News Tech: After a string of rumors, Apple has managed to push the AirPods Max just below the network as the last major hardware release of 2020. Not surprisingly, the company launched its own line of noise-cancelling over-ear headphones. This follows the rapid rise and popularity of AirPods, which define the true wireless earbuds category. Before Apple, no one could really crack it. The AirPods Max enter a completely different realm where many other companies have great options. The AirPods Max had many initial reactions, but it was sticker shock that dominated them all.
Basically, these are Bluetooth headphones for many consumers. Nonetheless, Apple has strived to match the top tier of luxury headphones in terms of build quality and craftsmanship. The exact opposite of Sony’s plastic-everywhere WH-1000XM4 headphones. There is nothing wrong with plastic. These Sony cans hit my pocket and still work great. But everything about the AirPods Max exudes precision. Even metal unibody earcups can look boring. (The widely derided carrying case runs counter to this whole concept, but more on that later.)
At $549, it’s hundreds of dollars more than established competitors like Bose and Sony claim to have fairly good noise-cancelling capabilities for their headphones. And that’s the crux of the challenge facing Apple: unlike AirPods, it’s late in the game. AirPods Max cost a lot more than mainstream noise-cancelling headphones, but there are plenty of headphones, including wireless ones, that cost the same or more. I don’t think it makes sense to compare these to $1,000 (and wired) open-back headphones plugged into a DAC to listen to sessions of your Hi-Fi music collection.
This isn’t a review that says the AirPods Max are the best headphones for most people. you are not. If you want good, reliable noise-cancelling headphones for commuting, traveling, or working from home, save your money and opt for the Sony 1000XM4s, Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, or Microsoft Surface Headphones 2. All costs are At least $200 cheaper. You are well served by each of them. However, the AirPods Max make sense for certain people who can quickly find out why it’s “worth it”.
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