AirPods Max review: Two years later the headphones hold up

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2023
Two years later, Apple's AirPods Max headphones are still a great premium audio product.

AirPods Max
AirPods Max


It's still not easy to stomach the product's $549 retail price. Unsurprisingly, Apple hasn't blinked or changed that eye-popping figure -- but fortunately, they're on sale often.

But, despite the cost, we were impressed with the sound quality, controls, and fit of the AirPods Max on their debut. Those things continue to hold true today.

Based on anecdotal evidence like pregame footage of sports stars across all leagues, AirPods Max have never been more popular. Even two years after their debut.

Looking back on initial AirPods Max concerns

When the AirPods Max were first released most reviews largely agreed that performance was excellent. The product's design was less agreed upon, but still few critics had many objections at the time.

The biggest concerns over AirPods Max were more about how the product would hold up over time. People wondered whether the unique mesh headband would stretch out or easily get damaged while traveling.

AirPods Max earcup
AirPods Max earcup


We haven't seen widespread reports about the mesh canopy or soft-touch silicone-like material deteriorating. And in our own experience, all parts of the Apple headphones have held up exceptionally well.

After two years of spinning and clicking, our digital crown and ANC button both remain fully intact and as responsive as ever.

Even in 2020, the Lightning port felt controversial on these expensive headphones. Two years later and it feels like the biggest liability of the product. It might be for Apple, too.

The EU is mandating that all new products that ship in the 2024 Christmas season -- but after the expected debut of the iPhone 16 -- have USB-C as a device connector. The rule doesn't apply to older products, but we're not sure that we see a future where the only hold-out is the AirPods Max.

Apple has started moving its accessories to USB-C like the Siri Remote. We don't think it will be too long before a significant portion of your Apple gear, including iPhone 15, could sport the connector.

If AirPods Max go into 2024 without an update it could be a headache device forcing you to still carry a Lightning cable.

Controversy

The AirPods Max have avoided major controversy since 2020. We're not sure what to make of the hard-to-pin-down and scattered reports of condensation, but we haven't experienced it.

The one thing that has emerged is the strength of the active noise-canceling performance. Even after people confirmed it has changed over time it hasn't caused a significant uproar. We haven't noticed any difference over time.

Mostly, it seems to really frustrate people that it's mysteriously changing ever-so-slightly without any direct communication from Apple about it.

AirPods Max versus other headphones

Since the introduction of AirPods Max, several companies have released new premium headphones.





Sony released its WH-1000XM5 headphones which are impressive because of their light weight, soft and plush ear cups, excellent audio quality, ANC performance, and other advanced features.

Bose has leaned on its 700 headphones and punted on its revised QuietComfort 45 headphones by mostly leaving them alone and only adding a USB-C port.

Bowers & Wilkins released Px7 S2 and Px8 headphone options which both sound stellar and are each extremely comfortable, but neither have the strongest ANC performance.

Despite the strong competition from well-regarded brands, Apple's headphones remain a viable consideration for consumers. The Apple ecosystem integration is probably the most compelling part.

Being able to instantly move AirPods Max around between an Apple TV box, iPad, iPhone, or Mac is certainly a leg up over needing to pair them to each device. Plus, they sound fantastic and the controls are easy to use.

That said, we would be hesitant about purchasing first-generation AirPods Max at the full, retail price in 2023. Consider waiting until a store puts them on sale or you can find an open-box option.

The competition will provide better value options and there's a chance AirPods Max 2 could be on the horizon.

AirPods Max 2 wishlist

Even if the AirPods Max still hold up well after two years, there are still plenty of tweaks we're hoping for in a second version.

Lightning connector on AirPods Max
Lightning connector on AirPods Max


The most obvious upgrade is switching the Lightning port for a USB-C one. We fully expect AirPods Max 2 to include this more universal port for charging. We find it hard to believe Apple would move the Siri Remote to USB-C without also moving all its other accessories to the port over time.

We also fully expect technical improvements like an H2 chip and Adaptive Transparency. We wouldn't mind some minimal amount of water resistance or a U1 chip for the Find My network like the AirPods Pro 2 have.

We hope the AirPods Max Smart Case gets a substantial update. The case is too flimsy and doesn't protect half of the product. It could use a serious rethinking.

Looking back at Apple's track record of stubbornly sticking with compromised designs -- hello Magic Mouse charging port and Apple Pencil cap -- it's not a guarantee that we see a new Smart Case.

AirPods Max in their Smart Case
AirPods Max in their Smart Case


We would love Apple to sell other options for padded ear cups. It could produce leather ones at an additional cost for people who prefer a different material to the current woven mesh ones.

The ear cups are held on with magnets and are easy enough to pop off and put back on. It seems like an easy way to expand revenue and, surprisingly, we haven't seen many third parties dip into this market.

We do like the metal frame of the AirPods Max, but if Apple could find a way to lighten the weight, even slightly, it could make a big difference for a lot of people who find the headphones too heavy.

Apple Music offers lossless audio streaming for no additional cost and yet, none of the company's wireless audio products supports listening to songs at that fidelity. We think headphones costing over $500 should be able to stream songs in lossless quality.

It's nice that Apple debuted the headphones with colors, but we wouldn't mind seeing those color options refreshed too.

Overall, there's nothing major Apple needs to do for AirPods Max 2 -- some premium additions to keep it competitive.

Frankly, AirPods Pro 2 are the biggest threat to the Max. For less than half the price, the Pro earbuds are packed with features and performance. They're a solid value.

AirPods Max Pros

  • Despite any tweaks, ANC performance remains great

  • Easy connection with other Apple products

  • Excellent battery life

AirPods Max Cons

  • Smart Case hasn't aged well

  • A bit heavy to travel with

  • No Adaptive Transparency

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

While the 4-star rating was appropriate in 2020, the AirPods Max don't hold quite as much shine as they once did in comparison to other headphones options -- even the newest AirPods Pro 2 give them a run for their money.

Apple's product is still valid at the high end, but until a new model is released, the competition keeps becoming more tempting over time.

Where to buy AirPods Max

AirPods Max can be purchased at full price from Apple, but as of this publication, they are on sale for $449 on Amazon, that's $100 off. There are also numerous discounts available in AppleInsider's Price Guide.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    As an owner of the Airpods Max since they debuted, I found this to be a "glass half-full" summary--not wrong, per se, but it glosses over some significant faults:

    1) No "off" button. This is just inexcusable. The main reason I continue to use my Sony XM4 MUCH more often than my APM--even though I think the APM sounds better and has better ANC--is that my APM are usually dead when I pick them up. I don't care what Apple says about powering off automatically--they don't, at least not completely. I can go long periods of time without using my XM4 and they still maintain a charge--no such luck with the APM unless I keep them charging all the time. 

    2) No ability to listen to lossless audio. Yes, Apple Music is now filled with lossless audio files, Apple Digital Masters, etc -- you just can't listen to any of them through Apple's $549 headphones. I could excuse this massive shortcoming in one of the most expensive bluetooth headphones if it just applied to wireless listening, but it doesn't--the APM doesn't support lossless listening even through a wired connection. The quality of audio in a playback system is always defined by its weakest link, and in this case, the weak link is the lossy, compressed, AAC codec, which is the best you'll do through a wireless or wired connection to the APM. 

    3) Oh, you plan to use APM on an airplane? That will cost you $35 more! This is a case of Apple at its greediest, most consumer-abusing worst. It's just despicable that a $549 headphone doesn't come with the cable you need to connect to an airline's entertainment system. And no, you can't just pick up some cheap third-party cable with Lightning on one end and the airline adapter on the other. You need Apple's special $35 cable that converts the analog audio from the airline system into digital audio that the APM can process. (That's right, the APM has no ability to play analog audio even through a wired connection--it has to be converted to a digital signal first.) And hey, I'm not complaining about the need for the special cable, even though my Sony XM4 have no such requirement--but for $549, include the cable in the box! 

    4) It's not really great as a "travel" headphone. The APM are fairly bulky since they don't fold at all. The "bra" case, as has been covered ad nauseum, is a joke that offers almost no protection. A better case, while available through third parties, makes them bulkier still for travel. These aren't 'phones that you readily toss into a backpack or your carry-on bag--they take up quite a bit of room, much more than their premium competitors. But forget about carrying them "naked" -- the aluminum ear cups will scratch up easily and the headband mesh fabric is delicate. 

    If none of the above bothers you, then I can recommend the APM, especially at some of the current discounted prices. Just know what you're buying before you take the plunge. Personally, I'd wait for APM 2.0, assuming Apple decides it's worth it to bring to market. 


    cg27rmusikantowmuthuk_vanalingamn2itivguygrandact73OferRogue01ravnorodomdewmeAlex_V
  • Reply 2 of 19
    cg27cg27 Posts: 214member
    charlesn said:
    As an owner of the Airpods Max since they debuted, I found this to be a "glass half-full" summary--not wrong, per se, but it glosses over some significant faults:

    1) No "off" button. This is just inexcusable. The main reason I continue to use my Sony XM4 MUCH more often than my APM--even though I think the APM sounds better and has better ANC--is that my APM are usually dead when I pick them up. I don't care what Apple says about powering off automatically--they don't, at least not completely. I can go long periods of time without using my XM4 and they still maintain a charge--no such luck with the APM unless I keep them charging all the time. 

    2) No ability to listen to lossless audio. Yes, Apple Music is now filled with lossless audio files, Apple Digital Masters, etc -- you just can't listen to any of them through Apple's $549 headphones. I could excuse this massive shortcoming in one of the most expensive bluetooth headphones if it just applied to wireless listening, but it doesn't--the APM doesn't support lossless listening even through a wired connection. The quality of audio in a playback system is always defined by its weakest link, and in this case, the weak link is the lossy, compressed, AAC codec, which is the best you'll do through a wireless or wired connection to the APM. 

    3) Oh, you plan to use APM on an airplane? That will cost you $35 more! This is a case of Apple at its greediest, most consumer-abusing worst. It's just despicable that a $549 headphone doesn't come with the cable you need to connect to an airline's entertainment system. And no, you can't just pick up some cheap third-party cable with Lightning on one end and the airline adapter on the other. You need Apple's special $35 cable that converts the analog audio from the airline system into digital audio that the APM can process. (That's right, the APM has no ability to play analog audio even through a wired connection--it has to be converted to a digital signal first.) And hey, I'm not complaining about the need for the special cable, even though my Sony XM4 have no such requirement--but for $549, include the cable in the box! 

    4) It's not really great as a "travel" headphone. The APM are fairly bulky since they don't fold at all. The "bra" case, as has been covered ad nauseum, is a joke that offers almost no protection. A better case, while available through third parties, makes them bulkier still for travel. These aren't 'phones that you readily toss into a backpack or your carry-on bag--they take up quite a bit of room, much more than their premium competitors. But forget about carrying them "naked" -- the aluminum ear cups will scratch up easily and the headband mesh fabric is delicate. 

    If none of the above bothers you, then I can recommend the APM, especially at some of the current discounted prices. Just know what you're buying before you take the plunge. Personally, I'd wait for APM 2.0, assuming Apple decides it's worth it to bring to market. 


    Extremely helpful and insightful commentary, much appreciated!
    muthuk_vanalingamn2itivguygrandact73Ofer
  • Reply 3 of 19
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,313member
    If AirPods Max go into 2024 without an update it could be a headache device forcing you to still carry a Lightning cable.

    If that isn't a first-world problem, I don't know what is.
    Fact is, if you travel with multiple devices, you are bringing more than one cable with you.
    And since the "headache" Lightning cable weighs about 1/4 of an ounce, it's really not that big a deal.

    For all the purported benefits of USB C, it is forcing millions of regular travelers carry around power adapters. Every hotel has a plethora of USB A ports in the room, negating the need to travel with power adapters, but I have yet to see a hotel with a USB C connector. Therefore, I will need to travel with either a USB A - USB C cable or a power adapter. Pick your poison.
    ronnn2itivguyravnorodomdewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 19
    My AirPods Max are gathering dust. My AirPods Pro 2 have superseded them. I would have laughed at you if you had predicted this earlier in the year.

    AirPods Max 2 better be pretty souped up to get my attention.
    Oferravnorodomwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 19
    Do zippered headphone cases allow charging while closed? No. Is it slower to take headphones out of a zippered case? Yes. So the reality is that zippered cases have functional shortcomings versus the AirPods Max and not just the other way around. I mostly use the Max at home and AirPods/AirPods Pro on the road so I'm definitely in the user group that would prefer the case design that Apple chose. Zipping the headphones up in a case isn't really necessary when you can just put them in a drawer near your bed, your computer or your home entertainment equipment.
    ronnravnorodomwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 19
    charlesn said:
    As an owner of the Airpods Max since they debuted, I found this to be a "glass half-full" summary--not wrong, per se, but it glosses over some significant faults:

    1) No "off" button. This is just inexcusable. The main reason I continue to use my Sony XM4 MUCH more often than my APM--even though I think the APM sounds better and has better ANC--is that my APM are usually dead when I pick them up. I don't care what Apple says about powering off automatically--they don't, at least not completely. I can go long periods of time without using my XM4 and they still maintain a charge--no such luck with the APM unless I keep them charging all the time. 

    2) No ability to listen to lossless audio. Yes, Apple Music is now filled with lossless audio files, Apple Digital Masters, etc -- you just can't listen to any of them through Apple's $549 headphones. I could excuse this massive shortcoming in one of the most expensive bluetooth headphones if it just applied to wireless listening, but it doesn't--the APM doesn't support lossless listening even through a wired connection. The quality of audio in a playback system is always defined by its weakest link, and in this case, the weak link is the lossy, compressed, AAC codec, which is the best you'll do through a wireless or wired connection to the APM. 

    3) Oh, you plan to use APM on an airplane? That will cost you $35 more! This is a case of Apple at its greediest, most consumer-abusing worst. It's just despicable that a $549 headphone doesn't come with the cable you need to connect to an airline's entertainment system. And no, you can't just pick up some cheap third-party cable with Lightning on one end and the airline adapter on the other. You need Apple's special $35 cable that converts the analog audio from the airline system into digital audio that the APM can process. (That's right, the APM has no ability to play analog audio even through a wired connection--it has to be converted to a digital signal first.) And hey, I'm not complaining about the need for the special cable, even though my Sony XM4 have no such requirement--but for $549, include the cable in the box! 

    4) It's not really great as a "travel" headphone. The APM are fairly bulky since they don't fold at all. The "bra" case, as has been covered ad nauseum, is a joke that offers almost no protection. A better case, while available through third parties, makes them bulkier still for travel. These aren't 'phones that you readily toss into a backpack or your carry-on bag--they take up quite a bit of room, much more than their premium competitors. But forget about carrying them "naked" -- the aluminum ear cups will scratch up easily and the headband mesh fabric is delicate. 

    If none of the above bothers you, then I can recommend the APM, especially at some of the current discounted prices. Just know what you're buying before you take the plunge. Personally, I'd wait for APM 2.0, assuming Apple decides it's worth it to bring to market. 


    These are all excellent points. Why did Apple think that not having a power button was a good idea. As to lossless audio, I don't think that's possible with current bluetooth tech. If you can't get lossless when played wired with the $35 cord, that is a huge mistake.
    grandact73Oferravnorodom
  • Reply 7 of 19
    mike1 said:
    If AirPods Max go into 2024 without an update it could be a headache device forcing you to still carry a Lightning cable.

    If that isn't a first-world problem, I don't know what is.
    Fact is, if you travel with multiple devices, you are bringing more than one cable with you.
    And since the "headache" Lightning cable weighs about 1/4 of an ounce, it's really not that big a deal.

    For all the purported benefits of USB C, it is forcing millions of regular travelers carry around power adapters. Every hotel has a plethora of USB A ports in the room, negating the need to travel with power adapters, but I have yet to see a hotel with a USB C connector. Therefore, I will need to travel with either a USB A - USB C cable or a power adapter. Pick your poison.
    You're not wrong about the frustrations of the multi-standard world in which we now live. (Let's not forget that mini-USB and micro-USB are still kicking around, too.) But if we're ever going to get to a standard, we have to start somewhere, and so I welcome the EU's 2024 requirement for USB-C. What's infuriating about Apple right now is that even though the very near future is USB-C only, they continue producing some new products with Lightning while others get USB-C... why? My 2021 iPad mini has USB-C but a year later, my 2022 Airpods Pro 2 stuck with Lightning, even though Apple was overhauling the case design anyway. My 24" iMac is all USB-C, but its keyboard and mouse STILL require a Lightning cable to recharge. This approach is the worst of both worlds. 


    ronnravnorodomdewmemuthuk_vanalingamAlex_V
  • Reply 8 of 19
    charlesn said:
    As an owner of the Airpods Max since they debuted, I found this to be a "glass half-full" summary--not wrong, per se, but it glosses over some significant faults:

    1) No "off" button. This is just inexcusable. The main reason I continue to use my Sony XM4 MUCH more often than my APM--even though I think the APM sounds better and has better ANC--is that my APM are usually dead when I pick them up. I don't care what Apple says about powering off automatically--they don't, at least not completely. I can go long periods of time without using my XM4 and they still maintain a charge--no such luck with the APM unless I keep them charging all the time. 

    2) No ability to listen to lossless audio. Yes, Apple Music is now filled with lossless audio files, Apple Digital Masters, etc -- you just can't listen to any of them through Apple's $549 headphones. I could excuse this massive shortcoming in one of the most expensive bluetooth headphones if it just applied to wireless listening, but it doesn't--the APM doesn't support lossless listening even through a wired connection. The quality of audio in a playback system is always defined by its weakest link, and in this case, the weak link is the lossy, compressed, AAC codec, which is the best you'll do through a wireless or wired connection to the APM. 

    3) Oh, you plan to use APM on an airplane? That will cost you $35 more! This is a case of Apple at its greediest, most consumer-abusing worst. It's just despicable that a $549 headphone doesn't come with the cable you need to connect to an airline's entertainment system. And no, you can't just pick up some cheap third-party cable with Lightning on one end and the airline adapter on the other. You need Apple's special $35 cable that converts the analog audio from the airline system into digital audio that the APM can process. (That's right, the APM has no ability to play analog audio even through a wired connection--it has to be converted to a digital signal first.) And hey, I'm not complaining about the need for the special cable, even though my Sony XM4 have no such requirement--but for $549, include the cable in the box! 

    4) It's not really great as a "travel" headphone. The APM are fairly bulky since they don't fold at all. The "bra" case, as has been covered ad nauseum, is a joke that offers almost no protection. A better case, while available through third parties, makes them bulkier still for travel. These aren't 'phones that you readily toss into a backpack or your carry-on bag--they take up quite a bit of room, much more than their premium competitors. But forget about carrying them "naked" -- the aluminum ear cups will scratch up easily and the headband mesh fabric is delicate. 

    If none of the above bothers you, then I can recommend the APM, especially at some of the current discounted prices. Just know what you're buying before you take the plunge. Personally, I'd wait for APM 2.0, assuming Apple decides it's worth it to bring to market. 


    These are all excellent points. Why did Apple think that not having a power button was a good idea. As to lossless audio, I don't think that's possible with current bluetooth tech. If you can't get lossless when played wired with the $35 cord, that is a huge mistake.
    You are correct about lossless and high rez files not being possible over bluetooth with current codecs. And I don't ding the APM for that. The unhappy surprise for me, and this was a while after purchase, was that it wasn't possible with a wired connection either. You'd assume that a wired connection would be analog, which is the case for most and maybe all of Apple's premium competitors. But the APM cannot play an analog signal. And the rabbit hole goes much, much deeper: let's say you want to connect your APM to your iPhone via wire. Sounds easy, right? Well, since the audio signal at the iPhone's Lightning port is digital, couldn't you just use a Lightning to Lightning cable to feed it directly to APM and hear lossless audio? No. Because although APM can only process a digital signal, it can't process the digital signal coming from an iPhone! SO... are you ready for this? You have to use the iPhone's adapter dongle that converts the iPhone's digital signal to analog--the same dongle you use to connect your iPhone to analog wired 'phones. And THEN you have to use Apple's special $35 cable that converts the analog signal from the iPhone dongle back into a digital signal that the APM can process. So with the D to A followed by A to D conversion, you're back to feeding the APM a lossy, compressed codec. Honestly, what the actual eff with that? 
    edited December 2022 Oferravnorodomdewmemuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 9 of 19
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,209member
    I think as a wireless headphone it misses the mark, too expensive for the possible sound quality, and there are are significant design issues that really mean it is best used at home and not suitable for travel eg not being able to use a simple cable, very bulky (the XM5 also makes this mistake)  a stupid, impractical case, and relatively heavy. I would not rate it good for my use case, as in the home I would not use Headphones or even earbuds much, but my Kef loudspeakers anyway.

    It’s not even good for gaming. On that note, Audeze is coming out with a planar wifi/Bluetooth/USBc digital/analogue Jack headset called Maxwell that has an eighty hour life on battery. $USD249.  And I suspect, excellent sound quality being an Audeze product.

    As a side note, it is now six years since the original AirPods became available and would be a much better story. I remember being impressed by the built in  technology at the launch detailed by Phil Schiller, with features that have been since been mostly copied with various degrees of success by competitors. This was also the product launch where the iPhone 7 came without a headphone Jack, and led to endless memes with Phil trying on the “courage” line.
    edited December 2022 Oferravnorodomcharlesn
  • Reply 10 of 19
    The biggest problem with the current version of the AirPods Max is its age.
    It's already a two year old set of headphones and in terms of audio quality, it's already been surpassed by others in the same price bracket (think Focal Bathys and B&W PX8).
    It's also no longer the top ANC headphone, the more recent Sony XM5 has surpassed it.

    The other problem with the APM, IMO is not hardware problem but more of a music format problem. I had high hopes for Spatial Audio/Dolby Atmos music and so far it's been a let down.  When listening to music, I always turn "head tracking off", it's more annoying than anything else. I also find that the non Dolby version of the song is more often better sounding. There are exceptions, but they're few and far between.  One really good piece in Dolby Audio in the Apple Music library is "Riders in the Storm", The Doors. 
    That being said, Dolby Audio in movies is pretty damned good.

    The cable issue, really is a non-issue IMO.  I haven't seen anyone complain about Apple Watch connector not being USBC. In fact that cable  can only charge one thing.
    Lightning on the other hand can charge APM, Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse, iPhone, other AIrPods.  But I also won't complain if they go USBC in some future iteration.
    Really a first world problem, in the end.

    It would be nice if they do take a page out of Focal's playbook and add an onboard DAC that can interpret Apple Lossless when wired to iPad, iPhone or Mac, without downsampling if possible. 
    ravnorodomronndewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 19
    Hi-end? Not so much. Hi price? Absolutely. 
  • Reply 12 of 19
    love mine. they are truly an Apple design philosophy product. (yes, I'm still waiting for true Loseless)

    can't believe people are still crying about an 'on/off' button and the carrying case. 

    "Oh, you plan to use APM on an airplane? That will cost you $35 more!" so Apple should be responsible for that?


    carry on... 



    ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 19
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,617member
    I love mine and use them at night with my Apple TV 4K.  It still amazes me how the sound appears to come from the room rather than the headphones.  I bought a zip around case that takes the headphones and the bra, so never had battery issues when travelling and I have never thought to buy a cable as I watch my own content on my iPad in flight.  The noise cancelling in flight is outstanding.
    edited December 2022 ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 19
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,209member
    APP2 do that very well. I expect the APM sound a bit better though.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 19
    thedba said: It's already a two year old set of headphones and in terms of audio quality, it's already been surpassed by others in the same price bracket (think Focal Bathys and B&W PX8).
    Focal Bathys: $799 retail
    B&W PX8: $699 retail
    AirPods Max: $549 retail

    Just goes to show that all the hand-wringing about price for the Max ignores what the audio market is really like for higher end products. 
    dewmeronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 19
    charlesn said:
    As an owner of the Airpods Max since they debuted, I found this to be a "glass half-full" summary--not wrong, per se, but it glosses over some significant faults:

    1) No "off" button. This is just inexcusable. The main reason I continue to use my Sony XM4 MUCH more often than my APM--even though I think the APM sounds better and has better ANC--is that my APM are usually dead when I pick them up. I don't care what Apple says about powering off automatically--they don't, at least not completely. I can go long periods of time without using my XM4 and they still maintain a charge--no such luck with the APM unless I keep them charging all the time. 

    | An off button is just one more thing to break.

    2) No ability to listen to lossless audio. Yes, Apple Music is now filled with lossless audio files, Apple Digital Masters, etc -- you just can't listen to any of them through Apple's $549 headphones. I could excuse this massive shortcoming in one of the most expensive bluetooth headphones if it just applied to wireless listening, but it doesn't--the APM doesn't support lossless listening even through a wired connection. The quality of audio in a playback system is always defined by its weakest link, and in this case, the weak link is the lossy, compressed, AAC codec, which is the best you'll do through a wireless or wired connection to the APM. 

    | I personally agree here, but this is a non-factor for most listeners. The vast majority of listeners, in a real study, with blind testing, can't distinguish high-bitrate AAC vs. lossless. I suspect you already knew this, so one wonders why you're being misleading here. If you didn't know it, it's pretty easy to google this.

    3) Oh, you plan to use APM on an airplane? That will cost you $35 more! This is a case of Apple at its greediest, most consumer-abusing worst. It's just despicable that a $549 headphone doesn't come with the cable you need to connect to an airline's entertainment system. And no, you can't just pick up some cheap third-party cable with Lightning on one end and the airline adapter on the other. You need Apple's special $35 cable that converts the analog audio from the airline system into digital audio that the APM can process. (That's right, the APM has no ability to play analog audio even through a wired connection--it has to be converted to a digital signal first.) And hey, I'm not complaining about the need for the special cable, even though my Sony XM4 have no such requirement--but for $549, include the cable in the box! 

    | Who cares? I'd rather not have $35 more tacked onto the price. Use the free airline headphones. Apple customers aren't using crappy airline entertainment systems anyway. They're using their vastly superior iPads and iPhones.

    4) It's not really great as a "travel" headphone. The APM are fairly bulky since they don't fold at all. The "bra" case, as has been covered ad nauseum, is a joke that offers almost no protection. A better case, while available through third parties, makes them bulkier still for travel. These aren't 'phones that you readily toss into a backpack or your carry-on bag--they take up quite a bit of room, much more than their premium competitors. But forget about carrying them "naked" -- the aluminum ear cups will scratch up easily and the headband mesh fabric is delicate. 

    | They don't really need much protection. The case is a plus. It's low profile and allows charging with the case on. And I've never, ever seen a pair of these scratched up. It's false that the aluminum will "scratch up easily". It's a pretty rugged surface. As for the headband? Time has shown it wears well. This product has been out for a couple years and there are no major complaints. BTW, it's "ad nauseam".

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 19
    thttht Posts: 5,529member
    I'm waiting to get a pair. Not in a hurry, but I do love tin cans every so often.

    I'm hoping Apple finally gets to the AirPods Max they want to make and sell, but can't for various reasons. I basically think they wanted interchangeable headbands and interchangeable ear cushions to make an Apple Watch type ecosystem of accessories. They won't right now because the headbands will be too expensive. They can make a MagSafe headband that will charge it while resting on a stand. Or make a headband that is an additional speaker, or a cellular radio, etc.

    I also think they should include 128 GB and 512 GB storage tiers. People can load them up with lossless music. Trouble with this is that traversing storage through an audio interface sucks. Best option here is just to have an AirPods.app that can do stuff with AirPods: show what's in storage, make playlists, change audio settings, etc. Finicky feature, so not for the mass market, but the APM are not mass market devices.

    The base price has to be driven to $400, protocols for the headband needs to be developed, etc.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 19
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,467member
    thedba said: It's already a two year old set of headphones and in terms of audio quality, it's already been surpassed by others in the same price bracket (think Focal Bathys and B&W PX8).
    Focal Bathys: $799 retail
    B&W PX8: $699 retail
    AirPods Max: $549 retail

    Just goes to show that all the hand-wringing about price for the Max ignores what the audio market is really like for higher end products. 
    Excellent point. I personally think that Apple could actually go much further up-market with the AirPods Max line when you consider that the Focal Bathys is actually on the lowest end of Focal's product line while the AirPods Max is on the highest end of Apple's product line. If Apple really wanted to penetrate into the next tier, the lower end of true audiophile headphone market, they have a heck of a lot of design & development cost headroom to do so.

    My impression, right or wrong, is that the AirPods Max are very interesting headphones from a technology and signal processing standpoint while the traditional headphone makers start with the physical acoustics and design and only add enough technical wizardry like ANC to appeal to people who factor headphone features in purchase decisions. But I know this isn't totally accurate because Apple, Sony, etc., are not slouches when it comes to acoustics and Focal can deliver great sound over wireless. The fact that Focal gives you a little bump-up in audio performance when running in wired mode seems to pay homage to their acoustics-first design approach. 

    If nothing else, the AirPods product line (Pro and Max) has garnered the attention of the higher tier headphone makers. The market for wireless headphones is only going to grow and much of its growth will come at the expense of the wired headphone makers, at least on the mid range and lower part of the consumer and enthusiast market.
    edited December 2022 watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 19
    charlesn said:
    As an owner of the Airpods Max since they debuted, I found this to be a "glass half-full" summary--not wrong, per se, but it glosses over some significant faults:

    1) No "off" button. This is just inexcusable. The main reason I continue to use my Sony XM4 MUCH more often than my APM--even though I think the APM sounds better and has better ANC--is that my APM are usually dead when I pick them up. I don't care what Apple says about powering off automatically--they don't, at least not completely. I can go long periods of time without using my XM4 and they still maintain a charge--no such luck with the APM unless I keep them charging all the time. 

    | An off button is just one more thing to break.

    >> If breaking off buttons is a regular problem for you, you need help beyond what's possible to offer in these forums. The lack of an off button wouldn't be an issue if the APM actually shut down completely on its own. It does not, and continues to self-drain when "off" in fairly short order. 

    2) No ability to listen to lossless audio. Yes, Apple Music is now filled with lossless audio files, Apple Digital Masters, etc -- you just can't listen to any of them through Apple's $549 headphones. I could excuse this massive shortcoming in one of the most expensive bluetooth headphones if it just applied to wireless listening, but it doesn't--the APM doesn't support lossless listening even through a wired connection. The quality of audio in a playback system is always defined by its weakest link, and in this case, the weak link is the lossy, compressed, AAC codec, which is the best you'll do through a wireless or wired connection to the APM. 

    | I personally agree here, but this is a non-factor for most listeners. The vast majority of listeners, in a real study, with blind testing, can't distinguish high-bitrate AAC vs. lossless. I suspect you already knew this, so one wonders why you're being misleading here. If you didn't know it, it's pretty easy to google this.

    >> It's a factor when you're dropping $549 (or more) on high resolution headphones capable of revealing the differences that exist. The vast majority of listeners will never come close to spending that much on headphones, but that's hardly a rationale for expensive, high-end 'phones not being capable of playing lossless files. 

    3) Oh, you plan to use APM on an airplane? That will cost you $35 more! This is a case of Apple at its greediest, most consumer-abusing worst. It's just despicable that a $549 headphone doesn't come with the cable you need to connect to an airline's entertainment system. And no, you can't just pick up some cheap third-party cable with Lightning on one end and the airline adapter on the other. You need Apple's special $35 cable that converts the analog audio from the airline system into digital audio that the APM can process. (That's right, the APM has no ability to play analog audio even through a wired connection--it has to be converted to a digital signal first.) And hey, I'm not complaining about the need for the special cable, even though my Sony XM4 have no such requirement--but for $549, include the cable in the box! 

    | Who cares? I'd rather not have $35 more tacked onto the price. Use the free airline headphones. Apple customers aren't using crappy airline entertainment systems anyway. They're using their vastly superior iPads and iPhones.

    >> I guess you're not flying first class. The large high-rez screens there are definitely not crappy. But the real point is that expensive premium headphones include what's necessary for use on flights. Apple is alone in not doing that and they have been called out for it by many professional reviewers. 

    4) It's not really great as a "travel" headphone. The APM are fairly bulky since they don't fold at all. The "bra" case, as has been covered ad nauseum, is a joke that offers almost no protection. A better case, while available through third parties, makes them bulkier still for travel. These aren't 'phones that you readily toss into a backpack or your carry-on bag--they take up quite a bit of room, much more than their premium competitors. But forget about carrying them "naked" -- the aluminum ear cups will scratch up easily and the headband mesh fabric is delicate. 

    | They don't really need much protection. The case is a plus. It's low profile and allows charging with the case on. And I've never, ever seen a pair of these scratched up. It's false that the aluminum will "scratch up easily". It's a pretty rugged surface. As for the headband? Time has shown it wears well. This product has been out for a couple years and there are no major complaints. BTW, it's "ad nauseam".

    >> You might even be the only APM owner who thinks the case is a plus. Tim should hire you to do a testimonial since the bra case might be the single most derided Apple accessory ever and for good reason. The ear cups are anodized aluminum and do scratch easily... just google "scratched AirPods Max." In fact, the scratching inspired companies to create silicone ear cup covers to use when traveling to prevent scratches. The mesh band is pretty easily punctured by pointed objects often found in a backpack--keys, pens, that sort of thing. 


    muthuk_vanalingam
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