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The Apple AirPods Max will blow your mind in good ways AND bad ways. See why only a few of the most essential features may be enough for you to justify paying the premium price…
Apple AirPods Max
Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones
- Battery Life: 20 hours
- Fast Charge: 5 minutes gets around 1.5 hours of listening
- Bluetooth Version: 5.0 (Apple H1 chip)
- Driver Size: 40 mm
- Water Resistance: No
- Active Noise Cancellation: Yes
- Weight: 13.6 oz (385 g)
- Colors: Green, Pink, Silver, Sky Blue, and Space Gray
- GREAT audio quality and powerful bass
- Apple H1 chip provides a better connection and more efficiency with Apple devices
- Beautiful design and impressive build quality
- Extremely comfortable with memory foam ear pads
- Always-on Siri
- Best-in-class 8-microphone Active Noise Cancellation mode
- Best-in-class Transparency mode
- Unique Spatial Audio feature tracks your head movement
- Adaptive EQ is very convenient
- Digital Crown controls feel as nice as on the Apple Watch
- Use Find My to search for the AirPods Max
- Only average battery life
- Heavy!!! Over 4 oz heavier than other options
- No water or sweat resistance
- No custom EQ
- Travel case is not very protective and not really a case
- Outdate Lightning charge port
- No dedicated Auxiliary port
- No manual “Turn Off” button or switch
Before I get to what I liked about the AirPods Max, I should address some glaring design issues. Similar to the first Apple Pencil and the HomePod, there are some real headscratchers on Apple’s first try at noise-cancelling headphones.
No Aux Port
This wouldn’t be a surprise if we were reviewing the latest iPhone, but we’re talking about a pair of premium wireless headphones. Just like the iPhone, the Lighting port doubles as the Aux port.
In typical Apple fashion, they charge you separately for something that should come standard. Forking over an extra $35 for the special Lightning-to-3.5mm cable is really annoying. Luckily, the wired audio quality is on par with the competition.
Heavy As Hell
Weighing in at about 385 grams, the AirPods Max are pretty hefty. Even though the metal construction gives them a premium feel, the extra weight can be annoying for all-day use.
To keep too much pressure off the top of your head, they designed a tighter squeeze on the sides of your head. Even though the resulting fit is pretty snug and secure, they’re not as comfortable as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s.
Smart Case Or Dumb Case?
The “smart case” for the AirPods Max is one of the most frustrating features of these headphones. Obviously, it looks like a purse and the design makes no sense. It’s almost worse than pointless because it gives you a false sense of security.
The charging port and delicate mesh headband are completely exposed. Plus, much of the edges of the aluminum ear cups are exposed to dents and scratches.
The only ability the smart case seems to perform successfully is turning the headphones off, but not completely.
When it comes down to it, I wouldn’t recommend traveling with the AirPods Max unless you get a REAL case. There are plenty of great 3rd-party cases available, but then again, that’s one more added expense for something that should come standard.
No "Off" Button?!
If you didn’t catch that before, the only way to immediately “turn off” the AirPods Max is to insert them into the smart case. They aren’t really off though. When inserted, the AirPods Max instantly switch into low-power mode.
This mode allows you to search for them using Find My for up to 18 hours. On the other hand, you can just set them down and after 5 minutes, they’ll go into low power mode, too.
Bring Back The Rice
You may think their tight fit makes them perfect for working out with, but think again. The AirPods Max’s have absolutely no water or sweat resistance.
If none of those design fails are a deal-breaker, then you’re in for a treat. The audio experience on the Apple AirPods Max is like no other. They’re luxury listening made easy.
No frustration with fumbling around on a multi-band custom EQ, because the Adaptive EQ takes care of all the heavy lifting. Automatically adjusting in real-time, you can go from Pop music to podcasts and get the best sounding version of each genre.
The 40mm aren’t out of the ordinary, but they have more bump than expected, thanks to the bass-heavy sound signature. To put it simply, you get nice punchy bass from Pop music, yet it can adjust to produce the smooth full-range sound of classical styles of music. While it’s not always perfect, I actually prefer the simplicity of it for the average user.
Lost In Space
To sweeten the pot, Apple included a unique feature called Spatial Audio (or Virtual Surround Sound). Using the integrated gyroscope and accelerometer, the AirPods Max tracks your head movement. No matter which way your head is turned, the audio will sound like it’s coming directly from the direction of the device it’s playing on.
Even though it’s not a game-changer, it’s a pretty cool experience when watching movies. Besides, it only works with iOS devices and it still has limited compatibility.
Can You Hear Me Now?!
One of the best audio features is what you don’t hear. Using a combination of 9 built-in microphones, the AirPods Max features one of the best noise cancellation and transparency modes available.
Sony has always been my personal favorite for noise-cancelling headphones, but the AirPods Max are slightly better in this area.
The Transparency mode is where the AirPods Max really takes a step ahead of the competition. They almost sound like you don’t have any headphones on. Plus, they use the 9th microphones to isolate your voice, so if you like hearing yourself talk, you’re good to go.
A Solid 10
Even though the stainless-steel headband frame and aluminum earcups add some extra weight, it pays off when it comes to looks. From Apple’s traditional rounded-square-shape on the aluminum earcups to the smooth telescoping arms, these headphones are a beauty.
Unlike the AirPods and AirPods Pro, they have some nice color options, too. Choose from Pink, Silver, Sky Blue, Space Gray, or my personal favorite Green. On top of that, the ear cushions are magnetically attached and easily replaceable. That also gives you the cool option of mixing and matching different ear cushion colors to fit your style.
If you’re an Apple Enthusiast, MacBoy, or whatever the latest slang term is, you probably already have a pair of the Apple AirPods Max. The build quality gives them a look and feel that certainly justifies the premium price. Plus, the audio quality and noise-cancelling are top-notch, so it’s understandable if you’ve already pulled the trigger.
For the rest of us out here weighing our options, it’s a tough choice. When it comes to audio quality, not much sets them apart from the competition. At least not enough for most people to justify paying double the price.
Even the lossless audio compression that you get when using these with Apple music comes with its caveats. Mostly because of limited compatibility with some media file types, but that can be fixed with future updates.
When it comes down to it, there’s more to love than hate with the Apple AirPods Max. They’re just an all-around solid set of headphones. They may have some annoying and unnecessary quirks, but they’re pretty easy to get past once you get them on and press play.
Best Travel Cases For The AirPods Max
I’m sure you’ve heard and/or felt enough frustration about the “case” that comes with the AirPods Max. Given their premium price tag and lack of water resistance, I wouldn’t leave the house or even throw them in my bag without a real travel case.
Here are my favorite PROTECTIVE travel cases that will keep your audio investment safe and secure:
Best Replacement Ear Cushions
If you want to pay Apple $60 for some ear cushions, go for it. If you want the best deal on some replacement ear cushions, then check these out: