A year ago I wrote about the Bowers & Wilkins PX noise cancelling headphones. I have put a hundred thousand miles on these things flying this past year. They continue to be a great product.
People ask me why the B&Ws over the Bose which tend to be the “gold standard” for these situations. There are a few reasons for this… 1. The B&W headphones has better features, 2. I am done purchasing products that charge using micro-USB. That’s really it - I think the Bose are great and if you have them keep using them.
However, I’m here to write about the Surface Headphones - my new pick and recommendation for travel. I prefer them over the B&W for a few reasons.
Like the B&W they are USB-C for charging
Like the Bose they have audible alerts to tell you information such as battery life and pairing status
They have touch controls and physical dials to control volume and the amount of noise cancellation - which works amazingly well. This is probably the best differentiating feature. The B&W uses buttons.
They support the ‘assistant’ on your device - be it Siri, Google or Cortana
They don’t require an “app” like the B&W to control basic settings such as how much ambient noise to let in
They pause when you take them off and resume when you put them back on
They can pair to two devices at the same time - a feature the Bose do well and the B&W’s claim that they do - but rarely work.
My main issues with the B&W were that after long periods of wear they are uncomfortable on the top of my head where the band is. The Surface headphones have more padding here. The B&Ws have a wonderful premium feel to them though.
The second issue I had is that whenever I switched devices between iPad or iPhone I had to manually connect (a problem frankly I also have with the AirPods). The Surface Headphones just connect to both and you can even stream audio content from both at the same time.
The Surface Headphones are not perfect. They don’t pack up as compact as the Bose (but similar to B&W). They are gray and not black - I’ll be honest and say that I love black and the new Surface Pro 6 and Laptop 2 are stunning in black. Not space gray or space black - actual black.
I’ve had some minor problems with maintaining pairing with two device - mainly when I get up from my start on a plane and go to the restroom and return - but hopefullly these will be addressed in a firmware update.
The Surface headphones command a premium price at $350 but I’ve seen them come down to $300 on Amazon. I have also heard great things about the new Sony headphones - but I don’t have a pair to try and frankly I’m a bit skeptical.
I’m biased in that I work at Microsoft but I feel that the hardware we are making is some of the best out there and the headphones represent a great first entry into this market.
If you are looking for a new laptop this year I can enthusiastically reccomend the Surface Laptop 2 or Surface Pro 6 if you want a hybrid. Avoid the Surface Book 2 - too heavy. If you have kids, the Surface Go’s can’t be beat - both our kids have them.
If you are looking for headphones this year - give the Surface Headphones a try.