Apple AirPods Max Review Roundup: Are They Worth The $549 Price Tag?


Well, after One more thing, Apple said, “Let there be AirPods Max.” Possibly Apple’s last big reveal of 2020, the Apple AirPods Max are over-the-ear headphones with a wild price tag. Well, for those of you who can put a price on luxury, Apple has priced these at $549. We decided to do an AirPods Max Review roundup to see how they held up.

Just like any new product from the Cupertino giant, these too have the world talking, somewhat divided too. We’re hearing common things like the AirPods Max are at least $200 expensive than the nearest competitors. Is that a surprise now? That’s the thing about Apple products. Let’s have a look at the AirPods Max reviews and see if they justify their “Max” price.

Apple AirPods Max Specifications

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AirPods Max Specifications
Build Mesh canopy
Stainless steel frame with telescopic arms
Anodized aluminum cups
Memory foam ear cushions
Weight 13.6 ounces (384.8 grams)
Chip Apple H1 headphone chip (each ear cup)
Driver 40mm Apple-designed dynamic driver
Audio Features Active Noise Cancellation
Transparency Mode
Computational audio
Spacial audio with dynamic head tracking (with iPhone or iPad)
Microphones 9 microphones (8 for ANC, 3 shared by ANC and voice pickup, 1 additional mic)
Controls Digital crown for volume and playback controls
Noise control button to switch between noise cancellation and transparency modes
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0
Battery Up to 20 hours on a single charge with ANC. 1.5 hours listening time with 5 minutes of charge
Box Contents AirPods Max
Smart case
Lightning to USB-C cable
Documentation
Colors Silver, Space Gray, Sky Blue, Pink, Green

Apple AirPods Max Price And Availability

Image: Apple

With these headphones, Apple is stepping into the headphone arena. So far, we had the AirPods, which sounded average, and the AirPods Pro, which were surprisingly amazing yet costly.

Now with the AirPods Max, Apple literally made headphones that cost more than the iPhone XR ($499), and the second-gen iPhone SE ($399), and just $50 than iPhone 11 ($599). The AirPods Max are priced at $549 and you can buy them from the Apple Store online.

The Build

Apple AirPods Max design
Image: Apple

The first thing you’re going to think about a $500 pair of headphones is the build quality. The AirPods Max sport a stainless steel frame covered with soft-to-the-touch material. The ear cups are made of anodized aluminum and come with telescopic arms that let you adjust the frame.

The canopy or the headband is breathable knit mesh, which the company says helps in weight distribution. With the steel and aluminum build, the AirPods Max stand at a heavy but luxurious 13.6 ounces (384.8 grams).

Chris Welch at The Verge wrote, “everything about the AirPods Max exudes precision.” TechRadar wrote that “the frame [of the AirPods Max] feels sturdy and well-made, but it’s not so heavy as to put pressure on your head.” However, Crinacle at In-Ear Fidelity went ahead and said the latest AirPods “just barely fits my head, which isn’t ideal since it’s not very secure once I start moving around.”

So in terms of the build, the Apple headphones are a step-up from the plastic build on their competitors, but they need to further refine it.

The Sound

AirPods max Sound
Image: Apple

Addressing the elephant in the room, the sound of $500 headphones. Powered by the Apple H1 chip in both earcups, the AirPods Max sport custom 40mm dynamic drivers with computational audio, which fine-tunes the sound several times per second. Further, these come with 9 microphones (8 for active noise cancellation or ANC, 1 for voice). Fully charged, the headphones deliver about 20 hours of playback.

According to the folks at Forbes, the AirPods Max are “highly versatile headphones.” “These headphones make for delightful listening” is how The Verge rates them. Lastly, folks at In-Ear Fidelity point out that the active noise cancellation puts pressure on the ears, especially in quieter environments. They also say that the AirPods Max suffer an ANC fluctuation if there’s a sudden noise.

A reason for this might be that Apple or any other active noise cancellation headphones do the job by creating white noise to block the sounds from outside. That’s why they need 8 or 9 mics to function properly. A software upgrade or perhaps more refinements in the future might make it better.

If you don’t mind a plastic build and a more conventional headphone design, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is an excellent alternative. Another one is the Bose Headphones 700, which is $100 cheaper than the AirPods Max. Lastly, if you’re looking for a luxury headphone with a signature sound, you can take a look at the Master & Dynamic MW65.

The Experience

Pairing with iPhone
Image: Apple

If you’re thinking of going for the AirPods Max, you’re not just paying for a good pair of headphones, but an experience. If you have an iOS device or a Mac, pairing these and switching between Apple devices will be a breeze. However, if you’re an Android user, you’ll miss out on the spatial audio feature.

Also Read: How To Set Dynamic Wallpaper In iOS 14.3?

Brandt from Rolling Stone wrote, “If you’ve connected your AirPods Max to one Apple device, it’ll automatically pair with your other Apple gear, which is a useful time-saver.” Forbes also appreciated the digital crown and the ability to set the direction of spin for volume controls. They wrote that “you’re free to choose whichever mechanic feels most natural”.

What’s Missing?

The first thing you have to bear with the AirPods Max is the Lightning connector. With almost everyone using the Type-C port, Apple is stubbornly holding on to the lightning port, as if separate cables for the lightning port don’t contribute to e-waste. This even creates disharmony in Apple products because now you have a Type-C charger for the MacBook and the iPad, but a lightning one for the iPhone. There should be one port to rule them all, and that should be a USB Type-C port.

Another thing you don’t get in the box is the Lightning to 3.5mm cable that you need to plug into an older phone or even most of your laptops or desktops. You have to buy it separately for $34. It’s understandable that Apple got rid of the power brick, but not including a Lightning to 3.5mm converter/cable is just not done.

Also Read: iPhone 12 No Charger In Box: The Good, The Bad, And Future Explained

Now, the cups on the AirPods Max have memory foam and snap-on magnetically. This is good for cleaning and easy replacement. However, Apple doesn’t let you mix and match the ear cups to the headphones at the time of the initial order, which is a bummer.

Lastly, let’s talk about the weird thing that Apple is trying to pass as a “case” for the AirPods Max. You could literally keep them around without the case being involved at all. The Verge also mentioned that the headphones lose almost no power even when left overnight without the case. So whatever that weird thing is, Apple needs to fix it. You’re likely better off investing in a good third-party case whenever it comes for the Apple headphones.

Apple AirPods Pro Review Roundup

The Verge

“The AirPods Max have a design heavy on aluminum, steel, and fabric that’s the polar opposite of something like Sony’s plastic-everywhere WH-1000XM4 headphones. There’s nothing wrong with plastic; those Sony cans have taken a beating in my bag and still work great. But everything about the AirPods Max exudes precision.”

Chris Welch, The Verge

TechRadar

“So far the audio quality has impressed us, with a wide, well-balanced soundstage, rich bass, and detailed trebles. We’ve also found the noise cancellation to be very effective, and the inclusion of a Transparency mode is certainly useful.”

Olivia Tambini, TechRadar

Rolling Stone

“Adaptive EQ deserves some of the credit for the way AirPods Max sound, but Apple’s custom-designed 43mm drivers do a lot of the heavy lifting. Each one features a dual-neodymium ring magnet motor, which Apple says reduces 99% of harmonic distortion. The guts of AirPods Max would sound great on their own, but Apple’s software optimizes it, so it’s prepared for every scenario.”

Brandt Ranj, RollingStone

In-Ear Fidelity

“$500 is pretty much chump change to the ballers of the headphone hobby. For some, $500 is only enough to pay for the amplifier that powers their $1,500 headphone. But to everyone else, it’s a new frontier, a whole new world that the gods at Apple have opened their eyes to. And if anything else, I’m just happy that Apple would be normalising the concept of spending $500 a headphone, just like it normalised spending $250 on a true wireless earbud.”

Crinacle, In-Ear Fidelity

Forbes

“When it comes to its overall capabilities—considering not just how many features there are, but also their usefulness and polish—the AirPods Max handily beat most other headphones on the market.”

David Philan, Forbes

The Roundup

So, are the headphones justifying their price? According to this AirPods Max review roundup, we’ve found that the Apple headphones are high quality, good sounding headphones with a premium build. They are a good pair of headphones if that’s what you’re looking for. However, after reading reviews from everyday users as well as audiophiles, the AirPods Max become somewhat confusing.

Summing up my AirPods Max review roundup, if you don’t mind shelling out $500 for Apple headphones, these are a good and solid choice. On the other hand, the chance of audiophiles shelling out that money for the AirPods Max is fairly slim. That’s what makes me wonder if Apple will also come with a pair of AirPods Max Pro, just like they did with the regular AirPods. Anyway, the AirPods Max review roundup says they’re fairly good, fairly premium, around the $500 sound territory, but not squarely there.

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