Microsoft’s second-generation Surface Headphones were announced today alongside the new Surface Book 3 and Surface Go — and these come in black. Like the original model, the $249 Surface Headphones 2 (down from $349) feature active noise cancellation, and you can adjust the level of ANC up or down to your liking using the dial on the ear cup.
You get the same 13 levels of noise cancellation as the existing Surface Headphones, and the dial on the other ear cup still handles volume control. This was an ingenious system when it debuted, so I’m not surprised that Microsoft is sticking with it. Like before, you can tap the large touch-sensitive surface pad to control audio playback.
On the whole, there’s very little that’s changed about the Surface Headphones 2 aside from the new black color option. They still feature 40mm “Free Edge” drivers and output what Microsoft calls “omnisonic” audio. They’ve been upgraded to Bluetooth 5.0 and now support Qualcomm’s aptX Bluetooth codec; the original Surface Headphones only offered the bare-bones SBC codec and couldn’t match other competitors in terms of sound quality. Microsoft says the ear cups have been updated so that they rotate 180 degrees, which is helpful if you’re wearing the headphones around your neck when taking a break from music.
Battery life on these has also been extended from 15 hours to 20 hours with noise cancellation enabled, and Microsoft says you can get “almost an hour” of playback time with a quick five-minute charge.
Microsoft has also tuned the active noise cancellation for the human voice this time around. “You can tune ANC for different ranges, we specifically tuned for human voice,” explains Robin Seiler, corporate vice president of program management for devices at Microsoft. “When you’re thinking about working from home and trying to drown out your family, it’s a great product for that.”
As with the Surface Buds, the company is touting Office integration (i.e., voice dictation) in Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint as an advantage you get with the Surface Headphones 2, and the company notes that Outlook for iOS can now read your emails aloud. But these seem like factors that will weigh into a purchasing decision far less than audio quality and those intuitive controls.
The Surface Headphones 2 will start shipping on May 12th.