In Africa, cities are created where the population can not live

If you take a closer look at the evolution of the global population, it quickly becomes clear that not only are we becoming more and more people, but we are also increasingly attracting men and women to the big cities. Especially here in Germany, this is often seen as a problem, as more and more jobs disappear in the country and the supply there is increasingly worse.

The situation is similar in the countries of Africa with which I deal in our current article. In the past, we have already told you about new cities that are being built up within a few years. For example, the major project "Diamniadio" in Senegal , which will combine mobility and sustainability in the future. Money for such projects comes mainly from China .

The new cities bring many benefits to Africa. In addition to the economic growth that comes from the establishment of companies and the attracting of new investors, the quality of life for the inhabitants by a better supply will continue to rise. In this w…

Microsoft Surface Headphones review: superb, but not stylish

Microsoft's Surface headphones are a fine entrance to the market with superb noise cancelling, wireless performance and adept midrange. If the company sorts a few small niggles, these could be class-leading

Sturdy build; impressive wireless range; lovely eloquent midrange
As grey as a very grey thing; sound skewed at either end of the frequency range
 8 / 10

Microsoft has been working hard to dispel any lingering traces of its previous "uncool Dad of the tech world" persona, and the reinvention is certainly going in the right direction. Its Surface range of PCs, laptops, tablets and accessories is among the most covetable around, and these new Surface Headphones aim to advance the rehabilitation yet further.

Certainly Microsoft couldn’t have picked a tougher fight. Not only does it have negligible pedigree when it comes to "proper" headphones, but quite a few big hitters are already vying to sell you a pair of wireless, noise-cancelling, over-ear headphones for around £300 to £350 - including acknowledged market-leaders Bose and Sony. So are the Surface Headphones the work of a company that’s on a creative roll, or a company that (not for the first time) has let hubris get the better of it?

Read the WIRED Recommends guide to the best wireless headphones to see our top picks in this category

Grey. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? It’s very open to interpretation: it’s cooly minimal and understated, or it’s dull and non-committal.

The best headphones for any budget in 2019

The best headphones for any budget in 2019

Whatever your opinion of the pale grey of the Surface Headphones, there’s no denying there’s plenty of it. The outer plastics are of a particularly tepid shade, while the inside of the headband and the padded part of the earcups are a slightly darker variation.

These headphones are as grey as an elephant get-together held in thick fog
Relief from the greyness is grudging: the Microsoft "four squares arranged as a square" corporate logo at the bottom of each arm is rendered in shinily reflective plastic, while the articulating aluminium hinges at each earcup are an unshowy matt silver. Otherwise these headphones are as grey as an elephant get-together held in thick fog. Even inside the earcups, the acoustic cloth covering the drivers is grey.

The materials feel robust and hard-wearing, mind you. There’s just a hint of that shot-blasted effect to the finish of the harder, paler grey plastics, the kind that might set the more squeamish wearer’s teeth on edge - but the padded, darker grey areas of the headband and earcups feel nicely judged. The memory foam in the earcups is just about yielding enough to get a comfortable fit without too much difficulty.

No amount of clever design or agonising over shades of grey can disguise the fact that these are big headphones, though. Oh, they’re no bigger than their obvious rivals - and, in fact, the earcups are fractionally smaller than those of the Bose QC35II and Sony WH-1000XM3 that Microsoft intends to challenge. But once they’re on your head, they say only one thing to any observer, and that is: “I’m wearing grey headphones. Big ones.”

WIRED Recommends: The best gadgets and gear in 2019

WIRED Recommends: The best gadgets and gear in 2019


Perhaps the best place to start is with what the Surface Headphones don’t have. They don’t support aptX or even Bluetooth 5.0 - instead they support Bluetooth 4.2. That’s not enough to immediately discount them from your shortlist - but it does leave them looking a bit retrograde compared to up-to-the-minute spec of their Bose and Sony rivals. They don’t fold as flat or as compact as those competitors, either.

And they don’t have that competitive a battery life. The USB C charging port does at least get them up to speed rapidly - Microsoft claims they can be brimmed from empty in under three hours, and that certainly seems feasible. But Microsoft is also quoting 15 hours’ continuous use on one charge - and, even if that were true, it puts them well off the pace set by the competition, where 20+ hours is a routine achievement. But it’s not true, not really - you’re looking at more like 10 or 11 hours in real-world conditions. Which is nothing to write home about.

But with those pale grey elephants in the room dealt with, there’s still stuff to admire in the Surface Headphones’ feature set. For instance, you’ve a total of eight mics deployed between the two earcups - four to assess your environment for noise-cancelling purposes, and four to allow you to make calls or issue voice commands.

There are capacitive sensors inside the earcups, whch drive an automatic ‘play/pause’ response when you take the headphones off or put them back on. Each earcup also functions as a touch-panel to control music and volume, deal with calls or summon a non-Cortana voice assistant.

Devialet Phantom Reactor 900 review: a bass-heavy speaker with dramatic looks

Devialet Phantom Reactor 900 review: a bass-heavy speaker with dramatic looks

Nicely integrated dials around the outside of each cup control volume (right) and noise-cancelling (left). And the right earcup also hosts the USB C input, 3.5mm analogue input, power on/off and Bluetooth pairing buttons.

Microsoft claims the Surface Headphones have its Cortana voice assistant ‘built in’, but in fact Cortana must be installed on your source device if you’re going to control the headphones using your voice. Of course things are a touch more laborious if you prefer to use an alternative voice assistant, but having some mics listening out for your voice is not quite the same as having Cortana built in.

Inside each earcup there’s a 40mm full-range driver of the ‘free edge’ type. There’s next-to no surround roll on the driver, which in theory allows low-distortion movement and wide dynamic range.

The best headphones for any budget in 2019

WIRED Recommends

The best headphones for any budget in 2019
Controlling the headphones via the touch-panel is as successful as these arrangements ever are. When the Surface Headphones are in situ, tapping the panel promptly brings the correct response, whether you’re taking a call, controlling your music or chatting with your voice assistant. The panel is never off-duty, mind you, so - unless you take the headphones off in a very deliberate and quite unnatural manner - it’s quite often possible to issue unintended commands.

The best wireless and noise cancelling headphones

The best wireless and noise cancelling headphones

The outer-cup dials for controlling volume and noise-cancelling are a straightforward delight, though. They scroll smoothly, feel beautifully weighted and are responsive to even very small incremental inputs.

In a small way, the way the Surface Headphones go about getting music to you is as commendable as the sound they subsequently make. They pair with ferocious rapidity, and afterwards demonstrate remarkable operating range. Not every pair of wireless headphones will tolerate being in another room, let alone on another floor, to the source they’re joined to - but the Microsofts are tenacious in the extreme.

Noise-cancelling is also really impressive. The dial on the left earcup controls 13 stages of active noise-cancellation - the first actually amplifies ambient sound, which is handy if you want to stay alert to what’s going on around you. Dial forwards and exterior noise progressively diminishes until, at the highest setting, you’re almost entirely isolated. And unlike some rival algorithms, Microsoft’s noise-cancelling isn’t achieved at the cost of that ‘blocked sinuses/ears need popping’ sensation some alternative designs inflict.

Once under way, there’s a pragmatism to the way the Surface Headphones sound that’s understandable, sensible and just a tiny bit disappointing.

At the top of the frequency range there’s noticeable roll-off - treble sounds during Stereolab’s Tempter don’t have quite the bite or attack they should. Instead they’re flattened and sweetened, and the sense of drive to the tune suffers a little as a result.

The best soundbars for any budget in 2019

The best soundbars for any budget in 2019

The bass frequencies, on the other hand, are overconfident if anything. They don’t quite threaten to swamp the midrange, but Ring the Alarm by Tenor Saw bounces along on a bottom end that dominates more than it should. The low end isn’t as controlled as it needs to be, either - in extremis it can overhang and drag at tempos. The sheer bass presence can initially sound quite thrilling, perhaps promising a party, but it doesn’t take long before you’re craving a little more grip and certainty to the start and stop of bass notes.

In-between, though, the middle of the frequency range is poised, adept and very communicative, particularly with singers. The vocal in the King Creosote/Jon Hopkins collaboration Bats in the Attic sounds contemplative and just a little bit heartbroken - there’s so much nuance and detail in the singer’s voice you just can’t help but forgive him his self-pity.

Despite the fact the bottom end is overheated, the Surface Headphones do a pretty decent job with timing and integration, offering a wide and well-defined soundstage. There’s a decent amount of dynamism on show, too, so the quiet bits of Car Seat Headrest’s Destroyed by Hippie Powers are very much quieter than the loud bits. The tune punches along quite willingly, even if the bottom end is gasping to keep up.

There’s enough to admire here. It doesn’t matter than Microsoft has endless resources - its first attempt at some premium noise-cancelling wireless headphones has some real highlights; you only need consider the sort of headphones Apple (for example) has been turning out to know this is by no means a given. If Microsoft continues to forge ahead in this sector, addressing some of the Surface Headphones’ issues and being a little braver in its sonic signature, it could open itself up a whole new revenue stream.


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