Apple AirPods Max Review: Still Worth it in 2024?

Odi Productions Mar 02, 2024
603 People Read
Apple AirPods Max on desk

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. This site is not intended to provide financial advice and is for entertainment only. 

In this article, I'm going to give my honest review of the popular (and expensive) Apple AirPods Max.

At the time of this writing (February 2024), these headphones retail at a whopping $549.00 USD, but can be had on sale for as low as $477.00 currently.

With that hefty pricetag in mind, I'm going to do my best to share whether these headphones are worth it, and ideally who these headphones are for. I've owned these headphones for a little over 2 years and have quite a few thoughts.

Let's dive right in...



Apple AirPods Max Headphones review in short

Apple AirPods Max side view

The Apple AirPods Max has great sound quality, particularly in the midrange for vocal-forward music (Pop, Rock, Indie), and pleasing, detailed highs without any of the harshness. The bass range is slightly lacking for my tastes (Hip-Hop, EDM) with not enough sub-bass extension and "boom" versus competitors.

The noise-canceling is not the best for plane rides in my opinion, but it works well in an office or coffeeshop setting.

From a design standpoint, they are too heavy, get uncomfortable after 2 hours, the "smart case" is not so smart, but does boast easy Apple ecosystem connectivity.

In short, the AirPods Max is a very good Bluetooth headphone in isolation, but with the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and Sony WF-1000XM5 being currently available for under $300 on sale, compared to the APM's $477 sale price tag, it certainly diminishes its value.

Personally, I have been daily-ing the Sennheiser Momentum 4 which has much better bass while retaining good sound quality all across the spectrum, despite owning the AirPods Max since late 2021 (it is February 2024).

Last thing I want to say is that the APM is probably not even my favorite AirPods in the lineup, as I'm usually reaching for just my basic AirPods 2nd gen, due to the comfort and ease of the tiny earbuds.


Apple AirPods Max Pros and Cons

Apple AirPods Max pulling out of smart case

Pros

  • Midrange is excellent, excels really well for vocals and vocal-forward music such as Pop, Rock, Indie, etc.

  • Highs are pleasing and surprisingly detailed without being harsh

  • Overall a pleasant, crisp sound signature that is not offending

  • Great stereo separation to hear panning of vocals/instruments left and right

  • Great isolation of the layers of vocals/instruments (at least for my trained ears)

  • Ease of the Apple ecosystem connectivity and switching between devices (iPhone, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini, etc)

  • Spatial audio a plus

  • Good Active Noise Cancelation (ANC) for office / coffeeshop environments, not so much on a plane

  • Top-band comfort is great for low pressure on top of head

Cons

  • Not enough bass for my tastes compared to competitors like Sennheiser Momentum 4, lacking the "boom" and sub-bass extension. Not enough punchiness in the upper-bass region for my liking.

  • Hip-Hop and EDM genres are not as lively or energetic as Sennheiser and Sony competitors

  • Expensive! Sennheiser Momentum 4 and Sony WF-1000XM5 being currently available for under $300 on sale, compared to the APM's $477 sale price. Are you really getting 50% more headphone?

  • Comfort: Heavy pair of headphones weighing in at 387.8 grams on my scale (Sennheiser Momentum 4 is only 290 grams). Although the top-band is comfortable, the earcups receive the clamping force, also making ears very warm within 2 hours.

  • The "smart case" is not so smart. Having to put the headphones in there each time to turn them fully "off" is annoying. The best design would've been a simple power button or clearly-marked on/off toggle on the headphones itself. This is a design oversight IMO.


Sound Quality: 7.9 / 10

Make no mistake, despite the hefty pricetag, the Apple AirPods Max is decent when it comes to sound quality, at least for Bluetooth headphones.

I think where the APM excels the most is the entire midrange, which allows vocals and vocal-forward music to shine.

Vocals jump out and sound quite full and detailed.

The highs are also surprisingly detailed for a Bluetooth closed-back headphone, and they've tuned out the harshness so the sound is never offending or sibilant.

I find the stereo separation and layering to be quite good actually, being able to pinpoint and separate the layers of vocals and instruments with relative ease.

This is typically a challenge for closed-back headphones due to lacking the open-back headphones' acoustics and physics.

(But I do wonder if part of this might be my trained ears from being a music producer.)

Now my biggest gripe with the sound quality is certainly the bass region.

The recent headphones I have been daily-ing are the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and the Meze Neo 99, both of which excel with bass.

At least compared to those 2, I find the APM's sub-bass extension, mid-bass punch, and overall "boom" to be lacking.

Of course, the excellent mid-range came at a cost, and Apple chose the mids over bass region.

Perfectly understandable for the target market, but I listen to every genre, and these are simply not as fun to listen to for Hip-Hop, Rap, Metal, and EDM versus the competitors from Sennheiser and Sony.


Comfort: 3.5 / 5

Apple AirPods Max on scale weighing 387.8 grams

The AirPods Max are HEAVY weighing in at 387.8 grams on my scale.

But, I'll give credit to Apple, they are much more comfortable than this heavy weight suggests.

Starting with the positives, the top-band comfort is awesome for minimal pressure on top of head. Something that my Sennheiser Momentum 4 sadly lacks.

But I think the pressure is applied to the clamping force of the earcups.

These definitely aren't like the Sony's that "you almost forget that you're wearing them", no way.

Also, the material of the earcups is not my preference. Apple states they use "acoustically engineered memory foam and mesh textile", but I'd much prefer they just stick to memory foam leather or pleather which is much softer on the skin.

My biggest gripe with the comfort of the APM is that my ears get quite warm within less than 1 hour of listening.

Combine that with the clamping force, and I rarely EVER wear these for over 2 hours at most.

That is a shame because I'd prefer to be able to wear headphones for the entire workday.


Features / Looks / Noise-Canceling: 4.0 / 5

Apple AirPods Max smart case

From a design standpoint, the AirPods Max are beautiful.

Very distinct Apple-esque design that is easy to pick out from a crowd, and on YouTube thumbnails.

My only gripe is that I think the earcups are just about 10-20% too large in size.

I think if they were closer to just barely fitting around the ear, they would be even sleeker and the best looking headphones ever.

Before writing this review, I would have thought that the APM absolutely HAD to score a 5/5 for the features category.

But I'm knocking 1 point for the ANC and the "smart case".

First off, the ANC is good for office / coffeeshop environments, but it's sadly not up to standard for wearing on a plane - which is where I truly value ANC.

I still remember the first time I took these on a flight, excited to truly test them out for travel.

Sadly, I was disappointed within the first hour of the flight. Doesn't drown out as much noise as other ANC Bluetooth headphones I have tested in the past.

I have one theory that the reason for this is due to the rigid earcup material and rectangular-ish shape of the earcups. I think due to these factors, the passive noise isolation is not as good because the earcups are not completing sealing your ears (at least for my head shape).

Next, the "smart case". I have written "smart case" in quotes this entire article to emphasize the irony in such a contraption.

There is nothing "smart" about this case, having to put your headphones into a case to truly turn them OFF is incredibly bad user experience.

For the most part, I don't like to keep the case of my headphones close-by, and I hate having to put them in and out.

Just give us a simply on/off power button or toggle.

Where the APM is redeemed is in the Apple ecosystem connectivity and ease of switching between Apple devices and computers.

If you are an Apple ecosystem user like myself, it's a night and day difference to other headphones that have trouble switching from device to device.

Also, Spatial Audio is a nifty feature and can enhance certain listening experiences such as enhanced audio that supports it, TV, and movies.


Value: 3.0 / 5

I've emphasized this earlier but, it has to be restated.

The leading competitors to the APM, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 and Sony WF-1000XM5, are currently available for under $300 on sale, compared to the APM's $477 sale price.

That's over 50% more expensive, and I don't see anywhere on the APM that you are receiving 50% more value.

It would be hard to argue that you are receiving anything that the Sennheiser or Sony's don't offer other than the Apple ecosystem and brand.

Where the APM value gets redeemed is the Apple Ecosystem simplicity, decent ANC, exterior looks, premium materials, and Spatial Audio.

Again, the APM is a decent Bluetooth headphone in isolation, but that high pricetag is truly hurting the value part of the equation.


Sound Quality: 7.9 / 10

Comfort: 3.5 / 5

Features / Noise-Canceling: 4.0 / 5

Value: 3.0 / 5

Total: 18.4 / 25

Apple AirPods Max Headphones Overall Rating: 7.4 / 10

Apple AirPods Max in Space Gray

Are the Apple Airpods Max Worth it?

I really, really wanted to love the AirPods Max, as a fan of the Apple ecosystem and the regular AirPods earbuds.

(And for the price I paid, anything short of love would be a disappointment.)

After owning my pair since late 2021, now closing in on close to 2 years of ownership, I have to say that I truly have mixed feelings about these headphones.

On one hand, they have great sound quality and are truly pleasing to listen to.

On the other, I think that the competition from Sennheiser and Sony is just too good these days.

Factor in the price, and I'm reaching for my Sennheiser Momentum 4 every time.

I still do think that for the target market that Apple is most likely focused on, the APM checks all the boxes and unless you've tested the competitor's thoroughly, would be perfectly content.

Check current prices and/or purchase the Apple AirPods Max below!

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FAQ

Are the new AirPods Max 2 coming out soon?

There is no official release date for the AirPods Max 2 at the time of this writing, but it is rumored to be before the end of 2024.

Which is better, Airpods Max or Airpods Pro (gen 2)?

The Airpods Max have superior sound quality and are wireless over-ear headphones as opposed to Airpods Pro, which are wireless in-ear buds. This will depend on your preference and needs, as the Airpods Max are more bulky.

Can Airpods Max make and answer calls? Does it have a mic?

Yes, the Airpods Max has 3 microphones and connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone to make and answer phone calls. You can pickup calls by clicking the digital crown on the headphones themselves.

How long does the Airpods Max battery last?

The battery lasts up to 20 hours of listening time, and a quick 5-minute charge can last up to 1.5 hours of listening time.

Does Airpods Max leak sound?

The Airpods Max doesn't leak much sound due to the closed-back over-ear design, although the seal is not as tight as some other headphones due to the square-ish shape of the earcups.


Read Next

Sennheiser Momentum 4 vs Apple AirPods Max side by side

Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones on desk

Disclosure:  Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. This site is not intended to provide financial advice and is for entertainment only.