While we haven't yet seen any official reviews of Apple's new AirPods Max, we do have plenty of early impressions videos and articles to enjoy and, so far, things are looking promising. Audio quality is proving to be more impressive than most of us dare hope and the ANC works just as well as the leading competition.
But actually deciding what that competition is, is proving a problem. Because as much as everyone seems to be desperate to compare AirPods Max with something, there isn't actually anything to directly compare them with.
The most obvious comparison, and the one I'm seeing the most, is with the hugely popular Sony WH-1000XM4. I use the older Sony WH-1000XM3 and they're wonderful. But these things sell for around $250 less than the $549 AirPods Max. And you can see where those comparisons are already going.
"Why buy AirPods Max when you can buy the Sonys for $250 less?"
That's a fair question. And, so far, it seems to be where the conversation ends – especially if you look on social media. But to compare AirPods Max and the Sonys – I'm not going to type out that product name each time! – without mentioning the former's killer feature is like comparing a Tesla Model 3 with a Chevy Bolt without talking about the self-driving tech.
That killer feature is, of course, the pair of H1 chips inside AirPods Max. And people seem to be forgetting they're there or, specifically, what they mean.
They mean instant pairing with iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watches, and Apple TVs. They mean instant device switching. They mean improved range and more reliable connections. They mean lower latency than traditional Bluetooth connections. They mean hands-free "Hey Siri" and message announcements. There might be more, but I've made my point.
If AirPods Max really can match the Sonys on audio quality, microphone performance, longevity, etc, the question shouldn't be whether you should save the $250 and get the WH-1000XM4s. It should be whether the H1 chips and all their magic are worth the extra $250. For me, it might be but I haven't decided yet. For others, not so much. For anyone using a Windows PC and Android and set to miss out on the benefits of the H1s, absolutely not.
If you're looking at the AirPods Max and comparing them with other headphones and ignoring H1's capabilities, you're missing the point. Especially when there are plenty of other reasons to bash Apple's new headphones – like that case. And the fact they don't fold. And that case.
Oh, and the fact you can't get any for three months.
Turns out someone's buying them after all.
All the H1s
You can purchase a pair of AirPods Max in five different colors, space gray, silver, green, sky blue, and pink.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.