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New Surface Headphones 2 and Surface Buds launch with price cuts

The improved Surface Headphones 2 cost $100 less than the original. And the Surface Buds, announced last year, drop to $200.

The Surface Headphones 2 ship on May 12 for $249.

Along with new Surface Go 2 and Surface Book 3 laptops Microsoft on Wednesday released two new headphones: The Surface Headphones 2 and the Surface Earbuds. (The earbuds were announced last October and subsequently delayed till now.) Microsoft hadn't previewed the full-size noise-canceling Headphones 2 at its Surface event last fall, but the originals are now about 18 months old, so they were due for a refresh.

The biggest surprise for both -- and it's a good one -- is that they're priced more affordably. When it announced the Surface Earbuds, Microsoft said they'd cost $250. They're now $200. Meanwhile, the original Surface Headphones launched at $350, although they've frequently been discounted in recent months, and the Headphones 2 cost $250. Both are scheduled to ship on May 12 and we'll have full reviews once we get our hands on them.

Read more: Best true wireless earbuds of 2020

Now playing: Watch this: Microsoft's Surface Earbuds are touch-friendly

Here's a quick look at the highlights of the new headphones.

The design of the over-ear noise-canceling Surface Headphones 2 hasn't really changed, but the second-gen version is available in the original platinum color as well as black. The ear cups now rotate 180 degrees for "greater comfort when wearing them around your neck," Microsoft says. They also have better battery life -- 20 hours instead of 15 with noise canceling on -- and improved sound, according to Microsoft. 

They retain the previous model's ring control on the ear cup, which allows you to cycle quickly through 13 levels of ambient noise control. I liked the original Surface Headphones, but they fell short on sound quality for the price. Since Microsoft's addressed those complaints and lowered the price by $100, the new models stand to be considerably more competitive. Again, they're $250 (£240, AU$400) and available on May 12 (June 4 in the UK and Australia).

Microsoft's answer to Apple's AirPods have an open design (like the standard AirPods) and responsive touch controls. At its launch event, Microsoft touted the Surface Earbuds' "immersive" Omnisonic sound, their comfortable fit, tap-and-swipe controls that allow you to access Spotify playlists without touching your phone (for Android users) and on-the-fly translation capabilities, with support for 60 languages. 

The earbuds also have "screen-free integration" with Microsoft 365 that lets you hear your emails with Play My Emails in the Outlook Mobile App for iOS and allows you to dictate in Word, Outlook or PowerPoint. Battery life is rated at eight hours and the charging case gives you an additional three charges on the go. The Surface Earbud are sweat- and splash-resistant with an IPX for rating. They cost $200 (£200, AU$320) and are available for preorder now, shipping May 12.

Read our Surface Earbuds first take.


Read moreBest noise-canceling headphones of 2020