Hands-on: Ears for Microsoft Surface

Microsoft's Surface tablets are designed to be mobile, powerful and full featured. One area where devices like the Surface, or any other thin-bodied product - such as a smartphone or Ultrabook - typically come up short is sound quality. That's where 'Ears' step in, by providing a claimed 10dB bump in sound output, while increasing the clarity of audio output too.

On a Surface, the speakers are on the side of the device which means that the sound is pointed away from you. But the Ears attempt to remedy that problem. The product is quite simple; it's a pair of rubber-like units that sit on the corners of your Surface and direct the sound towards you. 

The product comes in a small, plastic package that has one corner cut-away so you can feel the material without opening the package. To install the Ears, just slide them on to the corner of the Surface and you are done; it's quite simple. 

In practice, the Ears do live up to their name and make the volume louder on your device. We averaged around an 8dB gain with the Ears which is enough of an increase that you can hear the difference.

The product is currently up for backing on Kickstarter and comes in many different colors that can be matched to your Type or Touch Cover; there is also a version available for the Pro line of Surface tablets. 

If you find yourself wishing your Surface speakers were louder, Ears are a simple solution for this problem. Considering that they are priced in the 'impulse' range for a peripheral - rather than coming with a premium price tag that might make you think twice before buying - you can probably afford to toss a pair into your travel bag without a big dent to your bottom line.

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16 Comments

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The first time I read about this I thought they were some sort of USB-powered amp or that it had speakers on its own.

I prefer good headphones and dedicated speakers like bluetooth or hooking a device to an audio system. but this seem seems like an original idea for something so primitive like channeling the audio and maybe they can sell well for what they are.

This looks ridiculous. I would rather get Bluetooth speaker any day over this stupid looking thing...

This looks like something a Jewish man from Minnesota created and showed off on Shark Tank. Damon Johns made a deal with him and he started to sell really well.

NTY. If a laptop/tablet needs this...then time to pick another laptop/tablet. Besides, Bluetooth speakers would be a much better solution if you need it. Or a headset.

techbeck said,
NTY. If a laptop/tablet needs this...then time to pick another laptop/tablet.

There's no point in looking at another laptop/tablet; you're not going to get awesome sound from tiny speakers embedded in any device of this size, no matter what. Your statement is akin to recommending looking for another TV because your 70" TV's built-in speakers aren't home theater quality: That's a given--if you want better sound, you use something external...which you've brought up...so I don't know why you're telling others to look elsewhere.

Personally, I've hooked up my Surface Pro to SoundBlaster's now-ancient X-Fi 5.1 (USB), which in turn is hooked up to my Logitech 5.1 speakers/sub, and could hardly be any happier. No driver problem or anything, it just works.

Of course I'm not dragging this setup with me anywhere, but then, I don't have the unrealistic expectation that I'll have great sound on the road (or even need it)...but (this isn't directed at you, techbeck), people will bitch because they've dreamed up some scenario where something works in a situation but is impractical in another. It's not all-or-nothing.

As an aside...looking at the picture above...they should've made these round to actually make them look like Mickey Mouse ears. :-p But then, I would not be surprised at all if they got sued by Disney if they tried.

Dont really care what they look like. They look silly. I never had a problem with sound coming from my devices that I have. Would rather have a BT speaker instead. Personal preference.

"They do not mention the Surface RT":

From their Kickstarter FAQ:
The Surface and Surface 2 are difference size…

Yes, technically the Surface 2 is .4mm smaller. I own the Surface RT, the original. So I was unable to show the nicely fitted Ear on the Surface 2 or Surface Pro/2 on the video. If you look closely at the video you will notice the edges of the Ear is bulging out a little, just a little. This is because Ears was designed for the Surface 2 as I think the sales are better. The performance is the same, the speakers are in the same position.

Is there a chance of the Ears popping off due to the slightly-off fit, I wonder? These might be worth trying, since it's a much smaller accessory than my Bluetooth speaker set.

Anthony Tosie said,
Upside: Improved audio quality!
Downside: Your brain will instinctively hear all dialogue in a Mickey Mouse dialect.

I was thinking the exact same thing. This comment made my day :D