Microsoft Surface Earbuds review

After placing a Tweet on my personal Twitter account, I noticed that there was a lot of interest in the new Microsoft Surface Earbuds. I promised to multiple people to write a review. It will be my first review on my blog, so if you have any tips or questions let me know!
The first thing that I have noticed myself is to make sure my pictures are of a good quality, aligned properly etc. Maybe I should take a photographer course if I am going to write more reviews. 🙂

It’s going to be a long read, but I hope you’ll find it useful!

Unpacking the Surface Earbuds

I ordered the Microsoft Surface Earbuds on the day of announcement and received them on May 13th 2020. Of course, I am curious to all of its features, but first let me look at the package. The Earbuds are packed in a small box. When you open the box you’ll find the charging case with the Surface Earbuds. When you remove the charging case you’ll see that there is more, like choosing the fit of the ear tips and the USB A to USB C cable. There is also a quick start manual and a more detailed manual in the box.

The Surface Earbuds

Surface Earbuds and charging case

After unboxing the Surface Earbuds I took them out of the charging case and connected them to my first device. It was going to be a Samsung Galaxy S9, running Android 10. A few minutes after coupling I received a phone call, clear sound on my end and no complaints from the other end about not hearing me so a good first start!

After that I coupled the Surface Earbuds to my iPhone XR. This time a phone call myself. I rang a colleague for some small talk is this Covid-19 time period and of course to test out the earbuds. This time I asked my colleague how the sound was on his end, it was perfectly fine he replied back to me.

After these 2 tests I needed to prepare for a customer meeting. In between the preparation for the meeting I coupled the Earbuds to my Surface Book 2 and installed the Surface Audio app.

I wanted to give the Earbuds a shot during a Teams meeting, but in the preparation with my co-worker she couldn’t hear me very clear so I decided to use my Jabra instead.

After the meeting I noticed in the Surface Audio App that there was an update available for both the charging case as the earbuds. Nice to see that updates are released around the release date to make the product even better!

To update the earbuds charging case, the case needs to be connected via USB to your system. To update the earbuds they need to be connected to your machine via Bluetooth.

Continued testing

I received the Surface Earbuds by the end of the (working) day so I didn’t have much time left for testing them out. Of course, I want to know how the fit in my ear is if I wear them for a longer period. Can I take a ride with them or a run?

The Earbuds comes with 3 different kind of eartips. The size M is default on the Earbuds, so you can choose for a smaller and a larger tip. Apparently, my ears differ as I use 2 different tip sizes. After using them for more than 3 hours the Earbuds still feel comfortable.

I am not a fanatic runner, nor cyclist. But in this Corona time I need to do something to stay fit for a least a little. During a short run of approximately 40 minutes the Earbuds I didn’t notice any issue. I took my commuting bike and cycled about an hour. During this time the Earbuds stayed good on their place. I could swipe to skip tracks and changed the volume without any issue.

Issues?

During my initial tests I had a few issues, I’ll list them here.

  1. On my Surface Book 2 I noticed that when playing music there was a stutter the very first few seconds on every new song. When listening to online radio for example, it only occurred once (during the start of the stream).
    I noticed this issue only the very first few times. However, a few days later I wasn’t able to reproduce this issue. It looks that the issue magically disappeared.
  2. The right earbud gets de-charged quicker than the left earbud. This has to do with the fact that the right earbud pairs with your device. The left earbud shares the reception with the right earbud. This means that if you want to use only one earbud that it needs to be the right one. Also, this design choice makes that the right earbud de-charge quicker than the left earbud.
Showing the charge status of the Surface Earbuds. The right one has about 20% less battery left
  1. Sometimes you can hear a background (hissing) noise when the Earbuds expect audio. I have this ‘issue’ also with my Sennheiser headphone. I guess this has to do with how the Bluetooth profile is being used.

Audio

I like music, but not a specific genre. I listen to Dutch music, but also international. From pop to rock, but also classic music and much more. I have compared the audio with my Sennheiser PXC 550 (Bluetooth) and my AKG in-ears (cable, received with Samsung Galaxy S9). I didn’t used any professional equipment to test the difference between the headphones, just my ears.

Of course, all depends on what kind of music you like to hear and if you prefer more lower tones or more mid or high tones. Depending on my state of mind this differs for me.

The difference between the AKG and the Surface Earbuds is minimal to me, when setting the Equalizer to Pop and adding some more ‘power’ to Low.
The Sennheiser PXC 550 can’t be beaten when you ask me. That is not very strange to me. The headset can easily have more hardware inside for better audio. But I’ll use my Earbuds for something else then the Sennheiser.

The AKG I’ll never use, as these are really in-ears. I cannot get used to the sound of the blood running through your vessels. So only used for comparing the audio in this review.
I use the Sennheiser when I need the noise cancelation (in flight or in a busy office environment). The Surface Earbuds on the other hand are used when I am outside and do not want to wear a headset.

Conclusion

I might be a little biased, because I work at Microsoft. On the other hand, if the fit isn’t good or if the music is bad, I would have returned them.

Personally, I really like the Surface Earbuds and they will be in my jacket or backpack at any time!

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

About Daniel Etten

My name is Daniël Etten. I work as a Premier Field Engineer (PFE) at Microsoft. Together with Paul, a former colleague of mine at KPN, I started this blog to share our experiences with Azure to other Azure minded people and as a personal repo of Azure info. Opinions are my own.

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