- High sound quality with nice crispness.
- Sound canceling can be turned on and off.
- Incredibly comfortable.
- Very long battery life.
- ANC seems to work well and offers a noticable difference in audio quality.
- Not much innovation.
- Won't fit over the largest heads.
- A little "cheap" feeling - made from plastic.
Music is one of the world’s best pleasures. It’s something we can use to relax, something we can use to help concentrate, and something that keeps us up and moving at the gym. But music can only be as good as the headphones or speakers you use to listen to it. Recently, audiophiles have been able to expect better and better sound quality from reasonably priced headphones. At the same time those headphones have been getting more comfortable and more durable, which is important since they aren’t just an accessory for your home computer anymore.
We’re about to review the TaoTronics SoundSurge 90 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones. TaoTronics has a good track record of producing quality headsets at a reasonable price. These include the TT-BH085 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, and the SoundLiberty 79 and SoundLiberty 53 earbuds. With their new headphones, TaoTronics has come out with an affordable headset that looks like it hits all the marks. But we’ve taken a closer look for this review to see if it actually holds up to the hype. We’ll look at things like the sound quality, runtime, and other key features that can make or break the utility of a new set of headphones.
In terms of aesthetics, the TaoTronics SoundSurge 90 (Model TT-BH090) isn’t anything special. It doesn’t have any lights or other indicators like you might expect on a gaming headset. Its matte black design is simple. That’s not a bad thing, but if you’re looking for a headset with a little more flash you might want to consider a different model. The headset is fully adjustable, and large enough to accommodate all but the largest heads. It shouldn’t be under too much stress if you set the sizing appropriately. The headphones also hold size relatively well, so you usually won’t have to adjust them much between uses.
The size of the headphones themselves is reasonable. They’re big enough to completely cover most ears, but they might fold and stress some. That can make a big difference when it comes to sound canceling properties. The more space around your ears the headphones have, the more likely they are to effectively cancel outside sounds. If your ears are being pressed against your head by the headphones, you’re also more likely to hear noises from outside the headset.
Like most headphones, the size of the ear cups isn’t adjustable. So you may want to try them on while they’re still under warranty and returnable to make sure you get a good fit. The headphones themselves are relatively flexible though, with a 90-degree rotation. You can set them however is most comfortable on your head.
The buttons are relatively easy to use and conveniently placed. The addition of an aux port also gives you more flexibility and makes the SoundSurge 90 more flexible for everyday use. The overall design of this headset isn’t really anything special. There’s nothing that’s really unique about the headset, but the combination of features works well overall. The biggest weakness is that the headband of the headset isn’t reinforced. It’s likely to break if you stress it too much.
The Bluetooth connection is Bluetooth 5.0. This means that the SoundSurge 90 is compatible with even the most modern laptops and smartphones. Bluetooth 5.0 also tends to offer high sound fidelity, which allows for higher bitrates and less latency. You also get a decent connective range. This is good for people who like to set their phone somewhere and forget about it. You can walk around without your phone in hand, and even out of Wi-Fi range, without suffering too much static or loss of connectivity. The effective range is 33 feet. That’s more than enough space to walk around cleaning, working out, doing art, or anything else you might need in a room.
In addition, the TT-BH090 headphones are foldable, which offers more compact packing. Folding does stress the critical headband a little over time, but not too much. It makes it so that you can take these headphones with you to travel a little more easily. They also fit well into most backpacks and even purses.
Sound quality is probably the single most important feature when it comes to a headset. With headsets there is a little more room for high-quality components. They don’t have the excuse of earbuds that there isn’t the space for better sound equipment. So, how does the SoundSurge 90 compare?
One thing you look for in good headphones is that they don’t need a lot of adjustment to get a smooth sound across multiple sound ranges. This sound quality is very smooth with these headphones. You won’t need an equalizer to get the crispness you want. The headphones don’t seem to struggle with any frequency, whether high or low. As with all headphones, one of the biggest challenges is getting a good bass. There isn’t a lot of space in headphones to create the kind of depth and richness you want from a good bass. Fortunately, these TaoTronics headphones seem to have overcome that issue. They offer a wonderful roundness to the bass, which isn’t overwhelming to the other sounds.
One of the things you often get in modern headphones is a muddy sound that can’t quite distinguish between different levels of music. It’s not as strong with audiobooks or other spoken media but can become immediately clear with music. The TT-BH090 headphones don’t struggle in that department either. Users consistently note that the sound coming from this headset is crisp, clear, with high fidelity to the original sound. There’s none of the muddiness that makes older versions of headphones hard to listen to.
As the name implies, the SoundSurge 90 utilize active noise cancellation. This can be turned on or off with the flick of a switch. When you turn it on, you can enjoy your music in peace. When you turn it off, you’ll extend your battery life somewhat. That makes these headphones a good option for noisy places like busy offices and gyms. You can block out some of the extra noise, concentrate, and do your thing.
While testing them out for several days, we felt like the noise cancellation feature worked quite well. The ability to drown-out unwanted background noises seemed to carry a night and day difference in sound quality. When you turned on ANC, it was immediately noticable. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but the sound almost seems to become deeper and more pronounced; almost as if you shut the door to your bedroom to block out a noisy conversation in the hallway. Clarity was increased and the bass seemed to resonate a bit better – definitely a big difference over a standard pair of headphones.
Overall, the sound quality isn’t what you would expect from studio quality headphones, but the price tag isn’t high either. Compared to other headphones in the same price point, the SoundSurge 90 perform exceptionally well.
Durability isn’t the most important feature of a set of headphones, but it’s certainly in the top three. You need a set of headphones that will last as well as perform, and the SoundSurge 90 does a reasonable job. The design isn’t particularly special with these headphones, and they don’t have a lot of extra reinforcements. If you’re the kind who likes to headbang so hard you occasionally send your headset flying, you might want to look at something a little more hardwearing.
That said, these headphones don’t have a lot of extra seams or other points of weakness. The adjustment points and hinges are protected so that they are unlikely to fail. They also have small heat and sound vents, which helps to prevent the internal mechanisms of the headset from breaking down over time. The battery doesn’t wear out quickly and will take hundreds of charges before developing a memory. Given the long runtime, that means that this battery will likely outlast the other components.
Comfort is another one of those incredibly important features that a lot of people discount until they find themselves reluctant to put on their headphones because of sore ears and a headache. If you’re someone who likes to wear your headphones for hours on end, this feature should probably be near the top of your list. Fortunately, these TT-BH090 headphones do a great job in the comfort department. The headphone pads are relatively thick and made from a soft, high-protein leather that is durable and long-lasting.
As an adjustable headset it works reasonably well. As we mentioned, this design won’t work as well for people with the largest heads or ears, either one, but should work for most people overall. The issue with the ears is the most important of the two. There aren’t really any pinch points, either, which anyone with long hair will appreciate. The design won’t catch your hair much, though it is possible for the longest hair to get a little wrapped up in the headphone hinge system.
Those hinges are important since they allow the headphones to shift and match the shape of your head much better. Since it’s critical to have good skin contact all the way around your ears to take advantage of the sound canceling, the hinges are far more important than inconvenient. Even if you aren’t using noise canceling, those hinges add a great deal of comfort, especially if you’re wearing the headset for an hour or longer.
Runtime is easily the biggest strength of this TaoTronics TT-BH090 model over other headphones in a similar price bracket. The runtime offered by this headset is similar to the runtime of more premium models and outperforms similar designs. A 5-minute quick charge on the batteries will give you more than 2 hours of playback, using the Bluetooth, and regardless of volume. A full charge only takes about 45 minutes from a dead state. A fully charged battery offers up to 30 hours of playback using both Bluetooth and noise canceling.
For most users, these TaoTronics headphones are good for about 2 days of music listening before they need a charge. Some users go even longer if they don’t spend as many hours in the day using the headphones. Remember, for 2 days on a 30-hour battery, you’ll get almost 15 hours of music per day. That’s including some charge loss simply because no battery can maintain a 100% charge for very long.
Overall, the TaoTronics Soundsurge 90 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones are far from perfect. But they are as close to high-end sound-canceling headphones as you are likely to get at this price point. The design is reasonable and comprehensive, the fit is comfortable for the vast majority of users, and the battery life is a serious plus with this model. While they aren’t perfect, this headset is a good choice for most users.