Get insider access
Preferred store
Your browser is not supported or outdated so some features of the site might not be available.
We've recently released our Test Bench 1.6 update for Headphones! Read the Latency R&D Article to learn more.

Apple AirPods Max Wireless Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.6
Review updated Jan 26, 2024 at 02:45 pm
Apple AirPods Max Wireless Picture
7.6
Neutral Sound
7.6
Commute/Travel
7.0
Sports/Fitness
7.2
Office
5.6
Wireless Gaming
7.1
Wired Gaming
6.3
Phone Calls

The Apple AirPods Max Wireless are Apple's first pair of wireless over-ear headphones. Unlike other headphones from Apple, like the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, which only come in one sleek, white plastic colorway, these over-ears have an aluminum frame with knit padding that comes in several different colors. That said, you can still expect a premium design as well as a powerful noise cancelling (ANC) experience. They also have an adaptive EQ, so the headphones automatically adjust their sound based on the unique shape of your ears, and their H1 chip is great for easy pairing with all of your iOS/iPadOS devices. Unfortunately, there have been a few user issues with Build Quality. You can't turn the headphones off either, and you can read more about this in our Battery test.

Our Verdict

7.6 Neutral Sound

The Apple AirPods Max are good for neutral sound. These headphones have Adaptive EQ, which adjusts the audio as you're listening to it based on fit and seal. With it on, their neutral mid-range ensures vocals and lead instruments sound detailed. A bit of extra bass also adds just a hint of extra warmth, as well as thump and rumble to mixes. However, the treble range is mostly underemphasized, resulting in a veiled sound with dull sibilants. You may also experience a drop in bass delivery if you have thick hair or glasses. On the upside, you can use their Spatial Audio feature to create a more dimensional audio experience with your content.

Pros
  • Great build quality.
  • Excellent continuous battery life.
Cons
  • Need to purchase a lightning to 1/8" TRS cable separately.
7.6 Commute/Travel

The Apple AirPods Max are good for commute and travel. After updating to firmware 4E71, they do a fair job of reducing bass-range noise like bus or plane engines, and their excellent continuous battery life is enough to get you through long trips. However, they're heavy, and it can be fatiguing to wear them over long periods. Their carrying case doesn't protect the headphones from damage either, as they only cover the ear cups and leave the headband exposed.

Pros
  • Great noise cancelling.
  • Great build quality.
  • Excellent continuous battery life.
Cons
  • Heavy, bulky design which can be fatiguing to wear.
  • Need to purchase a lightning to 1/8" TRS cable separately.
7.0 Sports/Fitness

The Apple AirPods Max aren't the best choice for sports and fitness. While they're decently comfortable and well-built, they're very heavy and bulky. The headband can move around your head if you're doing moderate physical activity. They also lack an IP rating for water resistance, but that's to be expected from over-ears. Luckily, their wireless design makes it difficult for something to snag on the headphones and pull them off your head.

Pros
  • Great build quality.
  • Excellent continuous battery life.
Cons
  • Heavy, bulky design which can be fatiguing to wear.
  • Mediocre breathability.
7.2 Office

The Apple AirPods Max are decent for office use. They block out office chatter around you, which is handy if you work in a noisy environment. They also don't leak too much audio, so you won't disturb others around you. Their long continuous playback time easily lasts you through a couple of 9-5 workdays. Their H1 chip also allows you to easily connect with other devices in your Apple ecosystem. However, they're heavy due to their build and can be fatiguing to wear for several hours at a time.

Pros
  • Great noise cancelling.
  • Great build quality.
  • Excellent continuous battery life.
  • H1 chip for seamless pairing with Apple devices.
Cons
  • Heavy, bulky design which can be fatiguing to wear.
  • No multi-device pairing.
  • Mic struggles to separate your voice from background noise.
  • Need to purchase a lightning to 1/8" TRS cable separately.
5.6 Wireless Gaming

The Apple AirPods Max aren't compatible with PlayStation or Xbox consoles. While you can use them with Bluetooth-enabled PCs, their latency is too high to be suitable for gaming, and you'll notice lip-sync mismatch.

7.1 Wired Gaming

While you can use the Apple AirPods Max wired, you must purchase a Lightning to AUX cable separately.

Pros
  • Great build quality.
Cons
  • Need to purchase a lightning to 1/8" TRS cable separately.
6.3 Phone Calls

The Apple AirPods Max are passable for phone calls. They use an integrated mic, and recorded speech sounds understandable, although a bit muffled and thin. It also struggles to separate your voice from ambient noise around you, even in moderately loud environments. On the upside, it has an outstanding ANC feature, so you can focus on your call.

Pros
  • Great noise cancelling.
  • Great build quality.
  • Excellent continuous battery life.
Cons
  • Heavy, bulky design which can be fatiguing to wear.
  • No multi-device pairing.
  • Mic struggles to separate your voice from background noise.
  • 7.6 Neutral Sound
  • 7.6 Commute/Travel
  • 7.0 Sports/Fitness
  • 7.2 Office
  • 5.6 Wireless Gaming
  • 7.1 Wired Gaming
  • 6.3 Phone Calls
  1. Updated Jan 26, 2024: We've updated this review's text to keep it up to date and accurate.
  2. Updated Jan 18, 2024: The following test groups have been updated following TB 1.6: Wired Connection, and Bluetooth Connection. There have also been text changes made throughout the review, including to the usages and product comparisons to match these results.
  3. Updated Jan 17, 2024: We've converted this review to Test Bench 1.6 , which updates how we measure latency. We've updated and renamed the following test groups: Wired Connection, Bluetooth Connection, and Wireless Connection (Dongle). We've also added new codec latency measurements and provided an audio sample of recorded latency.
  4. Updated Oct 11, 2023: We've added a comparison between these headphones and the Bose QuietComfort Headphones Wireless in Bass Accuracy.
  5. Updated Oct 04, 2023: We've added a comparison between these headphones and the Dyson Zone Wireless in Comfort.
  6. Updated May 12, 2023: We incorrectly reported that the analog cable you can purchase from Apple was lightning to TRRS, not lightning to TRS. We have updated the text for the following tests: Battery, PC Compatibility, PlayStation Compatibility, and Xbox Compatibility.
  7. Updated Feb 03, 2023: We've made minor changes to this review's text to ensure accuracy and clarity.
  8. Updated Dec 23, 2022: We have retested the frequency response of these headphones using the Lightning to AUX cable and have updated Sound Profile. We have also added more information regarding this cable to our Wired test.
  9. Updated Dec 15, 2022: Users have requested us to retest the ANC's Noise Isolation using FW 5B58. We measured a similar performance to our previous results and the scoring of this test hasn't changed. However, we're still looking into our Noise Isolation results and will update our review again with our findings.
  10. Updated Nov 09, 2022: We're currently looking into our Noise Isolation results and have updated the text with our current findings.
  11. Updated Oct 20, 2022: We have retested Noise Isolation using firmware update 4E71.
  12. Updated Jun 28, 2022: Updated 'Virtual Soundstage' to better reflect Spatial Audio's capabilities.
  13. Updated Jun 28, 2022: We've retested the headphones for passive playback with the lightning to 1/8" TRRS cable, which isn't included in the box. We've changed the results of the 'Wired' test to better reflect the headphones' support for this cable.
  14. Updated Nov 19, 2021: Tested cabin pressure when the ANC is on.
  15. Updated Sep 17, 2021: Updated review for accuracy and clarity.
  16. Updated Jun 29, 2021: Converted to Test Bench 1.5.
  17. Updated Apr 06, 2021: We've retested Sound Profile and Battery using firmware update 3C39. We've also added Breathability, as well as PS5 and Xbox Series X Compatibility.
  18. Updated Jan 11, 2021: We've raised the score of the Build Quality test. We've also updated the Test Settings and App Support test boxes.
  19. Updated Jan 07, 2021: Review published.
  20. Updated Jan 04, 2021: Early access published.
  21. Updated Dec 17, 2020: Our testers have started testing this product.
  22. Updated Dec 17, 2020: The product has arrived in our lab, and our testers will start evaluating it soon.
  23. Updated Oct 25, 2020: We've purchased the product and are waiting for it to arrive in our lab.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Apple AirPods Max come in several color variants: 'Space Gray', 'Sky Blue', 'Pink', 'Green', and 'Silver'. We tested the Space Gray variant, and you can see its label here. We expect each color variant to perform similarly to our model. That said, if you're looking to change up the look of your headphones, you can purchase replacement ear cushions in the aforementioned colors directly from the manufacturer.

If you come across another variant, please let us know in the forums, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Headphones

The Apple AirPods Max are high-end headphones with a premium design. Thanks to their Adaptive EQ, they can adjust their sound based on their fit and seal on your head. As a result, they have a warm sound profile with a touch of extra bass, although it's neutral enough for most audio content. Their noise cancelling feature is great, although headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless still have the edge in this regard. They don't turn off, though, and putting them in their carrying case only puts them into a very low-power mode, which can be frustrating if you want to stop your battery life from draining.

For more headphones, check out our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones, the best headphones for music, and the best over-ear headphones.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless

The Apple AirPods Max Wireless and the Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless are both great headphones. If you care about noise isolation or if you're an iOS user, you'll want to check out the Apple, which have a great noise cancelling system that can block out background noise. These premium over-ears also have an H1 chip for seamless pairing with Apple devices, and they have a versatile sound profile. That said, the Sony are more customizable, thanks to their companion app, and their battery lasts longer too.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless

The Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless are better headphones than the Apple AirPods Max Wireless. The Sony are more comfortable and offer an even more powerful ANC. While they don't sound as neutral out of the box as the Apple, they have a companion app that offers a lot of customization features, including a graphic EQ and presets. They also come with a 1/8" TRS cable if you want to use them wired.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones Wireless

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones Wireless have the edge over the Apple AirPods Max Wireless. While both headphones have a premium feel, the Bose are significantly more comfortable, and their ANC is able to block out more background noise. Their battery life is a bit longer, and they support multi-device pairing, so you can stay connected to two devices at a time. Their companion app offers sound customization features to help you tweak their sound to your liking. They even support aptX Adaptive, which is a codec that dynamically adapts to your content, giving you either better sound quality or lower latency. The Bose and Apple both have spatial audio features to help your audio sound more immersive, and only the Apple have an H1 chip for seamless pairing with iOS devices.

Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless

The Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 are more versatile headphones than the Apple AirPods Max Wireless. The Bose are lighter and more comfortable, delivering audio more consistently. Their ANC does a better job of blocking out background noise as well. Their integrated mic offers significantly better overall performance, they support multi-device pairing, and you can use them wired via their 1/8" to 1/16" TRS cable, though you can only receive audio. However, the Apple feel better built and have a virtual soundstage feature.

Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless

The Apple AirPods Max Wireless and the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless have different strengths. While both headphones are well-built, the Apple have a more immersive passive soundstage, support Spatial Audio, which can help make your audio seem more immersive, and are able to block out significantly more background noise. They also have an H1 chip for seamless pairing with your Apple devices. However, the Sennheiser are more comfortable and have a slightly more neutral sound profile. They also have a significantly longer continuous battery life, have sound customization features, and support multi-device pairing. 

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless

The Apple AirPods Max Wireless and the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless have different strengths, so depending on your usage, you may prefer either one. The Max are over-ears with better overall battery performance and have flatter, more even mids, so vocals and instruments sound accurate. However, the second generation of the Pro have a more comfortable fit, and their ANC performance is significantly better.

Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless

The Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless and the Apple AirPods Max Wireless have different strengths and depending on your preferences, you may prefer one over the other. The AirPods Pro are truly wireless in-ears that are more comfortable, portable, and stable. Their carrying case also holds around five charges, giving you a total battery life of over 30 hours. However, the AirPods Max are over-ear headphones. Their integrated microphone performs better, and they have a continuous battery life of about 21 hours, which is longer than the approximately five hours provided by their truly wireless counterpart. They also have a slightly better noise isolation performance.

Bose 700 Headphones Wireless

The Bose 700 Headphones Wireless are slightly better headphones for commute and travel than the Apple AirPods Max Wireless. While both over-ears have a similarly warm sound profile and have great build quality, the Bose are more comfortable and have a better-performing integrated mic. Their ANC performance is better, and you can also control their ANC via their companion app and pair them with up to two devices at a time. However, the Apple has a virtual soundstage feature called Spatial Audio to help make your audio seem more dimensional. 

Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless

The Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless are better headphones than the Apple AirPods Max Wireless. The Sony are more comfortable, have a better case, and have a more stable fit. They also have a better noise isolation performance, and you can tweak their sound via the graphic EQ found in the Sony | Headphones Connect app. However, the Apple have an H1 chip, which makes it easier to pair with other Apple products seamlessly. They also charge up in less time and have a standby mode to help conserve battery life.

Focal Bathys Wireless

The Apple AirPods Max Wireless and the Focal Bathys are both premium headphones. The Apple prioritize users within the same ecosystem, as they have an H1 chip and iOS-exclusive app support. The Apple also have better noise isolation, although it's adaptive, whereas the Focal utilize ANC presets. While the Apple and Focal have similarly neutral sound profiles, the Focal supply a more accurate bass response. You can easily adjust the EQ and sound settings for the Focal in the companion app. They also have more connectivity options such as aptX Adaptive, USB-C, and analog connections without needing separate adapters. However, there's some latency present when using either wired connection. Comparatively, in addition to supporting Bluetooth, the Apple use a Lightning connection, which has lower latency. That said, this cable isn't included in the box, and you'll need to purchase a Lightning-to-1/8" TRS cable separately. In addition, for a more comfortable fit and a better mic, the Focal are a good choice.

Beats Solo Pro Wireless

The Apple AirPods Max Wireless and the Beats Solo Pro Wireless have different strengths, and depending on your usage, you may prefer one over the other. While both headphones are very well-built, the Apple are more comfortable, have a virtual surround feature, and block out more ambient noise. They also have a standby feature to conserve battery life when they aren't being used. However, the Beats have a more neutral sound profile, and their fit is more stable.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018 are better overall headphones than the Apple AirPods Max Wireless. The Bose are more comfortable and have a better-balanced sound profile, and their active noise cancelling feature performs slightly better overall. They also come with an AUX cable if you want to use a wired connection. However, the Apple charge a bit quicker.

Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless

The Apple AirPods Max Wireless and the Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless have different strengths, and you may prefer one over the other. The Apple have a more neutral default sound profile, which some users may prefer, a significantly better noise isolation performance, and a longer continuous battery life. They also have an H1 chip, so you can seamlessly pair them with your other Apple devices. However, the Sony have a more stable in-ear fit, and you can customize their sound profile using their companion app's graphic EQ and presets.

Beats Studio Pro Wireless

The Beats Studio Pro Wireless and the Apple AirPods Max Wireless have a few things in common, especially as Beats was acquired by Apple in 2014, but if you're looking for a premium product, you'll want to check out the AirPods Max. These headphones are better built, have a significantly better noise isolation performance, and have an H1 chip, so you can seamlessly pair them with your iOS devices. However, the Beats have a better overall battery performance and can be used via analog or wired USB-C.

Bose QuietComfort Headphones Wireless

The Bose QuietComfort Headphones Wireless are better headphones than the Apple AirPods Max Wireless. The Bose are much more comfortable, their ANC can block out more background noise, and their battery life is longer, too. Thanks to their companion app, they're also more customizable, and you can pair them with up to two devices at a time. However, the Apple are better built and have a more neutral overall sound profile, which some users may prefer.

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless

The Apple AirPods Max Wireless and the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless have different strengths, and you may prefer either. The Max are over-ear headphones with ANC. Their noise isolation performance is much better, and they have a longer continuous battery life, and a more neutral bass response that some may prefer. On the other hand, the 3rd generation are earbuds with a much more portable design. They come with a charging case and have an IPX4 rating for water resistance.

Dyson Zone Wireless

The Apple AirPods Max Wireless are a better deal than the Dyson Zone Wireless. The Apple are better built, support Spatial Audio, and have an H1 chip to seamlessly pair them to your Apple devices. Their ANC does a better job of blocking out background noise. However, the Dyson Zone are still worth checking out if you want on-the-go air purification and a more comfortable fit. Their microphone has a better overall performance.

Drop + THX Panda Wireless

The Apple AirPods Max Wireless are more versatile headphones than the Drop + THX Panda Wireless. The Apple are better built, have a more neutral sound profile, which some users may prefer, and have an active noise cancelling system that can block out a significant amount of ambient noise. They also have an H1 chip to seamlessly pair them to your Apple devices. However, the Drop are more comfortable, and their battery performance is better, too.

+ Show more

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
Type Over-ear
Enclosure Closed-Back
Wireless Yes
Transducer Dynamic

The Apple AirPods Max have a refined and minimalist design that reflects their premium status and high-end materials. The ear cups have a sleek aluminum cover with a satin finish, and the headband is wrapped in athletic knit webbing, which adds texture to the look. They come in several colors to better suit your style: 'Space Gray,' 'Sky Blue,' 'Green,' 'Pink,' and 'Silver.' While the magnetic ear cushions will match the rest of the headphones' color scheme by default, you can also buy additional cushions from Apple separately if you prefer to mix and match colors.

7.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.85 lbs
Clamping Force
1.2 lbs

They're decently comfortable. Although lighter than the hefty Dyson Zone Wireless, they still feel heavy overall. The headband doesn't distribute the weight well, and depending on your head shape, the metal frame can put pressure on your head. They also have a high clamping force, which can be fatiguing and cause you to take breaks during long listening sessions. On the upside, the ear cups have replaceable plush padding, so if it gets worn down, it's easy to swap out.

7.9
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
iOS
Ease Of Use Great
Feedback Good
Call/Music Control Yes
Volume Control Yes
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control On/Off
Talk-Through
On/Off
Additional Controls Voice Assistant

They have very good controls. There are only two buttons found on the right ear cup's top side, and registering commands is very easy. They have a unique Digital Crown, which acts as both a knob and button. It makes a clicking sound when you adjust the volume. There are audible beeps to indicate when you're connected or disconnected from a device. Unfortunately, when you press the crown, it doesn't give any feedback. The headphones also lack a power on/off button, which is a little disappointing. Instead, they go into a low-power standby mode.

The digital crown has the following functions:

  • When turned: Adjusts volume.
  • One press: Plays or pauses audio. Also answers calls. As of Firmware 6A300, you can use this command to mute and unmute the mic when on a call.
  • Double press: Skips the track forward. Also ends a call.
  • Triple press: Skips the track backward.
  • Press and hold: Activates Siri.

There's also a button that offers the following controls:

  • One press: Allows you to cycle between ANC on, ambient mode, and ANC off.
  • Press and hold: Enters pairing mode.

6.1
Design
Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference 6.7 °C

The Apple AirPods Max have a passably breathable design. Due to their over-ear design, they trap some heat, which can become uncomfortable over time. It won't be too noticeable while working at your desk, though. While they can make your ears especially warm if you're wearing them while working out, they aren't designed for this purpose.

6.0
Design
Portability
L 7.8" (19.8 cm)
W 7.5" (19.1 cm)
H 1.7" (4.3 cm)
Volume 99.00 in³ (1,622.31 cm³)
Transmitter Required No

The Apple AirPods Max aren't the most portable. They're bulky and don't fold into a more compact format. While they come with a carrying case, it doesn't make them easier to take with you on the go.

6.0
Design
Case
Type Soft case
L 7.9" (20.1 cm)
W 8.5" (21.6 cm)
H 1.7" (4.3 cm)
Volume 114.00 in³ (1,868.12 cm³)

Their carrying case is more of a sleeve that only fits over the two ear cups, leaving the headband unprotected. This is by design, as you can use the headband as a carrying handle. There are magnets near the inside of the case that automatically put the headphones into a low-power sleep mode.

8.0
Design
Build Quality

The Apple AirPods Max's build quality is great. Compared to other premium headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018 or the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, which are both made from hard plastic, the Apple are made with premium materials and have an aluminum exterior with a metal and silicone headband. However, these materials have different pros and cons than traditional plastic builds. The mesh screen surrounding the headband feels very fragile as it can rip or become damaged, especially if you're using the headband as a handle when carrying the headphones around. That said, the ear cushions are held in place by magnets, so you can easily replace them if they get damaged.

There have been reports from users about condensation forming on and inside the drivers after wearing them for a few hours. It can occur even if you're wearing them at your desk or if you live in a dry climate. Some reports suggest that this is due to the metal ear cup design, which can trap heat from your ears, and create condensation. They don't have an IP rating for dust or water resistance, as Apple hasn't had them IP-evaluated.

6.5
Design
Stability

These headphones won't move around if you're wearing them at your desk, thanks to their clamping force. The headband can move around a bit if you wear them while headbanging to a song.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • Apple AirPods Max
  • USB-C to Lightning charging cable
  • Carrying case
  • User guide

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
1.3 dB
Treble Amount
-1.97 dB

These headphones use Apple's Adaptive EQ, which adjusts their sound to the fit and seal of the headphones on your head. As a result, they have a slightly warm sound profile, which is suitable for a variety of audio content. The touch of thump and rumble can especially please fans of EDM and hip-hop. However, vocals and lead instruments are veiled due to a dip in the treble. While they don't have any built-in EQ presets, if you have a compatible iOS or iPadOS device, you can access a couple of different EQ presets in the 'Accessibility' settings to help you adjust their sound.

We've also tested their sound via firmware 3C39, and they perform very similarly to the original firmware's sound profile. You can see a graph comparison of our results here. However, what does make a difference in sound profile is whether the ANC is on or off, as this effectively turns the Adaptive EQ on or off, respectively. Both the wired and Bluetooth connection have a very similar frequency response when the ANC is on. However, if you turn the ANC off, there's a minor difference between frequency responses, and is most prominent in the bass range. Using Bluetooth reproduces more low-bass while using the headphones wired results in less thump and rumble but a bit more boom and warmth. You can also see all four passes together here.

7.1
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.6 dB

The Apple AirPods Max have satisfactory frequency response consistency. They're somewhat prone to inconsistencies in bass and treble delivery due to the headphone's fit, seal, and positioning on your head. You may especially notice a drop in bass if you have thick hair or glasses.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
8.9
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.63 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
16.34 Hz
Low-Bass
2.17 dB
Mid-Bass
0.93 dB
High-Bass
1.65 dB

These headphones have excellent bass accuracy. Although the whole range is slightly overemphasized, the extra thump, punch, and warmth don't overwhelm vocals or instruments. If you're looking for noise cancelling headphones with more bass, try the Bose QuietComfort Headphones Wireless.

9.4
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
0.83 dB
Low-Mid
0.29 dB
Mid-Mid
0.27 dB
High-Mid
-0.29 dB

The mid accuracy is outstanding. The range is very even and neutral, which is great for vocals and instruments. In songs like Flowers by Miley Cyrus, vocals in the chorus sound clear, present, and detailed.

6.1
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
5.65 dB
Low-Treble
-5.16 dB
Mid-Treble
-0.47 dB
High-Treble
-2.95 dB

The Apple AirPods Max's treble accuracy is mediocre. The whole range is underemphasized, although the low-treble has the deepest dip, which really veils vocals and instruments. In songs like Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye (feat. Kimbra), Kimbra's vocal climax in verse three lacks detail and presence, especially when compared to the melody and percussion. That said, the underemphasis in the mid-treble is quite minor, so sibilants like cymbals are a touch dull.

7.3
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.54 dB
Dips
1.96 dB

The Apple AirPods Max's peaks and dips performance is decent. These headphones can follow their sound profile well, although there are a couple of large deviations. There's a peak throughout the low-bass, which adds thump and rumble to your mixes. Another peak in the high-mid makes vocals and lead instruments sound a little harsh. A large dip towards the end of the low-treble veils the upper harmonics of vocals and lead instruments, dulling their clarity and detail. The peak in the mid-treble makes sibilants like S and T sounds shrill and piercing.

7.7
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.12
Weighted Phase Mismatch
2.91
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
2.33
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
2.86

These over-ears have good imaging. Apple products tend to have good quality control and ergonomics, so you can expect your unit to have reliable imaging. Our unit's L/R drivers are well-matched in group delay and phase response. This ensures tight bass as transparent treble, as well as helps stabilize the stereo image. While there's a slight mismatch present in amplitude and frequency response, it's quite minor.

Note: Unfortunately, we couldn't test the left and right drivers at the same time, as we normally do. These headphones use Apple's Adaptive EQ, which adjusts its sound profile to the fit and seal of the headphones on your head. You can't turn off this feature unless you turn off ANC or Ambient mode as well. We ran the left driver separately from the right driver to test with the ANC on. While we don't know how comparable the results are due to this change in our methodology, the results of this test are still valid for our unit.

4.1
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
4.28 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
6.81 dB
PRTF Distance
5.22 dB
Openness
1.7
Acoustic Space Excitation
3.3

These headphones have a poor passive soundstage. Just like many other closed-back headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless, their soundstage sounds unnatural, closed-off, and as if audio is coming from inside your head rather than from speakers placed around you.

2.9
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
On/Off
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
On/Off
Virtual Surround
Spatial Audio

The Apple AirPods Max support Spatial Audio. This feature allows the virtual soundstage to reorient itself based on your head movements, creating a more immersive and 3D audio experience. If you're watching a movie and turn your head to the left, audio will become more noticeable in the right driver as your right ear is closer to the audio source. Spatial Audio also works with Dolby Atmos content available on Apple Music. It can help make your favorite tunes sound like you're at a live concert, as Dolby Atmos virtually creates different audio channels to help create the impression that sound is coming from all around you rather than from strictly the left and right drivers. You can turn Spatial Audio on/off by going into your iPhone's Bluetooth settings or when you connect to them for the first time with iOS 14.3. It's only available on newer Apple devices, and not all apps or services support it.

7.7
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.337
WHD @ 100
0.125

These headphones have a good weighted harmonic distortion performance. There's a small peak at normal listening levels in the low-treble, but it can be hard to hear with real-life content, especially since it affects a narrow frequency band. They also perform well at max volume, resulting in clear and pure audio reproduction.

Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
3B71
Power
On
Connection
Bluetooth 5.0
Codec
SBC, 16-bit, 48kHz
EQ
Adaptive EQ
ANC
On
Tip/Pad
Default
Microphone
Integrated

These are the settings we used to test the Apple AirPods Max, and our results are only valid when using this configuration. Although we tested these headphones using SBC codec, we have also tested them using AAC, which is Apple's proprietary codec. We first tested them by placing them on our Head Acoustics HMS, using a PC with SBC codec, and we ran a sweep. Without changing the position of the headphones, we then connected to our iPhone 11 Pro (iOS 14.3) with AAC and ran another sweep. We didn't detect any significant changes to the frequency response, and you can see the graph here. For over-ear headphones, we also do a sweep with humans and match the crossfade. Ignore anything below the 200-300hz range on this graph, as this was entirely measured on our testing equipment.

Isolation
8.3
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-24.59 dB
Noise Cancelling Yes
Bass
-15.53 dB
Mid
-26.31 dB
Treble
-33.07 dB

Note: These over-ears have a great noise isolation performance thanks to their adaptive ANC system. The ANC automatically adjusts depending on the headphones' seal around your ears as well as to your environment, depending on the kind of noise and its directionality. It means their performance is highly dependent on the environment and fit. That said, the ANC reduces sounds like ambient chatter and the hum of AC units extremely well. We also noticed that when we extend the length of time of any particular frequency, the overall ANC performs more favorably. As a result, it's hard to compare their performance to other non-adaptive ANC headphones or between firmware updates, as the ANC may perform better in some cases than others. However, there have been a few articles and threads that note a drop in performance, starting in May 2021, and users also have alerted us of a potential change to ANC strength after updating to firmware 4E71. We measured a difference in our unit's isolation (you can see our previous results here), but don't know if this is due to the firmware update, or another factor affecting their measured noise isolation. There's a difference in non-ANC measurements that indicates that these results aren't directly comparable⁠, and it extends to our firmware 5B58 measurements. We're currently investigating this issue and will update the review as soon as we can.

Users have also reported high cabin pressure when using ANC. It's a pressure-like feeling inside your ears when the ANC is on and is a similar sensation to when a plane ascends and descends. It's caused by your brain perceiving the lack of low-frequency sound as a pressure difference between the inner and outer ear, which can become uncomfortable. The cabin pressure of these headphones feels strong when their ANC is on. However, it won't be an issue for most users unless you're already sensitive to ANC. In comparison, other ANC over-ears, like the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless, seem to have somewhat less noticeable (but still present) cabin pressure.

7.1
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
38.88 dB

They have a decent leakage performance. They leak a bit of sound across the range, but most of it falls below the noise level of an average office. You won't bother others around you, even if you're listening to audio at a high volume.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
Yes
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
Mic Yes
6.6
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
LFE
273 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
2.77 dB
HFE
3,466.89 Hz
Weighted THD
3.025
Gain
15.85 dB

The Apple AirPods Max's mic has an alright recording quality. Your voice sounds thin and a bit muffled, but speech is still intelligible to whoever's on the other end of the line.

5.0
Microphone
Noise Handling
SpNR
9.61 dB
Noise Gate
No
Speech + Pink Noise Handling
5.0
Speech + Pink Noise Audio Sample
Speech + Subway Noise Handling
5.0
Speech + Subway Noise Audio Sample

The Apple AirPods Max's microphone's noise handling is poor. It has a hard time separating speech from moderate ambient noise, so if you're taking a call from a loud environment like a busy street, your voice will be drowned out.

Active Features
8.3
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
Rechargable
Continuous Battery Life
21.6 hrs
Additional Charges
0.0
Total Battery Life
21.6 hrs
Charge Time
1.5 hrs
Power-Saving Feature
Standby mode
Audio While Charging
Yes
Passive Playback
No
Charging Port Lightning

The Apple AirPods Max have a great battery performance. While there have been user reports that firmware 3C39 has improved the battery performance, we received similar results after updating our model to this firmware. With their ANC on, they're advertised to last 20 hours continuously, and we measured just over 21 hours, which easily lasts through long days on the go. They also charge pretty quickly and have a five-minute quick charge that gives you up to 1.5 hours of playback time. On the downside, the headphones don't technically turn off unless you completely drain the battery. Instead, they enter a very low-power state when placed in their carrying case. They also go into a low-power mode when in an idle position for five minutes. If you don't want to be away from your audio for too long, you can use them while charging. Even though you can use them wired with a Lightning to 1/8" TRS cable, this cable isn't included in the box. You'll need to purchase this cable separately. You won't be able to use them passively either, as the headphones need power to produce audio.

6.0
Active Features
App Support
App Name iOS Interface
iOS Yes
Android No
macOS Yes
Windows No
Equalizer
No
ANC Control
On/Off
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping No
Surround Support
Yes

The Apple AirPods Max don't have a companion app but an interface limited to iOS and macOS devices. On the iOS screen, you can switch between ANC, Ambient mode (which allows you to stay aware of your environment without removing your headphones), and off. You can reconfigure the Digital Crown knob to adjust the volume by going up and down or down and up. You can also turn the Spatial Audio feature on or off and access the same controls on macOS via your headphones' Bluetooth settings.

Apple allows you to adjust their sound through Headphone Accommodations in iOS and iPadOS 14 and higher. You can find instructions on how to access these features here. This interface allows you to tune audio for 'Balanced Tone,' 'Vocal Range,' and 'Brightness.' This interface is only available for select Apple and Beats headphones, and it only works on iOS/iPadOS 14 and higher. You can't use it on macOS, Android, or Windows. Due to this limited compatibility and because these features are outside the headphones' interface settings, we don't consider these to be EQ presets for the headphones.

Connectivity
9.3
Connectivity
Wired Connection
Analog Audio
Yes
USB Audio
No
Detachable
Yes
Length
N/A
Connector
Lightning
Latency - Analog
1.7 ms
Latency - USB
N/A
Recorded Latency
Recorded Latency Connection Analog

You can't use them wired right out of the box, and they only come with a Lightning to USB-C cable for charging your headphones. However, if you want to use them wired, you'll have to purchase a Lightning to AUX cable separately, and you won't be able to use a regular lightning adapter. The headphones must also have battery life remaining for you to use them wired via the lightning to AUX cable. That said, you'll be able to use ANC and transparency mode using this connection, and it has negligible latency, so you'll be able to stream video without lip sync issues.

7.9
Connectivity
Bluetooth Connection
Bluetooth Version
5.0+H1 chip
Multi-Device Pairing
No
Quick Pair (Android)
No
Quick Pair (iOS)
Yes
Line Of Sight Range
328.00 ft (99.97 m)
Latency - SBC
185 ms
Latency - aptX
N/A
Latency - aptX Adaptive (High Quality)
N/A
Latency - aptX Adaptive (Low Latency)
N/A
Latency - LDAC
N/A
Recorded Latency
Recorded Latency Codec SBC
AAC Support
Yes

The Apple AirPods Max have very good Bluetooth connectivity. Although you can't connect them with more than one device at a time, they have an H1 chip. This chip allows you to seamlessly pair them with other devices in your Apple ecosystem. Unfortunately, these headphones don't support lossless audio via Bluetooth and only support SBC and AAC codecs, which is disappointing if you want to stream audio in higher resolution. SBC has high latency, so if you're streaming video, your audio and visuals will fall out of sync. However, some apps and devices compensate for latency differently.

0
Connectivity
Wireless Connection (Dongle)
Line Of Sight Range
N/A
Latency - Dongle
N/A
Recorded Latency
N/A
Connectivity
PC Compatibility
Analog
No
Wired USB
No
Non-BT Wireless
No

The Apple AirPods Max can wirelessly connect to Bluetooth-enabled PCs. However, you can't connect them in any other way out of the box. You can purchase a lightning to 1/8" TRS cable separately, though.

Connectivity
PlayStation Compatibility
PS4 Analog
No
PS4 Wired USB
No
PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
PS5 Analog
No
PS5 Wired USB
No
PS5 Non-BT Wireless
No

These headphones can only connect to PlayStation consoles if you already have a lightning to 1/8" TRS cable. However, this cable isn't included in the box.

Connectivity
Xbox Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
No
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No
Xbox Series X|S Analog
No
Xbox Series X|S Wired USB
No
Xbox Series X|S Non-BT Wireless
No

Out of the box, the Apple AirPods Max aren't compatible with Xbox consoles. However, you can purchase a lightning to 1/8" TRS cable for analog compatibility.

0
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
No Base/Dock
USB Input
No
Line In
No
Line Out
No
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
No
Power Supply
No Base/Dock