Is Microsoft giving up on the Surface Headphones?


Microsoft launched a number of new units this week together with the Surface Pro 9, Surface Laptop 5, and Surface Studio 2 Plus. They’re all pretty iterative updates; you recognize that’s true when Microsoft’s hype movies emphasize new colours and built-in 5G connectivity (for the Arm-powered Pro 9) as essentially the most thrilling “new” options. We lastly received a launch date for the useful accessibility equipment, at the least.

But Microsoft didn’t have something new to share about its private audio lineup. It’s been two years because the firm introduced the Surface Headphones 2. And these arrived round two years after the unique pair in 2018. But the October {hardware} occasion got here and went with none news of Surface Headphones 3. So if two years was the cadence that Microsoft set for its headphone lineup, it missed that focus on this time round. (A business-only “Plus” version of the Surface Headphones 2 was launched final yr however barely counts.) I simply hope the corporate isn’t chucking up the sponge fully.

“We have nothing to share about our future roadmap at this time,” Microsoft spokesperson Dan Laycock advised The Verge. “We’re excited about the work done with Teams certification and new products like the Surface Audio Dock that was announced this week.” That assertion doesn’t precisely encourage confidence that new headphones are within the pipeline.

Rotating dial controls had been a superb concept

Microsoft’s Surface Headphones have by no means stood out for his or her core sound high quality. They’re simply eclipsed in that division by Sony, Bose, Apple, Sennheiser, and, effectively, many different manufacturers. But the corporate has discovered different methods to set itself other than an enormous mixture of competitors. The rotating dial controls on all sides of the headphones are my favourite factor about them.

We described the dial changes for quantity and noise cancellation as “ingenious” and “a dream to use” in our evaluate of the first-generation Surface Headphones. And that remained true the second time round. Microsoft additionally prolonged battery life on the newer mannequin, and I actually got here to understand the Surface Headphones 2 when working from residence and juggling Zoom calls and music throughout totally different units. They had been snug and labored reliably — even when the sound was by no means something to jot down residence about.

Some headphone makers like Bang & Olufsen have fully lifted Microsoft’s dial management scheme. And we’ve seen new approaches like Apple porting the digital crown from the Apple Watch to the AirPods Max. Turns out {that a} bodily factor you may rotate works tremendous effectively for quantity changes. I’ll take any of those concepts over the boring, imperfect faucet and swipe gestures which have turn out to be so widespread throughout headphones from Sony and different corporations. But Microsoft actually had one thing particular going. It’s unlucky that the product appears to have stalled with the second-gen headphones.

The dial controls for adjusting quantity and noise cancellation are one of the best factor concerning the Surface Headphones.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

The Surface Pro 9 doesn’t have a headphone jack

Microsoft principally arrange the opportune second to introduce its newest wi-fi headphones. The Surface Pro 9 doesn’t embody a 3.5mm headphone jack, and releasing a brand new pair of the Surface Headphones with options like improved sound or spatial audio may need helped to counter a number of the destructive response to the jack’s elimination. But we received nothing. Just the lack of a connector.

Do you recognize extra about Microsoft’s plans for private audio? You can message me securely with Signal at 845-445-8455 with out revealing your identification. Alternatively, you may attain me through e-mail at [email protected] or via Twitter DM @chriswelch. Our resident Microsoft professional Tom Warren additionally has his Twitter DMs open.

Microsoft is bringing spectacular audio options to its Surface units

Despite not introducing new headphones yesterday, Microsoft referred to as out a number of audio enhancements coming to the brand new Surface merchandise. A brand new Voice Focus characteristic does a formidable job eradicating distracting background sound, in response to my colleague Tom Warren. I’ve realized that lots of you care rather a lot about name high quality from headphones, and this looks like simply the kind of factor that would assist differentiate a theoretical Surface Headphones 3 from the pack.

Voice Focus is dealt with by the neural processing unit (NPU) chip on the Surface Pro 9 — and solely current on the Arm / SQ3 model — so bringing the identical expertise to standalone headphones would take some doing. But it doesn’t look like an insurmountable problem for a corporation like Microsoft.

Price is a part of the issue

For what they’re, the Surface Headphones 2 are overpriced at $250. The wonderful dial controls and nice multipoint efficiency don’t make up for common marks in each different class, from sound high quality to noise cancellation. Microsoft’s headphones are sometimes on sale for $199, and that looks like the proper beginning worth when lined up towards one thing like Sony’s $400 WH-1000XM5. Microsoft repeated its too costly pricing mistake with the Surface Earbuds. But these funky-looking buds had been a flop for a lot of different causes. I’ve executed my greatest to neglect about them.

There’s nobody headphone that’s one of the best at the whole lot. Microsoft isn’t going to only magically up its recreation to match Apple’s ecosystem options or the audio constancy of headphones from Sennheiser or Bowers & Wilkins. But there’s nonetheless worth in staying within the fold and specializing in what the Surface Headphones have been good at. Just like the remainder of this fall’s units from the corporate, I’d have taken an iterative refresh over nothing in any respect.


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