AirPods Max Review: Those (almost) Rs 60,000 Headphones!

Just how much bang for that many bucks…

by: - Last updated on: March 29th, 2021
Key Takeaways

They are Apple’s first over-ear headphones, but the AirPods Max have attracted more attention for their price of Rs 59,900.
Although they come with a number of smart functions, there are many who feel that the headphones are way too expensive, as they cost almost as much as the Sony WH-1000 XM4 and the Bose 700 combined.
They are perhaps the first headphones that have inspired kidney jokes, but then look at what happened to the phone that had inspired similar jokes. So how good really are the AirPods Max? And what do they deliver for all them megabucks?

Wait, those are…
“Yes, indeed. The…”

That crazy case! That insane headband!
“Yeah, right, I mean…”

Those are the AirPods Max!
“Yes, the pink ones. I…”

airpods max review

The Rs 60,000 headphones!
“Well, Rs 59,900 actually…”

Stuff that! You can buy an iPhone 11 for that much!
“Indeed, but…”

You can buy a Core i7 notebook for that much!
“I know…”

Bloody hell! I can buy a Sony WH 1000 XM4 and a Bose 700 for that much!
“Yes, yes, look…”

Do you still have your kidneys? Haha!
“Haha indeed. Can I say something?”

What’s there to say? You are nuts to even look at those! Who pays that much for headphones?
“Actually, a lot of people. And we covered that in an earlier article. These are expensive by the standards of Bose and Sony, but if we are looking at the premium luxury headphone crowd like Bower and Wilkins, and Bang and Olufsen, hey, these are not that crazy expensive…”

Go fly a kite. What do you get at that price?

Insanely comfortable, rock-solid (apart from that band)

apple airpods max review 13

“Well, to start, as you can see, these look very very distinct. Nothing like anything in the market. We got the pink model. And there’s no chance you can confuse these with any other headphones. And they look so classy. That is metal being used on the earcups…”

It will scratch easily…
“Yes, I know…”

And that band on top is so thin and is not even protected by the case!
“Wait, wait. I agree. But on the flip side…”

There is a flip side? They get scratched, part of them looks fragile and seems unprotected…
“Well, they are easily the most comfortable headphones I have used (perhaps the Shure Aonic 50 come close). The foam inside is very soft, and that band does not press too heavily on my head. Wearing them is an incredibly luxurious experience. So much so that they do not even feel as heavy as their actual weight suggests – at 385 grams, they are much heavier than the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000 XM4. But they feel so utterly comfortable. And yes, that mesh textile band on top might feel fragile and the metal cups are scratch magnets, but most of these headphones are incredibly solid – the anodized aluminum cups, the stainless steel frame, the telescoping arms (which allow you to adjust the height of the headphones) and even the metallic crown and ANC button. There might be scratches on it, and perhaps a bit of the band might tear but most of the AirPods Max will remain with you for quite a while…”

apple airpods max review 6

Those earpads…
“Can literally be pulled off, cleaned, and replaced. They connect magnetically.”

Oh, no tools or service center trips needed?
“None whatsoever. And the fit is so good that your head is literally enveloped. Yeah, they look massive to others perhaps. But if you are wearing them, you are in your audio comfort zone. Especially if you have a Mac or an iOS device.”

Incredibly easy to use…as long as you have an Apple device!

Exactly, it is made only for the iPhone…
“No, it works with Android too. But yes, some of the functionality goes missing. It is a bit like the AirPods really. They are a good pair of headphones with Android, but a REALLY great pair with an Apple device. Actually, I would say upfront that if you do not intend using these with an Apple device, you can go ahead and give them a miss.”

apple airpods max review 3

Aha! So it is pretty useless for most of us!
“Well, it is a typical ecosystem product. And although many do not realize it, that ecosystem is huge in numerical terms. Let’s face it – the iPhone is the highest selling phone in the world, the iPads are the highest selling tablets in the world and the MacBook Airs do very brisk business too. So actually, it is not a very tiny niche that the AirPods Max are being sold to, but a well-consolidated segment.”

Whatever. But Rs 60,000!
“I get your angst, but then just look at the convenience they bring along if you are an Apple product user – pairing them is as easy as taking them out of the case (do not laugh at the case yet), and holding them next to the device you want to pair them with. What’s more, you pair them with one device and they get paired with all devices on the same iCloud account. It is incredibly seamless.

apple airpods max review 11

And well, there is no power button on them, so all you have to do is just take them out of the case and hold them near the device you want to pair them with. Remove them from your head (or just lift one of them off) and the music pauses. Put them back on within 15 seconds and it resumes. Else they slip into power-saving mode. It is all incredibly convenient!”

Not having a power button is convenient?
“Well, the fact is I would have liked the option to switch them off totally. But if you put them in the case, they go into low power mode and save a bit of battery. Although battery life is very good – about twenty hours with ANC, and about fifteen hours if you have both ANC and spatial audio on and volume at around 70 percent. Frankly, you do not need to max out the volume on these often…”

On the case (not Sherlock!)

Yes, but no power button!? Hah! And imagine being forced to use that case! I mean, THAT case!
“Yes, I do get that. The case is kind of odd…”

Odd? Victoria would have secrets like that!
“Yes, yes. Point taken. And it also forces you to use the headband as a handle while carrying it, and given how thin the fabric on the handle is, that does make me nervous. But…”

apple airpods max review 7

But? There is a ‘but’ after all that!
“Yes, there is. The fact is that for all its visual faults, the case works. And it is kind of nice to just put the headphones back into them, knowing you will not lose too much battery. No fiddling around with buttons!”

No touch, no problem

Yeah, no buttons. No touch controls. In 2021, imagine!
“Actually, given how fiddly and non-intuitive touch and gestures can be (we used the Sony 1000 XM4), I am happy to see no touch controls on these. I find a single button (for ANC) and the crown (for volume and other functions) to be much better than iffy gestures or clutter of buttons – for ANC, for Bluetooth, for Power, for volume (up and down), for special functions and so on.

The volume function through rotating the crown is the best I have seen on a pair of headphones – it is just so much easier than repeatedly pressing a button or swiping up and down on a touch panel. Yes, getting the hang of the other functions of the crown takes time – remembering how many times to press the crown to take or reject a call, and so on – but all said and done, this is a remarkably uncluttered way of handling things. The best thing? Everything just works the way it is supposed to…”

apple airpods max review 12

But you need an Apple device to get the most out of it!
“They are AirPods, for God’s sake! Most phone brands bring their TWS with special features for their own devices. Why should Apple be any different?”

THAT sound…of music, and everything else as well!

Fine, so they are comfortable. Fine, they are damn easy to use. But then, what about the real stuff, eh? How do they sound?
“In a word: Amazing.”

That’s just a word. Explain!
“Well, think of the sound that is incredibly rich. No, this is not the studio-type flat sound signature that audiophiles love. But you know, everything just seems so clear and rich on these. And the volume levels seem impressively high.”

Better than the Bose 700? Or the Sony 1000 XM4?
“In a word, again: Yes.”

Oh wait! How can you be SO sure!
“To be honest, I think that the predecessors of both headphones – the QC 35 II and the 1000 XM3 – sounded better than their successors. Their new variants seem to have focused more on ANC than on the audio quality. But even compared to the older ones, the AIrPods Max just seem to have a much richer and more detailed sound. They have somehow managed to blend the slightly warm bass of the Bose with a sharper treble than we generally get to hear on mainstream headphones, and all that without giving up on the mids…”

apple airpods max review 17

Inglese? Can you just translate that into something a normal person can understand?
“Ah, yes, sorry, sorry. Well, the fact is that these are the rarest sort of headphones – you can use them for anything from listening to music to watching shows and still get a very high-quality sound experience. They do not sound totally flat so audiophiles who want “pure sound the way it was recorded” might not like them, but they manage to handle beats, vocals and strings, and other instruments and add levels of stress and emphasis without letting any of them ever dominate the sound totally. And if you are watching shows, you are going to get a pretty thorough experience, especially if spatial audio is supported.

It is like sound coming from different directions, and with amazing clarity – footsteps, creaking doors, the works. The sound quality of these is frankly unmatched. There is nothing else I can really say. It is better than Bose or Sony. Purists might prefer Shure Aonic 50, though, as that has a slightly flatter sound. Gamers too will like the detail they get here, although those who love booming explosions might need to look elsewhere, although the way in which these capture small sounds are great for stealth players. All said and done, this is a beautifully flavored sound. Sound that everyone can love. Very similar to what one gets from the likes of Bower and Wilkins at a higher price point…”

There are MORE expensive headphones than this…
“Yes, there are. Much more expensive. But that is another story.”

THAT ANC!

apple airpods max review 14

Ok, so they are comfortable, easy to use in the Apple ecosystem, and have great sound. All that worth Rs 60,000, even though you say there are more expensive headphones around?
“Well, there is the little matter of active noise cancellation (ANC).”

Oh, I guess you will say these are better than the Bose 700 and the Sony WH 1000 XM4 here as well?
“Actually, yes.”

Hah! I knew it!
“Hear me out. The remarkable thing about these is the fact that the noise cancellation seems to actually get better as time passes. So suppose there is the sound of traffic in the background, it actually keeps getting fainter the longer you hear it. It is like they are adjusting the cancellation at a live level – yes, I know some headphones claim to do this as well but none of them do it as dramatically well as this one…”

That actually sounds impressive. But do they kill a lot of the background noise?
“Yes, they do. I actually think what helps are those very big earcups. Even without ANC switched on, a lot of external noise is blocked out. Add very good ANC to the mix, and I think these are the best out there. There are nine microphones out there, eight of them for active noise cancellation!”

apple airpods max review 15

They handle calls…
“Very well indeed. Again, perhaps the best I have used without a drop-out dedicated mic. Better than the AirPods Pro! People I spoke to said that they could hear me clear as a bell – mind you, I almost use these indoors as they are too big (and expensive) to be worn while walking casually on the road – and the excellent ear cups mean that you hear the other person very easily.”

But but but…Rs 59,900? Is it worth THAT much?

But Rs 60,000! Why would Apple charge so much?
“Well, I agree that is a lot of money. But then, I have not seen so many premium materials at use in a headphone – this much of metal itself being used is rare. And by all accounts, these come with a truckload of sensors in them – there are optical sensors, position sensors, case detect sensors, an Apple H1 chip, and accelerometers in each ear cup and the left ear cup also has a gyroscope. A teardown has shown that there is a lot more in these headphones than in most others.”

Yeah, yeah, but this does not support aptX, aptX HD, or LDAC codecs. And the drivers are 40 mm, which is nothing really too great…
“I agree, but all said and done, AAC support works just fine for anyone in the Apple ecosystem. The AirPods showed us that these really suffice. And as for driver size, come on, there’s more to great sound than just large drivers!”

apple airpods max review 18

Fine, so these are perfect, eh? Rs 60,000 for perfection?
“No, no, far from it. These have their issues…there is no dust and water resistance, the band on top is fragile, the earpads are easy to remove but in my unit, they get dirty very fast, the case is great for saving battery but looks odd and is difficult to chuck into a bag, and yeah, these are really for Apple ecosystem users…”

And Rs 60,000!
“Yes, and that. Rs 59,900!”

Expensive?
“Definitely.”

Would YOU buy them?
“If I had the money? Definitely.”

What! Why? You can get a OnePlus Nord and a Bose 700 for the same price. Or a Sony WH-1000XM4 and an iPhone SE for the same price. Or a notebook…
“Yes, I know all that. However, the simple fact is that this is not a product for those who are on a very tight budget. The AirPods Max are simply for those in the Apple ecosystem who want stunningly great sound. Think of them as a luxury product for your ears. And in that role, they simply massacre everybody.”

Would you buy it ahead of a Bose 700 or a Sony WH-1000 XM4?
“If sound quality and performance mattered and I had the budget, definitely. They are a clear notch above those two!”

Yes, but only if you have that sort of budget…
“But that applies to everything. If you ask me whether I would prefer taking an iPhone 11 or an iPhone 12 Pro Max, I would obviously pick the latter if I had the money! The same applies for the AirPods Max – if I have Rs 60,000 to spend on audio and I want the best and most versatile pair of headphones around, these are a no-brainer!”

apple airpods max review 2

But WHO spends that much on headphones?
“That’s another story. You can read it at. There is a segment that is willing to spend a lot on high-quality sound.”

Yes, but that is a small segment.
“Agreed, but then these are not meant for mainstream users. These are a bit like the high-end iPhone 12 Pro Max or the super high-end MacBook Pro.”

Typically niche expensive Apple stuff!
“To be honest, Apple does have a lot of relatively affordable products too. And yes, I wish these were less expensive. But that said, they do deliver a lot for their price. In many ways, they remind me of the AirPods – pricey, but about much more than sound. You do not pay Rs 59,900 just for great audio, but also for unmatched ANC, surprising ease of use, and supremely good performance.

Do not get them if you do not have Apple devices to use them with. But if you do have an iPhone and a Mac or an iPad, and you love audio, these are hard to resist. If you are looking for audio luxury with a lot of smarts thrown in, these are not just a sound investment, but a smart sound investment.

Mind you, I wish they would change that case…”

Pros
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Excellent ANC
  • Simple UI
  • Smooth operation within Apple ecosystem
Cons
  • EXPENSIVE
  • Mainly meant for the Apple ecosystem
  • Earcups will pick up smudges
  • The case remains very odd and not very portable
Review Overview
Design & fit
Audio quality
Ease of use
Battery
Price
SUMMARY

They are Apple's first over-ear headphones, but the AirPods Max have attracted more attention for their price of Rs 59,900. They are perhaps the first headphones that have inspired kidney jokes, but then look at what happened to the phone that had inspired similar jokes. So how good really are the AirPods Max? And what do they deliver for all them megabucks?

4.1

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