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TIMO ZIMMERMANN

balancing software engineering & infosec

Thoughts on AirPods Max

posted on Dec. 9, 2020, 10:03 p.m. in apple, news

$550 for a headset. That is a lot of money… but at the same time this is less than some people pay for cables. The audio market is a curious one: Some people „can hear things“ you can physically not hear. Others cannot tell the difference if frequencies below 1000 Hz are present or not. From „I do not care“ to „I CAN SEE SOUND“, everyone finds a spot on the audio spectrum represented in most discussions.

It is easy to focus on the price and declare the AirPods Max a sad joke. Especially considering Apples last over ear headphones are not that well regarded. There are enough people who like their Beats Studio 3. I am not one of them, but this shows that a lot is subjective when it comes to what you consider good audio and to an extend good headphones or headsets.

For the price I would expect the AirPods Max to be somewhere in a class between the beyerdynamic MMX 300 and the DT 1990 Pro. (I am picking those two as I am familiar with them and really like them.)

But there’s a catch here: You cannot make a direct comparison between AirPods and traditional headsets. Ease of use, automatic pairing and switching between devices, spatial audio and much more that traditional headsets just don‘t do. Still, I expect them to sound as good as the aforementioned headsets. Surpassingly enough they got a physical button and not one of those insanely stupid touch interfaces, that’s a bonus point. (I would pay extra money for that alone - „AirPods Max Pro Studio Edition, now with two Apple Watch crowns“.)

That being said, I am not in the market for AirPods Max. My Bose and AirPods serve me well when on the road and at home I prefer my MMX 300.
I really like my AirPods Pro. The noise cancellation is great for their size, battery is okay, they charge quickly enough in the case and they „just work“. I also like my Bose 700s. Super comfortable for long video conferences as long as you only pair them with one device. With two paired devices things get a little bit strange, anything above two and you are in a world of pain trying to understand the unexpected behavior of three or more bluetooth devices. Good luck and make sure you have an alcoholic beverage of your choice near by.

I am still excited to see if Apple managed to build a great headset or if it is just another bluetooth headset you do not really want to use to listen to music. Comfort features alone will not save the AirPods Max – at this price point it has to deliver a great listening experience being able to match other high end headphones. And depending on how good they are $550 might be actually be cheap.