Three Months With the AirPods Max

Fantastic sound nearly outweighs sticker shock

Key Takeaways

  • I bought the pricey AirPods Max three months ago and still love them.
  • The sound quality of the Max beats top-end offerings by Bose and Sony. 
  • Once I got used to the extra weight of the Max, they were surprisingly comfortable.
AirPods Pro Max in white standing up next to an iPhone and trying to connect


After spending three months with Apple’s AirPods Max, I’m convinced these fantastic headphones are among the best on the market, if you can afford the hefty price tag. 

Like many reasonable people, I was reluctant to spend $549 for a pair of headphones. I had been using a pair of Anker Q20 Bluetooth headphones with active noise canceling for several years.

The sound quality was decent, the noise-canceling somewhat effective, and they cost less than $40 on sale at Amazon. 

I realized that I needed to step up my headphone game last year after spending months in quarantine with my family.

Headphones were no longer a luxury to enjoy some music or a movie. Instead, they were the only thing keeping me from losing it while I tried to work with a lot of people and noise around. 

"The AirPods Max can take you from noise to quiet in almost any situation with the click of a button."

Competitors Disappoint

I tried out some of the top-of-the-line headphones, including Sony’s WH-1000WXM4 and the Bose 700. These were excellent headphones with great sound, but I returned them both because they didn’t offer much improvement over the Anker Q20 and cost much more. 

Then, Apple released the Max, and at first, I thought I’d give these a miss because of the high price. But after reading some rave reviews, I decided to take the plunge. 

I’m glad I spent the money because the AirPods Max have become a whole new sonic room of my life and a means of escape from the sometimes depressing and often distracting news of the past year. They’ve also paid for themselves in terms of increased productivity. 

As usual with Apple products, it’s not any single technical feature that stands out, but rather the whole polished package that makes the Max great. Take active noise-canceling, for example. 

I’ve tried over a dozen kinds of noise-canceling headphones over the years, and the Max was by far the best. 

The AirPods Max can take you from noise to quiet in almost any situation with the click of a button. But the noise-canceling system on the Apple headphones is only slightly better than the ones from Bose or Sony. 

With a button and a clickable stem, the Max’s controls are intuitive and work better than any headphones I’ve tested. 

World-Class Sound Quality

The sound quality on the Max is fantastic and among the best of any headphones I’ve ever tried. The AirPods Max delivers clear, detailed sound with a wide soundstage.

Again, though, the sound quality is only a bit superior to that of the Bose 700, which can sometimes be found on sale for nearly half the Apple product’s price. 

The excellent sound on the Max has opened a whole new world for me. I can now hear chords I never noticed on familiar songs. While watching movies, the sound is so much better that I can discern bits of dialogue that previously escaped me. 

Closeup of the AirPods Pro Max

Sascha Brodsky / Lifewire

Excellent sound quality doesn’t mean much if headphones aren’t comfortable. The Max took some getting used to in the comfort department. They are made out of aluminum, and much heavier than models made by Sony, Anker, or Bose.

After 90 days, I’ve gotten used to the weight and now find the Max extremely comfy. The weight and cushioned ear pads combine to give your head a kind of virtual massage while you’re wearing them. 

Surprisingly, my one gripe with the AirPods Max is connectivity. Since I almost exclusively use Apple products, I assumed that the connection experience would be perfect.

I find that I have to switch the Bluetooth setting on and off for my laptop, iPad, and iPhone several times a day to get the AirPods Max to connect. That’s kind of a big deal at this price point. 

Despite connections hiccups, I’m not sorry I spent the money on the Max. I use them daily, and the quiet afforded by the terrific noise canceling has been a massive boost to my productivity and peace of mind.

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