Microsoft's new Surface Headphones were years in the making

CNET went to Microsoft's campus in Redmond, Washington, to get a behind-the-scenes look at how it developed its new noise-canceling headphones.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
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The Microsoft Surface Headphones inside Microsoft's Human Factors lab.

David Carnoy/CNET

When Microsoft told me it was not only going to be announcing new Surface notebooks but a new set of premium noise-canceling headphones on Oct. 2, I was surprised. Sure, it seems like every electronics company on the planet is producing headphones these days, but I didn't exactly associate Microsoft with great audio products, so I was a little skeptical about what its new Surface Headphones would bring to the table, particularly since they cost the same price ($350) as top noise-canceling headphones from Bose and Sony -- companies that have been in the headphone game for a while.

That was my state of mind as I headed to Redmond last week to get an early, advance look at the new headphones. It all started with a meeting with Panos Panay, Microsoft's chief product officer, as well as key members of the headphone's design and engineering team.

Watch this: The team behind Microsoft's Surface Headphones

The first thing that became clear -- and that Microsoft wanted to make clear to me -- was that this wasn't some hastily organized project where Microsoft slapped its brand on a headphone it dug up from some partner in China. In case I wasn't already aware, Microsoft has a world class industrial design facility and a bunch of labs to test products as it builds and refines them.

Designed in-house over three years, the Surface Headphones evolved on the inside and changed shape on the outside many times before turning into the final product that will ship this holiday season (initially in the US only).

You can read my full hands-on impressions of the headphones here. But check out the video for insight into the thinking and design process behind what Microsoft hopes will be the next great noise-canceling headphone. 

Read: Hands-on with Microsoft's Bose busting noise-canceling headphones

Microsoft Surface Headphones from all angles

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New Surface products revealed: Everything Microsoft just announced

Microsoft Surface Headphones: Hands-on with Microsoft's new Bose buster noise-canceling headphones