Reviewed for Hypertext by Jasvir Nanackchand.
Hot on the heels of our review of the TaoTronics SoundLiberty 79 in ear headphones, we take a look at the TaoTronics SoundSurge 90 over ears.
We’ll admit it, we were more than pleasantly surprised with Taotronics’ SoundLiberty 79s, and we looked forward to taking their SoundSurge 90 over ears out for a spin. While they don’t quite live up to the stellar sonic performance of the former, we still believe the SoundSurge 90 are a great set of headphones, taking into account their performance, feature set, and price.
Let’s dive into the details.
Unboxing and Design
The SoundSurge 90 come packaged in a, let’s call it, utilitarian box, with nothing in particular standing out or screaming premium about its contents. Sporting TaoTronics’ standard colourway of white and orange, it’s a simple package that just gets the job done. Which is fair at this price point.
Inside the box, the somewhat spartan theme continues, with just four pieces of hardware included, presented with minimal fuss: these are a black clamshell carrying case, the headphones themselves, a USB Type-C charging cable, and a 3.5mm aux cable, along with the usual warranty papers.
Already though the design hints at features which belie the price point, notably, USB Type-C charging, and the handy inclusion of an aux cable for those awkward moments when the cans run out of juice. With the widespread adoption of USB Type-C nowadays, we appreciated TaoTronics’ foresight in this department.
On to the headphones themselves. In a word, we’d call their design… nondescript. But, as we’ll point out later, the SoundSurge 90’s features and performance more than make up for their somewhat generic look. On the plus side, the all-black cans look robust enough to take a fair amount of beating, and you’ll be glad they aren’t your more expensive pairs when you happen to drop them.
Notably, both the earcups and headband are made of a surprisingly soft and plush feeling synthetic leather, which made the headphones pretty comfortable to wear, even for extended periods.
The SoundSurge 90 feature Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, hybrid active noise cancellation (ANC) technology, and a large battery, which TaoTronics claims offers up to 35 hours of use on a single charge. We’ll take a look at each of these in turn.
While pretty standard for wireless headphones these days, Bluetooth 5.0 does offer superior connectivity and sound quality, and we experienced no drop outs or lag when using the SoundSurge 90. Their working range is around 10 metres, and the headphones sound a convenient alert when connecting and disconnecting from your devices, as well as notifying you of the battery level when switching them on.
The only downside is the lack of aptX support, but the SBC/AAC connectivity worked great as far as we were concerned, with great audio quality on both Android and iOS.
The ANC technology on the SoundSurge 90 is undoubtedly its standout feature. To put it mildly, the noise cancelling tech on these cans is superb, with the SoundSurge 90 comparing extremely well with far more expensive headphones in this regard.
They effectively blocked out all types of ambient noise in our listening environment, offering a cocoon-like listening experience that has to be heard to be believed. Handily, TaoTronics have included an on/off switch for the ANC, allowing you to switch the ANC on or off depending on surrounding noise levels.
We can easily see these cans being put to great use when travelling by plane, for instance, or for those late night, do not disturb study sessions.
Last, but not least, the battery. With occasional everyday use, we found the battery lasted around a week from a single charge, which is excellent performance. With constant use, the headphones easily lasted a full day, with some to spare. An added plus is the fast charging time – 45 minutes will get you to full charge, and 10 minutes will get you more than enough juice for a quick gym session.
Up next, and perhaps most importantly, is sound quality. The SoundSurge 90 sounds good, but not great. They’re by no means audiophile-grade which, we’ll admit, is a tough bar to set at this price point. Would we recommend them as a decent, affordable set of headphones with good (enough) sound? Most definitely.
Boasting 40mm dynamic drivers, what impressed us most about the SoundSurge 90 was its clarity and openness, and its ability to effortlessly pump up the volume. Combine this with its excellent noise cancelling ability, and this makes these headphones pretty easy on the ear.
But they do lack some richness and separation, however, as evident on Pink Floyd’s classic rock album Dark Side Of The Moon, which will quickly show up any set of headphones for what they are.
Here they sounded merely okay, good enough for casual listening, but lacking in crisp articulation in the bass and the highs. The classic bass line on the track Money, for instance, didn’t resound enough for us, and the crashing highs at the beginning of Time were underwhelming.
Where we found the SoundSurge 90 performed best was with contemporary EDM and pop. With these genres the headphones sounded effortless and dynamic, and they often had us bopping along to the beat. Post Malone (feat. RANI) by Sam Feldt, for instance, offered up a high tempo, energetic rendition that sounded fun on the Soundsurge 90.
Overall, we think the SoundSurge 90 will perform well enough for most listeners – especially with pop and electronic music, which is what most people will be listening to anyway. For those with a critical ear, who listen to somewhat more downtempo, instrumental or vocal tracks, these headphones might not be your cup of tea.
The Final Take
If you’re looking for an affordable set of over ear headphones with great active noise cancelling, it would be hard to look past the TaoTronics SoundSurge 90 at R1 499 (RRP). While they’re by no means audiophile-worthy, they do make a compelling case when you take into account their rich feature set and good sonic performance, which is good enough, for most people.
We’d easily recommend them as a great backup pair for general use, or to do duty when travelling, for instance. At this price point, these headphones are hard to beat.
FULL DISCLOSURE: THE TAOTRONICS SOUNDSURGE 90 WAS SEEDED TO HYPERTEXT BY LOCAL DISTRIBUTOR SYNTECH AND KEPT AFTER THE REVIEW PERIOD.
TaoTronics SoundSurge 90 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Heaphones
If you’re looking for an affordable set of over ear headphones with great active noise cancelling, it would be hard to look past the TaoTronics SoundSurge 90s. While they’re by no means audiophile-worthy, we’d easily recommend them as a great backup pair for general use, or to do duty when travelling, for instance.