The Apple AirPods Max are no doubt one of the most expensive consumer headphones on the market. But are the AirPods Max worth the price?
today we are taking a look at the hugely expensive, brand new Apple Airpods Max headphones and comparing these to some equally expensive, and not so expensive headphones, the Airpods, Airpods Pro, my old Beats Wireless Headphones, and my own Custom moulded, similarly priced in-ear monitors which I use when playing drums. So, we can try to answer that big elephant in the room question. Are the Airpods Max, worth it? Let’s find out.
For any headphones that I buy, I’m really looking for a few specifics to see if they’re worth it for me.
How comfortable they are and their build quality, the sound quality, feature, battery life and because, well because it’s Airpods Max – let’s talk about the handbag too.
Before we get started, let me know in the comments below if you’ve got these already, or if you haven’t, what’s stopping you from getting them? I’m betting that it’s gonna be the elephant in the room of price! And I’m super interested to see whether these are actually worth their price, or if it’s just another ‘Apple Tax’ product which isn’t worth anywhere near their price tag.
So with that said, let’s get straight to the Comfort.
It should be no surprise that the $550 or £550 headphones are comfortable, though they are quite heavy because they’re made from aluminium and not plastic. Which is a good and bad thing – from a comfort perspective, well this means that wearing them for long periods isn’t the best experience – but what I will say on that is that their use of this mesh strip that runs across the top of the head band, means that they will mould themselves to any shape head, and actually balance the weight very nicely so you don’t feel the pressure of a strap or in this case those 2 metal bands sitting on top of your head.
The only bad thing I have to say about this really is that because this makes the headband slightly wider than other headphones, well – it messes up the mohawk… which can be annoying :(
Also in terms of comfort, the earcups themselves are made of a super breathable and light material which, whilst still creates a great seal around your ears to keep noises in and out, they also sit really nicely and feel super comfortable when wearing them – because of course, £550 headphones should be comfortable!
One thing to add here is that the way these have been designed, you have the headband which is kind of pinching in at the strap side, but also at the earcups, they’re both spring loaded to push onto your ears, which is really nice because it gives you an even pressure all over that keeps the headphones seated firmly on your head.
In terms of the sound quality – firstly, my perspective – because I’ve been a musician for most of my life. I play the drums, piano, guitar, triangle, anything pretty much! And whilst I wouldn’t call myself an audiophile, I would say that I appreciate higher quality audio.
So when it comes to the Airpods Max, well of course, at £550 these headphones do sound great. The most obvious thing to say first is that even at high volumes, these things don’t distort and they stay super clear.
They sound really high quality, and I will liken these to my similarly priced custom in ear monitors – which look a little worse for wear now, but with both of these headphones, you start to hear elements in the music that you wouldn’t hear before with poor quality headphones, because everything kinda gets lost in the mix and distorted. Of course it’s impossible for me to show you this without being there with you and these headphones, but instruments are just so much clearer on the Airpods Max than they are on both the Airpods, Airpods Pros, definitely the beats wireless headphones, and they do live up to my custom in ear monitors – which yes, I know are in ear monitors, but to get such high audio quality in over the head phones is just incredible. The only thing I would say is about the frequencies response, as for the highs these are possibly just a little bit too loud, and there’s no punchy lows which I personally like. Though, I am a drummer and my version of a punchy low is a kick drum thumping so you can feel it, so each to their own. You can of course tweak the EQ’s within your devices if you wish, though I think here you are sacrificing those punch lows for absolutely superb clarity, as pushing those bass frequencies up can quickly make headphones a muffled mess.
In terms of the features the first to talk about is their noise cancellation, because this is a neat feature with Apple Airpods and Airpod Pro’s, as well as most premium headphones now. And I’m happy to say that the noise cancellation is by far one of the best that I’ve heard before. There’s no background hiss and the noise that does come through sounds really natural, unlike that of every other headphone I’ve tried over the years, including the latest Sony headphones which I don’t have with me now.
You can also enable and disable this with a simple switch – which is really easy to use, and something that the Airpod Pro’s kind of had, though is quite fiddly due to their size. But here we have a full button to switch on transparency mode, and we also have a digital crown which is just a bigger version of the Apple watch digital crown. You can change the volume, play, pause, skip tracks – and I find this so much easier to use than all the other Apple series headphones to date.
They feature the Apple Spatial Sound feature, which is basically Apples version of 5.1 / 7.1 Dolby Atomos sound, so if you are watching movies from say, Amazon Prime, or Disney+ and wearing these headphones, you’ll get this fully immersed sound that only the higher end headphones can offer, which again, of course – £550.
They of course pair perfectly between all of your iDevices, and with the latest software they’ll switch between devices as you use them. Well – I say that. But when I unboxed my headphones I couldn’t get them to magically pair. In fact I had to hold down the transparency button, then head into my Bluetooth settings and pair it like muggles have to do with their non-Apple phones. So this wasn’t really the experience I was promised. And when I switched over to my new Mac Mini it didn’t offer to switch seamlessly, so I think perhaps some work is needed here.
Though I will say that I’ve actually always had issues with this seamless switching. To this day, I still can’t answer a phone call normally, then pick up my Airpods to seamlessly switch to them. Which is surely something people want to do mid call when they realise they’d rather be hands free? But anyway.
One thing I don’t hear mentioned in any other reviews, is that these things also have a microphone in them for taking calls or doing those long Zoom webinars that we’re now all too familiar with. Though I wouldn’t quite call them astoundingly good quality – just, ok. And also worth mentioning, is that the lightning port can be used with a lightning to 3.5m audio cable or adapter so you can use these headphones wired if you wish.
These things last a good 20 hours when listening at 50 percent volume, which is pretty good, though the Sony’s offer 30.
They charge via a Lightning cable, not USB C which is just, come on Apple? Pick one! But if you charge them for 5 minutes then you’ll get another hour and a half listening out of them, which is great to get that quick boost before commuting to work, what am I saying, I mean before that long zoom call if you want to flex your £550 wallet on your head to your colleagues. Perhaps you can tell them that’s the amount you’ve saved in fuel since this time last year !?
Standard Apple practice here, you get a cable but no charger – so just use one that you have probably lying around your house already. And then finally – it’s that elephant in the room. The handbag – Or as Apple like to call it, the Smart Case, which as far as I can tell, just isn’t smart. It protects from scratches, and puts the headphones into a low power mode, which is good – but kind of annoying that you can’t physically force the headphones into a low power mode without this case. Some smart research online shows that you can still just not use the headphones and leave them outside of the case, and in about 20 hours time they will only drop around 4%, which sounds pretty low power to me?
But overall I see this case as being pretty pointless, and still not suitable for packing in a bag and taking with you anywhere. I think Apple probably just kept the case super cheap as the headphones themselves were too expensive, and didn’t want to add another £100-£200 to the price for a carry case. But let’s see what Airpods Max 2 brings – perhaps a solid case that can charge them wirelessly, like the smaller Airpods?
Are They Worth It?
So ok, we have a pair of £550 headphones right here, which, in my opinion, I wouldn’t really want to take outside of the house – because they have no case suitable for doing so, unless you want to permanently wear them around your head or neck as a bit of a fashion statement I guess. But also, that’s a super attractive target for someone – much like when Airpods first launched, everyone thought thieves would just pull them out of your ears and dash.
Well I wonder what will happen with these £550 headphones just sat on someone's head?
So in my opinion, whilst these are super, super high quality, and very impressive headphones – I don’t think I would be comfortable using them outside, and definitely not in poor weather, as these aren’t waterproof at all, actually they’re not sweat or waterproof. So that gives them a thumbs down in the ‘wearing them whilst working out’ department.
So should you buy them?
Well, I think if you have £550 burning a hole in your pocket and you want some great featured and quality headphones, then great. If you are an audiophile who just want the very best, then I don’t think these are your best option. If you don’t have £550 but still want some headphones, then definitely the Sony XM4’s are probably a good shout still, and something I’m going to have to look into – because I had planned to review these and send them back. But literally the day these headphones arrived, my trusty all-rounder beats headphones decided to snap on the hinge. So now I’m in a conundrum of whether I stick with these, or send them back and instead get the Sony’s. Hmmm.
What do you think – let me know in the comments? Super expensive, Apple Tax headphones? Or something that you’re seriously considering buying?
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