Going up against Sony and Bose, Apple’s AirPods Max are lauded as some of the best noise cancelling headphones on the market. But are they worth the money? Let’s find out…
Apple’s AirPods are very popular wireless headphones. You see them everywhere. In fact, I’d argue you cannot leave the house without seeing at least one person wearing them. Part of the allure of Apple’s AirPods is that they’re A) not too expensive, B) work seamlessly with iPhone, and C) are made by Apple, so iPhone users naturally gravitate towards them.
With its AirPods, you have a few options: the standard AirPods, the AirPods Pro, and the over-ear AirPods Max. The AirPods Max is the most expensive by a considerable margin being similarly priced to Bose’s QC45 and 700 headphones and Sony’s outstanding WH-1000XM5 headphones. But are Apple’s noise-canceling, over-ear headphones worth all that extra money? Or, are you better off with Sony or Bose?
In order to properly answer that question, we’ll first take a look at the AirPods Max’s specs and hardware, then we’ll take a broad look at all the latest AirPods Max reviews from around the web, and finally, we’ll analyze everything we’ve learned to make a decision about whether or not Apple’s AirPods Max is worth buying. First, let’s dive in to the specs and hardware for the AirPods Max.
AirPods Max Specs
- Apple H1 headphone chip
- Active Noise Cancellation
- Transparency mode
- Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking
- Nine microphones
- Gyroscope, accelerometer, optical sensor, position sensor, and case-detect sensor.
- 20-hour battery life
- Colors: Silver, Space Gray, Sky Blue, Green, and Pink
AirPods Max Features – What You Get
Apple doesn’t do things by halves. With the AirPods Max, Apple set about creating a premium set of headphones that could go toe-to-toe with the best in the business. And this is a pretty tall order when you factor in that brands like Sony and Bose have been doing this for decades. In order to succeed, Apple’s AirPods Max needed to have excellent noise cancellation and great battery life, and they needed to be comfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time. And that’s just the basics.
The good news is that Apple’s ANC (active noise cancellation) is brilliant, easily on a par with Bose and Sony’s technology. Battery life is decent too; you’ll get around 20 hours per charge which is fairly average – both the Bose 700, QC45, and Sony’s WH-1000XM5 will do 30 hours. But Apple’s secret sauce with its AirPods Max, as ever, is how they interact with iPhone and other Apple products.
You also have support for Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos which really helps to bulk out the sound performance. Indeed, with an H1 chip in each ear cup which brings 10 audio cores a piece, the AirPods Max sounds as good as anything else on the market right now at this price point. The inclusion of Dolby Atmos makes the AirPods Max great for watching movies and TV shows too.
The AirPods Max pair seamlessly with iPhone, iPad, and Mac. You also have a dedicated digital crown on the side of the headphones for accurate volume control which is a blessing – touch controls on headphones are always flakey at best. You can sync them with Find My, they work wonderfully with Siri, and, unlike most of their peers, the cups are completely removable, so you can replace them when necessary – this is really cool, as it will extend the lifespan on them massively.
In addition to class-leading sound quality and noise cancellation, Apple’s AirPods Max are also some of the most premium-looking headphones on the market. Apple chose to construct them from metal, not plastic, and while this does make them slightly heavier than all of the competition, it does make them look and feel exceptionally premium and robust. The headband is also designed to distribute the weight of the cans evenly, and it works very well in practice too.
When it comes to caveats, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind before pulling the trigger on a pair of AirPods Max. The first relates to their case. Lauded as one of the worst things Apple has ever designed, the AirPods Max carrying case is annoying to use and tricky to live with – and you need to it put the AirPods Max into low power mode. The second issue is that AirPods Max do not support a 3.5mm jack which means you cannot connect them to a HiFi. Not good for audiophiles. As caveats go, these are the two biggest issues with Apple’s AirPods Max.
That’s my quick take on the AirPods Max, a brief overview of what they are, how they work, and what you can expect from ownership. Let’s now take a wider look at some Apple AirPods Max reviews from around the web to build a better picture of whether these expensive noise-canceling headphones are worth their asking price…
AirPods Max Reviews
Are Apple’s AirPods Max Worth It?
The AirPods Max are expensive and slightly odd looking, there’s no getting around that. But when it comes to sound quality, battery life, and overall features, they are truly exceptional headphones, easily matching anything from Bose and/or Sony. If you’re an iPhone user and you want a decent pair of headphones, the AirPods Max are just about as good as it gets right now with their exceptional ANC, Spatial Audio, and seamless integration with iOS.
If you’re not a current iPhone user, I’d be more inclined to go with either the Bose QC45 headphones or Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones. They’re cheaper, and they sound just as good, as you’ll get access to things like Alexa and/or Google Assistant. The AirPods Max, like Apple’s other AirPods, are designed for use with iPhones and iPads. If you’re using Android, you’ll want to take your business elsewhere.
For iPhone, though, the AirPods Max are easily the best wireless headphone option. They sound incredible, they look very impressive, and they’re packed with tons of useful features like Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio, ANC, and quick charging, whereby a five-minute blast on a wall charger will net your around three hours of listening time. Issues aside, the AirPods Max are an impressive set of headphones that, I think, are well worth the asking price.
When it comes to sound quality, battery life, and overall features, Apple’s AirPods Max easily match anything from Bose and/or Sony. If you’re an iPhone user and you want a decent pair of headphones, the AirPods Max are just about as good as it gets right now
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Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.