TFB Short Clips
The New And Sleek 2020 AirPods Max is An Absolute Must Have
- The apple-designed dynamic driver provides high-fidelity audio
- Active Noise Cancellation blocks outside noise, so you can immerse yourself in music
- Transparency mode for hearing and interacting with the world around you
- Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking provides a theater-like sound that surrounds you
- Computational audio combines custom acoustic design with the Apple H1 chip and software for breakthrough listening experiences
- Designed with a knit-mesh canopy and memory foam ear cushions for an exceptional fit
- A magical experience with effortless setup, on-head detection, and seamless switching between devices
- Easily share audio between two sets of AirPods on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple TV
- 20 hours of listening, movie watching, or talk time with Active Noise Cancellation and spatial audio enabled
- Store in ultra-low-power mode with the slim Smart Case
While the Apple AirPod Max is a great pair of headphones with best-in-class active noise canceling (ANC) and a good sound signature, it also has a few annoying quirks that obviously make it an Apple product. If you live in the Apple ecosystem and already love your AirPods Pro, then the AirPods Max is more of the same just in a pair of over-ears.
Ever since acquiring Beats by Dre for an ungodly amount of money in 2014, it’s been obvious Apple has its eye on the consumer audio space. The original AirPods was a hit despite being terrible, and the AirPods Pro is actually among the best true wireless earbuds you can get. So when Apple announced its long-awaited over-ears, the AirPods Max, we were excited but skeptical. Is this just another overpriced Apple product or is it actually a good pair of headphones?
Who should buy the Apple AirPods Max?
- People in the Apple ecosystem will love the AirPods Max.
- People who love the AirPods Pro but want a pair of over-ears can enjoy many of the same software perks as the AirPods Pro in a more comfortable form factor.
- Anyone that wants the best noise-canceling should get the AirPods Max, which outperforms both the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
Using the AirPods Max is a mixed bag. This headset is fantastic in particular situations, but any time you want to use the AirPods Max in a way Apple doesn’t intend, things get weird. For example, even just going wired means you need to jump through a few hoops.
The AirPods Max doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack so if you want to use anything other than a Bluetooth-enabled device you’re out of luck unless you ante up for a $35 USD Lightning-to-3.5mm audio cable from Apple. If your chosen device doesn’t have a headphone jack (like Apple’s own iPhones) you need another $9 USD dongle. That said, as long as you remain in Bluetooth land you shouldn’t have any problems.
The AirPods Max has top-notch noise cancelling and a transparency mode to let you hear what’s going on around you with the click of a button. Volume and playback controls are assigned to the digital crown at the top of the right ear cup and it is insanely smooth. At times I find myself accidentally raising or lowering the volume when trying to readjust the headphones. Tiny sensors on the inside of the ear cups also auto-pause playback when you take off the headphones. Resuming playback is as simple as putting the headphones back on.
There is no power button to turn the headset on or off. Instead, it enters a low-power mode when you put it in the case, and it’s ready to go when you take it out again. This is convenient but only useful when you actually use the case. When the AirPods Max isn’t in the case, it remains on for a few hours before going to sleep, draining the battery the entire time.
How does the Apple AirPods Max sound?
The AirPods Max sounds really good and has a clear, pleasing sound profile that will appeal to most listeners. The frequency response closely matches our own target response curve for the most part, with a little extra kick in the very low-frequency sub-bass region.
You likely won’t use this as a pair of reference studio monitors, but the extra volume in the low end makes these a little friendlier to most genres of music. You can really hear this in the song Sunday Vibes by Masego. At around the 0:40 mark, the sub-bass kicks in and it’s strong enough to feel a slight vibration in the ear cups on moderate volume, but not so strong that it masks the saxophone throughout.
There’s also a slight dip in the mids, but vocals are still plenty clear. The vocals of Longing For Your Love by Ady Suleiman remained present throughout the song even as more and more instruments began coming in. Of course, a lot of this has to do with the mix of the particular track, but I don’t notice any problems when listening. Typically I expect to hear some harshness at higher volumes, but the highs never become overwhelming or unpleasant. I don’t see many people taking issue with how the AirPods Max sounds for that reason. This isn’t bass-heavy, but the bass sounds good. The midrange comes across nice and clear. The highs aren’t piercingly loud, and you probably won’t want to mess with any EQ apps and settings.
Whether or not you should spend around $549 USD on a pair of headphones is your call. Objectively, however, the AirPods Max is a spectacular pair of headphones. I appreciate that smart features like auto-pause and the transparency mode are super practical. It also sounds great, is well-built, and has solid battery life. However, this doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and to get the most out of it, you need to commit to the Apple ecosystem.