Gadgets for humans

Microsoft launches its Surface Earbuds and Surface Headphones 2

As the names suggest, they are earbuds and headphones

header image surface earbuds surface headphones 2

It’s a big day for Microsoft. Not only has the company released the Surface Book 3 and the Surface Go 2, it’s thrown its hat into the audio ring too.

So, welcome to the world, the Surface Earbuds and the Surface Headphones 2!

As you can probably guess from the names, these are a pair of earbuds (the Surface Earbuds) and a pair of headphones (the Surface Headphones 2). We’ll have some more in-depth hands-on and review pieces coming soon, but before then, let’s give you all the information you need.

The Surface Earbuds

This is Microsoft‘s first bet into the true wireless market — and you’re going to pay $199 for the privilege. The company first announced these back in October 2019, but now they’re officially available for purchase. Woo.

These strange-looking buds — which my colleague Napier called “dinner plates sticking out of your ears” in his hands-on — can be touched in order to control music or take calls.

Sound-wise, these buds feature custom-designed 13.6 mm drivers with what Microsoft calls “Surface Omnisonic” sound tuning. The company claimed this was inspired by concerts, but we’ll have to wait and see what kind of gigs they’re talking about.

I‘ve heard some pretty awful sound at live performances.

Surface earbuds

One of the bigger pieces of news is the Microsoft Office integration.

Effectively, this lets you listen to, reply to, and delete email through Outlook’s iOS app, all without looking at your phone. If you host a lot of presentations, you can get live captions, and subtitles on-screen, including translation in more than 60 languages. 

The company says you can get eight hours of continuous listening with a single full charge and 24 hours of usage with charging through the case. Plus, you only need to charge them for just 10 minutes to get an hour of listening.

The Surface Headphones 2

The earbuds are probably the biggest news, but that doesn’t mean we should overlook Microsoft’s sequel to the Surface Headphones: the, uh, Surface Headphones 2.

Not too much has changed this time round. There’s still a dial on the ear cup that allows you to select 13 levels of active noise-cancelation (ANC). They still have 40mm “Free Edge” drivers. And you can still tap the sides of the headphones to control audio.

One interesting addition to the ANC is a mode designed to filter out the human voice, something that’s a bane of my existence. I can’t wait to try this out, but I have my doubts.

Anyway, let’s get deeper into the new elements of the headphones.

First up is the color. You can now get the Surface Headphones 2 in black, which is good news for people who hate that weird grey color Microsoft seems unduly fond of.

Microsoft Surface Headphones 2
Mmm, sleek.

Aside from that, we have a lot of iterative upgrades. The Surface Headphones 2 have Bluetooth 5.0 and now support aptX — it was a fucking travesty they didn’t have this latter codec in the original version to be quite honest.

The battery life has also seen a bump from 15 to 20 hours when using ANC. There’s also a quick-charge feature that promises close to an hour of playback from five minutes charging. We’ll have to take Microsoft’s word for both these points.

Another thing that’s slightly fresher with the Surface Headphones 2 also includes rotatable ear cups. Effectively, you can now wear them around your neck more comfortably. Again — how wasn’t this a feature before?

Oh, and they also have the aforementioned Office integration. Which is definitely a gimmick.

Anyway, make sure you stay tuned to Plugged for all the information you need about the Surface Earbuds and the Surface Headphones 2. There’ll be more sweet content coming for you soon.

For more gear, gadget, and hardware news and reviews, follow Plugged on Twitter and Flipboard.

Published May 6, 2020 — 14:52 UTC