Ok. To be fair to Apple, they have been doing pretty well recently. The M1 Macs have proven to be one of the most powerful ultrabooks ever made for a reasonable price, the iPhone 12 is a very good value for what it offers, and its Airpods line while a little pricey have the best true-wireless earphones experience on the market. So, when Apple announced a pair of noise-canceling headphones for S$850, I was skeptical. So, I decided to read up more on them, and here are my thoughts on the Apple Airpods Max.

Preliminary Verdict

Source: Apple

These are great headphones, but they are not worth it. If you want a pair of excellent noise-canceling headphones, get the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 or the Sony WH1000-XM4. Those in my mind are still the best pairs of noise-canceling everyday headphones. Only if you’re willing to pay the near S$400 jump for a better noise-canceling and Apple integration, then get these.

They are good headphones, but not worth the S$400 premium unless you need the Apple integration and better sound quality.

Full-Metal Comfortable Jacket

Stainless steel frames with aluminum earcups make for a heavy headphone, 400 grams to be exact. However, the mesh headband (that I am still undecided on the looks) do enough weight distribution that they should not be a problem for most people. Everything feels and looks premium, and it fits Apple’s design DNA. Mesh earcups means they will be more breathable then leather/faux-leather earcups, and they will be comfortable to wear for long hours.

Transparency Mode. Oh. My.

Before we get into sound quality, I want to cover something that I think Apple has got on point- Transparency Mode. For those who are unfamiliar, this mode makes the headphones amplify your surroundings using the various microphones it has. Usually, the sound is a little artificial, but these are insane. They sound so true to life that there will be moments that you forget that you have your headphones on. If you have any of the previous Airpods, you’ll know what I’m trying to say. Apple’s transparency mode is the best in the market, period.

How do they Sound?

Source: Apple

Great. These are so far looking to be the best sounding wireless noise-canceling headphones. They have a wide sound-stage and great instrument separation, meaning that you will be able to discern individual instruments in your music and be able to hear where the said instrument is coming from. There is good bass without sacrificing mids and highs, meaning everything from vocals to high-hats is clear and not shrill sounding. Basically, they sound great and better than the Bose (which has a similar sound but less defined vocals) and the Sonys (which bass is too overpowering for my taste).

They sound better than Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and the Sony WH1000-XM4.

Stupid Case. Stupid.

Source: Apple

The one knock I have against these is the case they come with. These are ridiculously stupid. Memes regarding its looks aside, they do nothing to protect the most vulnerable part of the headphone (that mesh headband), the port cut-out to charge the headphones is misaligned, and they do nothing other than telling the headphones to turn off. Without the case, be prepared to not have the headphones go on low-power mode when you take them off, basically draining the battery faster. These have decent battery life (claimed 20 hours), but without that low-power mode that the case provides, expect less. This case is really dumb, that’s all.

They don’t protect the headphones sufficiently, they aren’t built well, they force you to use them because they trigger low-power mode. They look stupid, and are stupid.

Wrapping Up

The Airpods Max is a product that I would call a classic Apple product. They are a great product, with a really stupid feature and a ridiculous price. Granted, they aren’t that overpriced in my opinion, but still not worth it nonetheless. They do not compete with audiophile-grade headphones (that cost way more), but they sound better than the “Industry Leaders” of Bose and Sony (consumer headphones).

These are a great pair of headphones, they’re built well, have nice controls, and sound great. But, for S$850, they cost nearly twice as much as the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 and the Sony WH1000-XM4, and they definitely do not sound twice as good. Furthermore, the Bose and Sony have a way better case (not that it’s a high bar to clear) and better battery life. With this in mind, it’s just very difficult for me to fully recommend the Airpods Max, so in conclusion, just get the Bose or Sonys.

They are a great set of headphones, but the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 and Sony WH1000-XM4s are much better valued.

The AirPods Max is available starting at S$849 in Singapore.

Also, read up about our two-cents on other Apple products like the iPhone 12 and iPhone SE 2020.

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