to work well.
The Surface Headphones have Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, built in. You can summon her with a tap or her wake word and talk to her using the microphone array in the headset. She will let you look up calendar events, make Skype calls, and ask the usual slew of virtual assistant questions. Cortana has lagged behind when compared to other virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. She’s still much less limited in terms of 3rd party integration than Siri or Bixby.
The headset it made primarily of hard plastic similar in color to the magnesium the surface line is known for. There are physical buttons for mute and power, in addition to the large dials mentioned earlier. They look larger than other headphones, making them a bit harder to bring with you than competitors from Sony. Hopefully the quality and features will be convincing enough for you to bring them with you.
The Surface Headset will be available in time for the holidays and start at $350. Microsoft knows that these headphones will be up against Sony and Bose’s offerings, but thinks they are up to the task.