AirPods Max Review: Premium Price for a Premium Experience

Score:
eight/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Sizzling Rubbish
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Rubbish
  • three – Strongly Improper Design
  • four – Some Professionals, Quite a bit Of Cons
  • five – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Just right Sufficient to Purchase On Sale
  • 7 – Nice, However Now not Very best-In-Elegance
  • eight – Unbelievable, with Some Footnotes
  • nine – Close Up And Take My Cash
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Worth: $549

AirPods Max with Smart Case standing on a rock
Peter Cao

As an “audiophile” the AirPods Max intrigued me. They’re priced just a little excessive for a suite of client headphones, and as maximum audiophiles know, energetic noise cancelation (ANC) degrades sound high quality in a method or every other. With this assessment, I got down to to find out if the AirPods Max sound particularly higher than different in style ANC headphones in the marketplace, maximum of which can be a lot decrease in worth.

Here is What We Like

  • Elegance-leading ANC efficiency
  • Nice, almost-balanced sound
  • Very good convenience and top rate design
  • Bodily buttons for ANC and media keep watch over
  • Close to-infinite headscarf adjustment

And What We Do not

  • Lightning for charging and stressed audio
  • Worse battery lifestyles than different ANC headphones
  • Sensible Case provides practically 0 coverage

Many would suppose that the AirPods Max’s competition could be headphones such because the Sony WH-1000XM4 or the Bose Noise Canceling 700. And that is sensible, as maximum shoppers aren’t prepared to pay a top rate for headphones.

However the truth is that the AirPods Max are priced a lot too excessive to realistically compete with any of the aforementioned headphones. If truth be told, the AirPods Max’s one true competitor is Bang & Olufsen’s H95, which can be priced $250 costlier than the AirPods Max at retail worth. I’ve attempted the H95, and truthfully, in the case of sound high quality, it’s truly shut. At that time, you’re taking a look at which one is extra at ease for you or what options one has over the opposite.

However I’m going to be truthful. Once I first picked up the AirPods Max on release day, I anticipated to check them, assessment them, and go back them. I used to be pondering, “No approach do the AirPods Max justify its worth level.” And after two months with them, I’m pleasantly stunned. The AirPods Max exceeded my expectancies now not best in the case of sound high quality, however in practically each different class as neatly. Let me provide an explanation for.

Designed Neatly and Extremely At ease

AirPods Max on a table displaying ANC and Digital Crown buttons
Peter Cao

I’ll attempt to stay this section easy and to the purpose. The AirPods Max are very at ease for my head.  I had some discomfort after I first used them from the clamping drive, however that went away after the primary day or so of use. After that acclimation duration, I had a possibility to commute with them and had them on my head for 12 hours instantly with out a problems when it got here to convenience.

The AirPods Max are heavier than maximum different ANC headphones in the marketplace, however they aren’t that heavy, particularly when in comparison to stressed headphones. Lots of the weight can also be chalked as much as the stainless-steel headscarf and aluminum ear cups. Should you’ve worn stressed headphones up to now, the AirPods Max will really feel no other.

The headscarf is an engaging design selection. I’ve the fairway type, because of this I’ve the minty inexperienced/off white headscarf. I haven’t run into any staining or discoloring problems with the scarf. It’s constituted of a mesh subject matter, which is unusually at ease. I rarely really feel the scarf on my head in any respect.

The earpads are constituted of what seems to be the similar mesh material discovered on Apple’s HomePod sensible audio system. The pads are each huge and prolong deep, because of this the ones with large ears (like me) gained’t have a subject matter with the drivers or pads touching your ears.

Maximum Bluetooth (and ANC) headphones are uncomfortable on my head, so I used to be pleasantly stunned to look no convenience problems with the AirPods Max. Generally, with different ANC headphones, I’d begin to really feel discomfort across the crown of my head (in spite of the lighter weight of maximum different ANC headphones) after 30 mins to an hour of use.

For headscarf adjustment, Apple makes use of what it calls a “telescoping arm.” It’s a type of issues that makes you suppose, “Why exchange this when what we’ve works completely high quality? ” Thankfully, the stainless-steel arm permits for terribly high quality and exact changes. There’s a just right quantity of resistance and the arm feels tremendous strong, so that they gained’t get readjusted when you rather bump the scarf.

Talking of exact changes, the AirPods Max function precise buttons for ANC and media controls. Positioned at the proper ear cup, the devoted ANC button permits you to toggle between ANC and transparency mode. Proper in the back of it’s what seems to be a supersized Apple Watch virtual crown. Right here, you’ll be able to single-press the button to play/pause/resolution or hold up a decision, double-press to skip ahead a monitor, triple-tap to return, press and dangle for Siri, and spin the dial to regulate the amount.

The AirPods Max simply trump any set of headphones that use contact controls which are frequently finicky and unreliable. Oh, and in contrast to maximum different headphones I’ve examined, you’ll be able to concurrently faucet the ANC and Virtual Crown buttons to pause and input transparency mode and vice versa in a single pass. Generally, you’ll must press one at a time, differently it flat out gained’t paintings.

The (Dumb) Sensible Case

AirPods Max Smart Case
Peter Cao

The AirPods Max’s Sensible Case is each essentially the most distinctive and dumbest headphone case I’ve used. Firstly, calling it a “case” is a stretch. The headscarf is totally uncovered, and there are ordinary slits in every single place that divulge the aluminum external. It sort of feels Apple supposed you to hold the headphones through the scarf, however actually, maximum desire a powerful and durable case for commute.

The Sensible Case could also be the one approach to “flip off” the headphones. They pass into an ultra-low energy state when within the case that is helping save you battery drainage. On the other hand, I’ve been hit through the battery draining factor such a lot of folks were seeing the place the AirPods Max are draining even whilst within the case.

The only upside with the case is that it does lend a hand permit the headphones to rise up on their very own. So, there’s that.

ANC & Transparency Efficiency

AirPods Max hanging on a tree
Peter Cao

ANC efficiency is every other house the place the AirPods Max shine. In comparison to the former ANC King—the Sony WH-1000XM4—the AirPods Max simply carry out 20-25% higher, no less than in line with my ears. The most important differentiator between the 2 is the AirPods Max are in a position to dam out inconsistent noise reminiscent of speaking extra successfully.

The place the AirPods Max utterly blow each different set of headphones out of the water is of their transparency mode. You practically fail to remember you will have the headphones for your head. Mix that with a transparency mode that now not best sounds very herbal however 3 dimensional as neatly. It’s a type of stuff you’ll have to take a look at for your self.

For comparability, the AirPods Professional’s transparency mode is truly just right, however lacks any type of intensity. However with AirPods Max, there’s a way of distance and soundstage. That is most probably due to the 9 microphones on board, 8 of which can be used for ANC and transparency (and 3 for voice; two of which can be shared).

Now not unexpected although, because the AirPods Professional already had one of the most easiest transparency modes in the market. The AirPods Max merely cranks it as much as 11.

So-So Battery Lifestyles

AirPods Max laying on a table
Peter Cao

Apple claims 20 hours of battery lifestyles between fees with ANC or transparency mode became on. For the associated fee, that is lovely disappointing as many different ANC headphones (maximum priced a lot decrease) have 30-40 hours prior to wanting to juice up once more.

Thankfully, in my revel in, I’ve been in a position to squeeze nearer to 24-25 hours. Nonetheless now not the most productive in the market, however the further few hours cause them to above-average. And, not like the Sony XM4s, you’ll be capable to price and concentrate for your AirPods Max by the use of Bluetooth concurrently. There’s no USB audio, which is lovely disappointing for the ones short of to have high-res, low-latency audio whilst charging. However I’ll take that over now not having the ability to use them in any respect whilst juicing up.

The AirPods Max price over—sigh—Lightning. However to be honest, the common sense is sensible. Should you personal an iPhone, it fees over Lightning. All different AirPods within the lineup price over Lightning. It’s high quality for the general public.

However for me, I’ve converted to wi-fi charging on each my iPhone and AirPods Professional. Should you’ve carried out the similar, that suggests you’re now wearing a Lightning cable simply to your headphones. It’s now not a dealbreaker however is indubitably tense.

Sound High quality

Sound high quality shall be cut up into two portions: tonality/frequency reaction and technicalities. The next shall be my subjective evaluations. Should you’d like function assessments and graphs, test them out at Crinacle and RTINGS.

Tonality/Frequency Reaction

Peter wearing AirPods Max
Peter Cao

For many shoppers who’ve best had ANC headphones just like the Sony XM4 or Bose QC35, tonality is most probably what you care about. Frequency reaction (or tonality) represents how the headphones sound.

I’m glad to record that the AirPods Max are most commonly balanced right here. There’s a small sub-bass spice up, giving the AirPods Max just a little of thump, rumble, and heat. When it comes to treble, there’s a dip someplace within the decrease treble area, making vocals sound just a little uninteresting. However, it does pick out again up within the later levels and provides the AirPods Max somewhat just a little of element within the treble total. The AirPods Max appear to practice the Harman frequency curve lovely carefully. That is very true within the midrange, which seems to be balanced during the variability.

The AirPods Max sign up for a small crew of ANC headphones in the market that sound somewhat balanced. However that’s now not all that unexpected. The AirPods Professional additionally practice the Harman curve lovely carefully as neatly and make a couple of small changes to make the sound extra relaxing for the typical client.

Relating to equalization (EQ), the AirPods Max are lovely restricted. You get a couple of accessibility choices for your iPhone or iPad that assist you to set them to “Balanced Tone,” “Vocals,” or “Brightness.” It’s all generic and also you don’t have get admission to to a graphic or parametric EQ right here. Even though, you’ll be able to all the time twine them into your laptop and EQ them by the use of a third-party app. Simply notice that the EQ doesn’t stick at the headphone finish, so that you’ll must allow it on each software you hook up with (which is best to be had on iPhone and iPad by the use of the software’s accessibility settings).

Technicalities

When it comes to technicalities, the AirPods Max are ok. Their soundstage is huge for a suite of closed-back headphones. That is most commonly because of the massive and deep ear cups, taking into account a extra spacious sound total. The AirPods Max aren’t analytically detailed, however they’re lovely just right. Just right sufficient for the typical listener to select up main points they’ve by no means heard prior to, however now not too detailed the place they may be able to be fatiguing to hear after a time frame.

Imaging is just a little ordinary. In comparison to more than a few different headphones, the AirPods Max sound … off. Positive tools aren’t being positioned the place I’d be expecting. Extra quiet sounds can get misplaced and mix into the remainder of the combo if issues get truly busy, which is disappointing.

Technicalities aren’t as vital for a suite of ANC headphones, particularly while you’re the use of it in a hectic town boulevard, loud aircraft, or in a espresso store. The noise flooring is simply too loud to select up refined main points anyhow.

They Sound Nice Stressed, Too

Lightning to 3.5mm cable

The AirPods Max lack a correct headphone jack. If truth be told, the one connector on them is Lightning. This implies you’ll must shell out $35 for Apple’s Lightning to a few.5mm cable. No, you’ll be able to’t purchase a third-party one on Amazon (but) as you’ll desire a cable with an Analog to Virtual converter (ADC). Your $nine Lightning to a few.5mm adapter gained’t paintings both as it best has a Virtual to Analog converter (DAC).

In laymen’s phrases, which means that your conventional Lightning to a few.5mm adapter converts the virtual sign out of your telephone to an analog sign one thing like a couple of audio system can perceive. Apple’s particular cable does that along with changing the analog sign coming out of your laptop’s audio jack again right into a virtual sign that the AirPods Max’s Lightning connector can perceive (it’s bi-directional).

Silly cabling and port choices apart, the twine is worthwhile when you’re searching for the most productive sound imaginable and decrease latency. It’s now not 0 latency because the onboard amplifier and DAC are nonetheless running and that provides some latency, however that isn’t noticeable. I wasn’t in a position to note a extend whilst running with Common sense Professional on my Mac mini.

The AirPods Max additionally sound particularly higher when stressed, which is to be anticipated. I had a handful of folks blind take a look at stressed as opposed to Bluetooth, and so they all spotted a distinction in nine out of 10 tracks I had them take a look at. The supply subject matter was once Qobuz operating without delay from a Mac mini.

What’s much more fascinating is that after I plugged them into my desktop headphone amplifier/DAC and was once in a position to get them to play a lot louder than they’re able to over Bluetooth or without delay into the Mac mini with none distortion. I did set up to get them to distort after I became them up louder than any human would ever need to moderately concentrate to. With that stated, outdoor of quantity there was once nearly no distinction between the use of the amp as opposed to my Mac mini’s interior headphone port.

Additional Options

As with different AirPods within the lineup, the AirPods Max function one-tap your entire Apple units. Merely take the AirPods Max out in their Sensible Case and produce them close to your iPhone or iPad. From there, faucet “Attach” and your AirPods Max will automagically pair to your entire Apple units related together with your Apple ID. You’ll get different AirPods options reminiscent of computerized play and pause, which paintings exceptionally neatly. Simply elevate both ear cup and track will pause, liberate, and it’ll get started taking part in. Put the headphones on and so they mechanically activate and pair, take them off and so they pause.

Spatial Audio provides a encompass sound-like revel in together with your headphones. You’ll want an iPhone or iPad for it to paintings (no Mac or Apple TV) operating iOS or iPadOS 14.three or later. It’s a groovy social gathering trick and it does what you’d be expecting. Your iPhone or iPad is the anchor, and the audio strikes as you progress your head, very similar to being at a film theater. The encompass sound impact is unbelievable given its two-speaker limitation however don’t pass out and pick out up the AirPods Max only for the function.

Conclusion

AirPods Max standing up right on a table
Peter Cao

The AirPods Max are a really perfect set of headphones with a couple of questionable possible choices, that may be dealbreakers for some. For me, the upper price is worthwhile because of the best way they have compatibility on my head and the relaxation by myself. The excellent construct high quality and ANC features could also be a reason why you pick out them up as opposed to their competition. In fact, if you’re deep within the Apple ecosystem, and are searching for a suite of over-ear ANC headphones, the AirPods Max are a no brainer.

The AirPods Max proceed to be somewhat tough to seek out and there’s a transparent call for for them in spite of their top rate ticket. With that stated, their ticket would be the greatest reason why numerous folks gained’t pick out up a suite of AirPods Max, duration. Should you’re in that crew, Sony’s WH-1000XM4 provides nice ANC efficiency, longer battery lifestyles, and a light-weight, at ease design for $200 much less.

Right here’s What We Like

  • Elegance-leading ANC efficiency
  • Nice, almost-balanced sound
  • Very good convenience and top rate design
  • Bodily buttons for ANC and media keep watch over
  • Close to-infinite headscarf adjustment

And What We Do not

  • Lightning for charging and stressed audio
  • Worse battery lifestyles than different ANC headphones
  • Sensible Case provides practically 0 coverage

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