Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Max: Owner Comparison (2024)

Odi Productions Mar 19, 2024
35 People Read
Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Max side by side

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. 

In this article, I'm going to share my HONEST experience with the Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs Apple AirPods Max in detail, after personally owning both products. I have thoroughly tested each of these headphones, and aim to offer a critical opinion from the perspective of an audiophile and professional music producer.

I'll be comparing these two head to head on categories like price, comfort, features, battery life, noise cancelling, and sound quality.

Then at the end, I'll share which is the better overall value for the money, and my overall recommendation on which you should buy.


Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Max Price Compared

At the time of this writing, the AirPods Pro 2 are priced at $249 retail, but available on Amazon below for as low as $199.

(Want to save an additional $20 on AirPods Pro 2? Order the Renewed Version below which is currently around $179.)

On the other hand, the AirPods Max is currently more than TWICE the price of the AirPods Pro 2 at the moment.

The AirPods max retails for a whopping $549, but can be found on Amazon for around $479 brand new.

(Want to save $30 on AirPods Max? Order the Renewed Version below for around $449 instead.)


Order HERE for the LOWEST PRICE AVAILABLE 

(Do NOT pay retail): 

Save up to $20 with Renewed below:

Save up to $30 with Renewed below:

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Comfort

Apple AirPods Max on scale weighing 387.8 grams

Let's start with comfort, which of these headphones is more comfortable to wear all day?

Well, let's start by discussing the differences.

The AirPods Pro 2 is not technically classified as a headphone, but as "true wireless earbuds" instead. This is a fairly newer category of consumer electronics that has exploded in popularity in recent years.

"True wireless earbuds" are very small earbuds that you insert the silicone tip into your ear canal to form a seal, which delivers sound more directly while blocking out outside noise.

On the other hand, the AirPods Max is a traditional full-size over-ear headphones, with a "closed-back" design.

This means that the earcups are designed to completely enclose your ear, also passively blocking out outside noise in the process.

The AirPods Max are quite heavy, weighing in just under 388 grams on my scale.

So which is more comfortable to wear all day?

Personally, I find the AirPods Pro 2 much more comfortable due to not having to deal with earcup clamping force, heat buildup inside the enclosed earcups, or the heavy weight of the AirPods Max.

Although the top of head pressure for the AirPods Max is less than I expected considering its weight, I was finding it uncomfortable to wear the headphones for more than 1-2 hours at a time.

In contrast, many people report that they "forget they're even wearing" the AirPods Pro 2 due to how unencumbered the tiny earbuds are.

The only reason the AirPods Pro 2 doesn't get a perfect comfort score is that I find having to insert the eartip into the ear canal just slightly uncomfortable over the regular AirPods.

I actually upgraded to memory foam eartip replacements and have noticed a decent improvement, so the stock eartips are not the best solution available.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 Comfort: 4.5 out of 5

Apple AirPods Max Comfort: 3.5 out of 5

Winner: AirPods Pro 2


Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling

Apple AirPods Max smart case

Features

When it comes to features, with both being Apple products, the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max are fairly evenly matched.

They both are Bluetooth wireless, active noise cancelling, and support Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos.

Being Apple products, they connect and switch between multiple Apple devices fairly seamlessly. This is a bigger struggle for other brands that have trouble switching even between just 2 devices, not to mention 3.

The seamless switching between iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, and back again is one of my favorite features of these headphones.

One of my knocks on the AirPods Max is the poorly-designed "Smart Case". Apparently the headphones have to be put into this case if you want to fully turn them OFF, there isn't a dedicated on/off switch.

I found this annoying as I'd typically find the AirPods Max to be low battery because of this.

The AirPods Max charges with lightning port on the earcup, whereas the latest AirPods Pro 2 has been upgraded to USB C on the charging case.

Looks

Apple products are beautiful and elegant, as always.

The entire AirPods line is already a modern classic, with the iconic white stems sticking out from people's ears being easy to spot and distinguish. Something of the future.

The AirPods Max has a fairly minimalist and distinct design as well, but I found the earcups to be slightly too big as far as proportions.

Basically, I think they look better off the head than on, but this is purely subjective.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Max Battery Life Comparison

AirPods Pro 2 USB C charging case port

The Apple AirPods Pro 2 is rated at only 6 hours of battery life on a single charge, with up to 30 hours total using the USB C charging case. Apple claims up to 20 hours for battery life for the AirPods Max.

Battery life is one category where the AirPods Max has a clear advantage, lasting over 3x as long on a single charge versus the AirPods Pro 2.

In real world testing, I actually found both devices to be a little closer than the advertising suggests, because I was having issues conserving the battery life of the AirPods Max.

They are supposed to automatically turn off and conserve battery, but I frequently found mine on low battery when not putting it in the Smart Case, which is an added hassle.

On the other hand, the AirPods Pro 2 have a 5 minute "quick-charge" option that gives 1 hour of listening time.

Still, 6 hours of total listening time on the AirPods Pro 2 will mean your workday will require a charge daily. For me, I also like to use them after work so they definitely need to be charged once per day.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs Apple AirPods Max Noise Cancelling: Which is Better?

I found the AirPods Max to have superior noise cancelling to the AirPods Pro 2, due to its closed-back earcup design that isolates outside noise better.

Both the Apple AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max come with active noise cancellation that actively filters outside noise using the built-in microphones.

To my surprise, the AirPods Pro 2 noise cancelling was much more effective than I was expecting from such a tiny form factor versus the cumbersome AirPods Max, and other over-hear headphones.

This makes sense as the AirPods Pro 2, when worn correctly, creates a seal inside your ear canal, acting like earplugs.

That said, the traditional over-ear, closed-back earcup design of the AirPods Max simply means your entire ear is covered and enclosed all of the time.

I would rate the AirPods Pro 2 noise cancelling just one level below the AirPods Max, which is decent but also not the best I've ever heard.

Due to superior battery life and noise cancelling performance, the AirPods Max slightly edges out the AirPods Pro 2 in this category.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 3.5 out of 5

Apple AirPods Max Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 4.0 out of 5

Winner: AirPods Max


Apple AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Max Sound Quality Comparison

AirPods Pro 2 memory foam eartip replacement

As an audiophile and a professional music producer, sound quality has always been the MAIN priority for me when critiquing headphones.

(Don't worry, I'm not one of those pretentious audiophiles, just someone who truly loves playing and listening to music.)

Apple has always been a brand that has appealed to the creative industry and artists, ranging from their Garageband and Logic Pro software, to their consumer-level iPod and iTunes (RIP).

Up until their acquisition of the Beats by Dre brand in 2014 for a whopping $3 Billion, they hadn't delved too much into headphones aside from the cheap earbuds they used to include with a purchase.

This is important to note because Apple doesn't frequently make acquisitions, despite sitting on a hefty war chest of cash and the ability to acquire companies if they wanted to.

They obviously saw $3B worth of value and alignment with the Beats headphone brand and this no doubt accelerated their learnings (and more importantly, sales) in consumer audio.

That brings us to today, not only are they still improving Beats headphone products but now they have taken that torch and offered their own spin with the wildly successful AirPods lineup.

With the history lesson out of the way, let's dive into the sound quality characteristics one by one...

Bass

The AirPods Pro 2 shocked me with how good the sound quality can be coming from a "true wireless earbud", and a large part of that is due to the bass performance.

I prefer the bass on the AirPods Pro 2 over the AirPods Max, and let me tell you why.

The AirPods Pro 2 has very good sub-bass extension to the lowest frequencies, and a very physical bass impact, which I found superior to that on the AirPods Max.

Simply put, the bass region was lacking for me on the AirPods Max for modern genres like Pop, Hip Hop, EDM, and others that utilize sub-bass like 808s and bass synths.

So if you're a bass-head like I am (sometimes), the AirPods Max is simply not as engaging or scratches that itch like the AirPods Pro 2 can.

The AirPods Pro 2 excels with modern music and is not lacking in the bass department.

Mids

Both the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max handle mids quite well, but I'd give a slight edge to the AirPods Max.

Typically with headphones that excel with bass, mids tend to be recessed, but the AirPods Pro 2 surprised me with their natural presentation of vocals and instruments.

I believe the mids to be what the AirPods Max engineers focused on primarily, and I will say I do think they did well here.

This leads me to believe that the AirPods Max was aimed for more vocal-forward and instrument-forward genres like Classic Rock, Acoustic, Classical, Jazz, etc.

I find both headphones to be enjoyable when it comes to vocals, with a bit more detail and body in the AirPods Max, especially for male vocals and guitars.

Treble

Like the mids, I really like how the AirPods Pro 2 presents the treble in a natural way.

Both the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max have virtually no sibilance to my ear, which is that harshness you can hear from "sss" sounds.

I found both headphones to be detailed but smooth, which is really important as any harshness or strident sound comes from the treble region and really hurts the listening experience.

I'd say it's a tie for treble, maybe ever so slightly lean towards the AirPods Pro 2.

Audiophile: Soundstage, Resolution, Separation, Imaging, Timbre

It's amazing how far technology has come in the last 10 years.

It's one thing for wireless over-ear headphones to improve, but the "true wireless earbuds" category is really exciting to me, and the sales data shows the market is excited as well.

I would put the resolution of both headphones at around a "1440p" compared to a "4k resolution" of a true hi-end headphone like the $2,000 Hifiman HE1000SE.

The soundstage is nice and wide on both the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max, but they are lacking in depth. They simply don't sound as "3D" or open and spacious as the hi-fi stuff.

There's a slight compressed quality and "thinness" to the sound when A/B'ing back and forth.

I did find the timbre to be realistic and natural, even moreso on the AirPods Pro 2 which surprised me.

The separation and imaging is decent on both headphones, nothing to complain about to my ear, just not as effortless or nuanced as the HE1000SE.

Because of the awesome bass performance and more natural presentation of the AirPods Pro 2, I give it the slight edge over the AirPods Max, but both have strong sound quality.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 Sound Quality: 8.1 out of 10

Apple AirPods Max Sound Quality: 7.9 out of 10

Winner: AirPods Pro 2


Value

When I first saw the $249 pricetag for AirPods Pro 2, I thought to myself, "no way would I ever spend that much for some AirPods".

And this is coming from someone who LOVES their regular AirPods (2nd gen). But I love those for comfort and practicality, not their sound quality.

But I said the same thing about the $549 retail pricetag on the AirPods Max, which I ended up buying on sale for around $479 during Black Friday out of pure curiosity.

After having now purchased and owned both pairs of headphones, that $249 retail price on the AirPods Pro 2 isn't looking so bad anymore.

I was able to pickup my pair of AirPods Pro 2 for just $190, furthering the gap and savings from the AirPods Max.

I'll be honest, this is where the AirPods Max loses a couple points, and where the AirPods Pro 2 gets a perfect rating for value.

At under $200 on sale, I never thought I'd say this but the AirPods Pro 2 is a steal compared to the $479+ AirPods Max, which is much more likely to elicit buyer's remorse.

Apple AirPods Pro 2 Value: 5 out of 5

Apple AirPods Max Value: 3.0 out of 5

Winner: AirPods Pro 2


Apple AirPods Pro 2 Overall Rating: 8.4 / 10

  • Sound Quality: 8.1 / 10

  • Comfort: 4.5 / 5

  • Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 3.5 / 5

  • Value: 5.0 / 5

  • Total: 21.1 / 25


Apple AirPods Max Headphones Overall Rating: 7.4 / 10

  • Sound Quality: 7.9 / 10

  • Comfort: 3.5 / 5

  • Features / Battery Life / Noise Cancelling: 4.0 / 5

  • Value: 3.0 / 5

  • Total: 18.4 / 25


Overall Winner: AirPods Pro 2

Apple AirPods Pro 2 next to USB C charging case

What a time to be alive! If you told me 10 years ago that wireless earbuds would beat out traditional headphones that cost twice as much, I'd be skeptical to say the least.

But here we are today, and our winner in this head-to-head comparison is the Apple AirPods Pro 2, which I wholeheartedly recommend over the AirPods Max.

The AirPods Pro 2 genuinely surprised me with its sound quality, which I prefer the sound signature over the AirPods Max due to its sweet bass response while still maintaining a natural timbre.

This isn't an easy feat, even for over-ear open-back headphones!

The AirPods Max still has some redeeming qualities such as 3x the battery life and superior active noise cancelling vs the AirPods Pro 2.

But at less than HALF the price of a pair of AirPods Max, it's hard for me to ignore the value that a pair of AirPods Pro 2 brings to the table today.

No matter which you choose, I guess the real winner today is you, the consumer, as the options have never been so competitive or tempting.

I'll continue enjoying my AirPods Pro 2 on a daily basis...

... that is until the AirPods Pro 3 arrives :)


Order HERE for the LOWEST PRICE AVAILABLE 

(Do NOT pay retail): 

Save up to $20 with Renewed below:

Save up to $30 with Renewed below:

Disclosure: These links may provide a discount and in return, give us a commission in order to run the website 🙂


Frequently Asked Questions

Do AirPods Max sound better than AirPods Pro 2?

Both Apple's AirPods Max and AirPods Pro 2 sound very good, but I prefer the enhanced bass response and sound signature of the AirPods Pro 2.

What is the difference between AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max?

The biggest difference between the AirPods Pro 2 and AirPods Max is that the AirPods Pro 2 is a "true wireless earbud", while the AirPods Max is a wireless over-ear headphone. This means that the AirPods Pro 2 is much smaller and is inserted into your ear canal, whereas the AirPods Max is a traditional headphone that covers your entire ear.

Are AirPods Pro 2 louder than AirPods Max?

In my experience, I found the AirPods Pro 2 to put out louder volumes than the AirPods Max, perhaps because they are directly inside the ear canal and don't need as much volume.

Is Noise Cancelling better on AirPods Max?

Yes, I find the Noise Cancelling to be slightly superior on the AirPods Max over the AirPods Pro 2 due to the over-ear, closed-back headphone design.

What makes AirPods Max better than AirPods Pro 2?

I would say the AirPods Max has superior battery life at up to 20 hours vs just 6 hours on the AirPods Pro 2. Also, the noise cancelling performance is slightly better.

Which AirPods have the best sound quality?

In my opinion, the AirPods Pro 2 has the best overall sound quality, followed by the AirPods Max. The AirPods Pro 2 has better bass response and is more engaging to listen to than the AirPods Max. However, both headphones are another level compared to regular AirPods.


How We Tested and Our Methodology

RecordingNOW.com is a 100% independent publisher with over 10 years of experience testing and reviewing consumer electronics and headphones.

We currently purchase the products we test with our own money, and are not paid by any company or manufacturer to influence our opinions or decisions.

After purchasing the product, we conduct up to hundreds of hours of detailed hands-on testing in a controlled, acoustically-treated environment.

ODi Productions is our resident expert and author of this article, with 10 years of experience as a professional music producer, tech journalist, and audiophile.


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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.