Surface Headphones hands-on: Cortana, bring the noise

Microsoft's first premium wireless headphones impress.

The biggest surprise during Microsoft's Surface launch event wasn't a computer -- it was a pair of headphones. The Surface Headphones are Microsoft's first entry into premium cans, but they have just about everything you'd want: They're wireless, feature noise-canceling and have Cortana directly integrated. At $350, they're competing with Sony's (excellent) 1000XM3 and Bose's Quiet Comfort II. But based on my quick demo, the Surface Headphones can easily hold their own.

It's clear that Microsoft learned a lot from the competition. The Surface Headphones are light and incredibly comfortable, thanks to a generous amount of cushioning around the earpads and headband. There's also plenty of space for large ears (a plus for me). As soon as I placed them on my head, the noise of rabid tech journalists almost disappeared -- it was just me and Michael Jackson's Off the Wall. Most important, the Surface Headphones sounded fantastic, with plenty of thumping bass and crystal-clear details.

Microsoft also put some inventive controls on the headphones: The physical dial on the left ear changes the level of noise canceling, while the one on the right handles volume. Touch controls on each earpad let you start and stop music as well as skip tracks. While it may sound unnecessarily complex, I found them easy to use. It's a big improvement over Sony's touch-gesture controls, which can sometimes skip a track when you just want to raise the volume.

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