Update November 21, 2022: I’m re-uploading my review from August 2021 while the AirPods Max are on sale for $450 on Amazon and Best Buy.
While I’m here, I’ll add that the AirPods Max are still a great buy in November 2022. They’re just that good and the only rumored change was new colors, but we’re no longer expecting that to happen this year. I recommend the AirPods Max at $549, and the price is more acceptable for $100 less.
The AirPods Max wasn’t an instant purchase for me when they hit the internet last December, but I talked myself into giving them a shot when they hit stores a week later. Eight months later, I can’t stop recommending it to anyone who can afford the $549 price tag (or find a bargain).
The purchase validation has been heavily weighted by my role as writer and host of the podcast 9to5MacHowever, it was my appreciation for the music that convinced me to close my eyes and hit the buy button.
There are many better ways to spend $589 (after tax) than on a single pair of headphones. Having and actually loving the AirPods Pro made me dubious about buying it. Stock was still very limited in February, so I offloaded them at cost before an expensive move.
But as the saying goes: if you love something, open it up; If she returns, she is yours. I really missed how the music sounded on the AirPods Max compared to the AirPods Pro. Six weeks later, I closed my eyes again and replaced my AirPods Max with a new pair. I think I have used it for at least an hour every single day since purchasing this kit.
Everyone’s experience is different, but these are mine. The AirPods Max feel as important to me now as they did to the iPod in the 2000s. The AirPods Pro are my go-to solution for a lot of situations where wearing headphones isn’t appropriate or possible, but the AirPods Max raise the bar for volume for me. Factor in Apple sauce for creating a comfortable user experience (wireless, solid connectivity, new features through software), and I’m totally sold these days.
I’m 30 and counting, but I vividly remember distinguishing between tracks of different instruments in music for the first time when I was 15. I could listen to one song five times and focus on a different track each time. This is also when I realized that bass guitar is as important in rock music as lead and rhythm guitars.
AirPods Max recreate this experience for me again. I’m so used to the quality of Apple’s set of white earbuds that the AirPods Max made me realize there were tracks in songs that I hadn’t picked up before. Lately, I’ve been revisiting songs from the late 2000s and picking up background vocals and other tracks that weren’t featured before. This experience is what makes the AirPods Max feel worth it, even if they are very expensive. “You only have to buy once,” I keep telling myself…
Music isn’t the only special experience created with AirPods Max for me. Watching a movie or TV show on your Apple TV or iPad Pro with AirPods Max is a great experience. I have a Dolby Atmos sound system, but it’s often more immersive when I’m watching a movie with AirPods Max than when I’m watching it on my own. The noise-canceling and transparency features are also effective in keeping my head up while raising 4- and 8-year-olds.
The $550 price tag is still the biggest hurdle to overcome with the AirPods Max at this point, but it’s past the point of seeing value in a purchase for me. Criticisms at launch like the lack of wireless charging or a USB-C port go away once you find your own charging rhythm (especially if it’s daily).
The odd case situation was addressed by the firmware and, in fact, lives at the top of my wardrobe. My AirPods Max have their own pocket in my backpack for safekeeping.
I’m only slightly annoyed by the lack of compatibility with Apple Music’s high-fidelity audio quality, but that’s the nature of wireless headphones anyway. I’ll still save exploring the world of reference DACs and headphones for another time.
If you’re on the fence over the AirPods Max but can imagine a similar use case to mine, I highly recommend closing your eyes and hitting the buy button as well.
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