AirPods Max Review: Brilliantly Baffling

Apple’s over-ear AirPods have been perhaps one of the most corporate’s worst-kept secrets and techniques of 2020, with leakers teasing a high-end audio trip with a ticket to check. That didn’t prevent fanatics from being stunned when Apple showed that the AirPods Max would set consumers again £549/$549, particularly taking into account maximum high-end Bluetooth cans cap out at across the £350/$350 mark.

With this sort of top rate at the AirPods Max, Apple truly had its paintings minimize out – can the cans be offering sufficient to be price the fee? I’ve spent the previous few weeks experiencing all that AirPods Max has to supply and, whilst there are a couple of excellent options on be offering, there are a couple of frustrations too.

Design and construct

The AirPods Max stand proud of the group now not handiest as a result of they’re a lot more pricey than maximum high-end Bluetooth-powered headphones to be had in 2021, however on account of how they give the impression of being.

It’s simple to peer that the AirPods Max are not relatively like some other cans you’ll be able to purchase presently, wearing a minimum design with huge, flat earcups created from matte-finish chrome steel that provides them a top rate appear and feel merely unequalled by means of the contest.

The glance is a bit of like Marmite even though; I’ve grown to truly just like the glance of the AirPods Max whilst I’ve been reviewing them, however chatting with friends and family on FaceTime garnered a… number of responses concerning the design. If you happen to adore it, you’ll develop to like it, however in case you dislike it you then’ll be going for one thing somewhat extra ‘conventional’.

However regardless of how a lot you like the glance of the AirPods Max, there’s a reason maximum producers go for plastic: weight. There’s no denying that the chrome steel frame of Apple’s over-ear cans provides to the total heft, weighing in at 385g in comparison to 254g of the competing Sony WH-1000XM4, and that’s numerous weight to be wearing round for your head all day.

The steel cans are attached by way of an identical chrome steel steel body with narrow, easy telescoping hands that assist give you the proper are compatible on your headshape. There’s additionally a knitted mesh cloth cover headscarf designed to assist offset one of the vital on-head power.

The cups themselves are extremely relaxed due to reminiscence foam earcups able to pivoting independently to suit your head completely, and also you don’t get the vice-like grip feeling at the facets of your head like with some over-ear headphones. The ones reminiscence foam cups are simply swappable due to integrated magnets, permitting you to modify them out in long run after they start to get somewhat grimy and lose their form, even though you’ll be paying £75/$69 for the excitement.  

One of the crucial extra fascinating options of the AirPods Max is the inclusion of the preferred Virtual Crown from the corporate’s Apple Watch line at the proper earcup – one among two buttons at the cans. It’s somewhat higher than the crown at the watch, however it necessarily lets you keep an eye on quantity exactly by means of twisting the dial, and you’ll be able to additionally keep an eye on playback and summon Siri by means of urgent down.

It’s a delightful trip twisting the crown to regulate playback, even with out the haptic comments of the Watch, and it’s a lot more straightforward to find than small plastic (or, god forbid, contact keep an eye on) buttons on maximum headphones – I simply want there was once somewhat extra resistance when turning the dial to keep away from unintentional adjustment when fidgeting with the cans.  

The opposite button at the proper can is used to modify between the transparency and energetic noise cancellation listening modes on-the-fly, however the eagle-eyed could be questioning the place the facility button is. Merely put, there isn’t one, as an alternative the usage of a mix of sensors and the bundled Sensible Case to continual down the cans when now not in use – however I’ll move into that during extra element somewhat later.

One of the crucial larger annoyances, particularly those that depend on stressed out audio connectivity rather than the most popular Bluetooth connectivity on be offering from the AirPods Max, is that there isn’t a three.5mm cable within the field. It’s a staple in nearly each set of wi-fi headphones available on the market, and it’s a bit of of a surprise taking into account the top rate you’re paying for the AirPods Max.

If you happen to do need a stressed out trip, permitting you to hook the cans as much as a DAC for an excellent higher audio trip, you’ll need to fork out an further £35/$35 for the excitement.  

Oh, and don’t even take into consideration dressed in those to the health club or all through even a smattering of rain – in contrast to the AirPods Professional, the AirPods Max don’t have any roughly water resistance in any respect.

Audio efficiency

The high-end audio trip on be offering from the AirPods Max stems from custom-built 40mm dynamic drivers designed to provide a large, balanced soundscape, however as chances are you’ll be expecting, it doesn’t prevent there.

There’s a twin neodymium ring magnet motor in every cup to restrict harmonic distortion to not up to 1% in line with Apple, which, to you and I, manner the cans received’t ever sound distorted, even if cranked as much as the max – chances are you’ll begin to get badgered by means of your Apple Well being noise notifications even though. Ear well being is necessary, in the end!

As with the in-ear AirPods, there’s a tradition chipset on board, however it’s a lot more spectacular than that of the AirPods Professional. There’s a tradition H1 chip in every earcup with 10 audio cores able to acting 9 billion operations in step with 2nd that, along with powering the Siri smarts and auto play/pause era, be offering an adaptive EQ that complements song at the fly. Yeah, it’s protected to mention those are succesful wi-fi headphones.

With all that mentioned, the AirPods Max audio efficiency is solely unbelievable. The balanced nature of the headphones manner they’re able to dealing with as regards to any style of song, whether or not that’s bass-heavy Dubstep or one thing somewhat extra Classical, with superb sound separation that permits every tool to ‘sing’ obviously.

I’ve picked up on new tones and sounds in songs I’ve listened to for years, whether or not that’s the delicate pluck of a guitar or the crisp rasp of specifically heavy vocals, and it makes me truly excited to re-experience a few of my favorite tracks. It’s an eye-opening (or will have to I say ear-opening) trip for song fanatics.

Extra particularly, the bass efficiency is exceptional, in a position to care for even intense bass from tracks like Billie Eilish’s Bury a Good friend and 6ix9ine’s Gooba, however that doesn’t come on the sacrifice of the mids or highs, with correct mid-range sounds and crisp, brilliant excessive frequencies, and that’s true at any quantity. It’s a pleasure paying attention to operatic melodies like Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro with an unequalled point of element and definition, and whilst it most likely received’t galvanize true audiophiles, it’ll blow the socks off of as regards to everybody else.

The robust drivers supply an immersive trip when paying attention to song, however Apple has taken {that a} step additional with spatial audio toughen. Offered with the AirPods Professional, spatial audio is Apple’s resolution to enclose sound for headphones, positioning sound round you inside a virtual sphere to make supported song, motion pictures and TV presentations sound as in case you have been in reality there. If there’s a knock on the door at the back of the nature at the film, you’ll pay attention it come from at the back of you.

It’s a groovy function that’s progressed by means of the awesome audio efficiency to be had with the AirPods Max, however it’s now not a universally supported function. iOS builders want to particularly upload toughen for the capability, and that’s one thing Netflix has dominated out.

It’s to be had at the Apple TV+ app along a small handful of streaming apps together with Disney Plus and HBO Max for customers in the USA, however till it’s to be had at the Apple TV – a function coming in tvOS 15 – I received’t to find an excessive amount of use for it. If you happen to do experience looking at motion pictures for your iPhone or iPad, even though, this can be a large promoting level for the AirPods Max.

Apple Track additionally gives spatial audio toughen for iOS customers, bringing the spacious playback to song for the primary time – and it is a transformative trip. Songs sound extra spacious, colourful, making for a extra practical listening trip. 

That issues as a result of, regardless of the excessive ticket, Apple’s high-end cans do not be offering true Lossless playback toughen – even though you paid for the cable and hooked it as much as a DAC. 

Oh, and it’s price mentioning that spatial audio, along different good options like ‘Hello Siri’ to be had at the AirPods Max, are unique to iOS gadgets – Android customers could also be in other places.

ANC & Transparency Mode

The Energetic Noise Cancellation on be offering from the AirPods Max is superb, however different choices could also be higher fitted to you relying on what you wish to have out of your noise cancellation. Each and every ear cup sports activities 3 outward-facing microphones to hit upon environmental noise, just like the hum of a fan or the hiss of a passing bus, and every other microphone throughout the cans to watch the sound attaining your ear.

The usage of the computational magic of the H1 chip, Apple claims that the headphones dynamically alter noise cancelling houses at the fly relying on what’s going down for your setting.

For probably the most section, it sort of feels to paintings truly neatly, cancelling out low-pitched noises at house, however I will be able to nonetheless pay attention the occasional canine bark if I’m enjoying song or paying attention to a podcast at a low quantity. I just like the hands-off technique to ANC, however in case you’re the type of person who likes to modify between the 11 modes of ANC to be had at the Bose 700 noise cancelling headphones, it’s possible you’ll to find Apple’s way somewhat proscribing.

What’s extra spectacular, personally, is the transparency mode. It’s now not a brand new idea, already featured within the AirPods Professional and far of the high-end audio festival, however Apple’s implementation at the AirPods Max excels in as regards to each manner.

The usage of the integrated microphones and the AI smarts, the AirPods Max does an implausible activity at now not handiest selecting up exterior sounds and funnelling them into the headset, however it in reality recreates the route of sound too, making it really feel such as you’re now not dressed in headphones in any respect, particularly when song is paused.

It’s so excellent that I don’t take my headphones off when chatting with other folks, as an alternative merely simply pause my song and allow transparency mode, and the mics are delicate sufficient for me to pick out up on a squawking goose about 40ft away all through a stroll thru Walthamstow Wetlands.

For me, transparency mode is the true winner right here, making the AirPods Max best possible for those who need to concentrate to song and keep in point of fact attached to the arena round them.

The large drawback with AirPods Max

The AirPods Max comes with an identical ‘Sensible Case’ to stay your high-end cans protected when now not in use, and it’s no doubt other to nearly each different headphone case to be had presently.

The handbag-like good case design is somewhat awkward and, let’s be fair, meme-worthy, protective handiest the cups whilst leaving the scarf – a white headscarf, in my case – completely uncovered to mud, grime and no matter else it could pick out up because it’s put on tables and put into luggage. It’ll most likely get grimy briefly and, in contrast to the magnetically attached earcups, you’ll be able to’t change out the scarf subject matter both. As soon as it’s grimy, it’s grimy.

A compact arduous case, like the ones introduced by means of maximum different high-end headphone producers, would’ve been preferable.

The larger frustration is that, as discussed, there’s no technique to flip the AirPods Max off your self – they’ll handiest move right into a low continual mode when positioned into the magnetically sealed Sensible Case or when left on a flat floor for greater than 5 mins, with the latter being added as an replace after months of court cases from AirPods Max customers.

The capability necessarily forces you to depend at the good case, and that may be proscribing – particularly in case you’re headed out and don’t have anyplace to stay the case, because it’s no doubt too large to suit right into a pocket.

The lack in an effort to flip the AirPods Max off additionally manner you’ll most likely be losing continual, as even if within the case, the headphones received’t flip off utterly for a complete 18 hours. They’ll to begin with move into an ultra-low-power mode, however key purposes like Bluetooth and To find My proceed to function, and that implies the cans received’t final so long as competitors that you’ll be able to merely continual down when now not in use.

Most significantly, it manner the cans can’t be became on and off when one thing does move improper. Headphones just like the AirPods Max, with options like spatial audio and computational audio playback, an increasing number of depend on instrument in addition to {hardware} to accomplish, and as everyone knows, instrument can sometimes glitch.

To price this sort of top rate and remove the core skill to show your headphones off is every now and then irritating. The automobile-wake and speedy connections enabled by means of this capability are nice, raising the trip of wi-fi headphones, however somewhat continual button wouldn’t move amiss for occasions after we know we received’t be the usage of the cans for some time.


As I’ve alluded to, the AirPods Max are pricey. Like, truly pricey. The high-end cans are available at £550/$550, placing them at round £200/$200 greater than what many would’ve up to now regarded as the very best finish of the wi-fi headphone marketplace. The Sony WH-1000XM4, recently sat on the best spot in our choice of the most efficient wi-fi headphones, is available in at nearly part the associated fee, recently below £300 at Amazon in the United Kingdom.

Those are pricey cans, and the trip isn’t best possible, however there’s a lot to love about Apple’s access, from the design to the unbelievable audio efficiency and Apple-tailored smarts unequalled by means of some other producer.

If you have an interest, you’ll be able to purchase the AirPods Max immediately from Apple in the United Kingdom and US, along third-party outlets like Amazon, even though inventory is proscribed presently.


The AirPods Max are an implausible pair of top of the range headphones that unquestionably stand proud of the group, even though now not at all times for the proper causes. The design is refined, and using chrome steel right away makes the AirPods Max really feel like a luxurious merchandise, however the cans are a lot heavier than maximum choices, and in true Apple model, doesn’t also have a continual button – Apple makes a decision while you aren’t the usage of the headphones, it appears.

Crucially, the audio efficiency is in point of fact subsequent point, providing a large, balanced soundscape with spectacular audio separation, permitting me to trip new sounds in outdated songs for the primary time. It’s now not relatively audiophile-level, and there is not any true Lossless toughen, however for the on a regular basis shopper, it’ll be a transformative trip.


Apple AirPods Max: Specifications

  • Apple-designed 40mm dynamic drivers
  • Energetic Noise Cancellation
  • Transparency mode
  • Adaptive EQ
  • Spatial audio with dynamic head monitoring
  • 9x microphones
  • Apple H1 chipset (in every ear)
  • Virtual Crown controls
  • Noise keep an eye on button
  • As much as 20 hours of battery existence with 1.5hrs of use from 5 mins of charging
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Appropriate with 3.5mm stressed out connections, however cable offered one after the other
  • 168.6 x 187.3 x 83.4mm
  • 385g
  • Appropriate with Apple Sensible Case
  • Appropriate with iPhone SE and more moderen
  • Restricted Android toughen

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