The Guardian reviews Apple’s AirPods Max: ‘Exquisite’

Earlier this month, Apple debuted AirPods Max, the first over-ear headphones worthy of an Apple logo. Now, the reviews are arriving.

AirPods Max are innovative wireless headphones that bring the magic of AirPods to an over-ear design with high-fidelity sound. AirPods Max combine a custom acoustic design, H1 chips, and advanced software to power computational audio for a breakthrough listening experience with Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio. AirPods Max come in five colors: space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink.

AirPods Max custom acoustic design features a 40-mm dynamic driver and a unique dual neodymium ring magnet motor.
AirPods Max custom acoustic design features a 40-mm dynamic driver and a unique dual neodymium ring magnet motor.

Samuel Gibbs for The Guardian:

The ear cups are really comfortable. The pads are made out of memory foam covered in a woven fabric and do not make my ears sweat like some rivals can. The arms extend height adjustment and the ear cups tilt and rotate to fit the side of your head. The spring-loaded hinges apply firm but not overly strong pressure to keep the headphones in place. Once adjusted properly the Max are very comfortable even for extended periods.

The Max produce the sort of fantastic sound you should expect, joining a rare bunch alongside the B&W PX7 and Sony WH-1000XM4 that sound so good you will be able to hear new elements in well-worn tracks. Bass is powerful and tightly controlled: present when needed but not overpowering. Mids are precise and do not dominate, while highs sparkle with energy and clarity. Every tone is finely balanced but they are not flat, with a pleasing, full and well-judged sound that is good at any volume. Grand orchestral scores delight with dynamic range and a wider sound than most…

Apple’s noise cancelling is easily as good as the best in the business, handling road noise, drone, fans, the sounds of roaring boiler or extractor fan just as well as Bose, B&W or Sony. They also have a class-leading transparency mode that lets you hear the world around you, almost as if you were not wearing the headphones.

The Apple AirPods Max are big, expensive and flashy noise cancelling-headphones that manage to stand out in a crowded market. They sound fantastic with most genres of music, brilliant with movies including some fancy virtual surround tech, plus superb noise cancelling that matches the best in the business… If you are looking to splash the cash on a luxury set of noise-cancelling headphones with exquisite audio, the AirPods Max deliver.

MacDailyNews Take: The AirPods Max reviews are strong!

One issue: In his full review, Gibbs writes, “Bass heads looking for thumping low-end in every track will need to look elsewhere – there’s no equaliser to crank up – while they could be a touch more raw in grunge tracks such as the classic Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

That’s not exactly true. Beyond using Settings > Music > EQ in iOS/iPadOS, you can also amplify soft sounds and adjust certain frequencies using “Headphone Accommodations” in iOS and iPadOS 14.

Headphone Accommodations works with these headphones:
• AirPods Max
• Apple EarPods (with 3.5 mm Headphone Plug or Lightning Connector)
• AirPods (2nd generation)
• AirPods Pro
• Powerbeats
• Powerbeats Pro
• Beats Solo Pro

Set up Headphone Accommodations

  1. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual > Headphone Accommodations. Turn on Headphone Accommodations.

  2. Choose how you want to apply your custom audio settings:
    • Turn on Phone to apply these settings to phone calls, FaceTime calls, and any third-party video call apps.
    • Turn on Media to apply these settings to music, movies, podcasts, audiobooks, Siri, voicemail, and Live Listen.

  3. Customize your headphone audio settings:
    • Use Custom Audio Setup. You’ll listen to audio samples and choose which ones sound better to you. Then you can apply the custom settings suggested based on your choices.
    • Use your audiogram data.
    • Manually adjust audio settings: From the Headphone Audio screen, adjust tone and amplification settings manually. Tap “Play Sample” to hear an audio sample with your current settings. You can change these settings while listening to the sample.


  1. “… Apple debuted AirPods Max, the first over-ear headphones worthy of an Apple logo.”
    And yet there is absolutely no Apple logo anywhere on them, lol.

    1. Wrong.

      First of all, AirPods Max are sold under the Apple brand. There are also multiple Apple logos on AirPods Max. Besides the one on the box, there’s an Apple logo inside each earcup:

      1. You’re missing the point, I’m talking about visible from the outside, as on most all Apple products. But I don’t think most people will be wearing them outside of their home so I guess it doesn’t really matter.

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