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TIMO ZIMMERMANN

balancing software engineering & infosec

Review: AirPods Max

posted on Feb. 10, 2021, 2:06 p.m. in apple, hardware, review

When the AirPods Max were announced I mainly saw two really different reactions. Some people were excited - to be fair, they are likely excited about anything Apple releases - and some questioned who would pay so much money for a headset. My first impression was somewhere in the middle. But when my Bose decided to spectacularly fail on me, I decided to give them a try.

Even after using them for two weeks it is hard for me to classify them, and it is even harder to recommend them.

Many reviews I have seen seem like the popular meme:

"can I copy your homework?"
"Sure, just change it a bit"

It feels like every other reviewer heard exactly the same kind of perceived inaccuracy in the highs. I didn't. I like the sound. They hit the sweet spot for me when it comes to balancing bass, mids and highs. That is also pretty much everything I will say about this. If you truly care about the sound you have to listen to them and decide if you like them. They compete with my beyerdynamic, but that was expected.

Using the AirPods Max with multiple devices works flawlessly. Even switching between devices is handled as well as you would expect when you used AirPods before.

I took them on a walk to test them in nature and while walking around town. (Let us not talk about how stupid wearing over ears outside feels…) This turned into a one time thing – they are just bad for anything but using them while indoors and sitting or standing at a desk, couch or while moving carefully around your home or office. It starts with the fact that they are not sitting tightly enough on your head, so when tying my shoes I was keeping my back straighter than during a squad. Noise cancellation works exceptionally well, a bit better than the Bose 700, but transparency mode is something else entirely. It is one of the example of augmented reality not many people talk about as most are focused on visual augmentations. But being able to hear a car drive my way which is still many blocks away was something I did not expect, being used to AirPods Pro.

On the other hand walking around wearing them is really comfortable. The mesh top is something I did not expect to sit so well, there is no pressure on my ears and the the material lets enough air in and out, so I do not start sweating.

They perform well during conference calls. People can hear me well and there is no clatter or fizzling you might hear with some headsets when the other end has a slightly messed up input signal.

The "bag" that is included is even more stupid when you see it in real life. I have no idea who ever thought "You know what people want who pay so much money for a headset? Something that does only protects 50% of the headset when throwing it in a bag". Luckily WaterField and Pad & Quill stepped up with some cases that look really solid. They also got magnets build in to send the headphones in the "deep sleep" mode which saves even more battery than the regular standby. Even without magnetically disabling them, battery life is really good and the AirPods Max do not seem to loose a lot of charge sitting on a headset stand.

Now to the big question: Should you get them? Perhaps, I guess.
Overall, they are better than cheaper, premium ANC headsets. They cannot compete with cheaper headphones specifically built for the higher end audio market though. They exceed all other AirPods. If you want comfort and the best possible sound while still having all AirPod features or if you want slightly better than premium ANC headsets and do not care about the price - go for it. Otherwise you might be better off with Sony or Bose.