Last year’s Surface Headphones were just the beginning of Microsoft’s play for personal audio, as the maker of Windows has a new version coming alongside something else.
It’s not unusual to see computer and phone brands entering the world of headphones, though Microsoft’s entry last year was better than we expected.
The Surface Headphones were large, spacious, and offered a surprisingly warm tone you don’t always hear with headphones, though locally lacked the support for a voice assistant, thanks in part to Cortana not really being a big thing with Australian English.
This year, though, Microsoft is bringing them back for round two, announcing the Surface Headphones 2 with improvements to noise cancelation thanks to the control you get.
Instead of just standard cancellation on and off modes, Microsoft is instead allowing you to dial in or down the amount of ambient noise control, with 13 levels of ambient noise control, and tuning for human voices, allowing them to be amplified if needed.
Microsoft has said it is also improving sound quality and battery life, but hasn’t made any comment about the inclusion of its voice assistant Cortana this time around. Maybe it just doesn’t have the relevance with communities that the other major voice assistants — Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa — seem to have.
Even if Cortana isn’t a major part of the new headphones, especially in Australia, the Surface Headphones 2 will be coming to Australia, priced at $399.95 from June 5, and they won’t be alone, either.
Microsoft’s take on truly wireless audio is coming in the Surface Earbuds, a larger-than-normal wireless and cordless earbud that looks a little like the audio jewellery that was will.i.am’s i.am Buttons, but without the cord.
There’s support for music here, as well as touch controls on the massive touchpad that sits on your ear, offering playback controls and integration with Microsoft’s 365 suite, allowing you to listen to emails from your phone or dictate with speech-to-text in Word.
However they are also a little different in design compared to your conventional earbuds, and totally distinct from the usual trove of earphones trying to look like an Apple AirPod of sorts. That could win some people over, though at $319.95, likely the sort of people who get the most out of their Microsoft computer, with these looking just like they belong in the world of the Surface.
Unlike the Surface Headphones 2, though, the Surface Earbuds will see release alongside the Surface Go 2 announced recently, meaning Aussies can expect the Surface Earbuds in stores a little earlier, arriving from May 12, while the headphones see release from June 5.