I’ve been using AirPods Max all week and a lot of thoughts. My biggest advantage is that these headphones are overpriced. I like them a lot for a number of reasons, but they are 100% overpriced. The reasons you would buy these headphones could be similar to the same reasons someone would buy a pair of shoes for over $ 500 – just because you like what you like. And while $ 550 is a lot to command, the vast majority of the consumers who these headphones are marketed to will absolutely enjoy these headphones. Here’s why.
These headphones are a perfect product from Apple in terms of design. I’m much more curious to see how well the design will hold up with continued use over time. But the aesthetic choices Apple made don’t bother me. I especially think that the colors sky blue and pink look very unique and pleasing to the eye.
The headphones generally offer a good feeling of durability. But I have a feeling these shouldn’t be in the hands of toddlers or young active kids. The hinge feels sturdy, but based on my experience with these hinges, I wouldn’t trust AirPods Max on kids who might be technically unsatisfied.
Comfort is the more interesting aspect of these headphones. Because the headphones are made of stainless steel and aluminum for construction, they’re a little heavier than some of Sony and Bose’s biggest competitors. You don’t feel heavy on your head in itself – more than that, just very tight. This weight keeps the headphones very firmly on your head, so there are little or no problems with fit or slippage. For the best personal comfort, I had to fully extend my arms, but I’m sure this will vary depending on the user.
The Max uses a mesh material for the auricles, which I don’t care. In my opinion, it doesn’t feel any better on the ears than a soft leather material that headphones in this price range are known to have. I think the potential good side here is that the ear cups are easily removable via magnets. I think this will make these headphones better for long term use. And hopefully, a third-party accessory maker can make leather magnetic ear cups to replace them. That would be great.
Coming from AirPods Pro, the noise cancellation is much more effective here at Max. I’m sure the bigger drivers and over-ear design play a role in this. But it’s a lot more insulating than AirPods Pro. You get a slight hiss from this noise cancellation, but overall it works very well. And something that Max does a lot better than AirPods Pro is clean sound when ANC is on and block out ambient noise like wind or a moving train. There’s significantly less audio distortion in noise-canceling mode, which is probably my biggest long-term complaint about the AirPods Pro. Is the noise cancellation with AirPods Max much more powerful than with the ANC with over-ear headphones at half the price? No, but it’s definitely an enhanced experience from the AirPods Pro.
The transparency mode on Max is probably the most impressive aspect of these headphones. The nine microphones on the ear cups ensure a truly transparent audio experience. I can play music at 75% volume with transparency mode on and I can still hear my keyboard clearly while typing or my voice while speaking normally. The closer the sound is to the microphone, the clearer it sounds, of course, but it’s a very nice experience.
Wired mode performance
I will say the wired experience with these headphones is not as limiting as I imagined it would be. First, in wired mode, transparency and noise canceling mode work just fine. And the digital crown can still be used to adjust the volume, but nothing else. You can’t skip or pause tracks, and obviously there’s no Siri functionality. While the head detection and auto pause features still work in wired mode, which I wasn’t expecting in wired mode, it’s nice that it does.
The fact that these headphones use the lighting port, while not surprising, but definitely a missed opportunity. Apple could have used USB-C to make these headphones better. Some kind of USB-C HiFi mode might have been a cool feature not only for users but also for Apple.
Apple expects you to use this $ 35 Lightning-to-3.5mm cable with these headphones for the wired experience. For $ 35, that’s really pathetic. It’s too short, it’s very thin, and I’m just one mistake away from having to buy another one. We all know that Apple accessories aren’t made to last, but for $ 550 it could definitely have included a long, color-matched, braided cable for AirPods Max. That would make the wired experience a lot better in person.
The battery life on AirPods Max is good, but certainly not the battery champion compared to other headphones with ANC in different price ranges. I have Audio Technica headphones under $ 200 (with ANC) that can easily top Max in the battery department. The AirPods Max hover in the 15-20 hour range from the battery life of my tests.
If you use AirPods Max all day non-stop with noise cancellation turned on; You can definitely be close to killing her. If you’re the type of user who only uses headphones an hour a day, they will definitely last a week or longer depending on usage. But these are definitely not the best $ 550 or even $ 300 batteries. I think they’re good enough to reliably turn on and off throughout the work week.
There is absolutely nothing smart about this case, as we know the word “smart” that is used in naming products. This is a weak cover with magnets. There is no charging port or battery inside. Apple could have made the case for these headphones a highlight. The case is intended to put the headphones in an energy-saving mode to prevent the battery from discharging when idling. However, Apple has confirmed that the headphones do this themselves after 5 minutes of idling. So this case is really pointless.
You could have implemented a battery to extend battery life or connected to AirPods Max for faster charging. But instead Apple gave us this joke. And although I don’t like the case, I find that aesthetically it still goes very well with the AirPods Max.
These don’t sound like $ 550 headphones. I think AirPods Max deliver clean sound overall in both wired and wireless modes. They can get extremely loud; You should rarely have to set this to over 80% volume. And I have the feeling that all frequencies have a consistently clean presence. Are you getting the insane high fidelity details you get from Tesla headphones and other audiophile products? Absolutely not. Especially considering the way most AirPods users consume audio, they provide an overall enjoyable listening experience. At volumes below 50% the sound experience is still clean, but very boring. Other headphones in this price range don’t come close to offering the same vibrancy and presence.
The mids and highs are extremely present and moderately clean, but don’t quite have the clarity and sharpness that headphones have at this price. The lower end is especially boring at lower volumes, but at 80% and higher the bass will literally make the headphones rumble depending on what track you’re playing. At these higher volumes, the bass distortion is really minimal, which pleasantly surprised me. I tried using Max with some extremely bass heavy tracks and I was thoroughly surprised with the bass response.
The wired mode takes this experience a little further. Depending on the type of device you’re plugged into, you can definitely get a higher maximum volume with these headphones in wired mode. Bass response is definitely improved in wired mode, and I can hear all the little nuances in certain tracks just a bit more clearly. It doesn’t feel better when I feel like the wireless experience is lacking in comparison, but the sound is objectively better in wired mode. Overall, these are very comfortable for me to listen to music. The sound quality alone doesn’t warrant a $ 550 purchase in my opinion, but they sound very good.
Video / film experience and spatial audio
I think these are some of the most powerful wireless headphones I’ve ever used for general media consumption. Much of this is due to the spatial audio function. This is something that can be found on the other AirPods models. It essentially gives you that surround sound feeling when watching videos and movies, even content without official Dolby Atmos support. I watched a bunch of Dolby Atmos content and some videos with 8D audio. The experience for this type of content is really solid. Viewing content with spatial audio enabled can make the experience noticeably more immersive than without. This function in combination with the active noise cancellation makes these headphones almost perfect for watching an airplane movie.
These headphones cost like headphones for audiophiles, but are far from it. In my experience, these have top notch noise reduction and transparency modes. That being said, AirPods Max aren’t necessarily the best. But when you combine all of the features these headphones have to offer: from the amazing transparency mode to the spatial audio, you have a very compelling package overall for Apple users.
Is it a $ 550 experience? In my opinion no. I think these would be much more reasonable at $ 400 or $ 450. But personally, I don’t see myself able to use any other over-ear headphones for most of the things I do now that I have them in hand. Overall, I enjoy using these and I think anyone who has already invested in the Apple ecosystem should thoroughly enjoy the experience these headphones offer. What do you think about AirPods Max? Sound from in the comments below!
FTC: We Use Income Earning Auto Affiliate Links. More.
For more Apple news, check out 9to5Mac on YouTube: