Microsoft achieved something very impressive with the original Surface Headphones: the company was able to leapfrog veterans of the noise-canceling headphone market (like Bose and Sony) with an ingenious method for controlling them. With a twist of the smooth-turning dial on either ear cup, you could adjust volume and the level of active noise cancellation.
The Surface Headphones 2 retain the understated design of their predecessors. Except for a glossy Windows logo on each side of the headband, there’s no branding to be found. The matte black model is very classy — albeit less recognizable than the light gray color.
Everything else feels very familiar. Except for the dials along the perimeter, the entire surface area of either ear cup can be tapped to pause or play music, skip tracks, and answer calls. In leaving volume and noise cancellation to the dials and separating them from the touch controls. Microsoft makes everything feel more focused and easy to remember.
Microsoft’s noise canceling isn’t quite as effective as what Bose or Sony can achieve. But the Surface Headphones 2 are perfectly capable of quieting the types of ambient noise and constant hums that can grow irksome when you’re trying to focus. I do struggle to understand why anyone would need 13 levels of noise cancellation to switch between, though.
Microsoft has boosted battery life to 20 hours with noise cancellation enabled. That’s at par with the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 but well under Sony’s 30 hours. Still, 20 hours means you’ll likely only have to charge these once — maybe twice if you’re using them constantly. When you power the headphones on, a voice tells you how many hours of battery life are remaining.