All eyes were at AirPods Max when it was released, partly because of the killer performance that it claims to offer. But what captured the most attention is its rather hefty price. At $549, it’s considerably much more expensive than other so-called “noise-canceling headphones” such as the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose 700. But since it’s an Apple brand, let alone their first wireless over-ear headphone, we didn’t doubt that it would be a success.
As expected, it went easily out of stock in the Apple store. While it is also available on other merchants, its retail price quickly sky-rocketed, proving how excited people are about the device and how they are willing to spend for it.
In case you are still contemplating whether to grab a pair of AirPods Max, we have streamlined everything you have to know before getting the device.
AirPods Max At a Glance
AirPods Max is top-notcher wireless headphones that sport superior sound technology with support for spatial audio and noise cancelation. With a few extra, it has the same magic that the other AirPods bring. But we cannot deny, AirPods Max is expensive.
Sound Quality: Expectedly Superior
High-end audio is the core selling point of AirPods Max and we can say that it doesn’t disappoint in that aspect. Apple has put a lot of work into the noise-canceling capability of this headpiece to give you a truly immersive listening experience. It stacks up with the top-tier Sony headphones in terms of blocking outside noises like wind noise and engine sounds. In doing this, the AirPods Max utilizes multiple outward-facing microphones, paired with beamforming microphones that are responsible for capturing and isolating your voice. That being said, AirPods Max also does a great job in taking calls even in noisy places.
Aside from noise cancelation, AirPods Max also sports Transparency mode, which on the contrary, lets in ambient sounds. You can enable this feature if you are using the device when you are on the road or when you want to listen to music as if you are not wearing a headphone.
However, if you are a true audiophile, you may want to disable both the noise cancelation and Transparency mode of AirPods Max. Although it isn’t too obvious for ordinary listeners, those with very sharp ears may notice the synthetic quality of the output once these features are enabled. Anyhow, AirPods Max is still well capable of delivering the purest sound with a good mix of bass, crisp, and treble that we normally get from wired headphones.
It is also worth pointing out that AirPods Max inherits the adaptive EQ and spatial audio of the previous AirPods. Some may found it lacking that it doesn’t support lossless audio on Apple Music. However, the ability to automatically tune the music based on the fit of the ear cushion and its support for more atmospheric sound is not a bad catch.
Connection and Compatibility: Best for Apple Devices
AirPods Max primarily relies on Bluetooth for connectivity, which means you may pair it with any Bluetooth-compatible device. Of course, nothing will be more efficient than using it with an iPhone or iPad. As soon as you take out AirPods Max from its case, the H1 chip inside the headpiece will automatically initiate pairing with a nearby Apple device. All you need to do is tap on your screen to connect.
Android users may also enjoy AirPods Max, although it may lose some of its features. Needless to say that you won’t get Siri. That aside, you won’t also be able to take advantage of its spatial audio and automatic head tracking. You may also connect AirPods Max to PS5 and Nintendo Switch using a Bluetooth transmitter. A word of warning though, the microphone on the headphones won’t work.
If you can’t get over with wired headphones, you may still enjoy them on AirPods Max using Apple’s Lighting-to-3.5mm audio cable. It doesn’t come as part of the AirPods Max package, though. Knowing Apple, it wants to sell almost everything you might need.
Also read: How to Pair AirPods
Battery and Charging: A Touch Better
The AirPods Max box indicates that it can stand up to 20 hours of playback time on a single charge, even with noise-canceling, transparency mode, or spatial audio turned on. It takes approximately one hour to get it fully juiced up. But if you are in a hurry, a quick five-minute charge will give you a decent 1.5 hours of listening time. It is a touch better than those of Sony and Bose, but it could have been better. Thankfully, Apple has implemented some power-saving mechanisms when the device is on standby.
If you leave it stationary for five minutes outside its smart case, AirPods Max will automatically enter low power mode to conserve its power. Leaving it stationary for 72 hours, or 18 hours inside the case, will trigger ultra power mode. Essentially, it is turned off.
Also read: How To Charge AirPods
AirPods Max Design: Premium Build With Odd-Looking Case
Not to spoil you but you may find a problem with AirPods Max’s 384 grams weight. Comparing it again with Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose 700, AirPods Max is heavier by 130 and 135 grams respectively. It isn’t entirely bad though; in fact, AirPods Max’s build quality is impressive. This headpiece boasts a lot of metal. As you know, metal is heavier than plastic, which the majority of the headphones are made of.
The headphone has a canopy headband with a breathable mesh cloth material. It’s not the first time that we see this type of headband. But the u-shape of the canopy distributes the device’s weight evenly; therefore, reducing weariness to your head and neck. It connects to telescoping stainless steel frames on both ends that you can adjust for a better fit.
The ear cups look expensive too, although they may look awkward on smaller heads. They are made from anodized aluminum that has a smooth to an almost matte finish. Each cup also rotates to balance the device’s on-head pressure. Its ear cushions don’t disappoint either. Instead of leather, they are made from memory foam covered with mesh textile so there will be enough ventilation and your ears won’t steam up as much. We also like that each ear cushion is attached magnetically to the main driver. For $69 per pair, you can easily replace them and play with colors. AirPods Max is sold in space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink.
Your AirPods won’t be complete without its smart case, of course. For AirPods Max, however, it’s a bit odd-looking and controversial. Odd-looking because when you use it with the headpiece, it’s as if you are carrying a small handbag. While it protects the main drivers, the pouch doesn’t cover the headband and leaves it exposed. Thankfully, there are now completely protective AirPods Max cases you can buy from third parties.
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AirPods Max Controls: No Frills
Getting around the controls of AirPods couldn’t get any simpler because you only have two buttons to get familiar with: a digital crown and an oval-shaped button. The digital crown, which looks very similar to that of Apple Watches, is responsible for controlling the volume, summoning Siri, answering/dropping calls, and selecting tracks. If you want to control the volume, just simply turn the digital crown. Pressing on it once will pick/drop a call or play/pause a song, pressing it twice will skip a track, and pressing it three times will replay music. On the other hand, summoning Siri works by pressing the crown and holding it for a few seconds.
The oval-shaped button does an even simple job. By default, pressing on it will allow you to switch between noise-canceling and transparency mode. However, you may also change which noise control mode (noise-canceling, transparency mode, and off) to switch between in AirPods settings.
Takeaways on AirPods Max
AirPods Max has set the standard for noise-canceling headphones a bar higher without totally turning its back to audiophiles. While it has limitations, like its inability to support Apple Music lossless audio, they can’t outweigh the good qualities that this headpiece packs. Its spatial audio makes watching movies truly immersive and its adaptive EQ is equally impressive. With its H1 chip, we also can no longer wish for better connectivity range and simplified pairing.
There’s no denying that AirPods Max is pricey; the question, though, is if it’s reasonable. It looks premium and it performs like premium, so our verdict is definitely yes.