AirPods Pro vs. AirPods Max Buyer's Guide
Almost three years after the launch of the first-generation AirPods Pro, Apple unveiled the second-generation model alongside the iPhone 14 lineup and several new Apple Watches. Although the second-generation AirPods Pro feature the same design as their predecessor, they improve on features like Active Noise Cancellation, in-ear detection, and battery life, while introducing new functionality like Adaptive Transparency, volume adjustment touch controls, and precision finding.
In late 2020, Apple announced the AirPods Max, a whole new AirPods variant with an over-ear design. Both the AirPods Max and the AirPods Pro feature Active Noise Cancellation, Personalized Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking, Hey Siri, and automatic switching.
As the two high-end AirPods options, should you consider purchasing the $249 third-generation AirPods Pro, or do you need the AirPods Max, which sell for $549? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these AirPods are best for you.
|Second-Generation AirPods Pro||AirPods Max|
|In-ear design with silicone ear tips (four sizes)||Over-ear design with magnetic ear cups|
|Plastic design||Aluminum, stainless steel, and silicone design|
|Custom high-excursion Apple driver and high dynamic range amplifier||Apple-designed dynamic driver|
|H2 chips||H1 chips|
|Bluetooth 5.3||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Dual beamforming microphones and inward-facing microphones||Nine microphones (eight used for Active Noise Cancellation, three used for voice pickup)|
|Transparency and Adaptive Transparency||Transparency|
|Force sensors and touch controls for volume adjustment||Noise control button and Digital Crown for volume adjustment|
|Skin-detect sensors||Optical IR sensors|
|IPX4 sweat and water resistant earbuds and charging case||–|
|Up to 5.5 hours listening time with with Spatial Audio enabled||Up to 20 hours listening time on a single charge with Active Noise Cancellation or Transparency mode enabled|
|Up to 24 hours talk time using MagSafe Charging Case||–|
|MagSafe Charging Case with built-in speaker for Find My, U1 chip for Precision Tracking, and lanyard loop||Smart Case to preserve battery charge in ultra-low-power state|
|MagSafe Charging Case compatible with Apple Watch charger, MagSafe charger, Qi wireless charging mats, and Lightning||Charge via Lightning only|
|Available in White only||Available in Silver, Space Gray, Sky Blue, Pink, and Green|
While there is some overlap between the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max with features like Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency, the entirely different fit and form factor of the headphones should make it easier for most customers to decide which device they prefer.
The AirPods Max offer a wide range of color options and a more premium design, as well as much longer continuous battery life with a single charge. Owing to its over-ear design and significantly larger drivers, the AirPods Max deliver markedly better audio quality than the AirPods Pro. If your main priority is audio quality, the AirPods Max will undoubtedly be the best choice. If you actively dislike the in-ear design of the AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max may also be more comfortable.
On the other hand, the AirPods Pro offer a high-level of convenience and portability due to their small size and charging case. The audio quality of AirPods Pro cannot rival AirPods Max, but new features like Adaptive Transparency are ideal for when you're on the go. Due to their lightweight, in-ear design and sweat and water resistance, the AirPods Pro are also perfect for workouts.
The AirPods Pro are much more versatile when it comes to charging, with four different ways to charge, compared to the AirPods Max's obligatory Lightning port option. Due to their size, weight, less durable design, and limited portability, the AirPods Max are best used at home for high-fidelity, prolonged listening sessions, while the AirPods Pro offer a more balanced experience with a high level of convenience and portability.
AirPods frequently see hefty discounts on Amazon and other third-party retailers, so stepping up to the Max version may be more worth it if you can take advantage of one of those deals. Both sets of AirPods often see solid discounts, so it is always worth seeking the best price using our Deals roundup.