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Apple AirPods Max – Is It Worth the High Price Tag?

Apple AirPods Max – Is It Worth the High Price Tag?.

AirPods Max is the pinnacle of the AirPods line, offering in-ear headphones that set them apart from the AirPods and AirPods Pro, which have become some of Apple’s most popular products. They also have a price tag that beats other products, so is the AirPods Max really worth the price tag?

We grabbed the Sky Blue AirPods Max in the box and spent a few weeks trying to see if the price was right.

Apple AirPods Max Controls

AirPods Max doesn’t have many controls to turn off, not even the power buttons! All you get is one mode button and a digital crown. Compared to other common Bluetooth headphones, this is a completely spartan design. However, it never causes problems during use.

The front button switches the headphones between transparent mode and active noise canceling by default, which we’ll talk about in the next section. It is very pleasant to click on and we never had a problem finding it immediately. This button is also used to activate pairing mode, which can be confirmed by looking at the status LED.

The digital crown is the real star of the show. It is similar to the Apple Watch crown, but larger and more comfortable to the touch. The turning is incredibly smooth, and the tactile effect gives the crown the impression that the crown has precise “clicks”.

You can also press the crown as an additional button. By default, a single press of the button pauses music playback, and a double press skips the track. Press and hold the crown and you will summon Siri. We tried this with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, but unfortunately holding the crown didn’t trigger Google Assistant.

The AirPods Max’s controls may be minimal, but this has never been an issue. Most importantly, you can find them and use them without thinking about it.

Transparency Mode and Noise Cancellation

We don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that the two best features that go a long way towards justifying the AirPods Max’s price are transparency mode and active noise canceling.

Starting with transparency mode, the idea is to allow ambient sounds through the headphones to be picked up by the microphones outside. Many Bluetooth headphones have this feature now, but none of them can match the quality that can be found here.

Simply put, with transparency mode, you can easily forget you’re wearing headphones. It sounds completely natural and you can leave it on all the time if you want.

This is very useful when you want to hear audio from your device but still be available to talk to other people in the room. It’s as if you have a TV or audio system that only you can hear.

Active noise cancellation (ANC) is also on the brink of magic. Constant noises such as air conditioning are completely erased. However, the most impressive achievement here is that sounds with random patterns, such as conversations, are almost completely suppressed. These are arguably the best noise canceling headphones you can buy at any price. Standing face to face with the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones.

The combination of these two features makes AirPods Max a great everyday earphone, where you can control how much of the outside world you let in.


Airpods Max is primarily intended to be used as a Bluetooth headset, but you can also use a wired connection. Sadly, Apple saw fit to make its Lightning to headphone cable a separate purchase for $ 35. This is a bit tedious, as most overhead Bluetooth headsets come with a cable.

One notable difference is that these headphones do not have a direct analog connection. The adapter contains an analog-to-digital converter that feeds a digitized signal to the AirPods.

The headphones then re-convert it to analog audio for playback on their speakers. This A / D conversion seems a little awkward and prevents true lossless audio, but in practice it doesn’t really matter. It also has the advantage of eliminating any possible delay in wireless audio.

The Lightning Issue

While the Max has acceptable connectivity, using Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector remains a painful issue. Our MacBook Air and iPad Pro, like all of our third-party devices, use USB-C. Let’s leave only the iPhone, Magic Keyboard, and now AirPods Max using this connector. This means that we always need to pack at least one additional cable.

Apple could mitigate this by enabling wireless or wireless MagSafe charging, and we hope that this feature will be added to a future version of the AirPods Max.

Bluetooth Performance and Compatibility

We were very impressed with the Bluetooth performance of the AirPods Max; Walking around a two-story house with an iPad Air that listened to music as much as possible, it was almost impossible to induce study. This is likely due to Apple’s AAC codec, which combines quality and performance.

As you’d expect, the AirPods Max’s experience with Apple products has been flawless. We tested the MacBook Air M1, iPad Pro 2018, iPhone 11 Pro, and Apple Watch Series 6. Switching between different devices occurred with very little user intervention. Switching from iPad to Mac triggered a small notification asking if we want to use AirPods. One click and you’re done.

We’ve also used the Max with several third-party devices including a Windows 11 laptop, Android Galaxy S21 Ultra, and Nintendo OLED Switch. Pairing and connecting to all of these devices went smoothly. We’ve never seen Max refuse a connection request from a paired device.

Latency on third-party devices was also good. Latency is virtually nonexistent on Apple devices thanks to the custom signal processing hardware utilized in dual H1 chips, one in each cup. In particular, when used with the switch, the latency was noticeably lower than the Samsung Galaxy Buds + or Sennheiser BT4.5 headphones, which we also tried with the console. So, even without all the benefits of the H1, the latency remained impressive.

Battery Life

Apple claims the Airpods Max has around 20 hours of battery life, and that seems to be in line with our everyday experience. After an eight-hour working day, the headphones still had just over 50% of the battery charge.

We did not find any battery drain when the earbuds were left on overnight, other than he expected 1-2%. This was a complaint when the AirPods Max was first released, but if this was ever an issue, it looks like it has now been resolved.

Spatial Audio: Gimmick or Genius Feature?

When used with a compatible Apple device and the appropriate app and content, AirPods Max offers virtualized spatial audio.

This places virtual sound sources in fixed positions relative to your head, and they appear to stay in place when you turn your head, thanks to the internal accelerometers used to track your head. This provides a virtual surround sound that sounds pretty convincing, like real speakers in the room around you.

While the virtual surround feature is impressive (you’ll have to download an Apple TV to try it out or use the built-in demo), we actually think the coolest implementation of this technology is stereo virtualization. This refers to the stereo sound of the entire Apple device, and because of this, it sounds as if the stereo sound is coming from the device itself. In other words, it’s a lot like watching something on a MacBook or iPad through its built-in speakers, only with much better sound quality.

Why is it good? Sometimes you don’t need the sound “in my brain” to sound like it’s headphones. Instead, it now sounds like the sound is coming from a picture, and it has quickly become our preferred way of watching streaming media. We suspect this will be especially effective with an Apple TV device, but we haven’t had a chance to test the Max with it.

Design and Build Quality

AirPods are durable. Apple has mostly used metal for the Max, from the headband to the headphones; these are incredibly durable headphones. The headband frame, slide adjuster and swivel mechanism inspire confidence, especially with the stainless steel Max frame.

It definitely looks like earbuds that will last a long time. The only components that can wear out are the batteries. There are two batteries in the right ear pad, and thanks to the Max iFixit disassembly, we know the screws, not the glue, are held in them. So in theory it would be easy to replace them. Given Apple’s new commitment to user repair, the money spent on the Max can make a big difference.

That being said, the batteries in other Apple devices, such as the new MacBooks, are rated for about 1,000 charge cycles before they start to lose capacity. Assuming you have 20 hours on a full charge, it will take some time before you reach 20,000 hours of playtime. That’s roughly seven years if you use them eight hours a day.

It’s also worth noting that iFixit compared the interior quality and materials to cheaper Sony and Bose headphones and found they “looked like toys by comparison.” So much money you spend on Max goes into this over-engineering.

The Infamous Smart Case

There has been more than enough mockery of the included AirPods Max carrying case, but this can’t be a complete review without some mention of it. Yes, this protective case doesn’t provide adequate protection or make it easy to transport your AirPods Max. We also don’t like the way the case causes the metal earcups to bump against each other when you take them off.

Despite what you may have heard, there is also no need to put the earbuds in the case to turn them off. After removing the earbuds, they will soon go into a low power mode, and then into deep sleep. We used our AirPods without a case and had no battery drain issues.

In fact, AirPods don’t fold like many other portable headsets. The cups can be rotated 90 degrees to create a flat profile, but that’s about it.

However, if you’re looking to travel with your AirPods Max, it’s probably worth purchasing a case from a third-party manufacturer.


Comfort is a very subjective issue when it comes to headphones, not least because our bodies are so different. The main complaints we saw before trying the Max for ourselves relate to weight and clamping forces.

Since the Max is mostly made of metal, they weigh more than regular in-ear headphones. A cloth headband and soft ear cushions are meant to cushion this, but some wearers will be more receptive than others.

We wore the AirPods Max for up to eight hours a day, working in an air-conditioned office and had no problems with comfort. It was very easy to forget you were wearing headphones at all. We think the AirPods Max are very comfortable earbuds, but considering the cost, it’s worth trying a pair on your head first.

Having said that, the memory foam ear cushions are amazing. And the ease with which you can remove and replace these magnetically attached cups is the ingenious touch we want more manufacturers to enter the market.

Sound Quality

This is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the AirPods Pro when it comes to price. If you’re investing over $ 500 for a pair of headphones, then it’s only natural to expect you to enjoy listening to music, but there are some issues with that angle.

Just because two pairs of earbuds are priced the same doesn’t mean they are built for the same purpose. AirPods Max are missing key features found in audiophile equipment. They don’t have a direct analog input, they don’t support lossless audio even over a wired connection, and are closed off. Not to mention, in the world of high-quality headphones, the AirPods Max’s price is in the middle range.

With all this in mind, how good does the AirPod Max sound? The short answer is that they sound good and surprisingly unbiased, unlike Apple’s other brand Beats headphones. While they are not “flat” like studio monitors (which is good), sound reproduction is neutral no matter what genre of music we try. We don’t want to change the EQ settings from the default adaptive EQ.

Most importantly, all of the music exhibits significantly more detail and nuance than, for example, in conventional $ 200 headphones. Is it more than twice as good? Of course, this is a subjective question, but the difference is not subtle. We can’t imagine anyone but the most demanding customers would find audio reproduction unacceptable, and these customers are likely spending more than Apple is asking for.

Services Tested

We tried listening to different genres of music through several music streaming services. This included Apple Music, YouTube Music, and Spotify, but not Amazon Music.

All three services have been tuned for the highest quality streaming and downloads. The idea was to see if AirPods actually perform significantly better with Apple Music than competing models. This is important because while Apple Music is popular, it doesn’t mean that every AirPods buyer will use it.

The good news is that, at least to our ear, there is no discernible difference in streaming quality no matter what service you listen to. So if you are worried that AirPods will only give you good sound quality when using Apple’s own service, then fix it.

Audio Imaging and Soundstage

Sound reproduction quality is one thing, but there is more to it when it comes to the sound quality perceived by your ears. The soundstage and image in headphones also matter, and this is often lacking in cheaper headphones.

If you are unfamiliar with these terms, which are not often found among ordinary headphone consumers, let’s define them briefly.

A soundstage is a virtual space in which you hear sound. Headphones with a good soundstage shouldn’t sound like speakers inches from your ears. Instead, it should sound natural and spacious. Headphones with the best soundstages are usually open-back. This means that they are not soundproofed for you or other people in the room.

Visualization is the ability of headphones to place sounds, such as certain instruments, into the soundstage. It sounds like one musician is in front of you and the other is off to the side. Basically, you feel like you’re on stage in the middle of a group.

While the open-back audiophile headphones outperform it, the Max nonetheless does a great job of both rendering and setting up a good soundstage. It’s not too wide or too tight, but rich and comfortable.

Using AirPods Max Outside the Apple Ecosystem

Before we get to the end of this review, it’s important to talk about whether non-Apple users should use AirPods Max. As we mentioned above, we had no problem using AirPods with any Bluetooth device. However, if you don’t have an iOS or macOS device, you will be limited in what AirPods can do. Specifically, customizing the button or crown behavior requires it. You will also miss out on features like spatial audio.

This may not be a problem, but a lot of the AirPods’ appeal has to do with how well they work with all Apple devices. We were listening to music on the iPad when our iPhone rang, and as soon as we answered, the audio smoothly transitioned to the call, pausing content on the iPad in the process. When the call ended, the iPhone returned control to the iPad and the music resumed. This automated convenience would be lost if you didn’t sit in the walled garden of Apple. We really can’t recommend AirPods Max unless you have at least one compatible Apple device to get the most out of it.

By the way, the quality of phone calls is excellent, and even with the air conditioner turned on, the interlocutor can hear everything perfectly.

Is the AirPods Max Worth the Money?

It’s hard to give a one-size-fits-all answer when you’re wondering if what you’re getting for the $ 550 asking price is worth it or not. There is no doubt that the sum of the parts that make up these headphones is worth the money. However, what the AirPods Max has to offer is well worth the money depending on what you need.

If you’re looking for versatile headphones for everyday use, it’s hard to come up with another set of headphones that fit the bill so well. Noise canceling and transparency modes make this set of phones incredibly practical. The controls are intuitive and the sound reproduction is excellent by any measure, if not the best at any cost.

If you already use one or more Apple devices, but especially several, AirPods Max is so convenient and integrated that it is difficult to use any other wireless headphones.

The bottom line is that the AirPods Max are definitely worth the price; they offer more than enough to justify it. But whether this is justified for each user depends on how much that user values ​​it as a shared package.

Apple AirPods Max – Is It Worth the High Price Tag?

Apple AirPods Max – Is It Worth the High Price Tag?

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