The best AirPods for audiophiles
At $549, the AirPods Max are the definition of luxury audio, offering superb sound quality, a premium and comfortable build, and top-notch noise cancellation.
Pros: Top-notch audio quality noise cancellation, premium design, comfortable fit
Cons: Expensive, no charging case, included case doesn’t protect entire headset, no input options or included cables for other audio connections
The AirPods Max deliver first-rate performance when it comes to audio quality and noise cancellation, all wrapped in an elegant design that outclasses rival headphones from Bose and Sony. But their high price means you need to have a serious budget to afford these headphones, and most people will probably be better off exploring cheaper options from Sony or Bose.
The biggest difference you’ll notice between the AirPods Max and Apple’s other AirPods is, of course, its design. The AirPods Max are Apple’s first pair of over-ear headphones, representing the company’s first major expansion outside of the earbud space.
That alone suggests these headphones are designed for people that care more about audio quality than the average person, and also want a pair of headphones that make a statement when worn in public. They’re not for casual listeners that just want a pair of headphones to get them through their commute.
The AirPods Max come with an Apple-designed driver and 10 audio cores for delivering computational audio, which enables a feature called adaptive EQ. This makes it possible for the headphones to adjust their sound based on the fit of the ear cups. Like the AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max also support spatial audio.
During my testing, I found that the AirPods Max sound significantly crisper, bolder, and louder than the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 headphones, which cost $379. Apple’s headphones also sound more open and clear than Sony’s $350 WH-1000XM4 headphones, although that is a much closer call.
The AirPods Max also deliver when it comes to noise cancellation. I sat underneath an elevated subway that runs above a very busy street near my apartment to put them to the test, and they were able to significantly dull the sound of the train screeching to a halt and nearby traffic whirring by.
Since they’re still AirPods at their core, the AirPods Max also support features like quick pairing with Apple devices. But their included case doesn’t charge them unfortunately, instead it only puts them in low power mode to preserve battery life.
There’s no doubt that the AirPods Max are excellent, but their price probably makes them inaccessible to most people. If you’re an Apple loyalist that cares about having top notch audio and prefers over-ear designs — and are willing to splurge for it — the AirPods Max are the AirPods to get.
But for most people, we’d recommend checking out the significantly cheaper Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, which offer excellent audio and noise cancellation at a cheaper price.