AirPods Max Customer Impressions: Premium Design and Competitive Sound Quality, Can Feel Heavy on Ears and Smart Case is Useless

Today is AirPods Max launch day in the United States and many other countries, and as orders begin arriving, first impressions of the headphones from customers are beginning to surface. We've already shared AirPods Max impressions from media outlets and YouTubers, and customer opinions provide additional perspective.

airpods max customer photos

AirPods Max photos shared by MacRumors forum member Boardiesboi

MacRumors forum member Boardiesboi picked up a pair of AirPods Max from an Apple Store and said they are "premium quality" and "very well made," adding that the stainless steel and aluminum design is "miles ahead" of the plastic used in Bose's QuietComfort 35 II and Sony's WH-1000XM4 headphones. They also found the AirPods Max to have better sound quality and active noise cancellation than those Bose and Sony options.

Boardiesboi finds the ear cups to be "light and airy," but said the AirPods Max are "much heavier" than Bose and Sony headphones. "I've been wearing them for 45 mins or so and I'm starting to notice the weight on the ears (not the top of the head)," they said. (Apple says the AirPods Max headband is designed to distribute weight and reduce on-head pressure.)

Of course, not everyone is as impressed with the AirPods Max. MacRumors forum member Macaday said that while the AirPods Max have superior build quality and aesthetics, they weren't convinced they are better than Sony's WH-1000XM3 headphones:

Mine arrived a couple of hours ago and although it's too early to make a final call - on initial impressions I'm not sure I like them over my Sony XM3's. The sound signature is no doubt very pleasing to some but to me it lacks warmth and depth compared to the Sony's. The Sony's are also a lot comfier, you forget you're wearing them where as the AirPods Max really have a weighty presence that feels like pressure on your head and ears.

I'm a little shocked if I'm honest that the Sony's have a much more pleasing sound. The AirPods Max probably have a little more detail in the mids and highs but being able to EQ the Sony's means I can get a much more custom sound that suits me.

Max volume is also higher on the Sony's which helps with the quieter recordings. Both have no distortion at high volumes.

Build quality and looks go hands down to Apple, the crown to control the volume is brilliant but sound and comfort is surely the number one priority and that is where I'm afraid the Sony's win - so far.

MacRumors forum member LongWayHome ranked Bose's QuietComfort 35 II and Sony's WH-1000XM4 headphones ahead of the AirPods Max in terms of comfort, noting that the AirPods Max are heavy:

I've owned these now for about an hour, and they sound fantastic and theh noise cancellation is excellent. One thing to keep in mind though, these things are heavy. I've been wearing them for an hour and I can definitely feel the weight of them. I hope this doesn't turn into something that I don't like wearing for extended times due to the weight, but I think most everyone will feel it when they wear them.

MacRumors forum member Moriarty emphasized that the AirPods Max ear cups are "deep and spacious," and they feel this deserves more attention:

The earcups are deep and spacious (at least as big as my QC25). My ears touched the insides of the XM4 so I returned them: I do not have this problem with the AirPods Max. I feel like this feature has not gotten half the attention that it deserves. So many wireless headphones have far too small earcups and I cannot stand it. No such problem here. This is partly why the headphones are so big. Most of the depth is taken up by the earcup and the driver, and all the electronics are around the edge. It’s very well thought out.

Several customers expressed appreciation for the physical controls on the AirPods Max, compared to touch controls on some other over-ear headphones. Like the Apple Watch, the AirPods Max have a Digital Crown for volume control, playback, phone calls, and Siri, as well as a noise control button for switching between Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency modes, the latter of which lets a bit more outside sound in.

Like reviewers, many customers agree that the "Smart Case" carrying case included with the AirPods Max ranges from "useless" to "awful."

"It's almost like Apple's design team forgot about the case and they got one of the cleaners to design it on a piece of paper," quipped MacRumors forum member honglong1976. "The case is absolutely useless for travelling."

Priced at $549, the AirPods Max are available to order on Apple.com, but they currently have a lengthy 12-14 week delivery estimate. For more impressions, visit the AirPods subforum in the MacRumors forums. And if you're still waiting on your AirPods Max, track your order alongside other Apple fans in our pre-order discussion thread.

Related Roundup: AirPods Max
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Max (Neutral)
Related Forum: AirPods

Top Rated Comments

MacFather Avatar
22 months ago
That Smart Purse is a joke. Premium headphones, premium case.

Score: 79 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thadoggfather Avatar
22 months ago
I hate that you have to use the 'case' for standby mode without severe battery drain

learned that from Marques Brownlee video
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
RamGuy Avatar
22 months ago
I've been using my pair for a little while and it's too early to tell. But I find the comment "I'm a little shocked if I'm honest that the Sony's have a much more pleasing sound" rather funny but it just goes to show how personal audio and sound truly is.

The soundstage of the Apple AirPods Max is leaps beyond the Sony WH-1000XM4. They feel so wide and spacious and vocals have a true spark to them. The XM4 have a very V-shape sound profile. Meaning they are more upfront and "in-your-face" which emphasis bass. I find them to be rather muddy like most headphones with a v-shaped profile as it puts the lower frequencies more upfront which ends up sacrificing width, separation and clarity.

This has pretty much been confirmed and verified by rtings.com in their excellent and in-depth review of the XM4's.


The AirPods Max are very different from the XM4's. They try to be wide and spacious providing a great soundstage with crystal clear sounds that you can easily pinpoint. If you are one that prefers the sound to feel like they are coming from within your head and for the bass to be in focus you won't like the AirPods Max at all.

But like most high-end headphones it's all about making the audio feel like it's coming from all around you. This is why most high-end headphones tend to be open-back as it's much easier to achieve a very wide soundstage when the headphones are open-back. The AirPods Max are best closed-back ANC headphones I've ever heard in terms of bringing an extremely wide and spacious soundstage. If you are not one that enjoys or appreciate width in your audio and music then you are pretty much waisting your money with the AirPods Max.

V-shaped audio is much easier to achieve and you'll get a much better "in-your-head" kind of audio signature from way cheaper options.


I can't really comment on the ANC as of yet as I've been using mine inside and there isn't much noise here for me to really test the ANC.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Quu Avatar
22 months ago
Having owned heavy headphones in the past I know how it can ruin the experience no matter how good they sound. If people are already reporting discomfort after only 40 minutes ... not great :(
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
G5isAlive Avatar
22 months ago
I am not defending the case, agree 100% not great for traveling and I no doubt will be replacing it with a third party case made for travel. BUT. I took my Max off at one point and put it on the desk, and immediately got nervous about the aluminum cans getting scratched and instantly understood Apple's case. It was just designed for keeping the cans from being scratched during routine use. Nothing more, nothing less. Given how many people complain about their phones and watch scratching I see where Apple was coming from. I expect to be called a fan boy for not totally roasting Apple over it, but I am typing this while listening to a movie and just blown away by the soundstage, and so just don't care that much about the case. It will protect it enough sitting at home.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Seoras Avatar
22 months ago
Smart case isn't useless if you live somewhere (Australia comes to mind) where 8 legged things can crawl into the ear pod for a rest just before you pop them on...
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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