AirPods Max are here and they are the first over-ear wireless headphones made by Apple. While the AirPods brand has become synonymous with wireless earbuds, the iPhone-maker is extending the identity. Needless to say, the AirPods Max are expensive for wireless headphones.
In the US, Apple has priced the AirPods Max at $549, making it twice as expensive as the competition. In India, they are priced even higher at Rs 59,900 (~$813), which is equivalent to the price of an iPhone SE 2020 and AirPods with wireless charging case, with some cash left over.
AirPods Max: top features
Apple designed the AirPods Max with a mesh headband that instantly makes it look premium. The Cupertino-based company calls it warp-knit canopy, which looks comfortable but raises concerns about durability.
Since we are looking at an Apple product, the earcups are of course made from machined aluminium. There is also a suspension system for independent articulation of these earcups. They connect to the headband with the help of telescoping arms, which symbolises over engineering. It looks premium, promises comfort but also looks fussy in terms of material.
The cushions are surrounded by what Apple calls “acoustically optimised knit” and it attaches via magnets. It houses a 40mm Apple-designed dynamic driver, eight microphones for active noise cancellation and an H1 chip in each ear cup. It supports Adaptive EQ and Spatial Audio like the AirPods Pro.
It has a rated battery life of 20 hours, which is lower than some of its competitors in the premium segment. While it uses the same digital crown seen on the Apple Watch to control volume, it seems to lack a 3.5mm audio jack, making it difficult to connect to an airplane infotainment system or a DAC. Features aside, if that price gave you a stop then here is a look at some of the alternatives that cost half or less than half the price.
Top AirPods Max alternatives
- Sony WH-1000XM4
- Shure AONIC 50
- Marshall Monitor II ANC
- Bose QC 35 II
There is no other way of saying this, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is the gold standard for active noise cancellation. The WH-1000XM3, which launched in 2018, stood the test of time but Bose seemed to catch up with the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. In recent times, Sony has seen competition from the likes of Shure, Microsoft and even Jabra.
Sony’s answer to the competition is the WH-1000XM3, available for Rs 29,900, in India. It is available at half the price of AirPods Max and we have seen a price of Rs 24,900 during sale. Sony WH-1000XM4 has a design similar to its predecessor but now offers better noise cancellation and updated mics for improved calling. It also supports the ability to pair with two devices at once.
The battery life is rated at 30 hours, which is more than AirPods Max, and it supports Android’s Fast Pair technology as well. It may not be as fancy as AirPods Max but it gets the job done. Sony has proven over years with the quality and durability of its premium headphones. A feature most people would appreciate is wear detection sensor which can pause audio when you remove the headphones.
Shure AONIC 50
Both Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 cost more than Rs 30,000. If you are looking for headphones that cost less than half of AirPods Max then look no further than Shure AONIC 50. It is available for Rs 28,999 on Amazon India and you get a comfortable headphone that supports codecs like apt-X HD and LDAC.
The AONIC 50 cannot match Sony WH-1000XM4 on noise cancelling front but it is no slouch when it comes to audio quality. These produce vibrant sound and use premium materials so you can keep listening for up to 20 hours. These can also be used with a 3.5mm headphone jack or over USB Type-C port. These would be ideal whether you are at home or office or an airport cafe.
Marshall Monitor II ANC
We do think it is difficult to find something that looks like AirPods Max in the sub-Rs 30,000 price segment. The Marshall Monitor II ANC, however, strike their own definition with a design that has become really popular. These are designed to be seen unlike the Sony WH-1000XM series which has not received a design update in two years.
The growing popularity has allowed Marshall to expand its product lineup and Monitor II ANC can be dubbed as the best yet from the company. At Rs 27,999, it is cheaper than other wireless headphones and it offers 30 hours of battery life with ANC and 45 hours without noise cancelling. Everything looks paltry in comparison to those battery life numbers.
The Monitor II ANC does not quite size up against Sony and Shure in the audio or noise cancelling department but it does have the looks going for it. If AirPods Max has a digital crown then Marshall II ANC has the signature gold joystick. If you like Marshall Amps then you might want to bring these home as well.
Bose QC 35 II
With Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 being expensive and out of stock, we are going with Bose QC 35 II. Yes, it is quite old and has its own fair share of drawbacks but it is Bose afterall. With the QC 35 II, you get wireless headphones that are instantly recognisable and support Bluetooth and NFC for quick pairing.
They support noise cancelling that is not quite in the same league as Sony WH-1000XM4 but most people will still like it. Bose is also relatively good with the placement of mics for calling. These also support Amazon Alexa, making it easier to check weather updates on the go. They are priced at Rs 24,959 on Amazon India.