Apple Airpods Max review. Digital crown Airpods pro

Apple Airpods Max review

apple, airpods, review, digital

Apple has been in no hurry to get into the headphones game, but given the wild and ever-growing popularity of its Airpods and Airpods Pro earbuds, it was always a case of when, rather than if.

And sure enough, the Airpods Max are here, a lavish pair of noise-cancelling over-ears that cost only a quid south of £550 – just a few hundred more than their most obvious rivals from the likes of Sony and Bose – and come with a comically bizarre carry case that appears to offer very little protection for your new half-a-grand-cans. Hey, Apple gonna Apple.

While it’s impossible to remove that bank balance-demolishing price tag from the conversation once you’re aware of it (a Playstation 5 costs less), the Airpods Max are unsurprisingly excellent, particularly if you’re an iThing devotee.

They sound brilliant, noise-cancel as well as pretty much anything out there right now, and are wonderfully easy to pick up and use. But the very best ANC headphones around? They certainly should be, but we’re not so sure.

Design: Case in point

apple, airpods, review, digital
  • apple, airpods, review, digital
  • apple, airpods, review, digital
  • You’d be right to expect that headphones this pricey have the build quality to match, and Apple doesn’t disappoint here. From the subtly textured anodised aluminum ear cups and memory foam cushions, to the stainless steel headband and open knit mesh canopy, the Airpods Max look and feel premium.

    But are they comfortable? Initially, yes. The mesh that lines the top of the headband frame is both breathable and effective at evenly distributing weight so the Airpods don’t feel like they’re weighing down too much on your head, while the pivoting earcups feel like they mould to the shape of your head. The telescoping arms are a bit on the stiff side, but once you’ve extended them to your liking you can rest assured that they won’t budge.

    But there’s no getting away from it: the Airpods Max are noticeably heavier than our favourite plastic noise-cancellers, and you can feel it when they begin to pinch at your temples after extended wearing. You always know they’re there. For obvious reasons we haven’t been able to conduct the ultimate test for any headphones of this sort, a long distance flight, but we’d wager that you wouldn’t want them on for the duration. That’s an issue.

    As for looks, Apple has gone for minimalism, and we’re quite fond of the sky blue model colour we’ve been sent to review (black, space grey, green and red are also available), but the enormous earcups are a bit strange. That expansive surface area would be understandable if touch controls were built in (rumour has it that they were originally supposed to be), but instead Apple has gone for a jumbo digital crown on the right earcup.

    Despite slightly awkward placement, it works very well, which you can’t always say about the touch alternative, although we straight away inverted the default volume controls. Button pressing and dial turning for your play/pause/skip and volume controls might be less flashy than touch, but they never let you down.

    A button just in front of the Digital Crown is used for toggling ANC/passthrough on and off is nice and easy to locate when required. You’ll find a Lightning charging port on the bottom of the same cup. Why not USB-C? We’d also like to know.

    What you won’t find, though, is a power button. Like the earbuds it shares its name with, the Airpods Max are technically always on, so if you want to preserve battery life as much as possible when not in use you’ll need to keep them in the included Smart Case, as the magnets within it activate ultra-low-power mode.

    And about that. By now most people on the internet have already pointed out the Smart Case’s striking resemblance to a certain undergarment, so we’ll leave it alone. But what we can’t mercifully overlook is its baffling impracticality. The soft case offers almost no protection to your new £550 headphones, with the steel headband completely exposed. It means that on the one occasion we have taken them out of the house in a backpack during testing, we pulled a beanie hat over them.

    If it one day emerged that Apple had bundled its new headphones with this thing as a dare, we’d almost be relieved. Either way, it might just be the worst thing the company has ever made.

    Setup and features: easy peasy

    apple, airpods, review, digital
  • apple, airpods, review, digital
  • apple, airpods, review, digital
  • As we’ve come to expect from Apple, setting up the Airpods Max is delightfully simple, provided you’re an iPerson of course. Once you’ve charged them up, you just plonk them down next to your iPhone or iPad and wait for the on-screen connect button to pop up. That’s it, and there’s no need to repeat the process for adding another device using your iCloud account.

    When you’re wearing the headphones, you can tweak the settings in the Control Centre on your device in exactly the same way you do with in-ear Airpods. There’s no dedicated app here, and unfortunately no way to customise ANC levels like you can on Sony’s WH-1000XM4. It’s either on, off, or transparency mode.

    Owners of the Airpods Max will enjoy the same H1 chip-powered privileges that Airpods Pro users have been enjoying for a while, like hands-free Siri, audio sharing between multiple Airpods and automatic switching between connections to different devices. The latter is as great here as it is on the little Airpods. We were able to seamlessly hop between YouTube on the iPad and Apple Music on the phone in an especially problematic procrastination session, before jumping onto another dreaded Zoom catchup on a MacBook Air, near enough without a hitch.

    Like most of its competitors, the Airpods Max feature automatic wear detection, and you can have Siri read out your incoming messages so you don’t have to fetch your phone when you’re on the move. Trust us when we say that the assistant doing this for messages laden with swearing is always, always funny.

    Apple has really bigged up its spatial audio tech, which came to the Airpods Pro towards the end of last year, and it makes even more sense on their big brother. If you’re watching streaming content encoded in 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos, the Airpods Max can convert it into a surround sound-like experience for your headphones.

    While this is happening, various sensors in both the headphones and your iPhone or iPad keep track of your head movements and ensure that the audio remains anchored to the device in front of you, even when you turn your head. While obviously not comparable to a proper 7.1 living room setup, spatial audio is quite impressive with the right mix being pushed out, making the plain old stereo alternative seem quite boring, so it’s a big shame that the current Apple TVs don’t support it. But isn’t it about time we got a new one of those?…

    It’s worth mentioning that while most of the major streaming services support spatial audio, Netflix does not, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.

    Performance and battery life: Max power

    apple, airpods, review, digital
  • apple, airpods, review, digital
  • apple, airpods, review, digital
  • Once again, if you’re spending as much as the Airpods Max cost on a pair of headphones, they had better sound pretty flipping good. And we’re pleased to report that Apple’s first over-ears are an all-round success in that department.

    Apple has built its own 40mm drivers to live behind those sizeable ear cushions, which are bolstered by dual neodymium ring magnet motors of the kind you’d expect to find in floor-standing speakers. With these in tow, Apple says, you can crank the Airpods Max right up to full volume without hearing any unwanted distortion.

    Meanwhile, the H1 chip looks after an adaptive EQ that automatically adjusts low and mid frequencies in real time based on how the headphones fit and seal on your head and ears. So if you’re a glasses wearer, or are sporting (like many of us are) some particularly wild lockdown hair, you shouldn’t have an inferior experience. It all contributes to the Airpods Max being a decidedly great listen, with a remarkably spacious soundstage that seems to envelop you more than other ANC cans we’ve tried.

    The detail on show is immediately apparent when we fire up Kacey Musgraves’ ‘Slow Burn’ on Apple’s recommendation. Vocals soar, and the warm acoustic guitar strums that underpin the song aren’t overwhelmed by the arrival of bass in the second verse. The Airpods Max bring you right into the recording studio.

    Moving onto another Apple tipoff, the Weeknd’s ‘Blinding Lights’, and it’s clear that the Max’s can balance both throbbing bass with no muddiness, and the song’s now ubiquitous sparkling synth hook.

    There’s a real sense of attack from the drums on the energetic arrangement of Maximo Park’s ‘Baby Sleep’, while funky bassline, psychedelic electronics and MGMT’s vocal are all given room to breathe on The Avalanches’ magnificent ‘The Divine Chord’.

    If you really listen, you might notice just slightly softer edges and a touch more crispness to the delivery with noise cancelling and transparency turned off, but we mean really listen.

    As for the ANC, well, what it lacks in customisability, it more than makes up for in effectiveness. The Airpods Max have eight microphones on noise-cancelling duty, with the H1 chip adapting its processing 200 times per second to account for differences in fit and movement. What you get is damn near silence, with none of the pressure or faint hissing that plagues some noise-cancellers. We’re still not convinced that anyone has out-cancelled Bose’s NC Headphones 700, but Apple’s cans are right up there. And when it comes to to letting the outside world in, the Airpods Max’s transparency mode is probably the best there is.

    Call quality is good too, thanks to a beamforming microphone in the left earcup that works alongside two of the noise-cancelling mics to isolate your voice on calls. While this is happening, the H1’s computational wizardry picks out and emphasises what you’re saying over background noise. Boring WFH meetings get a big tick.

    At around 20 hours with ANC on, battery life is fine, but not close to the best out there, with Sony’s XM4s giving you 10 additional hours of juice. While the Airpods Max are always on, we didn’t notice much battery drain when we weren’t wearing them, so that shouldn’t be a major concern.

    Apple Airpods Max verdict

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    Maybe it’s slightly reductive to keep bringing the argument back to price, but it’s extremely difficult not to with the Airpods Max.

    Apple has made some fantastic headphones, but they’re not going to pull in the proper audiophile chin-strokers, and they’re not close to being worth £200 more than Sony’s XM4s, which remain the best overall noise-cancelling headphones for our money. They also come with a proper case.

    You might well argue that the Airpods have the edge when it comes to audio, but there’s not a lot in it, and while Apple definitely wins on build quality, metal is heavier than plastic, and it’s not long before the Airpods Max remind you of that.

    If you’re an Apple lifer with cash to burn, the Airpods Max will not let you down, and their ease of use should not be overlooked. But, as brilliantly fun as these headphones undoubtedly are, there are smarter ways to part with your cash.

    Stuff Says…

    Apple’s first over-ears are big, heavy, often brilliant, and far too expensive

    Spatial audio enhances TV and movies

    Uncomfortable if worn for long periods

    Apple’s first over-ear wireless headphones more than justify their premium price tag Tested at £549 / 549 / AU899

    What Hi-Fi? Verdict

    Sonically speaking, the Airpods Max don’t put a foot wrong – these are hands-down one of the best premium wireless noise-cancellers you can buy.


    • Superb audio and noise-cancelling
    • Cinematic spatial audio
    • Exceptional build quality


    Why you can trust What Hi-Fi?

    Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

    No-one was surprised by the announcement of the Airpods Max in December 2020. Apple’s first on-ear headphones were one of the tech world’s worst-kept secrets for most of that year.

    What did come as a surprise was the price: £549 / 549 / AU899 made them vastly more expensive than the great majority of premium (if we can even still call them that) wireless noise-cancelling headphones. So do they possibly justify such a comparatively huge outlay?

    The short answer is that yes, they do. They are so much better than the ‘less premium’ competition that, arguably, they cross the line from wireless audio into wireless hi-fi.


    The Airpods Max arrived as the most expensive pair of wireless headphones we had had the pleasure of wearing on our heads at that time. At £549 / 549 / AU899, they cost a good third more than the flagship pairs from Sony and Sennheiser.

    But it’s almost as if their release gave the green light for other headphones brands to enter this previously forbidden fray. In the past two years, the Mark Levinson No.5909, Focal Bathys and Bowers Wilkins Px8 are three pairs that have launched with even higher price tags – and justified them as well, for that matter.

    Those new rivals are all excellent, leapfrogging the Airpods Max for sound quality, but at their reduced price of around £420 / 450 / AU800, the Airpods Max still more than hold their own.


    While the styling may not be to everyone’s tastes, there is absolutely no denying the quality of the materials and build of the Apple Airpods Max. Hand someone a pair of them together with a pair of Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones and they will have no trouble believing there’s a significant price difference between them.

    The Sonys look and feel almost cheap compared with the Apples, which boast pristinely machined, single-piece anodised aluminium ear cups connected by a stainless-steel headband. Between the cups and your head are memory-foam cushions that easily surround even the largest ears, creating a seal that’s both gentle and surprisingly effective at physically blocking out sound.

    The premium materials make the Airpods Max significantly heavier than many alternative wireless headphones you might consider – at 385g, they weigh 135g more than the Sony XM5, for example, while the BW Px8 are a smidge lighter at 320g. But, such is the effectiveness of the weight-distributing design, they really don’t feel heavy on the head and there are no pronounced pressure points. We’ve been living with the Airpods Max for almost two years now and regularly embark on long, uninterrupted listening sessions, and we never feel any discomfort or fatigue.

    Apple has resisted the urge to integrate touch controls into the design of the Airpods Max, but has also, thankfully, not gone entirely hands-free. Instead, on the top of the right-hand cup are two physical controls: a simple button for switching between noise-cancelling modes; and a dial inspired by the digital crown of the Apple Watch. The latter is a particularly neat and intuitive solution, although it is a little too easy to knock when adjusting the headphones, and its low resistance means you can accidentally adjust the volume by rather large degrees.

    That said, when using the crown intentionally, it’s a tactile joy. Twist it to increase or decrease volume, click to play/pause, double-click to skip forwards and triple-click to skip back. Holding the crown down invokes Siri, although by default the Airpods Max are also always listening for the ‘Hey Siri’ command.


    Another unique feature of the Apple Airpods Max is their case, which has been rather humorously compared to a bra or a gun holster. Not only does it look daft, it doesn’t perform even the most basic function of a typical case, which is protecting the product contained within from knocks, scratches and dirt. This case doesn’t cover the headband or the tops or bottoms of the cups, so is only vaguely more protective than simply shoving them naked into your bag.

    Type Over-ear wireless

    Bluetooth 5.0

    Codec support AAC, SBC

    Battery life 20 hours

    Weight 385g

    Finishes x5 (space grey, pink, green, silver, sky blue)

    The case is still useful, in that it prompts the Airpods Max to enter an ultra-low-power mode that will apparently preserve the charge for months, but anyone intending to take them out of the house even occasionally will want to seriously consider investing in a third-party case that will protect the headphones as well as support their sleep mode. That that is necessary is ridiculous, particularly given the price of the headphones. Thankfully, a new case design is rumoured to accompany the highly anticipated (yet not confirmed) Airpods Max 2.

    One could also feel aggrieved at the lack of a bundled wall charger, although this is at least fairly typical of wireless headphones these days. If you don’t already have one, you’ll want to budget for a USB-C charger – Apple’s 20W model will set you back £19 (19, AU29) but will ensure you can take advantage of fast charging for the Airpods Max (a five-minute charge gets you an hour and a half of listening with noise-cancelling switched on).

    In terms of overall battery life, Apple quotes around 20 hours of use from a full charge. That’s significantly less than you get from the Sony XM5 and BW Px8 (both offer 30 hours) and particularly the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 4, which offers 60 hours. But we find it hard to imagine many people discovering it to be not long enough – particularly as our testing suggests it’s a fairly conservative figure.

    The fact that you can get a decent amount of use out of a very short charge is particularly valuable considering Apple hasn’t found its way to including an audio cable in the box, either. If you want to use the headphones in a wired capacity (with a console controller or in-flight entertainment, perhaps), the only way to do so is with the optional £35 (35, AU55) Lightning-to-3.5mm cable. Even then, the Airpods Max won’t work in passive mode: if the battery’s dead, the headphones are useless.

    The lack of bundled accessories makes the Airpods Max look like rather poor value for their price, but Apple would presumably claim that what you’re paying for is technology, engineering and, ultimately, the quality you don’t get anywhere else.

    On the technology front, Apple has installed one of its H1 chips in each of the earcups. Between them, these processors analyse information coming in from eight microphones dotted around and inside the headphones (there’s also a ninth microphone for picking up your voice, which comes through very clearly on calls) to not only actively block outside noise but also tailor the sound in real-time to the fit and seal around your ears. It’s this active processing that’s unique: if any non-Apple headphones are making 200 adjustments per second, as the Airpods Pro Max are, the manufacturer responsible is remaining peculiarly quiet about it.

    In terms of acoustic engineering, Apple has developed its own 40mm driver, which features a dual neodymium ring magnet motor. Apple claims that this design allows the Airpods Max to maintain total harmonic distortion of less than one per cent across the entire audible range.


    First things first, the quality of the noise-cancelling is excellent. It’s worth stating that we initially reviewed the Airpods Max during the pandemic, and so we were not able to do our usual on-flight or even on-bus testing but, using speakers and willing test subjects, we were able to get a good idea of how the headphones would perform in these situations.

    Ultimately, while the Sony WH-1000XM4 and XM5 seem to be just marginally better at blocking constant, consistent noise (engine sounds, for example), the Airpods Max also let very little through here and are just a touch better at combatting chit-chat – something that’s much harder to do. In short, the Apples do a very good job of limiting how much external noise makes it through to your ears.

    If you want to be more aware of what’s going on around you, there’s also a Transparency mode, which actively processes external noise and pumps it through to your ears. There’s a slightly synthetic quality to some of this noise and we’re not sure of how much use a Transparency mode is to a pair of headphones such as this (it’s typically more useful with in-ears that might be used while exercising outside), but it works well should you ever find you need it.

    It’s worth pointing out, though, that the Airpods Max sound their best with both the noise-cancelling and Transparency mode switched off. There’s not a lot in it, but there’s definitely a slight flattening of dynamics and softening of punch, and the treble becomes a little more pronounced when noise-cancelling is switched on. It’s not enough that you should avoid using the noise-cancelling, but when you’re able to (which, thanks to the effective physical noise-isolation, should be fairly often) you should switch it off to hear the Airpods Max at their very best.

    As we embark upon some serious listening, it becomes clear that the Airpods Max are very special indeed. Kicking off with SBTRKT’s debut album, we’re instantly thrilled by the super-crisp and spacious delivery. There’s a degree of clarity and energy that even the Sonys can’t match, and they sound more engaging and authentic. Lighter on their feet, even more precise and exciting, they feel like a significant step up in terms of sonic sophistication, as well as build quality. Trials Of The Past positively crackles with energy and, while the Sonys do a great job with this track, the Apples add an extra layer of sizzle and attack that’s impossible to ignore.

    Switch to the Tidal Master recording of The Road (by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis) from the film of the same name, and the delivery is stunning. The Airpods Max nail the beautiful inconsistencies in the timing and pressure of the piano notes that come from the live nature of the recording. They’re both organic and precise, with lovely, subtle degradation to the tail of each note, but a definite, precise end when the vibration of the strings is stopped. All of the notes are full and solid, lending a physicality to the recording that is missed by lesser headphones, plus a texture that makes everything that bit more moving.

    The Sonys do well with this track as well, but the Airpods Max are undeniably more crisp, precise and spacious. The sound is that bit more engaging on account of that precision, and more atmospheric thanks to the added openness and the space given to each instrument. It’s a more transportative experience: it feels as if you’re sitting in the room as the musicians play around you.

    Provide them with a sterner organisational challenge, such as Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, and the Airpods Max come up trumps once again. That spaciousness plays a big part once more, creating a soundstage that combines substance and airiness, and their dynamic ability ensures that the low-level, threatening chanting is thrillingly juxtaposed with the huge crescendo.

    The Apples are revealing enough to expose poor recordings, particularly in the high frequencies, but here the treble is superb, with the triangle at the end twinkling brilliantly. The whole presentation is organised so precisely that even at its busiest, the track is easy to make sense of. The Airpods Max never become confused and the presentation never becomes muddled.

    Up the angry ante with Kenai by 36 Crazyfists and the Airpods Max thrill once more with the pace and attack of the delivery. They’re so driven and in your face, but in exactly the way the track demands. The delivery from the Sonys is smoother but also less clean and crisp. It takes the edge off a bit, and that’s not a good thing here.

    While the Airpods Max absolutely justify their price over the Sonys in terms of sound quality, it should be noted that the aforementioned premium newcomers from BW, Focal and Mark Levinson do just the same to the Apples. The four pairs actually rank in sound quality according to their price order (with the Px8 offering that bit more precision and clarity), so we would recommend buying the best pair you can afford.

    Switch from music to movies and the Airpods Max have a trick up their sleeve in the form of spatial audio, which provides a virtual surround sound experience from 5.1, 7.1 and even Dolby Atmos content. Not only that, but built-in head tracking means that the sound is always relative to the screen, even when you move your head or the iPhone or iPad on which you’re watching.

    All told, the effect is superb. The whole presentation is very open, spacious and convincing, and the tracking is amazingly smooth and accurate as you move your head.

    The opening of Gravity is recreated brilliantly by the Airpods Max. The placement of the various voices coming through the radio is brilliantly precise and convincing, there’s excellent weight to the dull thumps against the satellite and the heavy bass notes of the soundtrack, superb all-around clarity, and excellent dynamics as the peaceful scene turns threatening and then catastrophic. It’s easy to forget that you’re listening using headphones, such is the spaciousness of the delivery. It’s terrifically cinematic.

    To many potential buyers, perhaps the movie performance is a fairly low priority; but to some it could be a big deal – particularly frequent flyers who want to turn their long-haul flights into virtual trips to the cinema. And, of course, this is something you don’t get from rival models, as you need that collaboration between the source and the headphones. Simply put, combining an iPad with a pair of Airpods Max headphones gets you the most convincing portable cinema experience that we can think of.


    Unsurprisingly, you do need an iPhone or iPad in order to get the most out of the Airpods Max. They will work with non-Apple products using standard Bluetooth 5.0, but you’ll miss out on many of their unique features. Ultimately, we can’t imagine anyone not already fairly well ensconced in the Apple ecosystem would consider buying a pair. Frankly, we’d be surprised if such a person has made it this far into this review.

    Assuming you are a keen Apple user, the Airpods Max are among the very best wireless headphones you can buy. Their authenticity, detail, crispness and spaciousness elevate them so far above the previous crop of wireless noise-cancellers deemed ‘premium’ that the comparison starts to become a little redundant, and you instead begin to consider them alongside proper hi-fi products.

    While the Airpods Max are no longer alone in this premium class of wireless headphones (and they’re no longer the priciest, either), there’s no denying that they still cost a pretty penny. But if sound quality is king, there’s equally no denying that they’re worth it.

    Here’s what Airpods Max 2 should steal from Airpods Pro 2 – and what it shouldn’t

    Now that Apple has unveiled Airpods Pro 2 to the world, the next item in the Airpods line-up that needs an upgrade is Airpods Max, Apple’s high-end over-ear headphones.

    A new Airpods Max 2 model doesn’t look likely to arrive any time soon – we’d guess that the end of the 2023 is the most likely time we’ll see it, because Apple loves to release Airpods models just before Christmas. It did this with the original Airpods Max, Airpods 3rd Gen, Airpods Pro 2 and original Airpods Pro (2019).

    There haven’t been many leaks about Airpods Max 2, which is one reason why we’re not expecting them appear soon, but it’s likely that they’ll share a bunch of features with Airpods Pro 2, just as the originals did with the first Airpods Pro.

    So here’s what we’d like to see Apple transplant from its elite noise-cancelling earbuds into its over-ear headphones – but also two elements we hope it leaves in the Pros.

    Do update Adaptive Transparency and active noise cancellation

    Well, this is a gimme, right? The Airpods Max are actually already among the best noise-cancelling headphones, even a couple of years after their launch – their noise-blocking power is impressive even when compared to the likes of the newer and almighty Sony WH-1000XM5.

    And their Transparency mode was already better than the original Airpods Pro, doing a much better job of mixing outside sounds with the music. So there’s less worth to be done here overall.

    But that just means the bar could be raised even higher with the next model, doesn’t it? Especially when you factor in the H2 chip that’s crucial to the mind-blowing noise cancellation in the Airpods Pro 2 – we could get all the benefits of the Adaptive Transparency mode (such as clamping down on loud exterior noises while still letting in most sound), but with even bigger and better speakers powering it.

    Do offer a more flexible fit for different heads

    Apple didn’t change the exterior design of the Airpods Pro 2, but its inclusion of an extra-small in-ear tip for the first time was an acknowledgment that three sizes didn’t fit all in the earlier version, and that more options were needed for everyone to get a great fit from it.

    I hope a second version of the Airpods Max bring the same kind of thinking, albeit in maybe a slightly different manner. The original Airpods Max have a tight and secure clamping feel to their design, which is designed to help distribute their weight (they’re a lot heavier than the likes of the Bose QC45) as well as ensuring a good seal to passively block noise.

    The problem is that fit tends to be really love-it-or-hate-it. I’ve given the Airpods Max to people who find them super-comfortable for long periods, but also to people who couldn’t stand them immediately. And I had an interesting journey myself – with one pair of my glasses, I can wear them all day; with a different pair, I start to feel the pressure after a couple of hours.

    I’ve never seen such a different opinion of fit in a pair of headphones before, and never experience such a big change depending on my glasses myself, so I’m hoping that a second version might follow the Airpods Pro 2’s lead and work on being more comfortable for all.

    Do improve battery life

    This is another slam dunk, you have to assume. The 20-hour battery life on the Airpods Max is fine, but it’s far behind the 30 hours you get from the similarly high-end Bowers Wilkins PX8… and way, way behind the 60 hours you get from the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless.

    The Airpods Pro 2 added about 50% more battery life to the buds compared to the predecessor, largely thanks to the more efficient H2 chip powering them. You’d hope that we’ll see the same kind of improvement from Airpods Max 2, bringing them to 30 hours to keep up with the likes of the BW and Sony… though I don’t expect them to match the Sennheisers.

    Do add UWB location finding

    Airpods Pro 2 added an ultra-wideband (UWB) chip to their repertoire this year, which means that if they’re lost, you can literally use your iPhone to point you towards them, because this wireless tech can tell you direction and range to an object (within a certain distance).

    This is much more important in the tiny Airpods Pro case than in the much-chunkier Airpods Max, but it’d still be a great update to have available in there, in case you left them in a bag or threw them in a drawer and just aren’t sure where to start looking. You’d be able to fire up the Find My app straight away and save a bunch of time.

    Don’t add touch controls

    Okay, we’re onto the things we don’t want Airpods Max to borrow from Airpods Pro 2 now. The Airpods Pro 2 expanded their on-bud control by adding touch-based volume controls – you swipe up or down to change this. This works… fine. It’s not very natural, and it’s a little too easy to do accidentally in my opinion, but I’ve still found myself using it, so fair enough.

    There have been suggestions (based on an Apple patent) that Airpods Max 2 will use touch controls instead of the current Digital Crown volume and play/pause control (basically a, ahem, dialled up version of what you find on the Apple Watch), and I really hope that the next Airpods Max won’t follow the Pro 2’s lead by having touch-based volume controls.

    I love the Digital Crown on the Airpods Max. It, and the physical button for noise cancellation next to it, are my favorite control system for over-ear headphones. It’s so reliable – I can just reach up and it’s right under my finger where I expect it to be, and then you just turn a little for fine volume control.

    On something like the Sony WH-1000XM4 where you have a big touch pad that does everything, you have to reach up, guess if your finger is in the right spot, then swipe in a direction you think is up to do volume. There’s too much guesstimation in it – with Airpods Max’s physical controls, I never get it wrong.

    Don’t change to a punchier sound

    Airpods Pro 2 sound great – they’re a big step up over the original for the complete soundstage, and there’s notably more detail and dynamism to them. But I find them a little on the aggressive side – they’re quite forward and in-your-face compared to the originals… and compared to the Airpods Max.

    The Airpods Max manage to offer deep and rich bass, delicate and clear treble, and clear and focused mid-range, all while being fairly natural and laid back about it. Sound doesn’t feel like it’s being pumped right in your ears by powerful speakers – they’re a remarkably easy and unfatiguing listen over long periods (assuming the fit is good for you over that time).

    I hope they next version will keep closer to that sound profile – while I’m using and enjoying the Airpods Pro 2 every day happily, I do think they could stand to chill out by 10% or so.

    Don’t forget to keep you eye on our guides to the best Airpods Black Friday deals over the next few months, if you’re thinking of buying any of the current models!

    How to Make Airpods Louder Quieter the Easiest Ways (2023)

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    Is your Airpods’ volume low? Airpods Pro and Airpods volume control can be a bit non-intuitive. It’s not easy for everyone to figure out how to adjust the volume on their Airpods when there are no buttons and no dials! If you’ve been wondering how to work Airpods and Airpods Pro volume control, read on to learn how to make your Airpods louder or lower the volume.

    How to Make Your Airpods Louder or Quieter with Siri

    Airpods controls are hidden in Siri commands, AirPod tap controls (some call them Airpods touch controls or AirPod touch controls), and Airpods gestures. You can also use your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, or Mac to adjust volume. I’ll cover both Airpods controls and Airpods Pro controls so that you can learn how to change the volume on Airpods and Airpods Pro no matter the model! If you’re not sure what model of Airpods you have, you can learn how to identify your Airpods here. For more great AirPod tricks, check out our free Tip of the Day.

    How to Turn Volume Up on Airpods Using Siri: iPhone Setup Steps

    Before you can turn the volume up or down on your Airpods you’ll need to adjust your settings so that one of your Airpods is able to summon Siri. Make sure your Airpods are connected to your device, then follow these steps on your iPhone (or iPad):

      Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    Now that you’ve turned the Siri audio controls on in the Settings on your iPhone (or iPad) you’ll be able to activate Siri by touching your Airpods. This is specific to the model of your Airpods. For Airpods Airpods 2, read this. For Airpods 3, Airpods Pro (Gen 1), or Airpods Pro (Gen 2), skip to this section. If this was all you needed to know, read how to pause Airpods next!

    Double-tap Airpods Airpods 2 to Use Siri Volume Controls

    Once you’ve customized your settings, you can double-tap the designated AirPod to activate Siri. Here’s where to tap on Airpods to summon Siri:

    • Double-tap the AirPod in the position indicated in the image below.

    Pro Tip: You can also raise or lower the Airpods’ volume by telling Siri a specific percentage you’d like to increase or decrease the volume. For example, you might say, “Siri, lower the volume to 20 percent.” After a little experimentation, you’ll figure out which volume levels are most comfortable for you.

    Airpods 3, Airpods Pro Airpods Pro 2 Volume Control with Siri

    With Airpods 3, Airpods Pro, you cannot customize a double-tap command to summon Siri as you do with the original and second-generation Airpods. This is because the Airpods 3 and Airpods Pro come with a Force Sensor on the stem, and all Siri command options are already configured. You still have the ability to summon Siri with voice only, by saying “Hey Siri” and requesting the volume be raised or lowered. But if you want to adjust the volume without saying “Hey Siri” you can do so by following the steps below:

      Press and hold the Force Sensor to activate Siri.

    For all models of Airpods covered in this article, you can only adjust the volume through Siri or with your device playing the audio. So if you’re looking to adjust Airpods, Airpods 2, Airpods 3, Airpods Pro, or Airpods Pro 2 volume control without Siri, read on to learn how to adjust the volume with the device playing the audio.

    Bonus Tip: Alternative Airpods Volume Control with Hey Siri

    One of the convenient features added to Airpods beginning with the second generation is the ability to summon Siri with voice only (instead of using the double tap shown above). If you have a pair of second- or third-generation Airpods or Airpods Pro and would like to raise or lower the volume, you can now do so without tapping or squeezing your earbuds.

    • Just say, “Hey Siri, raise the volume” or “Hey Siri, turn down the volume.”
    • You can also ask Siri to raise or lower the volume by percentage by saying, for example, “Hey Siri, raise the volume to 50 percent.”

    How to Adjust Volume on Airpods Pro Airpods Volume Control without Siri

    When your Airpods or Airpods Pro are connected to a device, you can use that device for Airpods and AirPod Pro volume control. I’ll walk you through turning volume up on Airpods Pro and Airpods of any model on an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, and Mac. Plus the newest Airpods Pro (Gen 2) because they have a new tap control for volume control!

    Airpods Settings on the iPhone, iPad iPod Touch: How to Adjust Volume on Airpods

    If you’re in a quiet place and don’t want to be disruptive by talking to Siri, you can adjust your Airpods’ volume from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. The steps below work for all models covered in this article, including Airpods, Airpods 2, Airpods 3, Airpods Pro, and Airpods Pro 2:

      If you have a newer iPhone, unlock it, then open the Control Center by swiping diagonally from the top right corner of the display. If you have an iPhone 8 or earlier, swipe up from the bottom of the display to open the Control Center.

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    Apple Watch AirPod Volume Controls: How to Increase Volume on Airpods (Any Model) or Decrease It

    If you are listening to music on the iPhone that is paired with your Apple Watch or listening to music directly from your Apple Watch, it’s also possible to change the Airpods’ volume on your watch. Before watchOS 9, you could tap the the Now Playing icon directly from your Home Screen and then turn the Digital Crown to raise or lower the volume.

    apple, airpods, review, digital

      If you are running watchOS 9, you can get to Now Playing in several different ways. The first is to open your Control Center by swiping up from your Home Screen and tapping the ear icon.

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    Pro tip: Did you know that you can use your Airpods as hearing aids?

    How to Make Airpods Louder How to Lower Volume on Airpods from a Mac (All Models)

    If you are using Airpods connected to macOS Ventura, you can change the volume by using the volume keys on your keyboard or follow the steps below: For older macOS, skip to this section.

    • Open the Control Center by tapping this icon in your Menu Bar.

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    apple, airpods, review, digital

    If you’re using Airpods connected to a Mac running an older software, you can change the volume by using the volume keys on your keyboard or by clicking the volume icon in the Menu Bar and clicking and dragging the volume slider up or down. If there is no volume button in your Menu Bar, you can enable it in System Preferences. Click the Apple on your computer’s Menu Bar, then click System Preferences, select Sound, then Output, then click the Airpods your Mac is connected within the list that appears. Finally. at the bottom of this window, below the volume bar, click the box next to Show volume in menu bar.

    4. Airpods Pro 2 Only: Tap Controls without Siri: How to Turn Up Volume on Airpods Pro (Gen 2)

    If you have the newest Airpods Pro (Gen 2) you can turn the volume up and down by touching the stem without Siri! Just place your thumb on the stem of either the left or right AirPod and swipe up (louder) or down (quieter) on the Touch control using your index finger.

    Now that you’ve got your volume where you want it, if you’re having trouble with your microphone, you can see our troubleshooting tips for the Airpods mic. If your Airpods aren’t at their loudest, even at the highest set volume, check out this article with a cool trick on how to turn volume up on Airpods Pro and Airpods.

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