By way of sound high quality, the Apple AirPods Max wins. Towards each the impartial Bose sound and the extra dynamic Sony, the AirPods Max shines. Increased voices and treble accents sound extra crisp, midtones really feel extra full, the bass really kicks. And because of Apple’s spatial audio software program, listening with the Max is much extra immersive than with the Bose or Sony.
However with regards to noise-canceling…the AirPods Max are additionally one of the best of the trio. All three headphones do a terrific job of eliminating the sort of on a regular basis noise you’d encounter working in an workplace—at the moment, the hum of my fridge. The AirPods Max, nonetheless, shine in conditions with a higher-degree of problem. Once I wore them on an ill-advised stroll throughout a blustery December day, the Max had no bother smoothing out the blisteringly loud whips of wind. Each the Bose and the Sony battle in these sorts of contexts.
One small concern, although: whenever you aren’t listening to music or a podcast, you possibly can virtually hear the Max headphones working to erase background noise—it feels as if one thing deep within the headphones is bodily shifting.It is a downside you normally solely see on less expensive noise-cancelling headphones (sometimes called “ear suck”), but it surely solely rears its head when the headphones are on, however the music is off. Not a standard use-case for me, however beware for those who’re a cone-of-silence kind headphone person.
We additionally appreciated how shortly the headphones really boot up. The AirPods Max by no means technically flip off, which signifies that by the point you’ve pulled them as much as your ears, they’ve already existed “ultra-low energy mode,” and are prepared to make use of.The Bose headphones and Sony headphones pair shortly sufficient, but it surely’s nice to have the identical instantaneous connection you get with most true wi-fi headphones on a extra music-focused machine.
Additionally, They’re Stunning
In fact, you’ll see a putting distinction between AirPods Max, the Bose, and the Sony headphones earlier than even placing them on. The brushed metallic earcups are beautiful, notably in any of the lighter colours, the place the little accents shine by means of. Apple’s typical considerate particulars are all around the Max, too: magnetic ear pads that will probably be simple to swap out once they’ve worn out, a snug and breathable metal mesh headband wrapped in a soft-touch rubber. The Bose and Sony headphones are good; the AirPods Max are luxurious, in a Tiffany lamp sort of approach.
However Luxurious Does not Imply Good
The Max have loads going for them: powerhouse audio, top-notch noise-canceling, an off-the-charts lust quotient. However for $550, rattling close to all the pieces must be good. The Max isn’t good.
Right here’s a quick listing of AirPods Max points that irritated me:
The multifunction knob on the precise earcup—principally, an enlarged model of the crown on the Apple Watch—is awkwardly positioned and annoying to make use of, particularly for those who, like me, have lengthy hair. Additionally, its quantity management feels backwards: counter-clockwise for louder, clockwise for quieter. For ease of use, I’ll take the contact controls on the ear cups of the Bose and Sony headphones. Swiping as much as enhance the amount simply feels proper .
The Max’s implementation of Transparency mode, which pipes in a fluctuating, software-controlled quantity of out of doors noise, works badly. On the road, it remodeled the engine of each passing truck right into a screeching gremlin. At busy Brooklyn avenue corners, the bustle of automobiles and chatter was overwhelming. (Factors to Bose and Sony for making their model of Transparency mode manually adjustable.)
The bra-like case appears to be like silly, and doesn’t shield the headphones that effectively, which looks as if a missed level.
The place Does That Go away Us?
When the unique AirPods first went on sale in December of 2016, they did that very Apple factor of kick-starting a nascent class—true wi-fi earbuds—by getting the main points proper. They had been small, they stayed in place, the battery life was usable, they related immediately along with your (i)cellphone, they usually sounded fantastic. They grew to become the de facto commonplace, as Apple’s greatest merchandise are likely to do.
With the $549 AirPods Max, Apple’s not delivering a need-to-have-it important a lot as a might-be-nice-to-have-it product. Apple made the Tiffany lamp of headphones! That’s laudable, in its personal approach—notably for those who exist in a tax bracket the place you possibly can throw greater than half a grand at a pair of genuinely great-sounding headphones.
However would I actively suggest the AirPods Max to somebody asking in the event that they’re definitely worth the worth? No. They’re good, however they’re not important. You’ll find a pair of headphones, or a lamp, that works simply as effectively, perhaps even higher, for lots much less.