At $250 The Surface Headphones Are Great

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When Microsoft first announced their surface headphones, they were a surprise to almost everyone. And like I said in the initial review, the surface headphones were a really good first try on Microsoft’s part. But ultimately, when it came down to choosing between these $350 headphones, or these $350 headphones or THESE $350 headphones… I’m going to say get the Sony 1000XM3’s all day, unless if you really need or want a pair of headphones with super spacious ear cups and a loose fit, then get the Bose QC35’s. 

But now it looks like the Surface Headphones have gotten a permeant $100 discount… And at $250 the Surface headphones make a very compelling argument. Now I do think that we’ll see the Surface Headphones 2 later on in the fall, but if you’re thinking about picking these guys up  here’s how they stack up against everybody’s favorite Sony 1000XM3’s and the old man Bose QC35’s. Now remember, if you want to pick any of these headphones up they will be linked down below. 

Now first let's go over design, fit and build quality. The Surface headphone’s design has proven to be rather polarizing… But personally, I really like how the surface headphones look… they’re a style piece all by themselves. But what’s important to keep in mind here is that the surface headphones are very low profile just like the Sony 1000XM3’s which is great. But when it comes to fit, the surface headphones are the most snug fitting headphones here. They’re still big head approved cause I can wear them for hours on end but if you’re looking for a looser fit then you’ll be better off with the 1000XM3 or if you want a REALLY loose fit then you’ll be better off with the Bose. But when it comes to the ear cups themselves… the surface headphones are rather spacious. They’re more spacious than the 1000XM3’s but they’re definitely not as spacious as the Bose QC35’s. But over all, I do think the Surface Headphones will have no problem fitting most people out there. 

Now when it comes to the build quality of the surface headphones, its actually very good. Even though these headphones are mostly plastic, there’s a very satisfying click when ever you extend the headphones, there’s zero cracking and squeaking when ever you flex the headphones and the leatherette used on the ear cups feels almost as good as the leatherette used on the Bose QC35’s. The only design slash build quality draw back on the surface headphones is that they can only be laid down flat and not collapsed like the Sony’s or Bose. This then directly effects the size of the surface headphone’s carrying case. Now don’t get me wrong, the surface headphones come included with a very good quality carrying case… but it is much larger than Bose’s carrying case and Sony’s carrying case. And I want to point this out for people who plan on traveling a lot with their ANC headphones. Personally I think the smaller my headphones can collapse the better, specially If I’m trying to cram them into an over packed back pack. 

But now let's get into tech specs, the surface headphone’s biggest weakness is definitely their battery life. These headphones are only good for 15 hours of battery life on a full charge… and a 15 hour battery life on a pair of $350 or $250 headphones is way below average for 2019. These are a pair of headphones you’re going to have to charge every week or so depending on your use. But at least these headphones charge via a USB C port which means if you’re an android user you can charge your phone and headphones with the same cable. 

But for comparison, the Bose QC35’s have an advertised battery life of 20 hours and the Sony 1000XM3’s have an advertised battery life of 30 hours. So definitely if Microsoft is working on a Surface headphones 2 they really need to focus on battery life if they wanna be competitive. Cause obviously battery life is one of the first things people look at when they’re looking in getting any kind of electronic. 

But something the surface headphones do get right is their bluetooth connectivity. They can be connected to two devices at the same time just like the Bose, which means you can hot swap from your phone to your computer. And this is important to point out cause the Sony’s can only be connected to one device at a time. Ultimately this isn’t a HUGE deal, but a power user might be looking for a pair of headphones that support multi device connectivity. But more importantly, whether you’re an iPhone user or android user the surface headphones are great for watching videos on your phone cause they have zero latency across the board on both platforms. 

Now when it comes to active noise cancellation on the surface headphones, again its also very good. Unlike the active noise cancelation on the Bose QC35 that does cause a considerable amount of cabin pressure… which as a result usually ends up giving me headaches. The surface headphones have very little to no cabin pressure just like the Sony 1000XM3’s. 

Like you may have just seen, the Sony 1000XM3’s manage to block out the most amount of noise here across the board. Where as the Surface Headphones and Bose QC35’s managed to block out relatively the same amount of noise. But like I mentioned earlier, the reason why I think the Active Noise Cancellation on the Surface Headphones is better than the Bose QC35’s is because they have nowhere near as much cabin pressure as the Bose and they don’t cause me any headaches. And the surface headphones also do a much better job of rejecting wind noise when used outdoors. 

And unlike the Bose, the Surface headphones also have an ambient mode… so if you want you can have the headphones pump in all or the surrounding sound around you so you can still be aware of your environment when you’re using your headphones. Having an ambient mode on your headphones is great cause you can still hear on coming traffic if you’re walking around in the city, or if you’re at home or at the office you can still hear when someone calls your name. And just like the Sony’s the ambient mode on the Surface headphones has been properly implemented… meaning that they don’t have an audible hiss when ambient mode is turned on which is good for when you’re watching movies and the scene is quiet. And the Ambient mode on the surface is smart enough to block out random loud noises like a dog barking or if a siren passes by just like on the Sony’s. 

But something the Surface Headphones have that neither of these other headphones do is built in proximity sensors. So when you take your headphones off they’ll automatically pause your music and when you put them back on they’ll start playing again. Personally I don’t care for this feature, but its also properly implemented meaning that these headphones aren’t going to start randomly playing and pausing you’re music when you walk around with them on.  
Now when it comes to listening to music with these headphones, since they have an adjustable EQ you can make them sound how ever you want depending on the type of music you like to listen to. But when it comes to instrument separation and clarity I do have to say the Surface headphones aren’t as good as the Bose or Sony. Now don’t get me wrong, the surface headphones don’t sound bad but if you’re looking for audio fidelity then you’ll be better off with the Sony’s. But if you’re looking for lots and lots of bass then the surface headphones are going to have way more kick to them than the Sony’s even when extra bass mode on the Sony’s is cranked all the way up and way more bass than the Bose cause the Bose QC35’s have a neutral sound signature that you can’t change as easily. 

But when it comes to controlling your music playback the surface headphones have a very unique set up compared to both the Sony and Bose headphones. Both ear cups have dials, the left dial is used to controller you’re headphone’s ANC levels and the right dial is used to adjust your volume, and in the center of both ear cups there’s a touch pad. Single tapping will play or pause your music, double tapping skips a track, and triple tapping goes back a track. Just like the touch controls on the 1000XM3’s, there is a learning curve… but over all the controls on the Surface headphones are super easy to use.

Now over the last few months voice assistants have been making a big push on headphones, specifically with always listening Siri on the both the new Powerbeats Pro and AirPods 2… and both the Sony 1000XM3 and Bose QC35 series II have both Google assistant and Alexa integration. Now even though the Surface Headphones also have voice assistant support they mainly on Cortana. And in short, I never really use Cortana cause Cortana sucks. And I do think that the majority of people who end up picking up the Surface Headphones will rarely even use Cortana. 

But when it comes to microphone on the Surface Headphones its actually very good for phone calls. 

Its much better than the microphone found on the sony 1000XM3’s 
But I do think the microphone on the Bose QC35’s is slightly better

But over all I think the Surface headphones are decent enough to take phone calls with, but there’s definitely still room for improvement. 

But over all, for $250 I think the Surface Headphones make a very compelling argument. They fit well and they have very decent build quality. They support multi device connectivity which is great for power users and they’re great for watching videos on your phone which is great for every one. They sound decent enough and their active noise cancelation is almost as good as the Sony’s. But more importantly their active noise cancelation doesn’t cause any headaches like the Bose QC35’s and they also have a properly implemented ambient mode. They only major hit you’re going to be taking with these headphones is their Sub par battery life and pretty large carrying case. But if you’re looking for a pair of very good ANC headphones and if you’re also looking for a deal… then I would definitely take the Surface headphones into consideration.