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AirPods Max Review: What’s Our Take On This Most Anticipated Headphone From Apple in 2020

Heads up, Apple fans, the most anticipated headphone launch this year is finally here. We’ve got an in-depth review of the new Apple AirPods Max. 

The Verge

After years of waiting, the new AirPod model from Apple will be released on December 15, 2020. But as expected from every Apple product, there’s always stock shortages. This applies to both Apple Stores and third-party retailers. 

Currently, the price of the AirPods Max is much higher than any of the best over-ear headphones in the market. If you’re expecting a budget-friendly price, we advise you to stop reading from here on out. That’s because you’ll just get disappointed. 

Although Apple is planning to release a sports-friendly variant for this particular model, its price might not be as cheap as you might think. Meanwhile, the new Apple AirPods Max costs about £549, $549, AU$899. 


True to Apple culture, the new AirPods Max comes with a minimalist design. They’re available in many stylish colors such as gray, sky blue, silver, pink and green. It has sleek lines with a stainless steel body. 

The company said, “it has a functional design that means to distribute weight to reduce pressure on the head.” That’s why it’s made from a knitted mesh fabric. And true to its design, the mesh headband does feel comfortable. 

Moreover, the headband frame is made of stainless steel. It has a telescoping arm that is adjustable to get that perfect fit. The frame itself feels durable and made from high-quality materials while at the same time very lightweight. 

We also like the memory foam earcups. It feels very comfortable. Apple said that they’re hooked on to the headband with a mechanism that “distributes and balances the ear cup pressure and it allows them to rotate to fit perfectly on the user’s head. 

The on-ear controls also come with a minimalist design with the Digital Crown dial like the Apple Watch. The company said it allows accurate volume control while allowing you to play or pause audio, answer and end phone calls, skip tracks, and activate Siri. 

You can simply turn the dial to adjust the volume, press once to play or pause music, press once to answer or end calls, press twice to skip track, or press three times to skip backward. True enough, the dial does feel more precise when adjusting the volume as compared to the button or swipe controls.  

Furthermore, we liked the fact that Apple didn’t opt for touch-sensitive housings. That’s because they’re volatile, and the gestures are hard to remember. Also, the right earcup features a noise control button that allows you to switch from active noise cancellation to Transparency mode. 

The Transparency mode allows background noises to pass through the headphones. When the headphone needs to be charged, you can find the Apple Lightning port at the bottom of the ear cup. 

Unfortunately, the 3.5mm audio port is not included. If you want to listen with a wired connection, you’ll need to purchase the Lightning 3.5mm audio adapter for $35. What’s included in the AirPods Max package is the weird-looking Smart Case. But this isn’t just an ordinary case. 

According to Apple, the case places the headphone in an ‘ultralow-power state,’ which conserve battery charge when the headphone is in use. In fact, the Smart Case was compared to a sleeping mask, bra, and a handbag by amused Twitter users.

Being made from a rubberized material, it wraps around the earcups of the headphone and snaps perfectly in place thanks to the magnet installed. The exposed headband adds to what Twitter users call “the handbag look.” 

While the case puts the AirPods Max into a low-power state, we’re not actually sure it could protect the device when you put it in a backpack. In our perspective, with the headphone having this expensive price, a hard case is much appreciated to protect the headphone from damage. 

Sound Quality 

The Apple AirPods Max has warm and powerful bass, but it’s tight enough to for the other frequencies to bleed out. When you listen to Romantic violin, it sounds sweet and clear while the vocals are smooth and noticeable. 

It has a wide soundstage with a lot of room for all the instruments to stand out. This closed-off sensation isn’t that common with over-ear headphones. Moreover, it has a lot of detail, the imaging is great, and we didn’t have any issues with sound quality. 

The headphones’ inside are 40mm dynamic drivers powered by a dual neodymium ring magnet. According to the company, it allows the AirPods Max to keep the total harmonic distortion to less than 1% across all audible ranges. This allows the clearer sound and eliminates distortion even in higher volumes. 

Unfortunately,  the AirPods Max Hi-Res audio files are still limited to Apple’s Digital Masters tracks. These tracks are only available through Apple Music. This gave a limiting feel if you expect comprehensive codec support for the price. 

Likewise, the AirPods max comes with the same Apple H1 chip in each ear cup, just like the AirPods and AirPods Pro. The H1 chip features about 10 audio cores for Adaptive EQ, active noise cancellation, spatial audio, and Transparency mode. 

Moreover, the Spatial Audio feature is part of the iOS 14, which came when the AirPods Pro was released. Also, it works in 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos, which positions the sound within a virtual sphere. 

So, if you’re watching a Dolby Atmos film when the plane flies overboard, it will sound exactly as if the plane really is passing over your head. 


The connectivity is via Bluetooth 5. This makes pairing time much faster, and you don’t lose your connection even if you’re away from your source device. In fact, it can manage up to 800 feet / 420 meters. This includes a number of thick walls in between the AirPods Max and the source. 

According to Apple, the AirPods Max requires iOS 14.3 or later, iPadOS 14.3 or later, macOS Big Sur 11.1 or later, watchOS 7.2 or later, tvOS 14.3 or later. Likewise, it also works with Android and Windows devices. However, Spatial Audio or Automatic Switching is not available. 

The Automatic Switching feature helps users to easily switch  between iPhone, Mac, and iPad. This is beneficial when you’re switching from listening to music, taking calls, etc. It also allows users to share audio between two sets of AirPods from any Apple device. This includes Apple TV 4K or the iPod Touch. This lets you and your friend listen to the same music simultaneously. 

Apple also includes Siri support, which lets you use voice commands when playing music, make phone calls, adjust the volume, and get directions when you’re traveling or on the move. In addition, Siri can also read your incoming messages. 

Battery life  

According to Apple, the AirPods Max allows up to 20 hours of battery life. That means you have a lot of time for making calls, listening to music, and streaming movies, among other things. Here’s another good thing. That’s even with Active Noise Cancellation. 

While the best over-ear headphones claim about 30 hours of battery life, a lot of excellent models actually work around 20 hours. This is enough for a whole day of use. It only depends on how long your ears can carry the headphones. 

Noise Cancellation 

As expected from Apple AirPods Max, the noise cancellation is pretty strong. The ear cups feature three microphones facing outside. This helps detect environment noise while a single microphone inside the ear cups helps monitor the sound reaching your ear. 

Apple said the headphones use computational audio to constantly adapt its noise cancellation performance depending on the fit and current movement of the user. Additionally, the Transparency mode is very useful too. 

All you have to do is press the noise cancellation button located on the right earcup. This will allow the environmental noise to pass through the earcups. It’s beneficial when you’re into a quick conversation without you having to stop the music.