The much-awaited Apple AirPods Max hit the markets in late December last year and we couldn’t wait to test them out. It is the first on-ear wireless headphones from Apple and probably the most expensive in the AirPods line up. The headphones can compete with headphones like Sony and Bose. Now let us put these cans to the test and see how they live up to all the hype.
Design, build quality and comfort
The design is minimal and aligns with the rest of Apple’s line up of consumer products. It is simple, elegant, and functional like most Apple products. The build quality is exceptional, and we can easily notice the attention to detail that has gone into crafting these headphones. They feature anodized Aluminum earcups and a stainless-steel headband wrapped in a soft to touch material. The earcups are pivoted and have an extendable telescopic arm to adjust to different head sizes.
They are rectangular in shape and feature rounded memory foam cups that give a snug fit every time. The earcups have a custom-designed fabric mesh that is soft and the earcups are replaceable. They are also quite comfortable when we tried them on for an extended period of listening. Although, the cans did feel a bit heavy at 385 grams but was evenly distributed. The fabric mesh canopy on the headband helped in distributing the weight evenly and also helped reduce head pressure.
Performance and Sound quality
The sound quality of these headphones is top-notch and one of the best for wireless cans. Although these might not be for Audiophiles or professionals, the AirPods Max does deliver exceptional sound quality. What impressed us the most was the accurate sound reproduction and soundstaging at all volume ranges. The EQ is not flat but does deliver a rich sound experience across Treble, Mid and Bass frequencies.
The earcups come with 40mm custom drivers designed by Apple with Neodymium ring motors that limit the distortion to less than 1%. The AirPods Max are great for listening to any genre and we had a lot of fun testing out some heavy metal and Deep House. They do live up to the price tag in terms of sound quality and performance. Like the AirPods and AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max come with the Apple H1 chip on each earcup. The Apple H1 chip has 10 audio cores and can perform up to 9 billion operations per second and controls computational Audio Performance.
Spatial Audio, Noise cancellation and other features
The AirPods Max like its predecessors supports Spatial Audio and it was impressive when we tested it out with a movie. The inbuilt gyroscope and accelerometers sense movement and automatically recalibrates Spatial Audio parameters delivering an immersive audio experience. We felt the Spatial Audio greatly enhanced the overall experience especially while watching movies as it supports multichannel audio mixes and Dolby Atmos content. The noise-cancelling feature is top-notch again thanks to the H1 chip and the snug-fitting earpads. While we tested them at a noisy cafe, the AirPods Max managed to drown out most of the external sound. The headphones also come with a transparency mode that lets in ambient sounds.
Both noise-cancelling and transparency have just one level of setting. This is a bit limited in terms of control when comparing with headphones in the same category. The AirPods Max also have a host of sensors on each earcup like an optical sensor, position sensor, case detect sensor and an accelerometer. There is also a gyroscope on the left earcup apart from the other sensors. The gyroscope is mainly responsible for calibrating the Spatial Audio.
The headphones also feature 2 tactile controls, a push-button and a digital crown. The push-button switches between noise cancellation and transparency modes. The digital crown has multiple functions like volume control, invoking Siri, play, pause and skip of tracks. We found on multiple instances that the digital crown was accidentally pressed while adjusting the headphone. The AirPods Max, like all Apple products, syncs instantaneously with other iOS devices and can control the headphones.
Battery life and connectivity
The battery life of 20 hours as advertised does live up to the claims. We found that on testing the AirPods Max the battery did last close to 20 hours. Although you can’t turn the device off fully, the headphones enter an ultra low power mode while using the Smart Case. After using the headphones several times with the Smart Case we found that the power drain was minimal. The AirPods Max also comes with Bluetooth 5 connectivity and the connection was quite stable. The pairing is straight forward and simple with most devices but works seamlessly with other Apple products.
Our verdict for the AirPods Max remains mixed for a few reasons. Firstly, you need to be an Apple user to enjoy full functionality. The Spatial Audio and Automatic switching functions only work on iOs devices. High-Resolution Audio Support is only for Apple’s Digital Master’s and could be a deal-breaker for some. The Smart Case does little to protect the headphones and at this price range, could be better designed. All said and done, the Airpods Max is a great pair of headphones if you are willing to shell a few extra dollars and are a loyal Apple user. They have seamless connectivity with the Apple ecosystem and could be a coveted addition for the loyal Apple user.