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Apple AirPods Max vs. Master & Dynamic MW65: Which should you buy?

Mw65 Apple Music
Mw65 Apple Music (Image credit: iMore)

If you live and breathe only Apple products and you're in the market for over-ear headphones, the choice is a simple one. Without passing Go, pick up a pair of the new Apple AirPods Max. However, if you're not necessarily tied to the Apple ecosystem or want something more unique, keep reading. Instead, you might want to consider the well-received Master & Dynamic MW65 headphones.

Apple AirPods Max vs. Master & Dynamic MW65: Both are great but have differences

It's important to note that both the Apple AirPods Max and Master & Dynamic MW65 headphones are excellent and should provide years of use. However, details are important, and it's on these points where Apple's entry takes the lead — especially for most iMore readers who are largely all Apple fans. Let's break it down.

AirPods MaxM&D MW65
Ear couplingOver-EarOver-Ear
Battery lifeUp to 20 hoursUp to 24 hours
Charging cableLightning to USB-C CableUSB-C to USB-C
Colors55
CaseSmart CaseCanvas Carrying Pouch
Weight384.8g245g
MaterialsMesh Textile, Stainless Steel, Anodized AluminumLeather, Anodized Aluminum
Microphones52
Physicals controlsDigital CrownButtons, and Toggles
AppHomeGoogle Home
Bluetooth version5.04.2
Noise CancellationYesYes
Listening Modes23
Voice assistantOptimized for the Apple SiriOptimized for the Google Assistant
Additional AccessoriesNone3.5mm to 3.5mm Audio Cable, Flight Adapter / USB-A Adapter
Replacement earcups$69/pair$49/pair

Though the AirPod Max is the new kid in town, you can already see the big differences between these two headsets. However, to make a clear choice, let's get more granular.

Apple AirPods Max vs. Master & Dynamic MW65: Shiney new Apple

Apple Airpods Max Exploded

Apple Airpods Max Exploded (Image credit: Apple)

Until the Apple AirPods Max is released into the wild, we can't comment on sound quality. However, we can highlight the announced list of features and how they compare to the MW65.

The newest Apple AirPods product is made of stainless steel, anodized aluminum, and breathable knit mesh. From a design standpoint, the most intriguing feature is the canopy that spans the headband; it distributes weight to reduce on-head pressure. Its stainless steel frame and telescoping arms provide strength, flexibility, comfort, and a consistent fit and seal.

The anodized aluminum cups rotate independently and balance the pressure for added comfort, while the custom-designed mesh textile wraps the ear cushions. You can purchase the Apple AirPods Max in space gray, green, silver, sky blue, and pink at launch.

Audio, hardware, and signature intergration

Apple Airpods Max Listening Experience

Apple Airpods Max Listening Experience (Image credit: Apple)

Apple's audio product offers spatial audio, which is also found on the AirPods Pro. The feature works with movies, TV, and video in supported apps and aims to simulate a movie theater or other multi-channel surround sound environment. Using built-in gyroscopes and accelerometers, AirPods Max, and your iPhone or iPad, track the subtle motion of your head, anchoring sounds to your device.

Apple's new headphones also include a Digital Crown that is similar to the Apple Watch Digital Crown. In this case, it lets you precisely control volume, skip between tracks, answer phone calls, and activate Siri. Master & Dynamic's answer to this is a series of buttons and toggles found on both earcups.

Until the Apple AirPods Max is released into the wild, we can't comment on sound quality. However, we can mention the long list of features and how they compare to the MW65.

And then there's Apple's signature integration that makes it a breeze to pair and use the AirPods Max with any Apple device, including iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. Better still, from setup to Siri commands, the listening experience is completely fluid, device to device. With Bluetooth 5.0, the AirPods Max bests the MW65, which includes Bluetooth 4.2.

Apple's signature integration makes it a breeze to pair and use the AirPods Max with any Apple device, including iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.

Finally, note the AirPods Max Smart Case, which places the headphones into an ultra‑low‑power state that preserves charge. This sounds like a promising feature, which we'll certainly test in the weeks and months ahead. Speaking of power, Apple says the AirPods Max will last for up to 20 hours between charges, regardless of what you're doing. With a five-minute fast charge, you can add 90 minutes of entertainment. This compares unfavorably to the MW65s.

Again, we don't yet know just how good the AirPods Max performs when it comes to sound. We know it offers active noise canceling and transparent modes, two features well-received on the AirPods Pro. The iPhone maker promises "each part of (the AirPod Max's) custom-built driver works to produce sound with ultra-low distortion across the audible range. From deep, rich bass to accurate mids and crisp, clean highs, you'll hear every note with a new sense of clarity."

Apple AirPods Max vs. Master & Dynamic MW65: Featherweight class

Masterdynamic Mw

Masterdynamic Mw (Image credit: Stephen Warwick/iMore)

In our most recent review, Stephen Warwick called the Master & Dynamic MW65 headphones the "lightest-ever" and technically sophisticated. The crème de la crème of its lineup. He also celebrated how you could get 24 hours of use on a single charge and 12 hours of listening time in just 15 minutes with fast charging.

Master & Dynamic styling for its audio products has always been unconventional, good or bad, depending on the person. The MW65 headphones feature anodized aluminum with beautifully styled leather. Each earcup includes lambskin-wrapped memory foam. Build quality is second-to-none, although some might find the headband uncomfortable after long-term use.You can currently purchase the MW65 in five color combinations, including gunmetal/black leather, silver metal/brown leather, silver metal/navy leather, silver metal/grey leather, and black metal/black leather.

The MW65s include Google Assistant baked in, which makes it an ideal companion for getting things done.

The MW65s include Google Assistant baked in, which makes it an ideal companion for getting things done. Thanks to the connection, you can perform voice-activated tasks with ease. However, don't expect the same integration level as you can find between the AirPods Max and Siri.

Master & Dynamic's headphones ship with a 1.5m standard 3.5mm audio cable, USB-C to USB-C charging cable (with USB-A adapter), optional 3.5mm Passive Audio Input, and two-prong flight adapter. You'll also find a useful canvas carrying pouch.

Warwick calls sound quality on the MW65 headphones "the coup de grâce." He explains the audio is "crisp and perfectly balanced" across all modes of media. Further, "using these headphones, I've heard sounds and parts in songs that I've never heard before, even whilst rocking Apple's very own Beats Studio 3 headphones."

Apple AirPods Max vs. Master & Dynamic MW65: Which should you buy?

Even before the reviews come in, we're confident Apple's AirPods Max will please Apple fans everywhere. Thanks to its tight integration with the rest of the Apple ecosystem, it makes sense for primary Apple users to stick with the company they love. Remember, pre-orders are ongoing, with the first orders arriving on Tuesday, December 15 in the United States and 25 other countries and regions.

However, non-Apple fans looking for incredible active noise-canceling headphones should look no further than the MW65. Made with buttery leather and anodized aluminum, these headphones are highly-rated and offer incredible battery life. Plus, they are slightly less expensive than Apple's newer product.