Update November 21, 2022: I’m reuploading 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. These are great and the only rumored change is the new colors, but we no longer expect that to happen this year. I recommend the AirPods Max at $549, and the price is even more palatable for $100 less.
The AirPods Max weren’t an immediate purchase for me when they showed up online last December, but I talked myself into giving them a shot when they showed up in stores a week later. Eight months later, I can’t stop recommending them to anyone who can afford the $549 price tag (or find a deal).
My credentials for shopping were heavily weighted by my role as a writer and podcast host 9to5MacYet it was my appreciation for the music that convinced me to close my eyes and click the buy button.
There are many better ways to spend $589 (after tax) than on a pair of headphones. Already owning and loving AirPods Pro really made me excited about the purchase. Inventory was still extremely limited in February, so I snapped them up at a price before the price move.
But as the saying goes: if you love something, set it free; If it comes back, it’s yours. I really miss how music sounds on the AirPods Max compared to the AirPods Pro. Six weeks later, I closed my eyes again and replaced it with a new pair of AirPods Max. I think I’ve used this set for at least an hour every day since I bought it.
Everyone’s experience is different, but this is mine. AirPods Max feel as important to me now as the iPod did in the 2000s. The AirPods Pro earbuds are my go-to solution in most situations where wearing headphones wouldn’t be convenient or possible, but the AirPods Max raise the ceiling for me on how audio should sound. Factor in Apple’s drive to create a perfect user experience (wireless, strong connectivity, new features through software), and I’m completely sold these days.
I’m 30 years old and counting, but I can clearly remember different instrumental tracks from when I was 15. I could listen to a song five times and focus on a different track each time. This also happens when I realize that the bass guitar is just as important as the lead and rhythm guitar in rock music.
AirPods Max recreates that experience for me. I’m so used to the quality of Apple’s white earbud varieties that the AirPods Max make me realize that there are tracks in songs that I didn’t pick up before. Lately, I’ve been revisiting songs from the late 2000s and picking up background vocals and other tracks that weren’t that different back then. This experience is what makes the AirPods Max feel worth it, even if they are quite expensive. “You only have to take it once,” I tell myself…
Music isn’t the only unique experience created for me with AirPods Max. Watching a movie or TV show with AirPods Max on Apple TV or iPad Pro is an amazing experience. I have a Dolby Atmos sound system, but most of the time, it’s too tempting to watch a movie with the AirPods Max when I’m watching by myself. The noise cancellation and transparency features are also seriously effective for keeping my head while single parenting my 4- and 8-year-olds.
The $550 price is still the biggest obstacle to success with the AirPods Max at this point, but I’m beyond seeing the value in the purchase for me. Criticisms at launch such as the lack of wireless charging or the lack of a USB-C port once you find your charging rhythm (especially if it’s daily).
The odd case situation was remedied via firmware, and actually mine just lives on top of the shelf. My AirPods Max have their own pocket in my bag for safe keeping.
I’m just a little disappointed that Apple Music can’t match the hi-res audio quality, but that’s the nature of wireless headphones anyway. I still save exploring the world of DACs and reference headphones for another time.
If you’re on the fence about the AirPods Max but can imagine the same use case as me, I highly recommend closing your eyes and pressing the buy button.
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