Microsoft Announce Noise-Cancelling Surface Headphones
Only ‘Surface’ beautiful?
Microsoft has announced three new Surface computers. However, the big news for AV enthusiasts wasn’t a PC, rather it was the fact Microsoft debuted a pair of Surface branded headphones, complete with ANC (Active Noise Cancelation). They’re wireless, over-ear headphones and come with built-in voice assistant, Cortana.
The headphones have a minimalist look with an all grey finish and metal yokes. They feature 40mm drivers and have a claimed 15 hours of battery life. They also have a cool ability to automatically pause music when you take them off your head. There are touch controls on the right earcup for pausing music, skipping tracks and answering calls.
The Surface Headphones also have rotating rings on both the left and right ear cups. The controls on the right adjust volume output. So far, so normal. However, the left side controls 13 different levels of active noise cancellation. This many stages of ANC is pretty impressive since most ANC headphones simply allow either ON or OFF. Some do go further but not many offer 13 levels.
The headphone's large cups also feature memory foam padding and will completely cover a user's ears. This should help with isolating noise even further.
Now for the less compelling part. Many headphones are now coming with dedicated digital assistant support when connected to a phone. For instance, Bose’s latest ANC headphones are coming with a dedicated Google Assistant or Siri button. Pressing this automatically launches your phone's assistant without the need to take out your phone.
However, since these are a Microsoft product, the headphones come with Cortana. A user can say “Hey Cortana” or perform a long-press gesture to access the voice assistant. Doing so will launch Cortana on a user's PC or smartphone. The problem is, most people use an iPhone or Android phone and would therefore have to download the Cortana app.
The problems don't stop there. Cortana is also quite limited on a non-Windows phone. Google Assistant and Siri are baked into their respective operating systems and, as such, can access and control the device in a way that Cortana simply can’t. Last, but not least, Cortana just isn't as quick, or powerful as Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. There are fewer commands and it integrates with far fewer other devices, such as smart lighting. This makes it far less compelling to have as your 'go to' digital assistant.
The Microsoft Surface Headphones will be available later this year. No word on UK pricing but in the USA they’re set to retail for $349.
Will these tempt users away from offerings from Bose and Sony? Are 13 Levels of ANC a game changer, or just a gimmick and will Cortana make these headphones redundant to all but PC power users?
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