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

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

While I’m here, I’ll add that in November 2022, AirPods Max are still a great buy. They are so good and the only one rumours change have been new colors, but we don’t expect that anymore this year. I recommend AirPods Max for $549, and the price is even more palatable for $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 a week later. Eight months later, I can’t stop recommending them to anyone who can stomach the $549 price tag (or find a deal).

My validation for the purchase was weighted heavily by my role as a writer and podcast host for 9to5Macbut it was my appreciation for music that convinced me to close my eyes and hit the buy button.

There are so many better ways to spend $589 (after tax) than on a single pair of headphones. Already owning and loving AirPods Pro made me really dubious about the purchase. Stock was still very limited in February, so I unloaded them at cost before embarking on an expensive move.

But as the saying goes, if you love something, set it free; when it comes back, it’s yours. I really missed how music sounded AirPods Max compared to 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 at least an hour every day since I bought this set.

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Everyone’s experience is different, but this is mine. AirPods Max feels as important to me right now as the iPod did in the 2000s. AirPods Pro earbuds are my go-to solution in many situations where wearing headphones wouldn’t be appropriate or possible, but AirPods Max raises the ceiling of how audio should sound for me. factors in the Apple sauce to create an easy user experience (wireless, solid connection, new features via software), and I’m completely sold these days.

I’m 30 and counting, but I vividly remember first distinguishing different instrument tracks in music when I was 15. I could listen to a song five times and focus on a different song each time. This also happened when I realized that the bass guitar is just as important in rock music as lead and rhythm guitars.

AirPods Max recreates that experience for me. I’ve become so accustomed to the quality of Apple white earbud variety that AirPods Max makes me realize that there are songs within songs that I didn’t pick up before. Most recently I’ve been revisiting songs from the late 2000s and picking up backing vocals and other tracks that weren’t so clear before. This experience makes the AirPods Max feel worth having, even though they are so damn expensive. “You only have to buy once”, I keep telling myself…

Music isn’t the only special experience made for me with AirPods Max. Watching a movie or TV show on Apple TV or iPad Pro with AirPods Max is a fantastic experience. I have a Dolby Atmos sound system, but often enough it’s more immersive to record a movie with AirPods Max when watching alone. The noise reduction and transparency features are also seriously effective at keeping my wits about me while single for my 4- and 8-year-old kids.

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The $550 price is still the biggest hurdle to overcome with AirPods Max at this point, but I’m unable to see the value of the purchase for me. Criticisms at launch, such as the lack of wireless charging or a USB-C port, disappear once you find your charging rhythm (especially if it’s daily).

The weird situation was fixed through firmware, and in reality mine just lives in the top of my closet. My AirPods Max have their own pocket in my backpack to keep them safe.

I’m just a little annoyed that there’s no compatibility with Apple Music’s high resolution without loss sound quality, but that’s the nature of wireless headphones anyway. I’m still saving exploring the world of DACs and reference headphones for another time.

When you’re on the fence AirPods Max but I could imagine a similar use case to mine, I highly recommend closing your eyes and hitting the buy button as well.

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