Since the launch of the AirPods Max last week, we’ve done a couple of videos sharing a brief hands-on with Apple’s new over-ear headphones and a comparison of them to other popular noise-cancelling headphones from Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser.
There’s been a lot of debate about whether the AirPods Max are worth their $550 price tag, and value is always going to be something of a personal decision, so in our latest video we decided to look at five reasons why you might think about purchasing the new AirPods Max.
For people who are going to spend quite a bit of time using headphones, comfort and build quality are obviously key factors in determining whether they’re going to have a good experience with a particular set. Comfort is going to vary from person to person based on head shape, head size, and other factors, but we’ve found the AirPods Max to be incredibly comfortable.
The mesh ear cups offer a good seal while still allowing for some breathability that helps reduce sweating sometimes experience with other materials like leather. And if your ear cups wear out, the magnetic attachment system of the AirPods Max makes them incredibly easy to swap out.
AirPods Max are made largely of metal, with aluminum ear cups and stainless steel telescoping arms, which gives them a quality feel that is pleasantly cool to the touch. Those metal part do mean, however, that the AirPods Max come in significantly heavier than many competing headphones, which may be an issue for some users. But we’ve found that the mesh headband does an excellent job of distributing that weight across the head for maximum comfort.
One of the main reasons people buy over-ear headphones is for active noise cancellation (ANC), and we’ve found that the AirPods Max offer excellent capabilities in that regard. In our experience, it’s difficult to hear anything from our surroundings while wearing the AirPods Max with ANC turned on.
You can of course turn off ANC if you want to be able to hear more around you, but there’s also Transparency mode which keeps ANC on but pipes surrounding sound in, and we’ve found that it lets us hear just enough without being too much of a distraction.
While the AirPods Max won’t match high-quality wired headphones, we’ve been impressed with the sound the AirPods Max can deliver over Bluetooth. The sound profile of the AirPods Max is well-balanced and not overly aggressive toward either the highs or lows.
With H1 chips in each ear cup, the AirPods Max use computational audio to adjust what you’re hearing in real-time, customizing it for the fit on your head and other factors. And while we don’t recommend turning the volume up too high, we found that sound quality remains solid even at higher volume levels, offering a clear, distortionless sound.
Speaking of those H1 chips, they deliver more than just good audio quality. They’re also the key component that integrates the AirPods Max into the Apple ecosystem. Just like with AirPods and recent Beats headphones, the H1 chip supports easy pairing and seamless audio switching among devices linked to your iCloud account. If you’re listening to music from your iPhone and then pick up your iPad to start watching a video, the AirPods Max can automatically switch over to begin playing the audio from your iPad.
This is all customizable, of course, so you can select which devices you want to be able to take over as audio sources automatically, and even if you turn off automatic switching for a device, it takes just a couple of taps to manually switch over.
Finally, there’s Spatial Audio, a new feature Apple recently rolled out to AirPods Pro and which is also included on AirPods Max. Spatial Audio offers an immersive, 3D audio experience with compatible content, and while we initially thought it would be rather gimmicky, we were quickly proven wrong. It really has to be experienced to be believed, but it makes it feel like the audio is coming from all around you, yet anchored by the device you’re watching the content on.
So if you’re watching a show on Apple TV+ on your iPad, for example, you’ll get a surround-sound experience which is very nice on its own, but then if you turn your head or move your iPad, the audio adjusts on the fly to match the relative orientation of your head and the iPad. It’s a remarkably good experience that will make you think your headphones have stopped working and that your iPad is blasting audio out of its own speakers.
Those are our top five reasons why you might want to invest in AirPods Max. Yes, their $550 price tag can be a bit hard to swallow when competitors are coming in at $350 or less, but if you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, the combination of comfort, build quality, and features might be enough to tip the balance in favor of the AirPods Max.
Were you able to get your hands on the AirPods Max before shipping dates slipped well into next year? Have you recently opted for a competing set of headphones after seeing what the AirPods Max had to offer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.