Apple’s first own-brand over-ear headphones are terrific on features, sound, and high-luxury design – but also on price. The AirPods Max is the most expensive of Apple’s headphones line but offers completely different features. This beast was designed specifically to bring direct competition to mainstream noise-canceling headphones from market leaders like Bose and Sony. While the price tag is shocking, the first batch of AirPods Max sold out in all five color options, with customers having to wait for up to three months for the next orders. So, what makes the AirPods Max so expensive, and are they worthy of the price? Keep reading to find out.
AirPods Max: Price
At $549, the Airpods Max noise-canceling headphones are not the cheapest around. However, the first thing you notice out of the box is the premium look and feel. The build quality is top range and incomparable. You can choose from a range of five colors, including Sky Blue, Green, Pink, Space Gray, and Silver. The ear cushions are magnetic and swappable – and you can get a replacement for around $69. The headphones come with a Smart Case and Lighting-to-USB-C cable, but without a power adapter and a Lightning-to-3.5mm audio cable, which you can pick up at $35 for wired listening.
AirPods Max: Features Design and Comfort
The design of AirPods Max is definitely eye-catching. You won't find any plastic material here. Instead, you get a top-notch finish with stainless steel headband wrapped in a soft polyurethane material. The rotating, pivoting ear cups are covered by oval pillows of foam memory and attached by telescoping steel stems that require some effort to extend but always stay in place at any length. Unfortunately, the headphones can't be folded for convenient storage. The ear cushions, which are made from acoustic memory foam with a breathable mesh layer on top, are ideal for keeping your ears cool in warmer months. They are also magnetic, making them easy to detach and pop back in place. The oval shape is comfortable to the ears, unlike some circular models.
Controls and Connectivity
AirPods Max doesn’t have a power button. They automatically power up when you place them on your head and automatically pause if removed or if you lift one ear cup. Removing the headphones completely, or placing them around your neck for a few minutes, and they’ll go into sleep mode. When you store them in their Smart Case, they go into ultra-low-power mode. This is a useful feature that helps to save battery. The only buttons on the AirPods Max are the Noise Control button, which switches between noise-canceling and transparent mode, and a digital crown to control volume and play or pause. Given the position of the Noise Control button, it's easy to find yourself pressing it every time you put on the headphones. But you get used to it with time.
They Are Weighty
What most people might find unusual is the weight of the AirPods Max. At 384g, it's not too heavy to ruin your experience, but you might notice the downforce compared to its rivals that use plastic. The Sony WH-1000XM4, for example, weighs 254 grams, while Bose Noise Cancelling headphones 700 weigh 249 grams. All the weight is due to the stainless steel frame and aluminum earcups, materials commonly used on Apple’s MacBooks. However, for the weight, they are surprisingly comfortable, but might pose a problem for those with neck issues.
AirPods Max emits a clearer, more defined sound with no distortion whatsoever at higher volumes. While we can't compare the sound to what you get from high-end wired headphones like Hifiman’s, which leaks more sound, Max is more revealing and articulate. We can say they are at the same level as Sony and Bose in terms of clarity, just a little less on bass. When it comes to film audio performance, the AirPods Max is unique. It produces more low-end grunt for explosions while keeping the dialog clear and audible. It also has a spatial audio mode that acts as surround sound, but with two speakers. When connected to Dolby Atmos, 5.1, or 7.1, the Max uses its many sensors to detect the position of your head in relation to the TV or computer, creating an immersive sound. The call quality is pretty great as well – it's loud and clear on both ends.
According to Apple, the AirPods Max battery lasts a solid 20 hours with noise canceling on and longer with the feature off. The headphones lose 0.5 percent of battery every hour if left on standby out of the case. It takes around two hours to fully recharge the headphones using a 5W or greater US power adaptor. A five-minute charge is enough to give you up to 90 minutes of playback. As mentioned, the Max doesn't come with a power adaptor, so you have to get one separately.
Without a doubt, Apple’s AirPods Max is heavy, flashy, and expensive. The material feels premium, and the sound is well refined and balanced at any volume. While not great on the bass, it's still powerful and well-controlled. The mids do no dominate, while the highs are high energy. The headphones have active noise canceling, which uses many microphones and sensors to detect unwanted incoming sound and cancels it before it hits your eardrums. The Max seemed to handle any noise thrown at it pretty well, ranging from drone noise, road noise, fans, a blending machine, and so on. One drawback is that they bleed sound more than rivals like Sony, Bose, and B&W, and anyone sitting across the room can work out the music you're listening to or the soundtrack from a movie. If you're just looking for a pair of headphones for daily use for video calls, music, and movies, Sony and Bose have cheaper and well-capable options. However, if the price is not an issue and you want a fancy and premium-looking pair of headphones, the AirPods Max is worth your consideration.
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