AirPods Max
Dec 23, 2020 at 8:48 PM Post #1,426 of 4,888

SilverEars

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I just got these in, and upon first listen it sounded worse than what I was expecting and also hoping. There’s hardly any resolution to the sound. The treble is grainy, and I somehow had suspected this when I saw the squiggly treble area response. It shares similarities to Typical Beyer treble in this regard, but not as excessive. Not such a strong sibilance. Beyers are much worse.

Just like Beyers the sound emphasis is mainly in the treble, and it just sticks out too much. The measurements do make sense with the upper-mids presence subdued, and it’s a caveat. My ears got used to it, but initially the upper-mids sounded fairly recessed.

And then the bass. It's significant with that treble like bass and treble heard. Mids sounds a bit recessed and I'm not getting the mids definition. Bass is fairly avg. Actually worse quality than a lot of closed-backs I’ve heard. It get boomy at times and not so tight. A well driven Sennheiser will have better quality bass although we all know subs are not so present. But still, quality is much better.

I really don’t see how these have sound stage like I’ve been reading. These really don’t. I’ve heard plenty of closed-back, and this headphone is no different than most that do not have much or hardly any sound stage. There are closed-back much better for sound stage as well.

So, do I think it’s worth it? No. I’ll perfectly fine with my XM3. It’s not like APM has what I call sound quality and I don’t expect it to be like that with XM3 either. There’s a lot of reasons why I won’t hold on to these, which includes the price, and now the sound. Well, I pretty much lost any interest in future Apple headphone acoustics.

I feel like Crin was generous with the tonality score. Very very mainstream is the way to put it.
 
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Dec 23, 2020 at 8:52 PM Post #1,427 of 4,888

erich6

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For those that missed it, go into the Heath app, select Hearing and click on audiogram and download the Mimi hearing test app. Once you run through that test, the audiogram option will pop up on your accessibility -> audio visual -> headphone accommodations page in addition to the balanced, vocal and brightness settings. You can compare them while listening and hear the difference. It wasn't earth-shatteringly different for me, but enough for my brain to say "yea, that's about right"

Yes, this was a great tip from @pnoble .

This is good that Apple is offering this. However, this is basically eq'ing the APM. In that case people can eq'ing other headphones with a good eq app that is offering too left/right volume differences.

Yes, it's basically EQ but...I find every digital EQ I've tested to be subpar because the DSP tends to narrow the soundstage a bit and leaves the music feeling less dynamic. I didn't sense this with the Health accommodation setting...in fact, quite the opposite. The sound opened up a bit and became more clear. Well done.

Re calibration, I used APP but going back to the app it indeed says: AP and......thank you, I recalibrated with the regular AP and my score increased significantly! I feel a whole lot better about my hearing!

I don't have the APM so I took the test and listened a bit with my APPs. I will have to dig up the APs and try recalibrating.

But my audiogram sounds more "wider" than voice

That was my experience also.
 
Dec 23, 2020 at 8:57 PM Post #1,428 of 4,888

erich6

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Explain how please because both are transmitting via AAC. Only possibility is that Tidal is using better source material but even still it's getting compressed into AAC. I'm not doubting you I just don't understand how it's possible.
This AAC -> WAV -> AAC would have a lossy-to-lossy conversion if true. Tidal would be lossless -> WAV -> AAC which would be lossless -> lossy conversion which is technically better than the lossy-to-lossy conversion.
I think if you are hearing differences it probably it due to the source material and perhaps gain difference as you say.

I don't think this has anything to do with the Bluetooth AAC encoding. It's more likely that Tidal is serving up different masters than Apple Music. Also, I've found that Tidal has a quieter version than Apple Music even when they seem to be the same master. In my opinion, Tidal's quieter delivery sounds cleaner. I can tell the difference even when using my APPs so I suspect you can too with the APMs.
 
Dec 23, 2020 at 9:03 PM Post #1,429 of 4,888

archagon

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EDIT: Is he talking about my 800 comparison? Oy vay. How many times do I have to tell people... The 800 S is better technically. But does it satisfy the tuning the APM offers?

I'm growing tired of the prohibitive sentiment against a person simply saying how the APM compares in situations against a hifi headphone the person has in their collection. Our shared experiences are NOT grand universal statements! Lower fidelity doesn't mean you can't say how you personally enjoy it more. Anyway...detailed comparisons and observations incoming of Panda and K361.

As a long-time lurker, just wanted to chime in to say thank you for your comparisons. It's really difficult to figure out how good the AirPods Max actually sound due to most reviewers qualifying their praise with "for a noise-cancelling wireless headphone" or "for a consumer product". Personally, I'm very interested in hearing what these sound like when listened back-to-back with wired headphones that are significantly cheaper ($100) as well as significantly more expensive ($1500). How close do they get to either extreme? In what specific ways are they better or worse? Really hard to suss out that information from most commentary, so your posts help a lot.

Crinacle says: "In some circles, comparisons have been made against the Audeze LCD-2 and the Sennheiser HD800S. I’ll guess I’ll be the first to say: not even close. I won’t even bother elaborating." I hate it when reviewers do this. Please elaborate. Without being able to precisely explain why one headphone sounds better than another, how will we ever untangle our biases and recognize when an upstart has dethroned the reigning champion? There's no easy fidelity test for headphones. All we have is our words.
 
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Dec 23, 2020 at 9:13 PM Post #1,430 of 4,888

archagon

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But I wouldn't compare an Escalade to a 911 even though they are both vehicles.
The difference here is that a headphone is, fundamentally, a dead simple mechanical device. I'm not saying this is true in the case of the AirPods Max, but if enough engineering talent is thrown at the problem (and if we account for the inevitable bias that creeps in from differences in price and reputation), I do not find it inconceivable that a consumer wireless headphone could eventually be made that sounds nearly as good as your favorite world-class, closed-back headphone.
 
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Dec 23, 2020 at 9:40 PM Post #1,431 of 4,888

clerkpalmer

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I do not find it inconceivable that a consumer wireless headphone could eventually be made that sounds nearly as good as your favorite world-class, closed-back headphone.
Eventually maybe but only if wireless technology advances further. We aren't there yet with the technology and despite all the gushing over Apples implentation of AAC it is not going to compete with a fully wired setup with hi Res files.

My point is the APM isn't trying to compete with an 800 or vice versa. It's a different product in a different product category aimed at a different audience. Best to keep comparisons to similarly situated categories otherwise they aren't really helpful. Arguing about whether APM is better than an LCD2C or HD800 is really probing the wrong question. Even if someone"enjoys" the APM better still doesn't make the comparison all that helpful. A comparison to the Panda, the XM, the Bose, the B&O is very helpful.
 
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Dec 23, 2020 at 9:40 PM Post #1,432 of 4,888

tinyman392

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I don't think this has anything to do with the Bluetooth AAC encoding. It's more likely that Tidal is serving up different masters than Apple Music. Also, I've found that Tidal has a quieter version than Apple Music even when they seem to be the same master. In my opinion, Tidal's quieter delivery sounds cleaner. I can tell the difference even when using my APPs so I suspect you can too with the APMs.

I did mention mastering in one of my posts :p

The difference here is that a headphone is, fundamentally, a dead simple mechanical device. I'm not saying this is true in the case of the AirPods Max, but if enough engineering talent is thrown at the problem (and if we account for the inevitable bias that creeps in from differences in price and reputation), I do not find it inconceivable that a consumer wireless headphone could eventually be made that sounds nearly as good as your favorite world-class, closed-back headphone.

If you’re talking about pure wireless (no other bells and whistles), then agree with you actually. Adding BT is kind of cheap nowadays and there are some pretty good DACs/amps that can be had pretty cheap to drive them along with BT modules. So I could see a normal BT headphone being with 100 dollars of a competing wired counterpart. Audeze and Drop both have some great BT offerings (Mobius, iSine + BT Cipher cable, Panda) and even Etymotic finally released a BT cable (a pricey on at that) for their ER-series of headphones. Granted Audeze and Drop tend towards the warmer side of things (vs the heavily detailed neutral that a lot of audiophiles prefer).

The issue is when you start adding the other features. Automatically turning on and off, pausing when taken off the head accelerometers, active noise canceling, transparency systems, adaptive EQ setups, 3D head tracking. All this R&D along with the sensors and specialized processors to process it (and possibly programming of said processors, I think iFixIt found some FPGAs in the APM chips) will eat away at price. With a lot of these added features (especially ANC), the tech and backing to make it work and make it work well will probably have the audio the headphone actually produces be worth ¼-½ of it’s actual price.

With that said, the APM does compare better to headphones in the 2-300 dollar price bracket vs the 500 dollar price bracket. I don’t feel like anyone was expecting them to punch that high with all the additional features they had.
 
Dec 23, 2020 at 9:47 PM Post #1,433 of 4,888

archagon

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Eventually maybe but only if wireless technology advances further. We aren't there yet with the technology and despite all the gushing over Apples implentation of AAC it is not going to compete with a fully wired setup with hi Res files.

It's really, really hard for people to examine audio quality objectively. Listening tests on Hydrogenaudio.org (with good equipment!) have repeatedly shown that V2 MP3s are transparent in 99% of cases. AAC at the same bitrates fares even better. So the fact that these headphones are using AAC when wireless will not really matter with respect to audio fidelity. The days of SBC are long gone. (And even if this weren't true, I'm personally still happy with headphones that max out their audio quality when plugged in, and offer a slightly degraded experience when wireless, like my V-MODA Crossfade 2s.)

Far more interesting, I think, is whether the built-in DAC/amp pulls its weight, and whether there's any residual noise from all the circuitry.

My point is the APM isn't trying to compete with an 800 or vice versa. It's a difference product in a different product category aimed at a different audience. Best to keep comparisons to similarly situated categories otherwise they aren't really helpful.

Why aren't they helpful? Personally, as someone who buys headphones very rarely, and has been kinda-sorta eyeing the 800 lately, I want to know if the (far more convenient and technically interesting) AirPods Max are at least, I dunno, 80% of the way there in terms of raw acoustic performance. I really only have room in my life for one or two headphones, not a whole wall like some of y'all.
 
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Dec 23, 2020 at 9:53 PM Post #1,434 of 4,888

clerkpalmer

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It's really, really hard for people to examine audio quality objectively. Listening tests on Hydrogenaudio.org (with good equipment!) have repeatedly shown that V2 MP3s are transparent in 99% of cases. AAC at the same bitrates is even better than that. So the fact that these headphones are using AAC when wireless will not really matter with respect to audio fidelity.



Why aren't they helpful? Personally, as someone who buys headphones very rarely, and has been kinda-sorta eyeing the 800 lately, I want to know if the (far more convenient and technically interesting) AirPods Max are at least, I dunno, 80% of the way there in terms of raw acoustic performance.

Well its not helpful to me. I would never cross shop the 800 and the APM. Just completely different products. If I'm looking at the 800 I'm not looking for 80 percent. I'm looking for that last 5 percent. That's just me. As for wired v bluetooth you mentioned with good equipment so I imagine that factors into things quite a bit. Anyway, the mere existence of your post shows I'm wrong and that at least some are in fact cross shopping these. Seems odd to me but to each their own.
 
Dec 23, 2020 at 10:09 PM Post #1,436 of 4,888

tinyman392

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Well its not helpful to me. I would never cross shop the 800 and the APM. Just completely different products. If I'm looking at the 800 I'm not looking for 80 percent. I'm looking for that last 5 percent. That's just me. As for wired v bluetooth you mentioned with good equipment so I imagine that factors into things quite a bit. Anyway, the mere existence of your post shows I'm wrong and that at least some are in fact cross shopping these. Seems odd to me but to each their own.

Some people have tonal preferences, and even then there are some aspects of music they really want their headphones to reproduce and some things that they are sensitive to. If they were shopping for the APM (or thinking about it), a comparison to something they’re familiar with (say if they owned a pair of Senn 800’s) would be useful on that behalf. Headphone comparisons are only useful when you know the pole they’re being compared against. It’ll give you a better idea of the technical abilities of the headphone being compared to, even if it’s not a fair comparison.

Even if the tonal balance isn’t the same between them, you’ll have a better picture of tonality and even technical ability of them. Comparisons aren’t only for cross-shopping. If you have a reference to go off of (one that you know) the comparison is still useful. Is it as useful as a direct comparison to the stuff you’re cross shopping? I’d say those comparisons may not be super useful unless there is a comparison to a reference that you’re familiar with.
 
Dec 23, 2020 at 10:32 PM Post #1,437 of 4,888

CharlesL

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Eventually maybe but only if wireless technology advances further. We aren't there yet with the technology and despite all the gushing over Apples implentation of AAC it is not going to compete with a fully wired setup with hi Res files.

My point is the APM isn't trying to compete with an 800 or vice versa. It's a different product in a different product category aimed at a different audience. Best to keep comparisons to similarly situated categories otherwise they aren't really helpful. Arguing about whether APM is better than an LCD2C or HD800 is really probing the wrong question. Even if someone"enjoys" the APM better still doesn't make the comparison all that helpful. A comparison to the Panda, the XM, the Bose, the B&O is very helpful.

I wish reviewers would elaborate more on the differences between different ranges of headphones too. I think if you are already very familiar with closed and open headphones over a variety of ranges it's it's easy to dismiss the comparisons, but it's difficult for others to really understand the differences strictly because comparisons only seem to be done inside the categories which they feel the headphones belong. I don't mean to suggest it needs or be, or should be done for all reviews. Just that they'd go into some details rather than gloss over it. I enjoy my older Beyerdynamic 250s and I know they are in a different category than the 800s, but it would still be interesting to get a comparison so I can understand what investing in a specific headphone in another category would get me, and if I find the value proposition interesting enough to give it a try.

There are definitely a lot of variation in wireless implementations, but I question if it's really the files or the bluetooth bandwidth that's holding back wireless headphones. Maybe the compression algorithms. or just the hardware and tuning of the headphones. It will be interesting to watch development in this area over the next several years.
 
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Dec 23, 2020 at 10:57 PM Post #1,439 of 4,888

nihalsharma

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Yesterday, I auditioned APM for some time. It sounded good for the first impression. I enjoyed that little session. One thing I particularly liked is that it’s not bass heavy. A lot of other mainstream headphones are really bass heavy, these are not. A controlled/tight(not boomy) bass always interests me. But can’t really compare it to the tuning of high-end cans. I had owned Hifiman Arya for few months, they were wonderful from the first listen. Same goes with HD800/s. They are undoubtedly a lot more better sounding than APM. I somehow find Arya better than HD800/s though, may be its the price to performance thing. I need to try APM for a lot more time to be able to compare to other headphones.

However, to me, APP are more value for money. Not saying APM are highly priced or anything but there is a scope of improvement. A lot of people have mentioned it too. I think with subsequent releases, APM will become much better. It’s good that the first cans from Apple have gained a lot of praise.
 
Dec 23, 2020 at 11:03 PM Post #1,440 of 4,888

Happyprozak

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We're disagree strongly here with difference in SQ between the p7w and p9. Saying the p9 is "several steps above the p7w" and 'I felt like I bought my girlfriend junk" is vast exaggeration. I prefer the p7w, not by a lot but is clear when I comparing both. Maybe in your case you're doing what you criticising in other people, that because a headphone is more expensive (p9) and less popular, then is much better than a more cheap and popular option (p7w). Maybe is a reason why the p7w is having better reputation than p9?

I actually didn’t want the P9’s to be that much better than the P7W’s. It’s possible I imagined it or maybe I just prefer the sound of the P9’s that much more? It has always surprised me how divided people are on it. I wonder if there were manufacturing problem that led to people receiving bad units.

I’m going to borrow the P7W’s from my girlfriend and give it another go, maybe I’ll have a different impression of them.

I also had a set of Audio Technica’s ATH-AD900’s and those headphones have always sounded thin but I can’t listen to them right after listening to the P9’s, they sound absolutely horrible. The P9’s are so thick and rich that my brain has a hard time adjusting back to the AD900’s. Even if I listen to the AD900’s before the P9’s I just can’t enjoy them anymore.

Speaking of subjectivity, I once listened to Regina Spektor’s cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps and it blew me away. I was listening on my P9’s and I thought, “This is what audiophiles must be talking about”.

I went back to listen to the song the next day and I didn’t have the same experience. It was like I was listening to a completely different song.

It was the same song, the same device, the same headphones.

There is a lot of subjectivity in audio and it makes it easy for companies to sell snake oil or to charge 10x for the same product.
 

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