Apple Airpods Max 2: what we know, what we want, and how much it will cost
Apple’s first set of wireless headphones — the Airpods Max — launched to great fanfare in 2020. At 549, the aluminum-clad cans raised eyebrows for their price and design. But despite their cost and some odd design decisions (like the lack of an off switch), reviewers were nearly unanimous with their praise, especially for the Max’s standout features, active noise cancellation (ANC), and transparency mode. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely.
Do we actually know anything about the Airpods Max 2? No, we do not. Given that the original Airpods Max are more than two years old, we’d have expected at least some hints at this point, if not full-on leaks. But so far all we’ve got are crickets.
That could mean a few things. It could be that there’s nothing to know. Perhaps the OG Airpods Max are all that there will be, like how the original HomePod turned out to be a one-off. Or it could mean that Apple has upped its secrecy and security game, and it’s just that nothing is leaking.
Or maybe it means that the Airpods Max are on a longer refresh cycle than the other Airpods. Or that we’re just in between, and so there’s nothing yet to know.
Regardless, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to talk about. Here’s what we think could be on the horizon if and when things are updated.
A special case
There’s a lot to like when it comes to the Airpods Max, but most folks seem to agree: the included travel case is terrible. Maybe it’s that it barely protects the earcups and offers zero coverage for that fancy (and comfy) headband. Or maybe it’s that you can’t power down the headphones unless you put them in the case. The bottom line is that Apple’s case — which has earned itself the rather unflattering nickname “the bra” due to its double-cup shape — needs a serious rethink.
Every high-end set of wireless cans we can think of, from the Bowers Wilkins Px7 S2 to the Sony WH-1000XM5, come with a fully protective, contoured and zippered travel case. And we don’t see why the Airpods Max should be the exception. This worst-case scenario should be an easy win for Apple on the Airpods Max 2.
Not to put too blunt a point on it, but Apple needs to fix that case. Full stop.
Lose a little weight
Is it possible for a set of headphones to be both incredibly heavy and surprisingly comfortable? Until the Airpods Max, we’d have said no. Still, there’s no denying that despite weighing in at 13.6 ounces (far more massive than the WH-1000XM5’s 8.8 ounces), Apple’s cans are really comfy. Not so comfy, however, that you can wear them for hours without fatigue. After a while, that weight — again, they’re nearly a full pound — does start to drag you down.
It will be a challenge to shave ounces if Apple sticks with its aluminum and steel materials, but it needs to try. What’s the point of having class-leading active noise cancellation if you just want to rip the headphones off your head two hours into your flight? Apple is a master of materials and design, so we have faith that the Airpods Max 2 can tilt the scales at 10 ounces or less without sacrificing an ounce of luxe.
Fix that sound
Here’s the thing about the Airpods Max. They sound great. But they’re being held back by a baffling decision on Apple’s part.
If you’re a fan of hi-res audio — the kind of sound quality that we think of as better-than-CD-quality — Apple has plenty of lossless, hi-res tracks on Apple Music in up to 24-bit/192kHz. There’s no way to transmit this full, lossless quality to a set of wireless headphones using existing Bluetooth codecs, so wireless headphones typically come with an analog cable that lets you pipe that ultra-high-quality sound from a compatible phone or a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) directly into your cans.
The Airpods Max have an analog cable option (which you must buy separately for a whopping 35), but it doesn’t send an analog signal directly to the drivers. Instead, Apple’s cable takes the analog signal and converts it to digital, but at a lower quality level than true hi-res lossless. There’s currently no way around this limitation.
So we’re hoping that at the very least Apple provides a cable connection that can transmit unprocessed digital audio from a phone or computer to the Airpods Max 2. In an ideal world, a similarly high-quality path would exist for analog signals, too.
Set a new wireless audio standard
A better cable solution would go a long way to giving the Airpods Max 2 the kind of sound quality its predecessor lacked — but why stop there? As a set of wireless headphones, the Airpods Max 2 shouldn’t be tethered if it can be avoided, and Apple is perfectly positioned to revolutionize how wireless audio works.
Bluetooth is limited as far as audio quality goes. Even the latest advances from Qualcomm, which provide lossless CD quality via Snapdragon Sound, can’t rise to the level of lossless hi-res audio. It simply doesn’t have enough bandwidth.
However, ultra-wideband (UWB) does have enough bandwidth — tons of it, in fact — and it’s designed to deliver that bandwidth over very short distances, with very low latency, and very low power consumption. Best of all: Apple already has plenty of experience with UWB — every iPhone since the iPhone 11 has possessed a UWB radio, and Apple’s UWB-based U1 chips now reside in products like the AirTag and the charging case for the second-gen Airpods Pro.
Granted, thus far Apple has only been using UWB for its spatially-sensitive locating capabilities, but we know that the technology can do far more. Let’s hope that Apple makes the Airpods Max 2 the first wireless headphones that eliminate the compromises in sound quality inherent in Bluetooth devices.
Ditch the Lightning port
Speaking of charging, it’s possible that Apple might find a way to add its MagSafe wireless charging tech to the Airpods Max 2. Apple was able to do so on the iPhone as well as the charging cases for the third-gen Airpods and second-gen Airpods Pro, but the Airpods Max 2 could pose a more difficult challenge. MagSafe needs a metal ring to perform the “mag” part of its duties, but the actual wireless charging doesn’t work well through metals like aluminum. And since the current Airpods Max are almost entirely aluminum on any surface that would be big enough for a MagSafe connection, it’s hard to see how that would work.
Still, Apple has been known to place plastic inserts within its aluminum cases when it needs to. We could see Apple integrating a discreet, circular plastic insert on one of the earcups of the Airpods Max 2 — possibly with an Apple logo — to enable this feature.
colors, longer battery life
Do you absolutely need more than 20 hours? Maybe not on a day-to-day basis, but if you’re a frequent traveler you may not find yourself near a power outlet when you need one. Having a little extra wiggle room would be really helpful, so here’s hoping the Airpods Max 2 get a boost in the power department. Though more battery capacity usually means increased weight, which is something we definitely don’t want to see more of on the Airpods Max.
Airpods Max 2 — 5 upgrades we want to see
There are several reasons why the Airpods Max are considered some of the best headphones around. But there are also many ways in which we think Apple’s cans could improve for the Airpods Max 2, or next-gen attempt at an over-ear headset.
We’ve been testing Airpods Max since the headset first launched in December 2020. Both at the time of our initial Apple Airpods Max review and now, well over a year into using them, there are things we’d like in the future of the Airpods Max.
Very few rumors have surfaced regarding the Airpods Max 2, but if we had to guess, we’ll eventually see a refreshed pair of one of the best noise-cancelling headphones we’ve ever worn. Airpods don’t follow the same release schedule as the iPhone, but it seems fitting to update the headset in December 2022, two years after the initial version debuted. That’s simply speculation, though.
For now, we’ve come up with a list of what we hope the Airpods Max 2 will offer compared to the original Airpods Max:
While we like the Airpods Max design, especially the fun color range that lends itself well to the headset’s retro aesthetic, there’s a glaring flaw — the case. The “Smart Case” offers very little protection for the pricey headphones, leaving the headband entirely exposed and susceptible to damage. And since Airpods Max aren’t waterproof, either, the included case leaves ports at risk if water bottle leaks or wet weather permeate your bag.
For now, the solution is buying one of the best Airpods Max cases and covers. Several of the cases we’ve tested are affordable and even have the Smart Case’s magnets, forcing the Airpods Max into a low-power mode when they’re stowed away.
The Airpods Max have a huge quirk: unlike most of our devices, and even other Apple products, there is no power button. Excluding a power button is so odd, and something that we think about almost every time we use Airpods Max.
Although they kick into low-power mode when they’re stationary for several minutes or in the magnetic Smart case, we still think Apple should provide a way to completely power down the Airpods Max. There’s no reason the Digital Crown button can’t also be a power button.
Better battery life
The Airpods Max 20-hour battery life is nothing to scoff at. 20 hours is plenty for a commute, work day or flight on an airplane. And for what it’s worth, the low power mode does a decent job at keeping Airpods Max juiced up, even when they’re not in use.
But some of the best wireless headphones have a longer lasting battery than the Airpods Max. For example, the Sony WH-1000XM5 can last up to 30 hours with ANC activated, making battery life a key difference between the Sony WH-1000XM5 vs. Airpods Max. We’d like to see the next-gen Airpods Max last as long as the 1000XM5.
Greater audio format support
In terms of resolution and detail, the Airpods Max feel like they’re achieving nearly the peak of what’s possible with Apple’s current wireless codec, AAC. But with other companies like Sony investing in new wireless transmission codecs with faster speeds and higher bandwidth, it wouldn’t hurt for Apple to put on its engineering cap to bring something new to the scene.
To that end, what the Airpods Max 2 will really need most is a new codec, one that matches or exceeds the 990Kbps max bitrate / 24-bit depth of LDAC. Right now, AAC is limited to 264Kbps with a 16-bit depth and 96kHz sample rate. That’s CD-quality, but not Hi-Res Audio.
If Apple really wants to sell these as the be-all, end-all wireless headphones, it’s going to need to show audiophiles that it’s doubling its efforts for the most pristine audio performance possible.
Another area that want to see some wiggle room on is the price point. At launch, the Apple Airpods Max cost 549, making them a seriously expensive pair of wireless headphones.
For comparison, the Bose Noise-Cancelling 700 (the company’s flagship wireless headphones) only cost 379 while the Sony WH-1000XM4, the best noise-cancelling headphones of the year, only cost 349. Apple’s over-ears cost 200 more.
We certainly understand that Apple’s products have a premium look and design, but paying 200 more for a pair of wireless headphones felt unreasonable to many. We’re not expecting to see anything in the sub-300 range, but heck, even a 100 price reduction at launch could make the headphones’ higher price more palatable.
Looking for a pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones? Check out the new Sony WH-1000XM5, Bose Noise-Cancelling 700 and, of course, the original Airpods Max.
Airpods Max 2, Airpods 4, and Airpods Pro 3: Here are the latest rumors on when to expect them
With a successful Airpods line, it’s only natural for users to wonder when Apple will release a new generation of the Airpods, Airpods Pro, and Airpods Max. Head below as we round up the latest rumors on when expecting a new version of each of these products…
When Apple will launch a new Airpods Max?
For the high-end Airpods Max model, which was released by the end of 2020, Apple has no plans to release a second generation yet.
Users are expecting Apple to announce a new model since the company released support for Lossless quality with Apple Music last June and Airpods Max technically can’t play in this quality, even via a wired connection
The 549 Airpods Max are expected to stay as they are for some time, but Bloomberg’s Gurman reported in May that Apple could be only planning new colors for the Airpods Max:
“Apple only recently caught up with demand for the product, and it is not currently working on a second generation of the Airpods Max, though it has discussed launching additional color variations in the future.“
As Airpods Max just turned one, it’s still unclear whether the company will ever update these headphones. A concept has imagined what Airpods Max 2 might look like, with features like featuring USB-C MagSafe charging, some level of water resistance, and more colors.
It’s also interesting to take note that Apple is working on a higher quality Bluetooth codec for the current generation Airpods Max. Although improvements are more than welcomed, Apple would need to update the hardware so users can take full advantage of this tech.
With the introduction of the new Airpods Pro 2, Apple could be readying a new H2 chip, improved ANC, and the new Adaptive Transparency feature alongside Bluetooth 5.3 support.
When will Apple launch Airpods 4?
Apple released Airpods 3 in October, a year ago, with a similar look as the Airpods Pro but without the ear tips.
Top comment by Demian
@José Adorno: you wrote ‘As Airpods Max just turned one.’ How exactly did they Airpods Max ‘just turn one’ if they were announced on December 8, 2020 and started to be sold on Dec 15, 2020? I guess it’s a typo?
These wireless earbuds don’t feature ANC or Transparency Mode, although the company says they got a boost in bass compared to their predecessor. They also have 6 hours of battery on a single charge and a new MagSafe Charging Case. Apple also brought support to Dolby Atmos with Spatial Audio with these earbuds.
It’s unclear when Apple will release a follow-up of the Airpods. Since the company is readying the introduction of a new codec, it makes sense whether Airpods 4 features Bluetooth 5.3 support and LC3 codec – but there are no other rumors so far. It could likely feature the new H2 chip.
When will Apple launch Airpods Pro 3?
Airpods Pro 2 were only released a few months ago, and as such, we aren’t expecting a new version anytime soon.
What Airpods are you waiting for Apple to introduce? Tell us in the comment section below.
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Airpods Max are Apple’s premium, over-ear headphones that use computational audio to optimize listening. These expensive headphones hope to penetrate the high-end headphone market with stainless steel and aluminum construction and best-in-class audio. There are five available colors with matte finishes.
Premium over-ear headphones Adaptive EQ ANC and Transparency mode Stainless steel and aluminum materials Two H1 processors with 10 audio cores Supports Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos music Space Gray, Green, Silver, Sky Blue, and Pink #9679 Find great Airpods deals #9679 Discounted start at 425
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The Airpods Max are over-the-ear Apple headphones. They’re packed with modern technology and a uniquely Apple design. These headphones came to market as the in-ear Airpods and Airpods Pro dominated pop culture and sales charts.
The headphones have an Apple H1 chip in each ear cup. This chip is also found in Airpods Pro and second-generation Airpods. Airpods Max also includes Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency Mode, and Spatial Audio. Apple is shipping the headphones in five colors: space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink.
Apple put the headphones up for pre-order on December 8, 2020, with the ship date beginning on December 15, but they quickly sold out. The headphones cost 549, which is much more expensive than Apple’s Beats By Dre brand.
A firmware update in October 2021 added Find My support beyond the basic functionality that existed before. When a device on the Find My network detects the Airpods Max, their location is updated on the map.
A rumor shared in May 2022 suggests that Apple could release new colors for their premium headphones in the fall, but it wouldn’t be an updated model. The new colors were expected to be announced alongside Airpods Pro 2 at an Apple event, but it didn’t happen.
Possibility of Airpods Max 2
It isn’t clear how well Airpods Max have sold or whether they were ever meant to have more than one generation. The product offers excellent audio, but for a high price in a product with limitations on input/output.
A second-generation model would use USB-C
Apple is expected to transition its products to USB-C in the next few years, as the iPhone 15 is likely to use the port. However, Airpods Max may be too expensive a product just to perform a port upgrade — owners wouldn’t have a reason to upgrade.
Another thing going against the existence of Airpods Max 2 is the existence of the Airpods Pro 2. Apple says it built the new earbuds so customers could have the equivalent of Airpods Max in their
While that is a lofty performance goal, it isn’t entirely realistic. The new Airpods Pro sound great, but earbuds will always struggle to compete with dedicated over-ear headphones.
Airpods Max Features
The Airpods Max headband has a canopy design with a synthetic “breathable knit mesh” material. The headband’s primary structure is stainless steel with telescoping arms that adjust the length. Apple says the canopy distributes weight in a way that reduces head pressure.
Airpods Max are available in space gray, sky blue, pink, green, and silver
The ear cups are suspended on a fully adjustable mechanism that rotates independently of the telescoping arm. Apple uses aluminum for the ear cups and a custom-designed mesh textile for the ear cushions.
The new headphones follow the Apple Watch as the second Apple product with a Digital Crown. Located on the right ear cup, users can turn the Digital Crown in either direction for volume control or press it inwards to play/pause, skip tracks, or activate Siri.
Other headphones have opted for touch-sensitive pads or buttons to control playback and volume. Placing all the audio controls in a single dial makes for a more streamlined setup.
Adaptive EQ and ANC
Airpods Max use Adaptive EQ, a feature that continually adjusts the audio to the ear cushions’ fit and seal. It measures the sound signal, changing the low and mid frequencies in real-time. Apple uses real-time data to provide a more robust and detailed audio experience.
AirPods Max 2. Coming Sooner than we Expected?
The earcups ensure a complete seal around a listener’s ear
Six external and two internal microphones listen for audio inside and outside the headphones to adjust playback dynamically. Each song, movie, or sound byte will be dynamically adjusted on the fly – custom for each listener’s fit.
The Airpods Max have Active Noise Cancelation or ANC. This means the headphones use an external microphone to pipe in “anti-noise” to eliminate external noise from your listening experience. An additional mic inside the ear also listens for in-ear noise, negating that.
Pairing headphones that use the H1 processor is fast and easy on iOS
Another use for the ANC technology is something Apple calls “transparency mode.” By utilizing the same techniques for ANC, Apple can pass external audio through to your ears as if you were not wearing headphones at all. This means moving around environments will be much safer as your ears won’t be blocked.
When you go to Apple for the Airpods Max
Apple’s headphones include a noise-control button on the right earpiece that lets you immediately switch between ANC and transparency modes.
A dedicated button can switch between ANC and Transparency with a single tap. The functions can also be adjusted using controls on your iPhone or iPad.
Airpods Max also supports the Spatial Audio feature launched with Airpods Pro on iOS 14. The feature mimics movie theaters’ immersive surround sound, making the audio sound like it’s coming from around the wearer.
Spatial Audio with Head Tracking allows users to move through 3D sound
Spatial audio uses the accelerometer to position audio elements in fixed points. When you move your head, the audio environment sounds like it stays in the same place, creating an illusion of being inside the soundstage. VR content uses the same approach for immersive audio inside the virtual environment. Apple would likely use similar technology for its rumored Apple Glass and VR headset.
Apple Music has been updated with Spatial Audio support and Dolby Atmos tracks. The Airpods Max can take full advantage of the new formats for a new-immersive listening experience.
However, these premium headphones cannot use hi-res lossless audio since they are not compatible with DACs. The standard lossless audio format will play through the Airpods Max over a cable, but Apple warns that they will not play true lossless audio due to analog to digital conversions that take place.
Listening to lossless audio codecs over Bluetooth may ensure that the maximum audio quality is passed to the Airpods Max, but the Bluetooth codec uses AAC, not FLAC. Bluetooth does not support lossless audio at this time.
The Smart Case places the Airpods Max into a low-power sleep state to conserve battery when not in use. When the headphones aren’t in the case, they will be “awake,” seeking nearby devices to connect. This could drain the battery faster if they inadvertently connected while idle.
The Smart case doesn’t provide much protection or utility
Charging the headphones with a Lightning to USB-C cable and a 20W power adapter will give 1.5 hours of use after five minutes of charging.
The Airpods Max have about 20 hours of usable battery life when actively listening to audio. When removing the headphones and leaving them stationary for five minutes, they enter a low power state. After 72 hours of inactivity while out of the Smart Case, they enter an ultra-low power state which disconnects Bluetooth and Find My to preserve power further.
The Smart Case places the headphones in a low-power state immediately. After 18 hours in the Smart Case, they disconnect from Bluetooth and Find My.
The Apple-designed dynamic driver produces a wide frequency range that aims to uncover the rich details of every sound. Apple hopes that the combination of powerful hardware and algorithms can recreate sound and texture for maximum effect.
Apple says that the driver’s dual-neodymium ring magnet motor minimizes total harmonic distortion across the entire audible range. This results in clearer audio playback even at high volumes.
Audio equipment can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars with no apparent upper limit. Apple has targeted a pricey but reachable price point for consumers.
Airpods Max Review
In AppleInsider’s Airpods Max review, we gave them 4 out of 5 stars. The high price may deter most, but the headphones are still an excellent choice for those immersed in Apple’s ecosystem.
Airpods Max have one of the most bespoke designs ever created for a set of headphones. The top portion of the headphones is made of stainless steel before being coated with a premium soft-touch material akin to silicone. The canopy is made from a proprietary mesh designed to rest just atop your head.
We loved the Airpods Max for their design and audio quality
We don’t mind the ear pads’ mesh fabric but aren’t sure everyone will. Leather is more typical on high-end headphones, but we know that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, either. Leather can get quite warm in the summer months, while the mesh is more comfortable year-round. It wouldn’t be surprising to see third parties launch their own replacement leather cushions.
Many people have strong feelings about the origami fabric that is the Airpods Max Smart Case. We won’t go as far as to say we hate it, but certainly, more could be done. It comes off as different for the sake of being different and winds up sacrificing functionality and practicality.
Apple designed the case from a single piece of precision-cut fabric folded, glued, and shaped into a pliable case that the headphones can be inserted into. The case barely covers the two ear cups. The anodized aluminum ear cups are arguably the most vulnerable part of the headphones and most likely to be scratched if tossed into a bag.
The main point of a case is to offer protection to your headphones, but the Smart Case skirts its responsibility. With the case on, parts of the cups are still exposed. There are large gaps on the underside and the top that could still be scratched inadvertently.
We don’t mind the lack of top protection on the Max, as it makes them easier to grasp and takes up less space when in our bag. We took ours on a road trip, and when in our backpack, it was much quicker to pick up the headphones right from the headband.
Active noise cancelation is even better here on the Max than on the Airpods Pro. The larger drivers and additional microphones are likely contributing to that. There are nine microphones on the Airpods Max, eight of which are used for ANC and three used for voice control and phone calls.
“In all environments we tested, it removed any background noise as well as its competitors. This is easily best-in-class ANC and one of the best features Apple has baked in here.
Turning to audio, we’re underwhelmed. In short, they produce above-average audio but fall short of other 550 headphones.
Listening to Apple Music in Spatial Audio is quite the experience
Baked into the headphones are 40mm Apple-designed dynamic drivers. Apple seems to be targeting a neutral audio profile, with excellent fidelity on the mids and highs but no extremes on either end. The soundstage is fantastic and more significant than most comparable models, which is fantastic for listening to music and watching movies.
Bass isn’t bad but is volume-dependent. The lows were disappointing when turned down, but as we hit 50 percent or louder volume, the bass came in punchy and strong. At near-max volume, the bass was enough to near shake the cups on your head during a bass-heavy song.
Overall, the audio sounds clean and clear. The simplest way to describe it is as ‘pleasing.’ While that may not suffice for audiophiles, the average consumer who picks these up should be just fine with it.
Spatial audio is another feature altogether that needs highlighting. Between spatial audio and ANC, it is a unique experience to use these headphones. We kicked back to watch the latest episode of The Mandalorian through Disney on our iPad Pro in our testing.
Initially, we legitimately thought our headphones weren’t working, and we were hearing the audio come straight from the speakers in front of us, especially as we moved our heads. Audio continued to come right from the characters on-screen as we turned our heads in any direction. It wasn’t until we removed the headphones that we confirmed that the effect was coming from the Airpods Max.
Aside from the effect of audio’s direction coming from the device, spatial audio also allows audio to come from all around you when mixed in Dolby 7.1 surround or Dolby Atmos. The effect is especially impressive with Atmos as sound can come from above, behind, or in any direction. It is a next-level listening experience and makes us want to listen more on headphones on our TV due to the better effects.
“The only hang-up is the lack of options. At the moment, spatial audio is limited to a few content providers. Apple’s own content, HBO Max, and Disney are just a few apps that support spatial audio, but big players like Netflix currently don’t. Developers will need to get on board with this because it does make a big difference in media consumption.
If you don’t put any value in having a set of headphones tied closely into the Apple ecosystem, we’ll never be able to convince you these headphones are worth it. Simply put — they don’t sound like a pair of 500 headphones. They are absolutely above average and compare favorably to many popular models like the Sony XM4, Bowers Wilkins P7, or Bose NC 700, but they fall short at the 550 price point.
That said, for us and our uses, they are worth the price Apple set — but just barely. The build quality is exceptional. The audio quality is fantastic and goes a long way towards bringing high-quality audio to the masses.
Comparison: Airpods Max vs. Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4
ANC and Adaptive Modes
The Airpods Max, Bose 700, and Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones all use active noise cancelation to monitor external sounds continually and emit an “anti-noise” to tune out the outside world. All three headphones allow you to choose between transparency modes, letting you pick the degree of noise cancelation.
However, in addition to ANC, Airpods Max takes it a step further with Apple’s Adaptive EQ feature, continually adjusting the sound based on the ear cushions’ fit and seal. It analyzes real-time microphone input, changing what you hear on the fly. The technology is used to continually tune the headphones to provide the richest audio possible in each moment.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 has two features that may sound similar at first glance but work differently. Sony’s headphones have an optimizer that plays tones and analyzes the microphone input to adjust noise canceling. However, unlike Apple’s, it only adapts when you manually activate the feature and not on the fly. Sony also describes its optimizer as tweaking noise-canceling, while Apple’s technology retunes the audio.
Sony includes an Adaptive Sound Control feature that learns your frequently visited locations, adjusting the noise-canceling mode to reflect that. While Apple’s adaptive feature changes the audio based on the microphone input, Sony’s adaptive feature adjusts noise-canceling levels based on your location.
Apart from the continuous monitoring of the microphone’s external noise input to adjust ANC, Bose doesn’t advertise an adaptive audio feature for its 700 headphones.
Design and Build Materials
The Bose 700 has a stainless-steel collapsible Band with a rubberized coating on the part that wraps around the user’s head. Bose uses a hard plastic for the earpieces’ outsides and a memory foam wrapped in synthetic leather for the ear cushions.
L to R: Airpods Max vs. Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony uses high-quality plastic for the WH-1000XM4’s outer ear cups and outer headband. Both the headband lining and ear pads are synthetic leather.
Apple uses a “breathable knit mesh” for the headband canopy on top of the headphones. The headband’s structure, which telescopes for fit, is stainless steel. Apple uses aluminum for the ear cups and a custom-designed mesh textile for the ear cushions.
Airpods Max is the heaviest of the three, weighing 13.6 oz. The Bose 700 is 34% lighter at 8.96 oz, while the Sony WH-1000XM4 weighs around the same at 8.8 oz.
Sony’s headphones have two microphones in each earcup to optimize ANC. Airpods Max and Bose 700 each have eight microphones devoted to noise canceling. However, Sony’s ANC has been considered top-of-the-line up to the point of the Airpods Max launch, so the lower mic-count alone isn’t necessarily a strike against it.
Airpods Max includes a Digital Crown, familiar to Apple Watch owners, for user control. Located on the right ear cup, you can turn it in either direction for volume control or press it to play/pause, skip tracks, or activate Siri. Apple’s headphones also have a noise-control button that lets you immediately switch between ANC and transparency modes.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 has touch sensors on the right earpad that let you control volume and tracks by swiping up/down or forwards/backward, respectively. Sony’s headphones have a custom button on the left earpiece that you can set up to switch ANC modes, activate the ANC optimizer, or summon Alexa or Google Assistant. It allows you to choose two functions for the button – one for a single press and another for a long press.
The Bose 700 also uses swipe-based touch controls on the right earcup. The headphones also have separate dedicated buttons for ANC mode and voice assistant. Like the Sonys, Bose 700 also supports either Alexa or Google Assistant.
Airpods Max Price and Release Date
Airpods Max cost 549 and are available for purchase.
Sony WH-1000XM5 vs Apple Airpods Max
Sony’s release of the WH-1000XM5 marks the entrance of another contender vying for the title of best active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones. We know the older WH-1000XM4 holds up against the Apple Airpods Max, but can the Sony WH-1000XM5 keep that streak going? We pit the WH-1000XM5 against the Airpods Max to see who comes out on top as the best ANC workhorse headset.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on April 13, 2023, to add the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless in the alternatives section, and to address user-submitted FAQ.
Does the Sony WH-1000XM5 have a better design than the Airpods Max?
The Sony WH-1000XM5 and Apple Airpods Max have a lot in common here. You get comfortable ear pads and smooth telescoping headband arms for adjusting the fit on either pair of headphones. Both sets of headphones can also rotate to lay flat, but despite their minimalist designs, neither has folding hinges.
The WH-1000XM5 (left) is much friendlier to those who switch between operating systems than the Airpods Max (right).
The Airpods Max has a mainly metal build with a stainless steel headband and aluminum ear cups. Plush ear pads encompass the entire ear and a mesh canopy acts as a cushion for the headband. It’s comfortable but it is quite heavy, weighing in at 386g. The Sony WH-1000XM5 has a plastic build, making it lighter than the Airpods Max at 250g, though this isn’t particularly light for a headset. On the Sony headset, the ear pads are made of memory foam with a leatherette wrap that makes it comfortable for extended listening sessions.
You don’t get any kind of water resistance from either headset, and you should avoid getting either wet. This is unfortunate for those who live in rainy places, but both pairs of headphones are best suited for indoor use or use in drier climates. If you really want a pair of workout headphones, there are a handful of good and durable options.
How do you control the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the Airpods Max?
The ear cups of both the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the Airpods Max have controls but they operate differently. On the right ear cup of the Airpods Max, you’ll find a Digital Crown that adjusts the volume and playback controls. There’s also a Noise Control button for toggling noise cancelling and transparency mode. You can also summon Siri by saying “Hey Siri” or pressing and holding the digital crown button (iOS only).
The Sony WH-1000XM5 uses a touchpad on the right headphone and buttons on the left. If you’re familiar with the controls for the Sony WH-1000XM4, this is the same.
Below is a table of the touch pad controls:
Here is a table of the button controls:
Both headsets have a sensor that detects when you wear or remove the headset, and plays or pauses music accordingly. There is a caveat here: the auto-pause feature on the Airpods Max is exclusive to Apple devices, while with Sony’s headphones, it works with any operating system.
How do the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the Airpods Max connect to devices?
The Sony WH-1000XM5 uses Bluetooth 5.2 and supports the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs. Android phones streaming over LDAC will transmit high-quality audio to the XM5 headphones. We recommend the LDAC 660kbps option for the most consistent results. Looking at the Airpods Max, it uses Bluetooth 5.0 and supports the SBC and AAC codecs.
You also get a few extras with the WH-1000XM5 including analog audio connectivity and Bluetooth multipoint, meaning you can switch between two devices seamlessly with this headset. The Airpods Max lacks analog connectivity and uses a digital Lightning connection instead (Lightning-t0-3.5mm cable not included). If you use it with a modern iPhone, you’ll also need to purchase a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter which totals an extra 44 USD. Apple’s headphones don’t have Bluetooth multipoint, but you can seamlessly switch between Apple devices signed into the same iCloud account.
If you care a lot about a stable connection and high-quality listening across platforms, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is the better option.
How do you control the WH-1000XM5 or the Airpods Max?
Power, Bluetooth, and noise cancellation can be controlled using hardware buttons underneath the left ear cup.
When looking to buy a new set of headphones, compatibility is key. You can only control or customize the Airpods Max through the Settings app on iOS and iPadOS devices, while the Sony WH-1000XM5 has the Sony Headphones Connect app, which is available on iOS and Android. This means the experience for Airpods Max will lack a lot on Android devices, while the Sony WH-1000XM5 is platform agnostic. For this reason, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is a much more versatile option if you ever plan on using an Android device while you own this headset.
The Sony Headphones app gives you access to features like Sony 360 Audio, an equalizer, ANC optimization, find my headphones, and Google fast pair. The last two features do require a lot of personal information, like access to personal data and location. These software features really do make a difference, and the app is also important for getting firmware updates.
Like the Airpods Pro and Airpods (3rd generation), these are compatible with Apple’s own Spatial Audio.
The iOS or iPadOS Settings app allows Airpods Max owners to access features like Apple’s Spatial Audio, find my Airpods, fast switching between other Apple devices on the same iCloud account, and firmware updates. Since these features are tied to the Settings app, Android users won’t be able to access them. You can’t even get firmware updates for the Airpods Max on Android, so let that be a warning to Android users considering this headset.
Do Apple or Sony’s headphones have better battery life?
The Airpods Max doesn’t have a power button and instead, it enters a lower power mode once inside its case. The battery life of the Airpods Max is close to 21 hours with ANC on, but with battery depletion being an issue, you might not get to enjoy that to the full extent. If you lose the case or hate using it, you may not have enough battery to last you multiple commutes. The Airpods Max comes with a Lightning-to-USB-C cable for charging, but doesn’t come with a USB-C charging brick (typical for headphones), so you’ll have to figure that out that part on your own.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 lasts 31 hours, 53 minutes with ANC on, far outdoing the Airpods Max. The headset charges via USB-C, and if you need to charge it fast, three minutes of charging will give you 180 minutes of playback. If you don’t have your charger on hand, you can listen with a wired 3.5mm connection instead.
Which has better noise cancelling, the Sony WH-1000XM5 or the Apple Airpods Max?
The Airpods Max has better low-frequency attenuation but the WH-1000XM5 has much better passive isolation.
Most over-ear headphones can only really block out mid and high frequencies on their own. Low frequency sounds like droning airplane sounds or trucks passing by get through easily when you’re relying on isolation alone. That’s where active noise cancelling comes in.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 has fantastic noise cancelling, assisted greatly by impressive isolation. Noise attenuation at frequencies above 1kHz betters the Airpods Max by around 10dB. That’s a huge difference. Low frequencies like trains and street noise will be reduced to about one-eighth of their original perceived loudness. This makes it a great choice for commuters.
ANC performance for the Apple Airpods Max is also fantastic. Its ability to cancel out noise right up to 2kHz makes for a great distraction-free listening experience. However, its isolation performance means it loses to Sony at higher frequencies.
Comparing the two headsets, both cancel out similarly impressive amounts of low-frequency noise to below 100Hz. While both are good choices for cancelling out low, droning noises, the Airpods Max wins out in the mid-range, but the Sony WH-1000XM5 does a better job at handling high-range sounds due to better isolation.
Which headphones have better sound quality?
The Sony WH-1000XM5 sounds great but deviates a little from our target curve in some areas, like the bass range where there’s some extra emphasis (100-200Hz in particular), and the highs where there’s some variation. If you’re not into a bass-heavy sound you may find it to be a bit much, but you can adjust the EQ of the headset easily to your liking.
The Airpods Max also sounds really great, but has different sonic goals to the Sony WH-1000XM5. The frequency response of this headset follows our target curve in a lot of key areas, except for a bit of a dip around 5kHz (to help with spatial cues), and a little bit of a boost in the sub-bass range, below 40Hz. Music generally sounds great in this headset, and it’ll appeal to most listeners.
By default, both headsets have good sound quality that most consumers will enjoy, and industry-leading isolation and noise cancelling from both headsets ensure you won’t have problems with outside noise affecting how your music sounds. If you want a more bassy sound, the Sony WH-1000XM5 has you covered. The Apple Airpods Max is likely a better choice for those seeking less obvious bass and treble emphasis, and though it is possible to equalize both to your liking, it’s easier to achieve on the Sony WH-1000XM5—particularly if you’re on Android devices.
Which headset has a better microphone?
The Sony WH-1000XM5 has a great microphone system, along with standout noise suppression. Wind noises are inaudible in our recording made with simulated wind noise (below), demonstrating its thorough effectiveness. This is due to its eight-microphone array and noise rejection algorithm, making for high-quality phone calls whether you’re in your home or outside in noise or wind.
The Apple Airpods Max microphone system is no slouch either, but the experience is inferior overall. Noise and wind aren’t removed entirely, and there are audible processing artifacts. This is further compounded by variable behavior and performance depending on the operating system of your connected device.
Apple Airpods Max microphone demo (Wind):
Needless to say, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is the obvious pick here for microphone quality, especially when it comes to sub-optimal conditions. You will get very good microphone quality with very little outside noise intruding, so phone calls and virtual meetings should reliably be clear and intelligible through this headset. Be sure to vote and let us know what you think.