AirPods Max review
AirPods Max: is it worth your purchase?
- Very pleasant sound quality
- Industry-leading active noise cancellation
- Excellent materials and workmanship
- Somewhat heavy
- They are not resistant to water or sweat
- Too expensive
Our Verdict: The AirPods Max doesn’t disappoint when it comes to audio, and they are some of the best-designed and best-made consumer headphones on the market. But their high price is not justified, especially since they do not include a good case or 3.5mm audio cable.
Retail price (RRP)
- $ 549
AirPods Max review
The latest expansion to Apple’s AirPods brand comes in the form of over-the-ear wireless headphones . The AirPods Max are nice, they sound good and they are quite comfortable despite being heavy. In addition, they cost € 629 / MXN $ 13,699, a price that is difficult to justify when the competition (mainly the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose 700) cost about € 250 / MXN $ 3,000 less.
In a way, AirPods Max gives you what you pay for. The build quality is unmatched at any price, and there are certain clever design elements. But there are also things you’ll have to settle for, like the Smart Case.
For those deep in the Apple ecosystem, AirPods Max should be considered when they are on sale for € 479 / MXN $ 12,399 or less, but if not, it’s hard to justify that price, and those who often stray from the Apple ecosystem should. look for alternatives.
Design and comfort
It’s no surprise that Apple has designed such beautiful headphones and made from premium materials . But Apple doesn’t always get the ergonomics right out of the box. (I’m looking at you, Apple TV remote.) Luckily, the AirPods Max are aesthetically appealing and a delight to use.
The new Apple headphones are simply prettier than any other model I’ve ever used. It is thanks to its matte finish of the aluminum of the closed headphones, the stainless steel temples, the mesh of the ear cushions and the mesh fabric of the headband.
All of this works well to create a sleek, minimal look that makes a fool of almost all headphones, even those that cost a lot more.
People will notice that you are wearing AirPods Max, although by surprise they don’t have an Apple logo anywhere.
All that metal makes them much heavier than other similar headphones, even being 50% heavier at 384 grams (the Sony XM4 and Bose 700 weigh just over 250 grams).
Apple has done a good job of maximizing comfort with a soft, deep, and breathable mesh fabric headband and earbuds that keep that weight off the hook. The holding force is a bit higher than most consumer wireless headphones, but that’s mitigated with the great headphones too.
If you try to run or exercise with headphones on, or if you move your head quickly, you will suddenly feel all that weight. But that shouldn’t matter to you. As they are not resistant to water or dust, you should not do a lot of exercise with them beyond a leisurely walk.
The controls are fine too. Apple has avoided touch controls (good!), Opting for a Digital Crown like the one on the Apple Watch, along with a single button, both above the right ear cup.
Luckily, the Digital Crown is much larger than the watch’s and controls volume and playback: tap it once to play / pause; twice to move between songs; three times to go the previous song; press and hold to activate Siri. You can even reverse the direction of the wheel if you find that whenever you want to turn up the volume, you end up turning it down.
With the button you can switch from noise cancellation to mode, or deactivate noise cancellation if you activate this option in the Bluetooth settings. The controls are simple, intuitive, unobtrusive and attractive – everything you want from a headset.
Despite that excessive weight, the AirPods Max look good, feel good, and have excellent controls. I wore them for hours without any discomfort, with and without glasses, which is way more than I can say for other consumer wireless headphones.
The only downside is that these headphones are only charged with a Lightning cable and have a 3.5mm headphone jack port (as with most of their products, Apple doesn’t include a power adapter in the box, just a power cord. USB-C to Lightning)
If you want to use them to listen to a movie on a plane, or to listen to music from your computer without losing audio quality, or if you are editing a video and you want to avoid Bluetooth latency, you will have to buy a 3.5 Lightning cable separately. mm and pay € 39 / MXN $ 949. For that price, the AirPods Max should include it.
The ear pads are held in place with magnets. The idea is that since they wear out over time (as all ear pads do), you can simply buy new ones for $ 69.
That’s too much for some memory foam and a few magnets, but their rival headphones don’t offer a replacement for worn-out ear pads, and $ 69 is a lot less than buying a new pair of headphones!
A not-too-smart Smart Case
We can’t call the AirPods Max a design triumph. It comes with something that Apple calls the “Smart Case”, which is neither a smart nor a case. It is awful. Really horrible. Badly thought out and worst executed, it is running as the worst accessory in Apple’s history, competing with the “Hockey puck” mouse and the Siri remote on Apple TV.
Thanks in part to their metal construction, the AirPods Max doesn’t fold at all. The headphones barely move sideways, and that’s it. The Smart Case is a single piece of unsteady plastic that has been folded into multiple compartments to put your headphones in, and then the lid folds over.
It’s small and light, but that’s the only good thing. They don’t protect these € 629 / MXN $ 13,699 headphones at all. The headband, with its mesh fabric, is completely exposed and can break or get dirty.
There are openings at the bottom, which does not prevent other objects in your backpack from scratching the headphones. There is a small cutout on the right side for the Lightning connector, so you can charge them while they are in the case, although it is somewhat absurd considering that there are holes everywhere.
Placing them in the box and folding the magnetic flap puts the AirPods into a kind of power-saving mode, although Bluetooth will still be on for 18 hours or so to keep the ‘Search’ feature working.
On the other hand, if you place the headphones elsewhere and do not touch them, they will go into that power saving mode after 5 minutes, and Bluetooth will remain active for 72 hours (again, for compatibility with the ‘Search’ function).
In short, the Smart Case:
- It doesn’t really protect your headphones.
- It doesn’t help much to save battery.
- It does not allow to store accessories when you travel.
Whatever the product development and approval process was, Apple has completely failed. Something this embarrassing would never have to hit the market. Fortunately, it is not a critical element and can be more or less ignored.
Sound quality and noise cancellation
The AirPods Max are extremely well designed and built (aside from the Smart Case, which is the complete opposite), but that’s useless if they don’t sound good. Luckily, they are a delight to your ears. It’s one of the best wireless Bluetooth headphones , and its active noise cancellation is perhaps the best I’ve ever felt.
The AirPods Max’s audio profile is not at studio level. You shouldn’t expect a flat frequency response curve. Apple has configured the AirPods Max to boost the mid and bass frequencies, something that most users will like.
Bass comes out when needed, without distortion, but it doesn’t have that thud of a Sony XM4 or most Beats headphones, for example. They aren’t going to make your skull rumble, if that’s what you’re looking for.
I’m impressed by how consistent the sound quality is. Most headphones change the pitch depending on their position in your ear, or depending on whether the volume is higher or lower. AirPods Max sound exactly the same no matter where they are in your head, or if you have them low in a quiet room or high outside. If it’s what Apple calls “adaptive equalizer,” it works really well.
Overall, the sound reproduction quality is the same as other premium high-end Bluetooth headphones , albeit with a somewhat different character. It is something more natural and neutral, and it is sure to satisfy all types of users. If you are an audio freaky , you should know that they cannot compete with the open wired headphones in which you listen to your FLAC files, nor is that their intention.
The quality of noise cancellation, however, is above the rest. The AirPods Max are not as adept at eliminating regular sounds as the air conditioners as the Sony XM4, but they are much better at eliminating more irregular sounds like traffic, office noise, or conversations in the background.
Most high-end noise-canceling headphones have a sort of way to channel certain external noises. Thus, you can have a quick conversation or listen to other important noises around you, have a quick conversation or listen to other important noises around you.
Apple’s ambient sound mode is way ahead of the rest. It sounds much clearer, natural and normal than the other noise canceling headphones I’ve ever used. It’s like you’re not wearing headphones, if it wasn’t for you keep listening to your music.
The mic works well for phone calls and hands-free “Hey Siri”, but it’s nothing special. The audio from the microphone is fine, but not “oh my God how good it is.”
Apple says the battery can be expected to last 20 hours of audio playback with noise cancellation turned on, which is fine but not better than the competition. In my experience, the company’s estimate is quite accurate.
Charging is also fast: in just 15 minutes and using a simple 5W adapter, I went from 20% to 44%. During the night, and without the horrible Smart Case, the battery was only consumed 3%. You can use the headphones while charging without any noise or distortion, something not all wireless headphones achieve.
Only for Apple users
Although AirPods Max have many positive points, you shouldn’t even consider buying them if you tend to listen to music on non-Apple products. If you want to use these Bluetooth headphones on an Android mobile or a Windows PC, the AirPods Max will work like any Bluetooth device, but you will be missing a lot.
The ease of pairing with other devices is a well-known feature of AirPods, but keep in mind that hands-free assistant support only works with Siri.
Also, there is no way to adjust features like reversing the Digital Crown without an Apple device. With iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur, AirPods can be switched from one Apple device to another when you start playing audio elsewhere. It is incredibly practical.
One of the coolest features of the AirPods Max (and AirPods Pro) is spatial audio, through which Dolby Surround becomes a kind of fake 3D sound. It even reorients when you turn your head.
It’s an amazing trick, but currently it only works with iPhone and iPad, which is of little use. How often do you watch movies with surround sound on those devices? Apple needs to bring spatial audio support to Apple TV and Mac. Until then, it’s a fantastic feature with very limited practical use that doesn’t justify using AirPods over other headphones.
Best Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones?
Are the AirPods Max the best wireless noise-canceling headphones on the market? For those who only use products from the Apple ecosystem, yes. They offer the same or even better sound quality of their competitors, and better noise cancellation.
Is it worth paying twice the price? You do get something for that premium price . The materials and build quality make other consumer headsets look ridiculous. If you want to show off that life is going well with you with quality headphones that everyone will immediately recognize, and recognize how expensive they are, the AirPods Max are for you.
But there are certain drawbacks that are worth considering. Their high weight and the absence of resistance to water and sweat make them not useful when exercising. If you want to connect them to a 3.5 mm jack cable , you will have to pay € 39 / MXN $ 949 separately.
The Smart Case is, without exaggeration, one of the worst designed and manufactured Apple products in its history. And one of its coolest features, spatial audio, doesn’t work with Macs or Apple TV.
It’s sad to think that such expensive noise canceling wireless headphones require you to buy a separate brand case and an overpriced 3.5mm cable, both of which should be included.
AirPods Max occupy a curious and uninhabited place in terms of price and quality. They are more expensive, and more premium , than rival noise-canceling wireless headphones like the Sony XM4 or the Bose 700. But they don’t offer sound quality on par with expensive audiophile headphones like the Sennheiser or Focal.
It would be easy to recommend them despite their drawbacks if Apple had included the 3.5mm cable and a good case, and they cost € 150 / MXN $ 1,300 less. You would still pay a premium price over rival products like Bose or Sony, but the materials and build quality justify it. It is a good product, but the price is too high for what you receive.