Apple Airpods Max Review: Great Wonderful Sound Quality with A Price


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Apple Airpods Max Review
Photo Source: Apple


This new Apple over-ear headphones bear enormous build quality and sound, but then there is also the pricey tag to reckon. Just asks avid music lovers, and they will tell you that sound quality is one of the most important to a listening device. But buying a listening device with hard-earned money is also not an easy undertaking. Let us explore what is really in there for this AirPods Max.

About the Product

After a long and somewhat heated rumor, Apple managed to release its first over-ear headphones, AirPods Max, on December 15, 2020, its last big hardware release of 2020. Why a company launches over-ear, noise-canceling headphones after the impressive rise and acceptance by the consumers of its AirPods is beyond me. Anyway, it is a company’s prerogative, although, I was a little surprised. 

But let us go back to our primary objective of this article.

On the spectral horizon of over-ear, noise-canceling headphones categories, it can be surmised that the AirPods Max is joining a vastly different space, where many established competitions have outstanding options offered. Since its launch, a lot of consuming public has raised some eyebrows to its pricey tag of around $549 to $599.

Certain people who can promptly find reasons they are “worth it,” says the AirPods Max make sense. They said it had unique features such as spatial audio, top-notch comfort, the sound is wonderful, and the noise cancellation is up with the best in the market. But, with the price tag, Apple is up against established competitors like Sony or Bose and unlike AirPods, Apple has a lot to prove of whether the consuming public would spend too much for such a device.

Build Quality

The Build Quality
From the canopy to the cushions, every part of AirPods Max is carefully crafted to provide a comfortable fit and exceptional acoustic performance for each individual | Photo Source: Apple

The feel of touch is great. It is just overwhelming how gratifying they are to hold. Wearing it, the feel of the fabric material in the headband has a cool springiness, the telescoping arms have a pleasingly smooth movement, and the earcups are spongy with a lush textile covering. The headband is stainless-steel wrapped in a soft PU fabric material. A knitted but breathable mesh canopy keeps the weighty headphones from putting too much pressure on the top of the head. Each ear cushion is designed with acoustically engineered memory foam creating a seal for immersive sound quality. Also, the ear cushions are attached magnetically and are interchangeable. However, the weight of the device is the problem. It is weighty and might be too heavy for some people especially if it is worn for hours at a time. Still, Apple has tried to match that upper tier of boutique headphones in terms of build, quality, and craftsmanship, though the AirPods Max has a design-heavy on aluminum, steel, and fabric opposite of something like Sony’s plastic.

AirPods Max is designed for an uncompromising fit that creates the optimal acoustic seal for many different head shapes fully immersing you in every sound.


One Tap Set-up

AirPods Max feature the magical one-tap setup experience that customers love with AirPods | Photo Source: Apple

Bluetooth 5 connectivity powers the AirPods Max but as expected, these headphones work best with Apple products in a one-tap setup. It can connect immediately to your iPhone or iPad or any Apple device. To connect simply place the AirPods Max near any Apple device and just tap the Connect tab shown on the screen. Another thing, software-wise, the AirPods Max requires Apple devices running iOS (an update to 14.3 is needed to use these) to turn Active Noise Cancellation off in the headphones. Moreover, the volume, noise control, and spatial audio can be access in the Control Center, too. Apple will let you deactivate head detection and spatial audio here as well, in addition to turning off automatic connection to your iPhone. From the Bluetooth menu, tap the “i” icon next to the device name and you will get all the customizable features. Mostly this is precisely what anyone can get with the AirPods Pro. The AirPods Max is a win-win for Apple users. 

The AirPods Max Two Buttons

AirPods Max buttons
AirPods Max Digital Crown buttons | Photo Source: Apple

The AirPods Max has only two buttons: Digital Crown - a much larger version than the Apple Watch dial and a button that switches between noise canceling and transparency modes. A much larger size DC (Digital Crown) is perfect for controlling volume and playback. To play or pause just press once, press twice to skip tracks, press three times to go back, and hold it down to activate Siri. Additionally, it also feels great to twist and press the oversized digital crown and the noise-cancellation transparency mode toggle button. The rotation of the DC can also be change from front-back or back-front. It is easy to find when wearing the headphones, but it is also easier to use these buttons with gloves. So, forget all those false inputs and missed swipes that can be encounter with touch gestures.

Sound Quality

Sound Quality
AirPods Max custom acoustic design features a 40-mm dynamic driver and a unique dual neodymium ring magnet motor | Photo source: Apple

The great audio quality of the Apple AirPods Max is simply exceptional! Perfect, just like the AirPods or AirPods Pro. The AirPods Max combines high-fidelity audio with industry-leading Active Noise Cancellation to provide an unequaled listening experience to the users. This comes in part with their custom-built driver that works to producing sound with ultra-low distortion across the audible range. Meaning, from deep, rich bass to accurate mids and crisp, clean highs, you will be listening to every note with a new sense of clarity.

The AirPods Max delivers sound their finest with both the noise-canceling and Transparency mode switched off. Though there is undeniably a feeble leveling of the dynamics and softening of the punch, the treble turns out to be a little more evident when noise-canceling is switched on. However, it is not enough to avoid using noise-canceling but when you can, you should switch it off to hear the AirPods Max at their very best.

The AirPods Max has offered default options that are the best for first-time users. It includes an adaptive EQ system that uses “advanced software” and “computational audio” to adjust the low and mid-frequencies in real-time to account for changes in fit and earcup seal. The AirPods Max comes with an Apple-designed driver and 10 audio cores for producing computational audio. These features enable adaptive EQ and spatial audio. Adaptive EQ corrects the headphones to the fit of the ear cups and measures the audio delivered to the user to optimize in real-time. 

Around the AirPods Max, are nine microphones. Eight of these microphones are used for noise cancellation and behind the ear cushions are the powerful, custom-designed 40-millimeter drivers. Likewise, backing each driver is the dual-neodymium ring magnet motor inspired by floor-standing speakers. This is the reason for the absence of any distortion even when the Max headphones are turned to peak volume.

Lacking Power Button?

The AirPods Max lacks one. Yes, reading it right!

AirPods Max will automatically power on when placed on the head, and also automatically pause music if removed or one ear cup is lifted. When fully taken off, it will go to sleep mode. When in their Smart case, it goes into a deeper ultra-low-power mode. But leaving it unattended without its case for a long time, say overnight, you will be surprised to see that it barely lost its power. So, there is no need to worry about battery drain. Battery life, forget it! Charging times, minimal!

Battery Life

Apple asserts that this AirPods Max would last for 20 hours on a single charge. It may be too conservative a claim, but there is nothing bad to playing on the safe side. Apple’s assessment test was conducted with the volume at 50 percent. This is done when listening to music, watching movies, or talking on the phone with both Active Noise Cancellation and spatial audio enabled. It takes about two hours for the AirPods Max to be fully charged using a Lightning cable. A five-minute charge delivers 1.5 hours of listening time. In real life scenario, it is perfectly sufficient.

Important Features

1. Pairing, Switching, and Sharing

Like the other AirPods, AirPods Max can connect automatically to other Apple devices with one-tap setup and pairing capabilities. Connecting AirPods Max to an Apple device, simply just hold the headphones near the device and then tap the Connect button shown on the screen.

2. Active Noise Cancellation

As with the AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max feature excellent Active Noise Cancellation capabilities. It consists of a total of six outward-facing microphones to detect noise in the environment of the user, and two inward-facing microphones that measure what the user hears. These eight microphones power the Active Noise Cancellation. Two of these microphones plus one additional microphone also make sure Siri could hear voice commands even with music playing and that the voice calls are clear even when it is breezy. So, combined with Apple's software, these microphones allow the AirPods Max to determine and ease the outside noise level while fine-tuning the audio that's playing.

3. Transparency Mode

Transparency Mode can be activated when apprehensive about Active Noise Cancellation drowning out the sounds around the user which is useful when it is important to hear what is going on. Transparency mode works to turn down the Active Noise Cancellation so that AirPods Max owners can listen for sounds without having to turn off the audio. To activate Transparency mode, press the noise control button that is found at the top of the headphones.

4. Spatial Audio

Spatial audio brings a movie theater listening experience to Apple's headphones. First introduced in iOS 14 with the AirPods Pro, the Spatial audio utilizes directional audio filters and imperceptibly adjusts the frequencies that each ear receives. This results in placing sounds virtually anywhere in space for an immersive listening experience. This feature uses sensors in the AirPods Max along with sensors in the iPhone or iPad to follow the motion of a person's head as well as the position of their device. It thereby compares motion data and remapped the sound sphere thus staying it anchored to the device even as the head moves.

5. Adaptive EQ

Adaptive EQ tailors sound to the personalized fit and seal created by the ear cushions. The EQ provides better sound quality by tuning the music that is playing to the individual fit and seal of the headphones on the head. The inward-facing microphones measure what you are hearing, then adjust the music frequency to deliver a rich, consistent experience that accurately reproduces every note.

My Take

The AirPods Max comes with an incredibly superior feel, perfect with best-in-class noise-canceling capabilities, and with the most extraordinary transparency mode. For avid music lovers, it goes with balanced and detailed sound quality with lots of deep and musical bass. My deep concerns are the weight, which may not work for multi-hour use.

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