When you buy the TaoTronics SoundSurge 90, you might save on price, but not on features. After all, these closed Bluetooth headphones come with a number of functions, a long battery life including ultra-fast charging time, a rather pleasing sound and a comfortable fit. However, their ANC should not be a decisive factor in your purchase decision due to the fairly low noise filtering.
TaoTronics recently expanded its cross-industry portfolio with the SoundSurge 90, closed, circumaural Bluetooth headphones that cost less than 60 euros. For a model in this price range, they are above average in terms of functionality and performance. In terms of design, the model hardly differs from the SoundSurge 85. The design, made almost entirely of hard plastic, looks very smart on the black version, especially as the chrome-brushed branding on the large oval capsules conveys a bit of”bling-bling”.
The high quality of these headphones is underlined by the extendable metal headband. Inside, plastic struts run along the surface, and the extenders snap into place in twelve stages. The headband and the earpieces are very softly padded and covered with black imitation leather. The circumaural earpads are replaceable.
The SoundSurge 90 has two hinges. First, a combination hinge to fold both capsules into the bracket to save space so that the headphones fit into the robust softshell case, which is included in the package. Both joints rotate 90 degrees around the Y-axis, allowing the capsules to be moved outwards. Then, horizontal adjustment of the capsules over the ears is made by lightly swivelling the brackets that suspend the capsules. The extremely pliable and flexible headband compensates for anything the joints can’t cope with.
The various buttons on the right capsule demonstrate that these headphones have a number of functions: volume control and ANC activation, including LED, a multifunction button, a status LED, as well as a hidden microphone and a mini-jack socket for connecting the headphones to a conventional 3.5 mm jack socket with the included cable. On the left capsule, there is only the USB-C connection for the charging cable, and this is also included in the package, plus the second microphone. On the surface of both capsules, there are openings for two ambient active noise-cancellation microphones.
Even though the SoundSurge 90 appears quite voluminous in terms of size, it is more streamlined when put on, and this is not only due to its very low weight of 230 grams. The very snug yet light padding dampens the pressure on the head and ears. Unfortunately, the openings in the earpads are very narrow, so they might be quite tight if your ears are larger than average.
Setting up the SoundSurge 90 for Bluetooth operation is a breeze. When they are switched on, they immediately enter pairing mode and are then listed in the list of Bluetooth devices on your smartphone. Once confirmed, these headphones can be used not only to start, pause and skip streamed music, but also to accept, reject, toggle and redial phone calls, as well as for communicating with voice assistants such as Siri.
These headphones have 40-millimetre dynamic drivers that cover a frequency range of between 20 and 20,000 hertz. TaoTronics uses Bluetooth version 5.0 and AAC and SBC audio codecs. According to the manufacturer, the 500 mAh ion batteries last up to 35 hours, with 20 hours in ANC mode. Should the battery run low, five minutes of charge is enough for the headphones to run for another two hours; after 45 minutes, the battery is completely full again and manages its maximum playing time.
Sound and Active Noise Cancellation
In wired mode, the SoundSurge 90 achieve a pleasant emphasis of the low end that adds punch to the overall sound image without pushing the rest of the frequencies up against the wall. Synthetic sequencer basses like in Moderat’s “A New Error” give the dynamic drivers a good kick but don’t upset them. The mids and highs are quite harmonious, but in my opinion, do not sound linearly tuned. A little more would have done the transparency some good. Nevertheless, the brilliance of my favourite triangle percussion hits in Bob James’ “Westchester Lady” gave a robust performance. However, in Bluetooth mode, the brilliance of the treble is more muted, and the bass is more prominent, which may be due to the standard audio coding.
For me, the output was midrange. The drivers take on the load level without batting an eyelid. The bass was accurate; there was no rumble or clatter from the capsules. But I interpreted loud differently. I would have liked a little more level to compensate for quieter recordings or to mask ambient noise.
But for the latter, the SoundSurge 90 has active noise reduction. Generally, this feature is reserved for more expensive models, so you shouldn’t expect too much. The ANC can only be switched on or off, TaoTronics omit a Transparent mode. In our test, we noticed that it only filtered out the low frequencies. Mids and highs nevertheless seeped through. With music, the noise drops a little, but not enough to have to lower the level to spare your ears.
Finally, a word regarding speech quality when making phone calls. You can understand the person you are talking to clearly. However, spoken words, whether on the phone or as a voice message, sounded slightly muffled and were interspersed with a phaser-like effect, but this did not seriously impair intelligibility.
The SoundSurge 90 closed, circumaural Bluetooth headphones from TaoTronics are impressive both visually and in terms of workmanship, and they offer an above-average range of functions for their price of less than 60 euros. Particularly noteworthy is the long playing time of 35 hours, achieved with a charging cycle of just 45 minutes. Their sound tends slightly towards the bass, the somewhat restrained trebles and mids complement the quite pleasing sound image, but I would have liked a little more transparency. Their output could be higher, especially as the active noise reduction only filters low-level noise and thus does not significantly benefit the listening experience. But the music controls, the handling of phone calls, pleasant wearing comfort and robust carrying case prove once again that these headphones are more than worth their price.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Weight without cable230 g
What's in the box
- Audio cable with 3.5 mm jack
- USB-C cable
- Carrying case
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC
- BT version: 5.0