The American media have started to receive AirPods Max, Apple’s new wireless headset. Here is a summary of their first impressions.
It was Apple’s One More Thing for the already busy 2020 year: the AirPods Max, a noise-canceling wireless headset presented without drum or trumpet through a simple press release and made available on the brand’s website at the same time. Those who had their bank card at this time have already been able to buy it, the others will have to wait for a delivery which will not arrive before January 8 at best, if not within 12 to 14 weeks to believe the Apple brand online store.
Either way, the US media have already received their AirPods Max and published their first impressions of Apple’s first headset. We read the different feedbacks in order to summarize their opinion after a day of testing.
A “cold” design, but premium
You can’t miss the AirPods Max at first glance. A little retro air brought up to date that does not leave you indifferent. But the first term that comes up often is “ cold [to the touch] “. Unlike many headsets available on the market today, the AirPods Max’s earbuds are not made of plastic, but anodized aluminum. Yet at first glance, “ you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s plastic ” states The Verge .
For Cnet however, “ the build quality is in no way comparable to what is in the $ 300-400 segment ” , a good point for a helmet marketed at 550 dollars (629 euros). TechCrunch even goes so far as to say that if one judges only the manufacture, it should be even more expensive still.
This more premium feeling material is not without its drawbacks: it weighs 386 grams on the scale. That’s 54% heavier than the 250 grams of a Sony WH-1000xM4 , now the benchmark in the consumer headphone market. To prevent it from weighing too much on the head, Apple has developed a headband made of steel rods covered with a mesh fabric, ventilated and allowing the helmet to be properly balanced on the head.
However, this does not seem to convince all testers. The Verge doesn’t really feel the difference with a WH-1000xM2, while Cnet would like it to be “ 20% lighter “, judging it ” comfortable, but not necessarily SUPER comfortable ”. TechCrunch goes even further: “ If you don’t like heavy headphones, don’t buy the AirPod Max “. It has the merit of being direct.
Apple experience requires, everything is very neat. The temple slide system is “ very satisfactory, because it offers great resistance ” according to MKBHD who much prefers this to the typical clicking of plastic. For TechCrunch , it is a “ wow factor “.
Comfort nevertheless remains a primary criterion, satisfying most testers here. On this point, it is the atria that are appreciated. Their mesh fabric is comfortable and does not keep you too hot, a fault often criticized in helmets which quickly become a stifling furnace in a heatwave.
Smarter still: the tether system. The interior of the ear cups magnetically attaches to the rest of the headset for quick and easy changes when needed. The pair of pads costs 79 euros in Apple Store, but this system justifies the price. From The Verge to MKBHD, everyone appreciates that they can be easily removed when needed, but stay firmly in place the rest of the time.
What’s more, each earbud has a proximity sensor to pause your music when you remove the headset. Convenient: Most helmets only fit it into one pad.
A practical crown
The AirPods Max interface is also minimalist. Apart from the holes dedicated to the microphones, there is a button to manage noise reduction and a crown similar to that of the Apple Watch (but larger) to manage the volume, the change of tracks or Siri. “ It’s fluid and responsive ” according to Cnet .
MKBHD specifies that he would have preferred that these buttons be on the underside of the helmet, and not on the top in order to make them more accessible, but he nevertheless concludes that it is “ better than most touch controls ”. It is also possible to reverse the direction of the controls for the crown on iOS 14.3 to suit your preferences.
A … strange shell
Let’s avoid the bad jokes about the carrying case that came with the AirPods Max and take a look at what it offers: a very strange protection on the strongest part of the helmet only – the metal ear cups – and a system magnetic to put the headset on standby when it is stored. This is a problem in practice. Without a cover, the AirPods Max cannot be turned off.
The hull is also open in some places. If we can understand that this allows a cable to pass to recharge the headphones, it also allows dust to pass and therefore does not perfectly protect the holes of the 7 microphones (6 for noise reduction, 1 for the voice of the ‘user). The Verge goes so far as to say that this is the most “ cheap ” product Apple has ever made.
If the shell does not add much weight and bulk to the helmet, its use is therefore quite breathtaking, especially as the AirPods Max does not fold up on itself, even though its ear cups are adjustable to adapt to all face shapes.
The optional jack plug
Another point noted in all handhelds is the lack of a headphone jack on the AirPods Max. While this is not a huge problem on a daily basis, since it is intended to be used wirelessly, it could prove problematic in some cases, such as on an airplane to hook up to the infotainment system.
For that, it will therefore be necessary to buy a dedicated cable at 39 euros. We are therefore at 629 euros of headphones, 79 euros of spare pads and 39 euros of cable for a total of 747 euros. Outch. It is 62 euros less than a iPhone 12 mini only (yes, the comparison is not necessary, but it has the merit of putting the price in perspective for a helmet that goes be primarily paired with an iPhone).
A wide and pleasant soundstage
The most important of course remains to be defined: sound quality and noise reduction. Unfortunately, on a grip, the opinions are very succinct for the moment, but nevertheless seem unanimous: this is one of the best helmets you can find today.
Cnet claims to have spent a lot of time comparing the AirPods Max to the Sony WH-1000xM4 and Bose Headphones 700, and claims that Apple’s headphones “ offer better sound and better noise reduction […] more refined and richer ”. This sound “ impressive ” according to TechCrunch does not come to play “ in the same category as Beats (brand belonging to Apple), with” a [19459014 ] its more nuanced, delivered clearly across the spectrum ”.
However, it will be necessary to wait for more complete tests to know if the AirPods Max is really up to expectations and if the software technologies integrated by Apple (spatial audio, automatic equalization …) are all the more impressive in headphone format they are on the AirPods Pro .
See you in a few days to find out if the AirPods Max is worth its 630 dollars.