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Cashmonee

macrumors 65816
Original poster
May 27, 2006
1,276
942
A week ago I took the advice of those who said "don't knock it til you try it" and got a pair of AirPods Max. After a week, I am still not sure whether I will be keeping them or continue to look at alternatives. I am not going to bash these. I understand why people are attracted to them and I can see why people would love them. I also am not going to sugarcoat anything. These have some major flaws. Please understand that this is all my opinion. As someone who researches a product thoroughly before buying, I am hoping this gives others insight when they are searching for reviews.

What I like:

Sound. The sound is pretty good. I listen to a variety of music and these are really versatile. The bass is slightly exaggerated, but that helps make them versatile. I think these produce a sound that is pleasing and most people will really enjoy, including myself.

Connectivity. In general, these are excellent with connecting to Apple devices. I can go from an iPhone to a MacBook to an iPad then an Apple TV completely seamlessly. This is THE selling feature of these headphones in my opinion. This is what completely separates them from all of the alternatives. It is great.

ANC/Transparency. The ANC is right up there with the class leaders. I am not sure it is better, but it is certainly as good. Transparency on the other hand is class leading. And it is not close. The transparency mode here is fantastic and has no audible hiss when in use. If connectivity is the #1 feature, transparency is #1b.

What I don't like:

Comfort. This is the Achilles heal of the Airpods Max. I want to preface this with acknowledging that these will fit some people's heads better than others. For me, they are not great, leaning toward outright uncomfortable. The clamping force is pretty significant. I suspect this is necessary because of the weight, most of which is heavily concentrated in the earcups. The clamping force can be headache inducing made even worse when I am wearing glasses. Even with the force, the headphones feel like they want to keep sliding down due to all of the weight being in the ears. After an hour or two, I can definitely feel it in my neck. In fact, after wearing these for about an hour I can crack every bone in my neck which is admittedly pretty bad ass! They also had significant cabin pressure with ANC or transparency on. However, I did acclimate to that in a day or two and it is no longer an issue. If these are returned, it will be due to the comfort.

Battery Life. The battery life is poor in this space. Almost no one has less than 25 hours and some are pushing 35-40 hours. Bose only offers 20 hours, but they can be bought with a battery case that triples that run time. Under 20 hours is unacceptable at this price point and in this space. This is made worse by the fact that there is no power button. If I do not put them in the case, they will lose 6-8% over night. They need a power button and at least 25 hours of battery life.

Case. No need to beat this horse.

I could take it or leave it:

Controls. I appreciate buttons. So that is a plus. The buttons are not well placed, and I often hit them on accident. That's a minus. The digital crown is great for volume, and not so great for play/pause, skip. I have a hard time clicking the correct number of times.

Materials. This isn't likely to go over well, but hear me out. I appreciate that Apple was calling on all of their products and is creating a brand image. I really like that and think it is cool. However, there are two reasons I do not like the material choices. One, the aforementioned weight. Two, they don't feel $550. Don't get me wrong, they feel premium when compared to most other ANC headphones. When you compare them to other headphones in this range though, the cloth and aluminum do not measure up well to the leather and overall feel of other headphones. I find B&O's offerings to have a more premium feel. In the end, the materials chosen accentuate the idea that this is a tech company making headphones.

Looks. They look fine albeit generic. But I like the color choices and the ability to mix and match pads.

Warranty. Certainly not a dealbreaker, but I would like to see Apple match the warranty of Sennheiser (2 years) or B&O (3 years). Granted you can buy AppleCare to get it two years and cover accidental damage, but at this price point I think the warranty should be better than 1 year.

So this all leaves me conflicted. I can live with most of the things I don't like. The battery is annoying and the materials in the end are fine if not my favorite. I 100% would choose to keep the AirPods Max if they were more comfortable. I am afraid the clamping force will make them difficult to wear for long stretches. I have stretched them out and it has helped a bit, but the clamp is still there. I am not sure these will break in as well as most headphones.

I have a pair of B&O H95 coming tomorrow to compare. My inclination is that if those are comfortable, don't have too much hiss during transparency mode, and sound good, I will likely be going with those and returning the Max. My experience with the HX say the H95 will likely be plenty comfortable and will sound great. The hiss will be the dealbreaker if the H95 does not improve on the HX's performance.

Another option I am seriously considering is purchasing something like the Sony XM4's on a sale ($<280) and then getting something like the Drop HD6XX paired with a Schit modi magni stack. That would not be super far off APM with AppleCare and case and have decent on the go headphones with a kick ass setup at home.
 
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aUsern@me

macrumors newbie
Aug 1, 2020
12
0
The clamping force greatly diminishes with use.

I'm not sure I understand how, as the headband appears to be just a big piece of stainless steel, but it is true. Initially, they were like a freakin vice. It was literally headache inducing. Now, they're so comfortable I can take a cat nap with them on. I never had an issue with the weight.
 
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Cashmonee

macrumors 65816
Original poster
May 27, 2006
1,276
942
The clamping force greatly diminishes with use.

I'm not sure I understand how, as the headband appears to be just a big piece of stainless steel, but it is true. Initially, they were like a freakin vice. It was literally headache inducing. Now, they're so comfortable I can take a cat nap with them on. I never had an issue with the weight.

They certainly are better than they were a week ago. I attribute some of it to stretching them out over a Sonos Move over night. What you are saying is encouraging. Honestly, if it weren’t for the clamping force, they would be keepers.
 
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iRun26.2

macrumors 68000
Aug 15, 2010
1,929
154
They certainly are better than they were a week ago. I attribute some of it to stretching them out over a Sonos Move over night. What you are saying is encouraging. Honestly, if it weren’t for the clamping force, they would be keepers.
I never noticed any clamping force diminishing. I never even noticed it at all. I actually think I’d like more. Maybe my head is too small. I actually don’t extend the length down at all.

Great review by the way!
 
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dandrewk

macrumors 6502a
Apr 20, 2010
530
131
San Rafael, California
They certainly are better than they were a week ago. I attribute some of it to stretching them out over a Sonos Move over night. What you are saying is encouraging. Honestly, if it weren’t for the clamping force, they would be keepers.

I predict, in a week or two, you'll realize that the clamping force issue has all but vanished. That seems to be the recurring experience in this forum.
 
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dandrewk

macrumors 6502a
Apr 20, 2010
530
131
San Rafael, California
Of course it is, and if you feel it, take it back.

Then about 75% of all tech purchases would be returned. Buyer's remorse, by definition, is often an irrational response to any large expenditure. It's not an honest evaluation, it's guilt from spending so much money.

I notice you didn't answer my second question. Yet another poster making evaluations based on zero personal evidence. Why not buy a pair and own them for a week before you publicly post about "money grabs"? You can always return them.
 
Comment

doboy

macrumors 68030
Jul 6, 2007
2,917
1,516
A week ago I took the advice of those who said "don't knock it til you try it" and got a pair of AirPods Max. After a week, I am still not sure whether I will be keeping them or continue to look at alternatives. I am not going to bash these. I understand why people are attracted to them and I can see why people would love them. I also am not going to sugarcoat anything. These have some major flaws. Please understand that this is all my opinion. As someone who researches a product thoroughly before buying, I am hoping this gives others insight when they are searching for reviews.

What I like:

Sound. The sound is pretty good. I listen to a variety of music and these are really versatile. The bass is slightly exaggerated, but that helps make them versatile. I think these produce a sound that is pleasing and most people will really enjoy, including myself.

Connectivity. In general, these are excellent with connecting to Apple devices. I can go from an iPhone to a MacBook to an iPad then an Apple TV completely seamlessly. This is THE selling feature of these headphones in my opinion. This is what completely separates them from all of the alternatives. It is great.

ANC/Transparency. The ANC is right up there with the class leaders. I am not sure it is better, but it is certainly as good. Transparency on the other hand is class leading. And it is not close. The transparency mode here is fantastic and has no audible hiss when in use. If connectivity is the #1 feature, transparency is #1b.

What I don't like:

Comfort. This is the Achilles heal of the Airpods Max. I want to preface this with acknowledging that these will fit some people's heads better than others. For me, they are not great, leaning toward outright uncomfortable. The clamping force is pretty significant. I suspect this is necessary because of the weight, most of which is heavily concentrated in the earcups. The clamping force can be headache inducing made even worse when I am wearing glasses. Even with the force, the headphones feel like they want to keep sliding down due to all of the weight being in the ears. After an hour or two, I can definitely feel it in my neck. In fact, after wearing these for about an hour I can crack every bone in my neck which is admittedly pretty bad ass! They also had significant cabin pressure with ANC or transparency on. However, I did acclimate to that in a day or two and it is no longer an issue. If these are returned, it will be due to the comfort.

Battery Life. The battery life is poor in this space. Almost no one has less than 25 hours and some are pushing 35-40 hours. Bose only offers 20 hours, but they can be bought with a battery case that triples that run time. Under 20 hours is unacceptable at this price point and in this space. This is made worse by the fact that there is no power button. If I do not put them in the case, they will lose 6-8% over night. They need a power button and at least 25 hours of battery life.

Case. No need to beat this horse.

I could take it or leave it:

Controls. I appreciate buttons. So that is a plus. The buttons are not well placed, and I often hit them on accident. That's a minus. The digital crown is great for volume, and not so great for play/pause, skip. I have a hard time clicking the correct number of times.

Materials. This isn't likely to go over well, but hear me out. I appreciate that Apple was calling on all of their products and is creating a brand image. I really like that and think it is cool. However, there are two reasons I do not like the material choices. One, the aforementioned weight. Two, they don't feel $550. Don't get me wrong, they feel premium when compared to most other ANC headphones. When you compare them to other headphones in this range though, the cloth and aluminum do not measure up well to the leather and overall feel of other headphones. I find B&O's offerings to have a more premium feel. In the end, the materials chosen accentuate the idea that this is a tech company making headphones.

Looks. They look fine albeit generic. But I like the color choices and the ability to mix and match pads.

Warranty. Certainly not a dealbreaker, but I would like to see Apple match the warranty of Sennheiser (2 years) or B&O (3 years). Granted you can buy AppleCare to get it two years and cover accidental damage, but at this price point I think the warranty should be better than 1 year.

So this all leaves me conflicted. I can live with most of the things I don't like. The battery is annoying and the materials in the end are fine if not my favorite. I 100% would choose to keep the AirPods Max if they were more comfortable. I am afraid the clamping force will make them difficult to wear for long stretches. I have stretched them out and it has helped a bit, but the clamp is still there. I am not sure these will break in as well as most headphones.

I have a pair of B&O H95 coming tomorrow to compare. My inclination is that if those are comfortable, don't have too much hiss during transparency mode, and sound good, I will likely be going with those and returning the Max. My experience with the HX say the H95 will likely be plenty comfortable and will sound great. The hiss will be the dealbreaker if the H95 does not improve on the HX's performance.

Another option I am seriously considering is purchasing something like the Sony XM4's on a sale ($<280) and then getting something like the Drop HD6XX paired with a Schit modi magni stack. That would not be super far off APM with AppleCare and case and have decent on the go headphones with a kick ass setup at home.
I feel pretty much the same and today is my last day to return mine. My decision will come down to the last min :)

update: I was undecided, but since I didn’t feel like going to the Apple store I just kept it.
 
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Cashmonee

macrumors 65816
Original poster
May 27, 2006
1,276
942
If you're questioning a 550 dollar purchase already, it isn't worth it. And there's much cheaper, and better options out there. Hopefully the next iteration of these feel less like a money grab.

I am not really questioning the purchase as much as evaluating it. I don’t really mind spending the money. To be clear, the APM deliver much of what they promise. It’s just for me they are not terribly comfortable and I am unsure they will become more comfortable (as many headphones do).
 
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hsiunghsiung

macrumors newbie
Dec 27, 2020
25
10
Even though we had back and forth comments in my other thread, I can only say that this is definitely a hard decision aha. I'm returning my h95s soon, but I still have doubts. Mainly cuz the h95s raised in price by $50, and no longer offer the free pouch that I received. I feel like I got it at a discount because of that.

During my trial period, I keep going through the loop of:
1) Listening to APMs and enjoying the music
2) Switching to H95s and enjoying the clarity of vocals and some instruments and maybe sound stage at times? But then missing out on the full sound feeling.
3) Switching back to APMs and enjoying the full ambient sound, but missing the vocal clarity from the H95s after just listening to them
4) Switching back to H95s and enjoying the clarity again, but missing out on full sound feeling

The overall feel I guess is that with the APMs, I'm in a big closed room where the band is in front of me, and the vocalists are behind the band (further away from me). With the H95s, I feel like I am in an open space (less resonance), and the vocalists/string instruments are in front of me (maybe spread out too) while the other instruments like bass and drums are behind them

It's hard to fully tell which I like more. I just tell myself that I don't like the random electric whirring from the h95s in transparency mode and the feel of the dials and difficult transparency/ANC switching that requires full turning of the dial from one end to the other. While I might be able to live with those, they do bother me to some degree. The APMs havent bothered me to that degree yet despite their flaws, but who knows how itll be down the road

Please update on your experiences after you've received the H95s since I'm curious. Your concern with comfort is definitely valid, and hard to tell at this early stage. I always ask myself what's the point of great headphones if I do not like wearing them.

side note: The B&O return process is soooo slow. I sent in the request like 10 days ago, and received confirmation on the day of, but they required more waiting on my part to process the return and send me the pdf label which I received today. Maybe spring break played a part in the delay, but idk.
 
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Cashmonee

macrumors 65816
Original poster
May 27, 2006
1,276
942
Even though we had back and forth comments in my other thread, I can only say that this is definitely a hard decision aha. I'm returning my h95s soon, but I still have doubts. Mainly cuz the h95s raised in price by $50, and no longer offer the free pouch that I received. I feel like I got it at a discount because of that.

During my trial period, I keep going through the loop of:
1) Listening to APMs and enjoying the music
2) Switching to H95s and enjoying the clarity of vocals and some instruments and maybe sound stage at times? But then missing out on the full sound feeling.
3) Switching back to APMs and enjoying the full ambient sound, but missing the vocal clarity from the H95s after just listening to them
4) Switching back to H95s and enjoying the clarity again, but missing out on full sound feeling

The overall feel I guess is that with the APMs, I'm in a big closed room where the band is in front of me, and the vocalists are behind the band (further away from me). With the H95s, I feel like I am in an open space (less resonance), and the vocalists/string instruments are in front of me (maybe spread out too) while the other instruments like bass and drums are behind them

It's hard to fully tell which I like more. I just tell myself that I don't like the random electric whirring from the h95s in transparency mode and the feel of the dials and difficult transparency/ANC switching that requires full turning of the dial from one end to the other. While I might be able to live with those, they do bother me to some degree. The APMs havent bothered me to that degree yet despite their flaws, but who knows how itll be down the road

Please update on your experiences after you've received the H95s since I'm curious. Your concern with comfort is definitely valid, and hard to tell at this early stage. I always ask myself what's the point of great headphones if I do not like wearing them.

side note: The B&O return process is soooo slow. I sent in the request like 10 days ago, and received confirmation on the day of, but they required more waiting on my part to process the return and send me the pdf label which I received today. Maybe spring break played a part in the delay, but idk.
I will definitely update. The H95s are waiting at home for me. I had a similar experience with the RMA for my HX. I requested it in the middle of last week and got the instructions today. So maybe they were closed? I do appreciate that they give you a full 30 days. Apple’s 14 day policy is just a touch short for this kind of product. I will say, I left the APM at home today and have using the HX and I am enjoying them. These small differences in sound really aren’t so obvious when only one of them is being used. I think whichever I go with, they will sound great and I will adapt.
 
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hsiunghsiung

macrumors newbie
Dec 27, 2020
25
10
My memory of audio is horrible, so when wearing headphones back to back, it's hard for me to tell why they sound different. It's like I know they make something sound different overall, but I'm not sure what. Or sometimes, they sound the same to me. Depends on the song choice too I guess. But yeah, like you said, the small differences in sound sometimes aren't so obvious when using. I usually zone out when I listen to things too, so it probably doesn't matter to me as much unless something sounds horribly bad or really good and it's super obvious.
 
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jetjaguar

macrumors 68040
Apr 6, 2009
3,318
1,710
somewhere
I am on my second go around with the AirPods max and I think I am just going to keep them this time. I don’t use them much but when I do I like it. They are comfortable but not really a fan of the band at the top.
imreally like the looks of the h95s but that sucks that they raised the price and no longer include the case.
 
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Cashmonee

macrumors 65816
Original poster
May 27, 2006
1,276
942
I am on my second go around with the AirPods max and I think I am just going to keep them this time. I don’t use them much but when I do I like it. They are comfortable but not really a fan of the band at the top.
imreally like the looks of the h95s but that sucks that they raised the price and no longer include the case.

To be clear, they still include the metal case. Just no cloth pouch that they also previously included. Still sucks.
 
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throAU

macrumors 604
Feb 13, 2012
6,989
4,741
Perth, Western Australia
Another option I am seriously considering is purchasing something like the Sony XM4's on a sale ($<280) and then getting something like the Drop HD6XX paired with a Schit modi magni stack. That would not be super far off APM with AppleCare and case and have decent on the go headphones with a kick ass setup at home.

I've recently (3 weeks ago?) bought Sony XM4s (after buying a pair for the GF for birthday, I got my own) and couldn't be happier.

Decent case, bluetooth multipoint, good noise cancellation and great sound - at less than half the price of the AirPods Max locally. They're also about half the weight of AirPods max - have no complaints with comfort. Clamping force is minimal, most of it is carried on the band - which is adjustable.

I've yet to drain them below 80 percent (have charged them twice) - they claim 30h of life with noise cancellation running.

A colleague has had XM3s for a few years and has had no complaints, so hopefully they should last a few years too.

Connectivity for me with the XM4s seems as good or better than my regular AirPods. Which for whatever reason for me, seem to regularly need manual connection (they're still paired, but not connected) to my Mac rather than just automagically working.


If the XM4s are on your radar I'd definitely go check them out. Like I said, for me they're literally half the price to buy locally so that's money I could put to something else or use to upgrade in a year or two when XM5 or something else drops - or deal with an out of warranty replacement.
 
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JoEw

macrumors 68000
Nov 29, 2009
1,527
893
I was very lucky and found an open box pair for $400 at Best Buy, I think at $400 they’re worth it.

$550 is just not worth it to me.

I like them much better than my AirPods Pro for all day listening at work.
 
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KennyJr

macrumors member
Mar 13, 2020
93
56
Headphones experience from a junior apprentice audiophile:

Best wireless for Apple devices are the AirPods Max. Also they're the best all around for noise cancellation and transparency. These are also best for walking around without interruptions.

Best wireless for non-Apple devices is Beyerdynamic Amiron. They also have the best unaltered audio but are are less good for noise cancellation and transparency (cost about the same as the AirPods Max).

Best sound, best stage, and best for serious classical and acoustic jazz are my STAX wired headphones (cost $200 more than AirPods Max). I do though wish they had some kind of noise cancellation - but still ...

Most versatile wired headphones are HIFIMAN HE4001s (~$200)

Best earbuds for accurate audio are, in my opinion, Sennheiser Momentum II. ($300)

Best earbuds for noise cancellation are AirPods Pro. (~$200)
 
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Cashmonee

macrumors 65816
Original poster
May 27, 2006
1,276
942
So I have a good hour and half or so of comparing the AirPods Max to the H95. As far as sound quality goes, I think the H95 do sound noticeably better overall. It really comes down to the detail. Listening to something from Yosi Horikawa like Bubbles, The National Anthem by Radiohead, or Time by Pink Floyd, you can really hear more detail in the H95. That is not to say the APM don’t do a good job, but to my ear the H95 just go one more level. While I agree that the APM have a fuller sound, it is at the expense of detail. The H95 still have excellent bass while maintaining the detail. To my ear, I definitely prefer the sound of the H95.

The only fault I have with the H95 is the mechanical sort of hiss in transparency mode that @hsiunghsiung reported. It is exactly as you say. Right before music starts or for about 15 seconds after you pause, there is a mechanical piece to the hiss in transparency mode. I am not sure this if this is normal or not. It only occurs with transparency set to max and in general, you cannot hear it in music and turning the transparency level to medium-high eliminates it. I plan to contact B&O to make sure it isn’t defective.

I have until April 12 to decide on the AirPods. I will say, they are becoming more comfortable which is a positive. But now with the H95 here, I think I may be leaning toward a return for the APM. I really like the H95 sound.
 
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throAU

macrumors 604
Feb 13, 2012
6,989
4,741
Perth, Western Australia
Oh the other thing with the XM4s - they work without power just using the cable like regular headphones - if you have something that uses a regular headphone jack (e.g., Nintendo switch won't work with bluetooth audio) - or noise cancelling with power on.

I'm not sure how the AirPods Max work with a cable? Do they have a jack?
 
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hsiunghsiung

macrumors newbie
Dec 27, 2020
25
10
So I have a good hour and half or so of comparing the AirPods Max to the H95. As far as sound quality goes, I think the H95 do sound noticeably better overall. It really comes down to the detail. Listening to something from Yosi Horikawa like Bubbles, The National Anthem by Radiohead, or Time by Pink Floyd, you can really hear more detail in the H95. That is not to say the APM don’t do a good job, but to my ear the H95 just go one more level. While I agree that the APM have a fuller sound, it is at the expense of detail. The H95 still have excellent bass while maintaining the detail. To my ear, I definitely prefer the sound of the H95.

The only fault I have with the H95 is the mechanical sort of hiss in transparency mode that @hsiunghsiung reported. It is exactly as you say. Right before music starts or for about 15 seconds after you pause, there is a mechanical piece to the hiss in transparency mode. I am not sure this if this is normal or not. It only occurs with transparency set to max and in general, you cannot hear it in music and turning the transparency level to medium-high eliminates it. I plan to contact B&O to make sure it isn’t defective.

I have until April 12 to decide on the AirPods. I will say, they are becoming more comfortable which is a positive. But now with the H95 here, I think I may be leaning toward a return for the APM. I really like the H95 sound.
Thanks for the initial impressions.

For the B&O hiss situation that I emailed them about, they just asked me to send it in for their engineers to check out. I just decided to return it instead. I also included a recording sample in my message to them. You can hear it 0:00-0:05, but then it stops. Then I quickly play/pause, and you can hear it again at 0:08. You'll need headphones to hear the actual sound as speakers might not play it well. Please ignore the white noise and bump noises since I had to hold the mic (with sensitivity high) to the earcup to capture the sound. In real life, you'd just hear the whirring without that ambient white noise

The cool thing with the H95 is that the details don't come off with much sibilant sound (piercing hsss), which I've def ran into issues with the hifiman he400 at times. Usually when theres high treble or ssss sounds, some headphones play it kind of like peaking off, so it hurts my ears. The h95s didn't really have that issue for me. Or at least not to that degree.
 

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