Review: AirPods Max are as important for music to me now as the iPod was [U: November 2022]

Update November 21, 2022: I’m updating my review from August 2021 when the AirPods Max are on sale for $450 on Amazon and Best Buy.

While I’m here, I’ll add that AirPods Max are still a great buy in November 2022. They’re great and the only change in the rumor was new colors, but we don’t expect that to happen this year. I recommend the AirPods Max at $549, and the price is even better at $100 less.

AirPods Max weren’t an immediate purchase for me when they appeared online last December, but I talked myself into giving them a shot when they hit stores the following week. Eight months later, I can’t stop recommending them to anyone who can beat the $549 price tag (or get a deal).

My emphasis on shopping is heavily influenced by my work as a writer and podcast host for 9to5Macbut it was my love of music that made me close my eyes and hit the buy button.

There are many better ways to spend $595 (after tax) than on a pair of headphones. Already owning and loving AirPods Pro really made me iffy about the purchase. Inventory was still severely limited in February, so I brought it up with a price before it went too expensive.

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But as the saying goes: If you want something, set it free; if it comes back, it’s yours. I really missed how music sounded on the AirPods Max compared to the AirPods Pro. Six weeks later, I closed my eyes again and replaced my AirPods Max with a new pair. I think I’ve used them for about an hour every day since buying this set.

AirPods Max deal

Everyone’s experience is different, but this is mine. AirPods Max feel as important to me now as the iPod did in the 2000s. AirPods Pro headphones are my go-to solution in many situations where wearing headphones would not be appropriate or possible, but AirPods Max raise the ceiling for what audio should sound like. Factor in Apple’s resources to create a great user experience (wireless, strong connectivity, new features through software), and I’m totally sold these days.

I’m 30 years old and I’m reading, but I can clearly remember distinguishing the songs of different instruments for the first time when I was 15. I could listen to the same song five times and focus on a different song each time. This also happens when I realized that the bass guitar is as important in rock music as the lead and rhythm guitars.

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AirPods Max prepares me for that event as well. I’m so used to Apple’s white earbud variety that the AirPods Max make me realize that there are tracks in music that I’ve never picked up before. Lately, I’ve been revisiting songs from the late 2000s and picking up background vocals and other textures that weren’t really different before. This experience is what makes the AirPods Max feel so special, even if they are more expensive. “You only have to buy once,” I keep telling myself…

Music is not the only important experience that AirPods Max has created for me. Watching a movie or TV show on Apple TV or iPad Pro with AirPods Max is a great experience. I have a Dolby Atmos sound system, but often enough, it’s too immersive to take in a movie with AirPods Max when I’m watching alone. The noise canceling and transparent features also work seriously for keeping my head while raising my 4 and 8 year olds.

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The $550 price tag is still a big hurdle to overcome with AirPods Max at this point, but I’m past the point where it’s worth buying for me. Criticism at launch like the lack of wireless charging or USB-C port goes away when you find your charging rhythm (especially if it is daily).

The amazing case condition is updated via firmware, and in fact, mine just sits on top of my closet. My AirPods Max have their own pocket in my storage bag.

I’m just a little confused that there’s no compatibility with Apple Music’s hi-res lossless audio quality, but that’s the nature of wireless headphones anyway. I’ll save exploring the world of DACs and reference headphones for another time.

If you’re on the fence about AirPods Max but can imagine another use case like mine, I highly recommend closing your eyes and clicking the buy button again.

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