Price (RRP): $499.95
The Microsoft Surface headphone is its first entry into the high-end Bluetooth, Noise Cancelling, headphone market. It is unique because it has Cortana compatibility out-of-the-box.
Microsoft Surface Headphone was a ‘ground up’ project over three years involving a large team of Microsoft engineers rather than re-brand someone else’s device. It is unique in its mandate and Cortana market niche. Although it works fine as Bluetooth, noise cancelling headphones on non-Windows devices.
Not to put to fine a point on it, but long-time Microsoft watchers say that Microsoft gets things right on the third try. These headphones are good – almost great – and there is a little room to improve
Since release, it has had at least three firmware updates (the latest is 20 March 220.127.116.11.31.24) to improve audio quality, stability, a bug when using the 3.5mm audio, spotty Spotify music play resumption and who knows what else from earlier updates. I suspect we will see many more updates as Microsoft strives for perfection.
Yes, Microsoft is a computer software company – and it is learning about hardware as it goes. That is why you need to take a lot of previous reviews with a grain of salt. The so-called warm or muddy music signature has markedly improved, Bluetooth connection stability is now rock solid, and you can avoid Cortana if you just use it as a Bluetooth device on Windows 10, Android, macOS and iOS. Although you will need the Cortana App or Surface Headphone Windows 10 app installed to update firmware and to access the EQ.
We will leave any comparisons with market leaders Sony, Sennheiser, Bose, Plantronics (Poly), JBL or Jabra until the end. Why? Because this product is unique – not paddling in a sea of tough competition.
Review: Microsoft Surface Headphone
Australian website here
Out of the box
It is a big, solid, platinum grey box – understated, corporate, clean, and minimalist style. If you saw this in a shop, it would be overshadowed by other brand’s flashy, brightly coloured, retail packaging and emblazoned unique selling propositions. It sits at $499.95.
When you open the box you see a substantial corporate grey, hard, carry case with a 1.5m USB-A to USB-C and 1.2m 3.5mm audio cable.
The over-the-ear headphones are Microsoft Platinum Grey – minimalist with the only flash of colour being the stainless-steel expansion band and metallic tones on the cup pivots. Again, very corporate.
The headphone cups are round with oversized pads and slender oval cutouts housing the 40mm drivers. The fit is snug – no, I do not have big ears – to maximise noise isolation.
There is a rotating bezel – a unique ring – on the outside of each cup. The left is for 13 levels of noise cancelling and the right for volume.
Also, on the right are touch controls, a flush mount power button (and Bluetooth activator) and a microphone button that can activate Cortana.
Download the Cortana app for Android (tested), and it will pair the headphones. Except, that out-of-the-box it had the original firmware, and Cortana could not find them.
So, I connected via Bluetooth to a Windows 10 Surface Pro, downloaded the Windows 10 Surface Headphones app and updated the firmware. Now the Android app and I presume macOS and iOS can find them.