Apple’s premium headphones cost an absolute fortune, but is the sound quality similarly rich? Find out in our concise review.
What we love — They look lovely, and sound superb
The AirPods Max are a statement piece for Apple apostles and audiophiles alike – the unmistakable unique design will attract attention. That’s good news if you want to stand out from the crowd, as I imagine most people who spend this much on a pair of headphones would wish for, but otherwise you might feel vulnerable wearing such pricey cans in public.
Fortunately they’re very comfortable to wear, and slot snugly into place with other devices in the Apple ecosystem, including Mac computers and mobiles such as the iPhone 12.
The sound quality is of course the most crucial concern, and it is highly impressive. Balanced and with a great amount of versatility and a strong bass input, the audio is as good as any other premium headphones around. Enhancements such as Spatial Audio and Transparency Mode give this pair of headphones an advantage over its competitors.
The AirPods Max have a decent battery life (approximately 20 hours of listening time, though irritatingly they lose charge relatively quickly when not in use.
What we don’t like — Very expensive, very heavy, and there are a few ergonomic pitfalls
When announced, the headlines didn’t concern themselves with features or fashion but with price: these cans cost £549. Not only is that a huge sum to pay for consumer headphones, but the sound quality is not leagues ahead of Sony or Bose’s top-of-the-line headphones, which won’t set you back by so much.
Bearing in mind that prohibitive price, each disadvantage weighs more dearly. There’s no cable included for if you want to use a wired connection rather than Bluetooth (it costs an extra £35 — while replacement foam earcups cost £75 a pop); the cable in question is of course Lightning rather than the more universal USB-C; the headphones are heavy (385g) and non-collapsible; and it is housed in an unattractive and impractical carry case that looks like a cross between a bra and a handbag.
If you’re an audiophile Apple devotee who has money to burn and wants everyone else to know, then the Apple AirPods Max were made with you in mind; waste no time, and go grab yourself a pair.
However, if you’re not already locked into Apple’s ecosystem, if you don’t have an easy come, easy go relationship with your disposable income, and if you find the typical Apple eccentricities to be annoying rather than endearing, then you’d do best to browse at Bose or Sony.