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Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 offer more for less

Microsoft’s noise-canceling Surface Headphones 2 were released in early 2020. The biggest change compared to the predecessor is the price: the Original Surface Headphones Start at $ 350 while the headphones cost $ 2,250 ($ 240, $ 400). As with the original, there is a lot to like about this second generation model. While they have lost their hands-free functionality for Cortana voice control (a change no one will complain about), the combination of some small design improvements, better battery life, improved Bluetooth, and the new lower price help to improve their rating and recommended to improve them.

To like

  • Costs $ 1
    00 less than the original
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Good sound and effective noise cancellation
  • Touch controls and on-ear dials that let you adjust noise cancellation and volume
  • Multipoint Bluetooth pairing (connect two devices at the same time)
  • Improved battery life
  • Easy connection to Windows PCs (also works with Macs)
  • Works well for phone calls
  • Earcups now rotate 180 degrees

I do not like it

  • The sound quality is not as good as some premium noise canceling headphones.

The headphones keep the same design, but are now available in black and light gray.

David Carnoy / CNET

The Surface Headphones 2, which are available in both black and the original light gray color, have hardly changed in terms of design. But their ear cups are now rotating 180 degrees to provide “more comfort when worn around the neck,” Microsoft says. You retain the touch control and the ring control of the previous model on the ear cup so that you can go through 13 levels of ambient noise control. This includes an enhanced transparency mode that lets ambient noise into the headphones and allows you to speak to a flight attendant on an airplane, for example, without removing the headphones. The noise cancellation is effective. It’s almost on the same level as that of Angry and Sony – although Microsoft’s headphones are more tuned to hide voices in an open office environment.

In addition to convenience and multi-point Bluetooth pairing, the control scheme is one of the strengths of headphones – their ability to pair with two devices such as a phone and a PC at the same time. It is also worth noting that when you remove the headphones, your music automatically pauses and resumes when you put them back on.

The headphones can be easily connected to Windows computers (they now have Bluetooth 5.0 instead of Bluetooth 4.2), which can be notoriously difficult when paired with Bluetooth headphones. With multipoint support, you can easily switch between a phone and your computer – yes, they work with Macs too – which many people who currently work from home appreciate.

These are among the better headphones for working from home – certainly for Windows users. Not only are they convenient, they are also great for making voice calls. There is an adjustable sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in headphones – whether from your computer or cell phone. There is also a button to mute calls on the right auricle. It works well for Microsoft Office 365 and supports dictation in Office apps, live subtitles and subtitles (with translation) in PowerPoint and the “Play my emails” function in iOS Outlook mobile app.

Microsoft stated that the Surface Headphones 2 would have improved the sound, but I can’t say I noticed a significant difference (they now support AptX streaming for compatible devices, including Samsung Galaxy phones). The original Surface headphones sounded good, but stayed in the sound quality department compared to other noise-canceling headphones in the $ 350 price range like that Sony WH-1000XM3 or Headphones with Bose Noise Canceling 700.

They fold flat in their tote bag.

David Carnoy / CNET

There is a presence boost in the treble and a bass boost to create the punchy, exciting sound that is typical of many of today’s headphones. The mid-range is a bit reserved (without definition and slightly recessed) and the headphones are not quite as open as you might hope. They just lack the wow factor in the sound department, even after I optimized the sound in the Surface Audio app (yes, there is an equalizer). Nevertheless, like the original model, I found these headphones pleasant to hear. So, although I didn’t suddenly want to go to all of my favorite songs in my music library to hear how they sounded through the headphones – an urge you get when trying out certain doses – they’re $ 100 less than the originals. Compare this cheaply with models in the $ 200 to $ 250 range.

These Microsoft headphones now have a battery life of 20 hours (instead of the 15 of the predecessor) with activated Bluetooth and noise cancellation. Charging the headphones for 5 minutes (via USB-C) will give you an hour of juice. These 20 hours are still not as impressive as those of rival models like Sony, but it’s respectable. If you turn off Bluetooth and connect the supplied cable, you can play up to 50 hours of music. However, I suspect that people mainly reserve cable mode for connection to an aircraft’s on-board entertainment system. (The headphones sound clearer in wired mode for what it’s worth.)

Ultimately, the Surface Headphones 2 aren’t a major upgrade, but they offer some legitimate improvements and cost $ 100 less than the original model. They are certainly cheaper and worth considering, especially for Windows users who work from home. Maybe we’ll see an improvement in sound quality in the next version.

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