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The best AirPods Max alternatives in 2021

AirPods Max
(Image credit: Future)

The best AirPods Max alternatives haven’t necessarily been designed to take on Apple’s first over-ear headphones specifically, but do manage to deliver similarly high standards of sound quality and features. Best of all, they all cost less than the AirPods Max and its towering $549 MSRP.

True, that's not as much as some truly high-end headphones like the Focal Clear, but the AirPods Max is a big investment regardless. By shopping smart you can find a pair that’s not just cheaper, but potentially more practical and longer-lasting; an over-ear equivalent to the in-ear best Apple AirPods alternatives. So, get ready to start saving by reading our picks of the best AirPods Max alternatives.

Best airpods max alternatives: Sony WH-1000XM4

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. Sony WH-1000XM4

The AirPods Max alternative overall

Specifications
Size and weight: 9.9 x 3. x 7.3 inches, 9 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours (ANC on), 38 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 40 feet (12 meters)
Special features: Active noise cancellation, customizable EQ, multipoint technology
Reasons to buy
+Excellent sound and noise cancellation+Plenty of features via Sony Connect Headphones app+Stellar touch controls+Multiple ways to connect the headphones
Reasons to avoid
-Call quality could be improved

Sony has been absolutely killing it in the headphone department in recent years, and the latest WH-1000XM4 IS unquestionably the one of the best pairs of headphones you can buy right now. You can easily find it for under $300, too.

The WH-1000XM4 comes with everything you could want from a cheaper AirPods Max alternative. During our testing we found that it outperformed every competitor in numerous categories, including audio quality and active noise cancellation (ANC). On top of that, it's packed with special features, including customizable EQ, touch controls, adaptive sound control and more. Better still, the WH-1000XM4 offered 30 hours of battery life with ANC switched on (or 38 without), which is 10 hours more than the AirPods Max. 

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review.

best airpods max alternatives: Bose 700

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

2. Bose 700

The best AirPods Max alternative for ANC

Specifications
Size and weight: 8 x 6.5 x 2 inches, 8.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): 20 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Special features: Adjustable active noise cancellation, customizable EQ, charging case (optional)
Reasons to buy
+Adjustable ANC levels+Slick, attractive design+Excellent noise cancelling on calls and music+Smart, intuitive buttons and touch controls
Reasons to avoid
-A bit expensive

A strong runner up in our headphone testing, the Bose 700 does a lot to stand out from the other wireless headphones. Not only does it have a sleek and attractive design, complete with memory foam cups, it combines that with excellent sound quality on calls and music.

It also has the best noise cancelling we’ve used, with 11 adjustable levels to choose from. On top of this you have smart and intuitive touch controls and 20-hour battery life when noise cancelling is switched on. The WH-1000XM4 lasts longer but this at least puts the 700 on par with as the AirPods Max, which can't match Bose's noise-cancelling effectiveness.

Read our full Bose 700 review.

Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

3. Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

Stellar productivity headphones for low price

Specifications
Size and Weight: 8.03 x 7.68 x 1.89 inches, 10.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth range: 800 feet (243 meters)
Special features: Digital assistant support, active noise cancellation, Office 365 dictation, smart controls
Reasons to buy
+Adjustable ANC levels+Pairs with 10 devices simultaneously+Smart controls
Reasons to avoid
-Lower battery life than competitors-Surface Audio app needs more features

If you’re looking for a more professional-looking pair of headphones to help keep you productive, Microsoft’s second-gen Surface Headphones may be for you — and it cost less than half the price of the AirPods Max.

The unique thing about the Surface Headphones 2 is that it integrates with Microsoft 365, and offer real-time voice dictation in the Office programs you may be using for work. That can be incredibly useful if you prefer to talk than type, or if you’re away from your desk but don’t want to lose your train of thought. It also has adjustable dials on the side of each cup, letting you quickly and easily adjust the volume and noise cancelling levels.

At 20 hours (with ANC on), the battery life is the same as the AirPods Max, but if you want great sound for less, the Surface Headphones 2 is well worth checking out. 

Read our full Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 review.

best airpods max alternatives: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose QuietComfort 35 II (Image credit: Future)

4. Bose QuietComfort 35 II

The best noise cancelling bargain

Specifications
Size and weight: 7.1 x 6.7 x 3.2 inches, 8.2 ounces
Battery life (rated): 20 hours (ANC on), 40 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Special features: Active noise cancellation, dedicated digital assistant button, Music Share
Reasons to buy
+Great noise cancellation+Clean and crisp sound+Comfortable design
Reasons to avoid
-Same design as the previous version-Google Assistant needs work

Bose has a solid reputation for its active cancellation technology, and the QuietComfort 35 II delivers just that for less than the AirPods Max as well as the newer Bose 700. It only has three levels of ANC, compared to 11 on the 700, but it still does a fantastic job of keeping out distractions and ensuring your audio sounds great.

You can expect crisp and clean sounds pumping into your ears, whether you're listing to music, watching Netflix or making calls. And with its lightweight and comfortable design, you have a great pair of headphones for all your day-to-day work. You can also customize the sound using the Bose Connect app, which also offers a helpful “auto-off” feature that stops your battery from draining

Read our full Bose QuietComfort 35 II review.

best airpods max alternatives: Cleer Enduro ANC

(Image credit: Future)

5. Cleer Enduro ANC

The best cheap AirPods Max alternative

Specifications
Size and weight: 7 x 6.6 x 3 inches, 10.6 ounces
Battery life (rated): 60 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters)
Special features: Active noise cancellation, digital assistant support, Android Fast Pair, NFC
Reasons to buy
+Excellent value+Effective ANC and ambient modes+Bass-rich sound+Outstanding battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Comfort wanes over time-Picks up wind noise

All of the headphones on this list are AirPods Max alternatives that cost less, but the Enduro ANC is the best AirPods Mac alternative that's truly cheap. At a mere $149 you could buy three for the price of Apple's headphones, and you'd still be getting a good-sounding set of over-ear cans with effective ANC and a particularly impressive ambient pass-through mode.

The best part is battery life. Although in our testing, the Enduro ANC fell short of Cleer's official 60-hour figure, we still got more than 50 hours of playback with noise-cancelling enabled. That's more than twice what the AirPods Max delivers, and for a third of the cost. Premium models like the Sony WH-1000XM4 are still better overall, but check out the Enduro ANC if you're on a tight budget.

Read our full Cleer Enduro ANC review.

best airpods max alternatives: Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

6. Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition

The best premium AirPods Max alternative

Specifications
Size and weight: 3.1 x 6.9 x 8.7 inches, 10.9 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours (ANC on), 33 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 33 feet (10 meters)
Special features: Active noise cancellation, Ambient mode, Soundscapes profiles
Reasons to buy
+Wide and dynamic soundstage+Companion app with useful features+Lengthy battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Finicky connectivity-Carbon fiber design isn’t for everyone

Yes, the PX7 Carbon Edition is markedly more expensive than the WH-1000XM4 and Bose 700, but crucially it's still cheaper than the AirPods Max. And it could be just the thing if you still want premium quality, without needing to break the $500 barrier.

Build quality is among the best in the business, and through each finely-crafted earcup comes superbly detail-rich audio with a gigantic, dramatic soundstage. Battery life also beats the AirPods Max, and while there are no opportunities to customize the sound, you probably won't feel like you need them.

See our full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition review.

best airpods max alternatives: Beats Studio3 Wireless

(Image credit: Beats)

7. Beats Studio3 Wireless

Noise cancelling with big bass

Specifications
Size and Weight: 9.2 x 7.2 x 4.5 inches, 9.2 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (ANC On), 35 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth Range: 51 feet (15 meters)
Special features: Active noise cancellation, adjustable EQ, quick charging
Reasons to buy
+Improved Beats sound+Attractive design+Steady battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Pairing issues with non-iOS devices-Lack of audible notifications for pairing mode and power toggle

If you want to keep things in the Apple family, but don’t want to resort to using earbuds, then consider the Beats Studio3 — particularly if you’re a fan of the heavy bass performance Beats headphones are known for.

The Studio3 also offers a comfortable fit, adaptive EQ, and fast charging that adds 3 hours of playback time after just 10 minutes. As for total battery life, you’re looking at around 20 hours with ANC switched on, though it’s worth pointing out that it don’t have the best noise cancellation around. Still, the sound is good, and like the AirPods Max, this pair can be easily paired with iOS devices. 

Read our full Beats Studio3 Wireless review.

best airpods max alternatives: JBL Live 660NC

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

8. JBL Live 660NC

Another cheap AirPods Max alternative

Specifications
Size and Weight: Dimensions not stated, 9.3 ounces
Battery Life (Rated): 40 hours (ANC On), 50 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth Range: 45 feet (13 meters)
Special features: Active noise cancellation, adjustable EQ, video mode
Reasons to buy
+Lots of bass+Long-lasting despite ANC+Excellent connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-Uncomfortable-Buggy voice assistant

The Cleer Enduro ANC isn't the only noise-cancelling AirPods Max alternative you can get for less than half of Apple's asking price. The JBL Live 660NC offers full ANC, a bass-rich sound signature and long battery life all for a fraction of the AirPods Max's cost.

There are some drawbacks here: the fit isn't particularly comfortable and Google Assistant can be unreliable. Siri works better, though, and the Live 600NC earns back some technical points with its rock-solid, long-range Bluetooth connectivity and well-featured companion app.

Read our full JBL Live 660NC review.

How to choose the best AirPods Max alternatives

Picking from the best AirPods Max alternatives isn’t that different from picking from the best headphones in general: you’ll want the best combination of sound quality, comfort and battery life that you can get on your specific budget.

That said, if you want an AirPods Max alternative specifically, it probably means you admire a certain something about Apple’s headphones. If it’s features, then look out for active noise-cancelling headphones in particular. Currently there aren’t any non-Apple headphones that support spatial audio for video, though any model should work with spatial audio in Apple Music. The AirPods Pro also has this feature, if you don’t mind wireless earbuds.

You may also be looking for an alternative with the AirPods Max’s eye for design and styling. This is one area in which the AirPods Max is fairly unique, and there aren’t any good-quality headphones that explicitly copy that distinctive design, though there are many that match it on comfort. Sony and Bose in particular make over-ear headphones you can wear for hours.

There are also lots of opportunities to surpass the AirPods Pro, rather than simply matching it. With 20 hours of battery life, most of the headphones on this list will easily last longer, and of course they can all save you money with significantly lower prices than what the AirPods Max will cost you.

How we test the best AirPods Max alternatives

When testing any over-ear headphones, including the best AirPods Max alternatives, we’ll listen to a variety of music genres. This lets us see (well, hear) how each pair handles distinct styles, which also demonstrates how they reproduce different frequencies, how wide their soundstages are and how detailed they sound.

We’ll also spend some quality time with each pair, typically wearing them for 2-3 hours at a time, several times over a week. This gives a more reliable indication of comfort and design than with only brief listening sessions.

Manufacturer’s battery life claims will also be put to the test, to see how they compare to real-life usage, and if there’s a mobile app for each pair we’ll try that out as well.

Ultimately we’ll grade each pair with a score out 5: 5 being the highest and 4 being the lowest. The very best AirPods Max alternatives will also get an Editor’s Choice badge, which you can see in the full reviews we’ve linked in their list entries.