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Comparison: AirPods Max vs Sony XM4, Sennheiser Momentum and Bose NC 700

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At $550, the AirPods Max are quite a bit more expensive than noise cancelling headphones from other companies like Sony and Bose, many of which are highly rated. In our latest YouTube video, we compared the AirPods Max to the Sony WH-1000XM4s, the Bose NC Headphones 700, and the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless to see if they're worth the premium price tag.


All three of the competing headphones are available at $350 retail, but oftentimes, there are sales. With the Sony XM4's, for example, you can get them on sale for $280, which is a steal for the functionality. The Bose 700s are going for about $340 right now, and the Sennheisers are about $300.


When it comes to design, the AirPods Max look and feel like $550 headphones thanks to the aluminum cups and the mesh ear cushions, and while aesthetics are subjective, they're arguably the most unique of the bunch. The Bose 700's have a classy, futuristic look and the Sennheisers have more of a retro flair. The Sony headphones are the most basic, but are overall fine.

Sony XM4s​

We think the AirPods Max are the best looking headphones of the bunch followed by the Bose and Sennheiser headphones with Sony coming in last, but it's also worth noting that the AirPods Max are heavy and are in fact the heaviest of the bunch.

Bose NC Headphones 700​

Comfort is also super subjective and is going to depend on each person's head shape, ears, and size. Most people have found the AirPods Max to be comfortable, but some find the weight to be unbearable. With their plastic design, the Sony headphones are the lightest of the bunch for those who want less weight.

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless​

We found the AirPods Max to be most comfortable, followed by the Sennheiser headphones, the Sony headphones, and then the Bose, which are also somewhat heavy and have smaller earcups. That said, it's all quite close.


When it comes to buttons, Apple did a good job with controls for the AirPods Max with the Digital Crown and toggle for activating ANC, but we'll never understand why there's no power button or the strange case choice. The AirPods Max case is not protective, it doesn't look good, and it's all around the worst case that comes with any of the headphones.


In terms of sound quality, the AirPods Max sound fantastic, but again, choosing one set of headphones over the other really comes down to preference. We thought the AirPods Max had the most balanced sound experience of the bunch. The Sennheiser headphones really did poorly compared to the others, but the Bose and Sony headphones both sounded great, though leaned toward being bass heavy. That said, all of the headphones except the AirPods Max have adjustable EQ settings so they can be tweaked to your liking.


This will come as no surprise, but when it comes to Active Noise Cancellation, the Sony XM4's and the AirPods Max win out. Sony has always been the best at noise cancellation, and the AirPods Max are truly competitive. All of these options have solid ANC capabilities, though, and it's a close call.


Our videographer, Dan, goes into much more detail on each of the different headphones, so make sure you watch the full video for a complete picture of the similarities and differences.


All of the headphones we've covered are excellent options, and choosing between them will depend on your budget and your personal tastes. We think for most people, the AirPods Max may not be worth that premium price tag because there are other great headphones that are much more affordable available, but the AirPods Max are certainly at the head of the pack and when it comes down to it, we prefer them over the competing options.

Article Link: Comparison: AirPods Max vs Sony XM4, Sennheiser Momentum and Bose NC 700
 

nutmac

macrumors 601
Mar 30, 2004
4,970
3,892
I would get AirPods Max if:
  • I can get it for $400 or less.
  • It doesn't come with the stupid case. I don't need it, I don't want to pay for it.
  • Spatial Audio works with Apple TV.
  • Weighs less. Plastic ears, please?
I would also prefer USB-C or MagSafe for charging, but not a dealbreaker.
 
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jz0309

macrumors 65816
Sep 25, 2018
1,472
3,101
Temecula, CA
thanks for your time and effort MR! I still would like to see comparison yet done by a sound engineer in a sound room, objective measurements ... also interesting that you find the AirPods most comfortable, there's a thread which seems to contradict or at least question that statement ...
 
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jz0309

macrumors 65816
Sep 25, 2018
1,472
3,101
Temecula, CA
I would get AirPods Max if:
  • I can get it for $400 or less.
  • It doesn't come with the stupid case. I don't need it, I don't want to pay for it.
  • Spatial Audio works with Apple TV.
  • Weighs less. Plastic ears, please?
I would also prefer USB-C or MagSafe for charging, but not a dealbreaker.
maybe a cast that actually protects them? eg when traveling
 
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Ds6778

macrumors 6502a
Sep 9, 2016
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As usual, the people who actually have these love them, and the people who have to justify not getting them, are hating on it. No one is making you buy these. It’s ok to sit this one out.

I love mine and the case is slim and easy to use. I look forward to what Apple has in store for the AirPods Max line.
 
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richard371

macrumors 68040
Feb 1, 2008
3,043
1,202
I like the AirPods Max but the Sony M4s arrived today. Far better then the AirPods for me. Lighter, more comfy, and all the analog adapters needed for DJing, flying etc. The AirPods are going back immediately. This is coming from an Apple Fanboy. The Sonys are far superior IMHO. I have spoken.
 

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MauiPa

macrumors 68000
Apr 18, 2018
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"That said, all of the headphones except the AirPods Max have adjustable EQ settings". of course there is the EQ function in Apple Music and Spotify, that seems available for any audio output, also third party apps have EQ functions. also the AirPods Max dynamically sample the audio produced and adjust it to how it is supposed to sound - so accuracy! yah, there is that.
 
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involuntarheely

macrumors regular
Jul 28, 2019
112
108
I would get AirPods Max if:
  • I can get it for $400 or less.
  • It doesn't come with the stupid case. I don't need it, I don't want to pay for it.
  • Spatial Audio works with Apple TV.
  • Weighs less. Plastic ears, please?
I would also prefer USB-C or MagSafe for charging, but not a dealbreaker.
It would seem like Apple is going to do exactly that with the "cheap" or "sport" version of the Airpods Max, which were also rumored. then those headphones will sell in mass.
 
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mashdots

macrumors regular
Dec 10, 2015
147
439
seattle-ish
I think the review is largely good. Only thing for me is that APM's benefits over the other headphones don't seem to be worth the premium price. I'm a little biased because i have the XM3s and I really enjoy them. Having paid for those, I'm comparing the cost difference to the opportunity cost and the math doesn't check out for me.

"Sony has always been the best at noise cancellation"

Demonstrably prove your claim.

I've had a really good experience with sony headphones and noise cancellation but i'm gonna have to side with @MauiPa and say it's largely subjective.
 
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kirk.vino

macrumors 6502
Oct 27, 2017
415
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I like the AirPods Max, but they feel tight on my head. After an hour or so I start feeling that head fatigue. I think the soundstage is great on these! I do believe though that the Sony with their price tag is a far better option for most people. Also, I hope Apple will release a cheaper aka sport version of these with the same drivers. That would be a more comfy option.
 
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decypher44

macrumors 65816
Feb 24, 2007
1,278
1,910
Orange County, CA
Help!!!

I’m trying to decide whether or not to buy the xm4. I’m not finding a lot of info regarding latency while watching video on iMac and/or iPhone. Can anyone here answer this? Mostly watch on iMac using Safari (many streaming services). Thanks!
 
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richard371

macrumors 68040
Feb 1, 2008
3,043
1,202
Help!!!

I’m trying to decide whether or not to buy the xm4. I’m not finding a lot of info regarding latency while watching video on iMac and/or iPhone. Can anyone here answer this? mostly watch on iMac using Safari (many streaming services). Thanks!
You can try them. They are far better for me.
 
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applicious84

macrumors regular
Sep 1, 2020
216
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When it comes to buttons, Apple did a good job with controls for the AirPods Max with the Digital Crown and toggle for activating ANC, but we'll never understand why there's no power button or the strange case choice. The AirPods Max case is not protective, it doesn't look good, and it's all around the worst case that comes with any of the headphones.
Having that crown seems incredible. I really want to try them if only for that. That lack of a power button, usb-c, and a headphone jack is Apple being Apple, I guess, but for a device that can be used with so many things in so many places, it just seems off.

We thought the AirPods Max had the most balanced sound experience of the bunch. The Sennheiser headphones really did poorly compared to the others, but the Bose and Sony headphones both sounded great, though leaned toward being bass heavy.
I don't claim to be an audiophile. The thought of hearing that well makes me cringe (it's like smelling too well; I really appreciate how dull my senses are), lol, but I also don't understand what people call balanced sound vs bass heavy. I've always thought that "balanced" is kinda bass light, especially with contemporary music. I get that a lot of people who call themselves audiophiles like to listen to old classical records in a library, smoking a cigar or worse, classic rock in a basement, but man, weak base is weak sauce
 
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nutmac

macrumors 601
Mar 30, 2004
4,970
3,892
maybe a cast that actually protects them? eg when traveling
For me personally, AirPods Pro will be my preferred headphones for travel. But if you are the sort that would put up with the bulk in exchange for comfort of over-the-ear headphones, I am sure someone would eventually make a case for it. I just don't want to pay for something that would stay at home or office most of the time.
 
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jasonefmonk

macrumors 6502
May 5, 2011
316
360
I just ordered and tested both the Sony WH-1000XM4 (XM4) and the Sennheiser MOMENTUM Wireless 3 (MW3). Both are good upgrades from my wired Sennheiser MOMENTUMs from 2012.

The XM4s have a better profile against your head; fewer protrusions and lower potential to knock them off or damage something else. They have better noise cancelling than the MW3s and are lighter too. The XM4s fold up more and pack in to a case about half the size of the MW3s.

Other than that I give the win to the MW3s. The ear-cups are larger and more spacious, ear pads larger and more comfortable. If you move your head or jaw too much with the XM4s the shifting will move your ear to block and significantly dampen the sound. That doesn’t happen with the MW3s, they sit more stable on your head even with a heavier weight. The MW3 build does feel nicer with the metal and materials quality.

MW3s have superior sound to my ear. The XM4s do a fine job, and push the mids/treble more for a lively fun sound. Great for rock or vocal fans. The MW3s seem to roll off the treble a bit more by comparison but they offer a deeper clearer bass and a bigger soundstage. Sounds have better separation and you can boost the mids/treble if you want with the Sennheiser Smart Control app.

Finally the XM4s fall down considerably in the on-device control department. They mostly use these barely responsive touch controls on a flat, unadorned surface. They were completely unreliable for me. Now a lot of us are used to limited control with AirPods and use phones/watches, but the controls need to be there sometimes. The MW3s have fairly easy to engage buttons on the rear of the right ear-cup. They have all the functions you’d want including multifunction play/pause/answer/hang up/battery info, voice assistant/pairing, volume, and noise cancelling on/off with transparency mode as well. Much better than the awful controls on the XM4s.

I’d highly recommend the Sennheiser MOMENTUM Wireless 3 headset if someone else is looking at this class of headphone. The are very capable and fully featured with sound that will compare well to AirPods Max, they come with a functional case and the cable accessories you would need. They will lack “Hey, Siri”, Spatial Audio, and automatic pairing, but the MW3s have simple Bluetooth pairing, automatic switching and multiple device support, noise cancelling and transparent modes, call audio routing with reasonable quality, and a very fast assistant/Siri button. They also have Alexa and Tile integration if you wanted to set those up. A good buy in my book.
 
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