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TaoTronics SoundSurge 55 Review

An admirable pair of budget headphones that fall short

Verdict

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The TaoTronics SoundSurge 55 headphones are a good choice for those on a budget. Build is solid and the specs are surprisingly decent. However, they're let down by audio that’s ambitious for its price yet rather average in terms of quality.

Pros

  • Surprisingly decent treble
  • Solid build
  • Decent ANC

Cons

  • Restrained bass
  • Mid-range lacks detail and clarity

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £104.99
  • Hybrid ANC
  • Fast-charging
  • Dual 40mm driver
  • 30hr battery
  • AAC, SBC, aptX

The TaoTronics SoundSurge 55 are affordable ANC headphones from the audio/home tech brand.

TaoTronics specialises in the value-added area of the headphone market, producing Bluetooth cans that are wallet-friendly.

The SoundSurge 55 are one of the brand’s more expensive options, retailing a few pounds over £100. For that, you get Bluetooth, ANC and an audio presentation that TaoTronics classes as “hi-fi”. Too good to be true, or a pair of headphones that are right on the money?

The SoundSurge 55 initially went on sale in late 2018 and can still be found online. There aren’t also referred to as the SoundSurge 55, but can be indentified by the TT-BH055 UK model number. RRP for the headphones was £105/$109, but you can find them for much less online

  • Big, comfy earpads
  • Black is the only colour option
  • Unremarkable looks

The majority of TaoTronics’ full-sized headphones look fairly similar. The SoundSurge 55 are no different, sporting a matte-black finish and traditional design.

While they look unremarkable, the SoundSurge 55 fulfil most listeners’ needs. The generously sized ear cups are covered in a good amount of padding, without the worry of the soft protein memory foam material heating up your ears. These headphones are on the bulky side, but fine for wear whilst travelling. The ear cups can be twisted to lay flat in the accompanying hard case, or folded up and put in a bag.

Build is predominantly plastic and, despite weighing 286g, they’re rather light to wear.

TaoTronics SoundSurge 55

Padding on the headband ensures it doesn’t dig into your head. And while the pressure on the ear is light, I’d encourage fiddling with the fit every now and then for increased comfort.

Control buttons are found on the right ear cup. These include the power button, which operates for playback alongside activating your mobile device’s voice assistant, plus ANC and volume buttons, with a USB-C connection and 3.5mm jack.

The buttons are well spaced and responsive, and most shouldn’t have a problem operating the SoundSurge 55. Just note that powering off the headphones requires a long push. Any shorter and the voice assistant will be activated.

While the SoundSurge 55 have a pretty standard design, they get the basics of usability and comfort right.

  • Surprisingly good ANC
  • Long battery life
  • aptX support

ANC performance isn’t always a given at this price, but TaoTronics seems to have found a way to include it. Unlike the SoundSurge 86 – which, despite the higher model number, cost half the price – the SoundSurge 55 feature Hybrid ANC. This uses internal and external microphones to block out sound.

TaoTronics say the SoundSurge 55 use a Sony digital noise-cancellation chip, but don’t state which one. Regardless, ANC is surprisingly decent for the asking price.

There are three ANC modes, with a tap cycling between Travel, Office and Ambient. Travel is the default option and the most effective.

Office is said to reduce “super-low frequency” sounds and it certainly seems to suppress keyboard taps (although Travel mode can perform the same function). Ambient mode is also pretty decent, allowing some noise through so you can hear what’s going on around you. There’s a fairly noticeable hiss with ANC on, and we noticed a strange tone when you take the headphones off. So while ANC performance is good, these issues cloud the performance.

Otherwise, a run-through of all the specs sees a respectable list of features. Battery life is 30 hours; audio codec support includes SBC, AAC (for iOS devices) and aptX (for Android); Bluetooth is 5.0; plus, to grease the wheels the SoundSurge 55 include fast-charging, with 45 minutes filling up the tank completely.

  • Attempts for a ‘hi-fi’ sound
  • Good treble (for the price)
  • Disappointing mid-range performance

So far, the SoundSurge 55 meet and exceed expectations. But the real meat and potatoes is the audio performance, and in this regard, the TaoTronics are less accomplished.

This isn’t for want of trying. You’d half expect a budget pair of headphones to be unrefined, but the SoundSurge 55 sound admirably restrained, confirming TaoTronics’ claim of at least approaching a “hi-fi” sound.

TaoTronics SoundSurge 55

It’s a more grown-up approach, but it’s also compromised. Treble is good: detailed, clear and enjoyable. Bass, on the other hand, feels undercooked and ill-defined in places. Problems crop up in the mid-range, too, with Radiohead’s No Surprises. It lacks clarity and separation, and timing feels off. You get the broad strokes, but not the nitty-gritty detail.

A listen to the Foo Fighters’ My Hero and similar issues rear their head. The drum hits sound a bit distant, and Dave Grohl’s vocals sound like he’s singing in some sort of cavernous set.

Bill Withers’ Just The Two of Us fares better. A slower-paced, less hectic song helps stereo imaging and timing – although, again, something seems off about how the instruments sound.

TaoTronics SoundSurge 55

Dynamically, you can find better alternatives if you go up in price. The SoundStage 55 are decent in terms of volume, but the soundstage is narrow, and that affects organisation as instruments feel squashed and hemmed in.

Despite all these issues, the SoundSurge 55 remain fairly listenable. The headphones are a decent option if you’re looking for inexpensive units that offer good specs, but there are better-sounding options available.

  • You’re after a cheap headphone

These headphones are squarely for those who want something affordable. TaoTronics has delivered an accomplished pair of headphones in terms of design and features, but there are better-sounding options elsewhere.

  • You’re after affordable ANC

The ANC performance from these headphones is much better than expected.

  • You want a comfortable pair of cans

The build quality is solid, if unremarkable, but what the TaoTronics get right is the comfort levels with a generous amount of earcup padding.

  • If you want better sound

You’d need to pay more but there are better-sounding efforts north of £100, especially in terms of midrange reproduction, which is the TaoTronics biggest weakness.

  • You desire better noise cancelling

It should be obvious that even though the ANC is pretty good for the price, better can be found if you beef up your budget. That said, the TaoTronics are about as good as it gets for their price point.

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