Apple recently launched AirPods Max, a $549 pair of wireless, noise-cancelling headphones. But are they worth their hefty price tag considering the fact that you can get a pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones for a substantially lesser amount? At first glance, the AirPods Max look well built, with a stainless steel frame and ear cups, which are made of aluminium. They have a flexible top part, made of a mesh-like material, and come in five colours: Space Grey, Silver, Pink, Green and Sky Blue. They weigh 386 grams, which, in comparison, is more than most noise-cancelling headphones. In the box, they come with just a USB-C to lightning cable and their smart case. The case covers the ear cups and closes magnetically. It does not provide any actual protection to the headphones.
The AirPods Max don’t have a power button; but when they are put in the smart case and the magnet is closed, they move into low power mode. When the magnet is opened, they turn back on, ready for use. The inner ear cups are made of a soft cloth and can be removed, and they also attach magnetically. If the ear cups need to be replaced, a new pair can be bought for $69. As opposed to the more commonly seen touch controls, these headphones use a digital crown, which is essentially a knob that spins around, for volume and media controls. They have sensors to tell if they are on your head, which means they will auto-pause when removed and autoplay when placed back on the user’s head.
As far as the sound quality goes, it is worth the expensive cost. They sound crisp and are perfect for consumer content like listening to music, watching a YouTube video, listening to a podcast or even watching a movie. The nine microphones make the noise-cancelling excellent. They block out almost all background noise. Due to these microphones, even the ambient sound mode is top tier, with it managing to make everything sound organic while also preserving the direction where the sound is coming from. Their range is 30 feet, and they certainly live up to these standards. They show no latency either. The battery life is an average of 16-20 hours which is more than enough to last an average user two to three days. Five minutes of charge gets you around 1.5 hours of listening time, which is undoubtedly impressive.
Another important point to keep in mind is that most of the smart features of these headphones only really function properly if the user is deep in the Apple ecosystem. The headphones will automatically connect to all of your Apple devices. The direction of rotation of the digital crown can be reversed on devices running iOS. Essentially, unless you already have at least one Apple device, they are not really worth it.
To conclude, based on the sound quality and noise-cancelling, the AirPods Max more than justify their price tag. However, one negative aspect is that the case gives no physical protection and the only way to turn the headphones off is using that, which means you always have to use the smart case. This is not something most users would like, but it is a very small fault in what is otherwise another great product from Apple. They are a bit steep price-wise, but if you have the money to spend and already own multiple Apple products, they are totally worth it.