Apple AirPods Max

General Information

hero_silver__cs265obeuxiu_large.jpg


Audio Technology
  • Apple-designed dynamic driver
  • Active Noise Cancellation
  • Transparency mode
  • Adaptive EQ
  • Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking1
Sensors
  • Optical sensor (each ear cup)
  • Position sensor (each ear cup)
  • Case-detect sensor (each ear cup)
  • Accelerometer (each ear cup)
  • Gyroscope (left ear cup)
Microphones
Nine microphones total:
  • Eight microphones for Active Noise Cancellation
  • Three microphones for voice pickup (two shared with Active Noise Cancellation and one additional microphone)
Chip
Apple H1 headphone chip (each ear cup)
Controls
Digital Crown
  • Turn for volume control
  • Press once to play, pause, or answer a phone call
  • Press twice to skip forward
  • Press three times to skip back
  • Press and hold for Siri
Noise control button
  • Press to switch between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode
Hey Siri
  • Say “Hey Siri” to do things like play a song, make a call, or get directions
Size and Weight2
AirPods Max, including cushions
airpods_front__bwbxvilb50eq_large.jpg

6.64 inches (168.6 mm)

airpods_side__fsa2bfynojmi_large.jpg

3.28 inches (83.4 mm)
7.37 inches (187.3 mm)
  • Weight: 13.6 ounces (384.8 grams)
Smart Case
airpods_case__ggcz04mxkwy2_large.jpg

  • Weight: 4.74 ounces (134.5 grams)
Battery
AirPods Max
  • Up to 20 hours of listening time on a single charge with Active Noise Cancellation or Transparency mode enabled3
  • Up to 20 hours of movie playback on a single charge with spatial audio on4
  • Up to 20 hours of talk time on a single charge5
  • 5 minutes of charge time provides around 1.5 hours of listening time6
AirPods Max with Smart Case
  • Storage in the Smart Case preserves battery charge in ultra-low-power state
  • Charging via Lightning connector
Connectivity
Bluetooth 5.0
In the Box
  • AirPods Max
  • Smart Case
  • Lightning to USB-C Cable
  • Documentation
Accessibility7
Accessibility features help people with disabilities get the most out of their new AirPods Max.
Features include:
  • Live Listen audio
  • Headphone levels
  • Headphone Accommodations
System Requirements8
  • iPhone and iPod touch models with the latest version of iOS
  • iPad models with the latest version of iPadOS
  • Apple Watch models with the latest version of watchOS
  • Mac models with the latest version of macOS
  • Apple TV models with the latest version of tvOS
Compatibility
iPhone Models
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 79
  • iPhone 7 Plus9
  • iPhone 6s9
  • iPhone 6s Plus9
  • iPhone SE (2nd generation)
  • iPhone SE (1st generation)9
Apple Watch Models9
  • Apple Watch Series 6
  • Apple Watch SE
  • Apple Watch Series 5
  • Apple Watch Series 4
  • Apple Watch Series 3
  • Apple Watch Series 2
  • Apple Watch Series 1
Apple TV Models
  • Apple TV 4K
  • Apple TV HD9
iPad Models
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (4th generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2nd generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (1st generation)9
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (2nd generation)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation)
  • iPad Pro 10.5-inch
  • iPad Pro 9.7-inch9
  • iPad (8th generation)
  • iPad (7th generation)
  • iPad (6th generation)
  • iPad (5th generation)
  • iPad Air (4th generation)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • iPad Air 29
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • iPad mini 49
Mac Models9
  • MacBook (Retina, 12-inch, Early 2015–2017)
  • MacBook Air (11-inch, Mid 2012–Early 2015)
  • MacBook Air (13-inch, Mid 2012–2017)
  • MacBook Air (Retina, 13-inch, 2018–2020)
  • MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2012–Early 2015)
  • MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012–Mid 2015)
  • MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2012–2020)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch, Mid 2012–2019)
  • MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020, two ports)
  • MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020, four ports)
  • MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)
  • MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
  • iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2012–2017)
  • iMac (27-inch, Late 2012–Late 2013)
  • iMac (Retina 4K, 21.5-inch, Late 2015–2019)
  • iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014–2020)
  • iMac Pro (2017)
  • Mac mini (Late 2012–Late 2018)
  • Mac mini (M1, 2020)
  • Mac Pro (Late 2013–2019)
iPod Models
  • iPod touch (7th generation)
apple_icon__bua5f19h5jrm_large.png

AirPods Max and the Environment​

Apple takes a complete product life cycle approach to determining our environmental impact. Learn more

AirPods Max are designed with the following features to reduce environmental impact:​

  • Brominated flame retardant–free
  • PVC-free
  • Beryllium-free

Apple Footer​

https://www.apple.com/us/shop/goto/shipping_and_returns

Latest reviews

kmmbd

500+ Head-Fier
Mainstream Flagship
Pros: Premium build
– Very easy to swap earpads
– Class-leading Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
– Generally warm-tilted sound that will be mostly inoffensive
– Above average imaging and staging for a BT full-size headphone
Cons: The atrocious, hilariously horrible carrying case Airpods Max comes with (that you can’t avoid using)
– 9KHz peak with ANC on
– Sounds overly processed with noticeable BT compression
– No high bit-rate codec support
– Clamp can be uncomfortable, can feel heavy
– Call quality is mediocre, voice sounds muffled even in a quiet room
– Overpriced
IMG_0546.jpg


The moment Apple removed the headphone jack from its latest iPhone 7, it spelt doom for the headphone jack itself on all flagship devices. It’s incredible how something as innocuous as the 3.5mm jack became the bane of existence for Apple and how they called it “courageous”, but that rant is best delivered elsewhere.

This is a review of the Apple Airpods Max, Apple’s most expensive headphone, and one of the most expensive bluetooth headphones out there. If you are someone who is enamored (!) by the Apple ecosystem and also an audiophile, this review shall address your concerns regarding the tonal and technical proficiency of the Airpods Max.

If, however, you are someone who wants the latest trend, I think you can skip the rest of the review and just get the Airpods Max right away (the prices are dropping nowadays). It is definitely the most advanced Bluetooth headphone out there right now, and the competition will take a year to catch up at the very least. However, caveats apply, as always.

All relevant specs here.
This review originally appeared on Audioreviews.

Note: the ratings given will be subjective to the price tier. I bought the Airpods Max with my own funds.

Sources used: Apple iPhone 11, Apple iPhone SE, Google Pixel 4XL
Price, while reviewed: $550. Can be bought from Apple’s Web-store.

PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES

The Airpods Max come with the (now infamous) “Smart Case” and a lightning-to-USB-C cable. That’s about it. The “smart case” is the worst headphone case in existence and $5 Aliexpress cases with questionable design decisions are less useless.

This smart case is an absolute abomination in design (it looks like a silicone bra), the material choice (attracts gunk/dust and gets dirty real quickly) , the absolute lack of protection (doesn’t even cover the headband), and the absurd requirement for the Airpods to be kept in the cover to put them in deep sleep mode (they don’t turn off otherwise). Usability nightmare.
1/5

BUILD QUALITY

Premium, super-solid, futuristic — these are the operative words. The Airpods Max is built exceptionally well. It’s mostly anodized aluminium with some rubber and plastic parts. There is a curious lack of branding all around, no Apple logo/branding to be seen anywhere.

Let’s talk about the headband first since I find the headband design quite interesting. It’s a two-piece metal construction with the inner steel frame adding rigidity whereas the outer frame (rubber coated) houses the upper-portion of the headband (a fabric layer). The sliding mechanism for size-adjustment is also very solid, though I wish there were some markers for finer adjustments.

The earcups themselves are two chunks of aluminium and are packed with several mics, sensors, receivers, and buttons. This is the most sophisticated earcup design I’ve seen till now and is an impressive feat of engineering.

The right earcup has two buttons up top: the rotary dial (digital crown, as Apple says) that acts as both volume and playback control (press down to play/pause, press twice to skip), and a square button that toggles between Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) on/off. Lastly, The lightning port (ugh) is at the bottom for charging.

IMG_0523.jpg
IMG_0524.jpg
IMG_0525.jpg


Opting for lightning instead of type-C is baffling, but I guess they thought of the ease of use for existing iPhone users. The left earcup is bereft of any controls but has an antenna cut-out for RF transparency.

What’s not immediately apparent but catches your attention once you look closer: the numerous microphone holes in both of the earcups. In fact, there are a total of nine microphones. Eight of these mics (two on the top and two of the bottom of each earcup) works for the ANC and the remaining one is used for voice pickup. Two of the eight ANC mics also help in voice pickup, and that rounds up the entire mic assembly.

Other than that there are other interesting design decisions. The earcups can rotate into a flat position for storage, and there is a spring-loaded swivel mechanism which I haven’t seen anywhere before (and a great design decision IMO).

The earcups attach/detach magnetically, and there’s an IR sensor inside each earcup (underneath the cutout in the earcup on the inner-side) that detects if you’ve worn the headphones or not (something that doesn’t work on Android/Windows for some reason).

A highly sophisticated build with premium materials. I guess I can’t really ask for more.
5/5

COMFORT, ISOLATION, AND FIT

The earpads have a cloth exterior with memory-foam inner. Unfortunately, the clamp force is a bit too high. Competing products like Sony 1000XM4 and the Bose QC35ii have superior wearing comfort, and that acts as a detriment.

IMG_0599.jpg


The headband material is surprisingly comfortable though and distributes pressure evenly across the top of the head. It’s the clamp around your temples that is uncomfortable. The ~400gm weight is also noticeable while wearing.

As for noise isolation, the Active Noise-Cancellation here is class-leading indeed. You can only hear faint irregular noises, but most noises like hum of your laptop, the noisy bus engine are well taken care of.

I also like the transparency mode and found it fantastic during commute (as you can hear the surroundings while crossing the street, or trying to follow a conversation).
4/5

CONNECTIVITY

The BT reception is generally strong, but there were some connection drop issues with older iPhones that had BT 4.0. With BT 5.0 devices and the newer iPhones (that are compatible with the H1 chip) the connection was rock-solid. Pairing was also quite simple irrespective of OS/device.

The biggest downside here is the lack of any lossless codec as Apple is using the archaic AAC codec even in their flagship headphone. It’s a major shame and the BT compression is quite noticeable in many tracks. Call quality is also middling as the voice sounds somewhat muffled.
4.5/5

AIRPODS MAX DRIVER SETUP

Apple doesn’t tell much about the driver setup apart from that it’s 40mm. Looking at iFixit’s teardown I think it’s a PET diaphragm with a PVD metal plating (likely Titanium). The driver looks cool in a matte-black finish but that’s about it. I don’t think there’s much to write home about here (otherwise we wouldn’t hear the end of it in Apple’s promo materials).

IMG_0280.jpg


TONALITY AND TECHNICALITIES

The Apple Airpods Max has a warm, slightly V-shaped (or U-shaped, as some say) sound that focuses more on the “fun” side of things rather than going for neutrality.

The bass response is definitely north of neutral with a sizeable sub-bass boost but the mid-bass is left untouched, resulting in a clean bass-response with no mid-bass bleed. Bass is fairly textured but lacks in definition and speed, partly due to the driver limitation and partly due to the BT compression that takes a toll on the bass region.

The midrange is perhaps the best aspect of the Airpods Max. The recession in the lower mids tend to drown out male vocals in some tracks with lots of instrumentation, but that’s about my biggest complaint here.

The slight warmth in the lower-midrange coupled with lack of shoutiness in the upper-mids and generally correct tonality makes the Airpods Max good at reproducing both male/female vocals and string instruments. Acoustic guitars sound especially nice with crisp attack and a natural decay.

The treble is where things start to get divisive. With the ANC on, there is a noticeable rise in the 9KHz peak and the treble becomes fatiguing. With ANC off, however, that issue is mostly mitigated, and in the transparency mode it is completely gone.

It’s ironic that a headphone that went through so much trouble for ANC sounds its worst with that feature turned on. If you are treble-sensitive and want/have the Airpods Max, I’d highly recommend keeping the ANC off/transparency mode on.

As for the rest: resolved detail is middling. This is about as resolving as the $65 Philips SHP9500 and I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. In busy tracks, the cymbals turn mushy and it’s hard to pick apart leading edge of notes.

The staging is fairly tall but lacks height and depth. Apple uses heavy DSP to give you a sense of space (esp when listening to songs with Dolby Atmos) but such tracks are rare and most of all: the DSP tricks sound artificial and lacks the natural stage expansion of an open-back headphone. However, compared to other BT headphones, the staging here is above-average indeed.

Finally, imaging is fairly accurate. Center-imaging suffers though, as is the case with most headphones. Dynamics are fairly good with the macrodynamic punch being delivered with authority (though the sub-bass emphasis can make snare hits and pedals sound a bit muted). Microdynamics are decent for a BT headphone but nothing to write home about.

Bass: 3.5/5
Mids: 4/5
Treble: 3/5
Imaging/Separation: 3.5/5
Staging: 3.5/5
Dynamics/Speed: 3/5


SELECT COMPARISONS

vs Sony 1000XM4 ($300): The Sony 1000XM4 is widely popular for a few good reasons: it’s very comfortable, it’s got the branding, and the sound signature is a bass-boosted V-shaped that many find “fun” to listen to. It’s also got LDAC support and good ANC.

However, the Airpods Max has better build and controls, and the ANC on them is superior. Also the sound has better midrange resolution and imaging. Almost twice-the-price better? I don’t think so, but hey – it’s Apple.

vs Bose QC35ii ($200-ish): The Bose QC35ii has been on the blocks for a long time and I find it to be a very enjoyable pair of BT headphones. The ANC is fantastic (nearly as good as the Airpods Max) and they are supremely comfortable to wear. The lightweight helps in carrying too.

The sound signature is more mid-bass focused than the Apple Airpods Max and tends to sound thicker in general with less treble presence. A non-fatiguing sound that’s middling in resolution but very inoffensive.

The Airpods Max, again, has superior build and ANC. However, the tonal profile is different enough to cater to different audiences. Moreover, the price is markedly lower on the Bose. It’s an inferior headphone to the Airpods Max no doubt, but for the price, it’s a very good performer.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

The Apple Airpods Max has stunning looks and perhaps the best balance of sound among wireless headphones around $500. There’s one BT headphone that’s superior in almost all aspects to the Airpods Max, the Hifiman Ananda BT, but it retails for twice as much ($1000) and is an open-back headphone. Plus, the design isn’t anywhere as cool. In terms of raw sound quality and comparing against wired offerings, the Apple Airpods Max stand no chance. It’s slightly worse than the Philips SHP9500 and that tells it all. Sennheiser HD600/650 duo are on an entirely different dimension altogether, and the Hifiman Sundara/Beyerdynamic DT1990 are technically far more proficient.

However, you don’t get the Airpods for sound quality. The entry level Airpods are about as resolving as $10 earbuds, and Millions of people bought them. The price point is a bit too high on the Airpods Max though and for non-audiophile, style-conscious consumers it might be a bit too high a premium to pay. If you are someone who loves the Apple “ecosystem” (though said ecosystem barely helps here) and got the budget for it, Airpods Max will probably earn you more style points than anything else out there. The sound without ANC is quite good and the easy to use control scheme can be refreshing.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend the Apple Airpods Max to the regular audiophile as they are overpriced, over-designed, and under-performing. They look cool, but you can’t see them when worn. You can feel them though, and the high weight coupled with high clamp-force is not ideal. The sound quality is way below average and will be bested by certain wired headphones under $200.

If you really need a BT headphone, the Bose QC35ii will be an inoffensive, inexpensive option with good ANC as well and great comfort. The Airpods Max, meanwhile, belongs more in lifestyle photo-shoot than actual real-world use.

IMG_0553.jpg
Last edited:

Archerious

Previously known as vampire5003
Airpods Max - Worth it or not?
Pros: Best noise cancellation so far (even better than Sony XM4), pleasant sound signature, Bluetooth never stops or skips, works well with Windows, Mac and iOS. Long battery life, comfortable headband and earpads. Quick charging. Earcups/pads pop off easily for cleaning/servicing. Metal hinges are quality and can adjust quite well helping me get a great fit. Range on the Bluetooth is great, easily 20+ feet and it still doesn't disconnect if I am not that far for too long.
Cons: Cans can be a tad brighter than I like, after 3-4 hours I get fatigue. The noise cancellation causes a strange effect similar to being on an airplane, can make me feel light headed if I listen for more than 4 hours straight. Cans are a little heavier than I would've preferred. Aluminum cups scratch easily, and no USB-C port, uses lightning. Price is a bit steep, should be $399 not $549. You'll want to get Applecare+ on these for sure as apple will likely not just sell replacement parts to you and instead want to charge for service+parts should you need to replace the headband or earpads/cups. May drain themselves overnight if you use Windows, see summary.
These are a perplexing pair of cans. On one hand I love them for when it's noisy as the noise cancellation is the best, it beats even my Sony XM4's. That being said it isn't very comfortable compared to the XM4, and the strange fatigue the cans cause make me hesitate to recommend them.

While they work well on Windows, Mac, and iOS, I've found that they don't auto power off when I take them off my head with Windows. As a result the cans will just drain themselves overnight if I forget to disconnect manually from my Windows devices prior. It's odd since the Sony's don't do this, or really even my Airpods Pro don't. So I'm not quite sure why the Airpods Max have this behavior with Windows devices.

Hopefully it's fixed in a software update later down the line. No noticeable sound quality change between using them on bluetooth on iOS or Windows other than no spatial/Dolby Atmos support on Windows iTunes as of 06/2021. You'll likely want to use something other than Apple Music on Windows with these cans if you're a Windows user.

As far as weight goes, these aren't as heavy as say a pair of LCD-2s, but they are heavier than my HD599 SE, Beyer Custom Studio, and HD650. It's really a bit odd, since the cans didn't need to be made with metal, I bet with plastic the weight would've been noticeable less making them more comfy for long term wear, but in any case they're still comfortable cans. However you will definitely feel them, unlike my Sony WH-1000XM4 which I fall asleep with often.

I mentioned the noise cancellation is better on the Airpods Max, to give you an idea, with the Sony's I can still faintly hear a dog barking in the next room with them as well as someone talking right next to me. With the Airpods Max I could not. Someone had to grab my shoulder, which made me jump, then I realized they were there. It was really impressive. If the Sony's block out 80 decibels (going by mentalfloss's article) then the Airpods Max must be 85-90. It's that slight improvement that makes them used by me daily since I have loud neighbors.

As far as LDAC, aptX, W1, I don't think most people really care, but if you're curious, the Airpods Max do not support aptX, they use Apple's W1.

Takes usually about an hour to go from half to full battery. You can use them while they charge fairly easily.

Sound is so perplexing on these, in some ways they remind me of a pair of DT770s but less detailed. If you check the frequency graphs on them, the cans seem warm (emphasized bass) but also emphasized mids, the treble is then shot down. So not a flat pair of cans at all. I'd argue the way they are dark and shoot the treble down reminds me a bit of my DT770 which had noticeably less treble than DT880 but still were noticeable. The soundstage is about what one would expect for closed back Bluetooth headphones, small, and really benefits from Dolby Atmos to try to artificially improve sound staging IMO.

Don't think I'd recommend buying these for those that prioritize sound quality, as frankly I think they have less detail than my Sony's, even less than DT770, my $98 Prime Day Sennheiser 599SE are significantly better sounding in all areas, sound staging, detail, bass, mids, treble etc.

Summary: In my opinion if you buy these Airpods Max's it's going to be simply because you need the best ANC available at the moment (06/2021). Other reasons might be if you prefer Apple over Sony. Otherwise the XM4 would be my pick over these any day.

Thanks for reading,
Tom.

Attachments

  • 21-06-22 19-36-49 4251.jpg
    21-06-22 19-36-49 4251.jpg
    3.5 MB · Views: 0
  • Like
Reactions: ss2625 and St3ven

Comments

toptip

New Head-Fier
"Bass is fairly textured but lacks in definition and speed, partly due to the driver limitation and partly due to the BT compression that takes a toll on the bass region" -- this does not sound right. Compression typically affects higher frequencies. Also the current BT is very transparent, I doubt it even touches the bass.
 

toptip

New Head-Fier
"With Bluetooth 5.0, devices can use data transfer speeds of up to 2 Mbps" -- CD standard bitrate is 1.4 Mbps. So used in close range, there should be very minor or no compression.
 
Top