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AirPods Max vs. Bose 700: Which headphones will win?

AirPods Max vs. Bose 700
(Image credit: Apple/Bose)

AirPods Max vs. Bose 700? Despite a glaring price gap between the two, you might be wondering how Apple's first over-ear AirPods compare to the king of ANC, the Bose 700.

We knocked the $379 price of Bose's cans as con in our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review,  and then unwrapped what you get for $549 in our AirPods Max review. We wonder whether these two headphones even exist in the same tier of audio products. We'll just have see the difference $170 makes once the new AirPods become available for testing.

Until then, this AirPods Max vs. Bose 700 face-off lays out everything you need to know about Apple's attempt to unseat the some of the best headphones we've tested and the ANC gold standard.

AirPods Max vs. Bose 700: Price

Yes, AirPods Max really cost $549. Excluding true audiophile and professional-caliber offerings, the price of Apple's headphones is much higher than the price of any of the headphones we recommend. We also wouldn't expect AirPods deals for the new Max model anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the Bose 700 cost $379, which is still pricey... but not $549 pricey. Plus the Bose headphones often go on sale. The discount price is typically $339. . 

Will AirPods Max sticker shock dissolve? It's too soon to say. We imagine the cost difference will make the Bose 700 a more attractive option to shoppers than ever before, though.

AirPods Max vs. Bose 700: Design

Best headphones

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

The AirPods Max and Bose 700 have completely different aesthetics: The 700s have an ultra sleek, ultramodern look while the AirPods Max appear as though they've pulled inspiration from a few decades ago. Of course, Apple's headphones are luxurious and clean-cut, but the curved rectangular cans are less traditional than the oval cups found on most popular headphones these days.

Both the AirPods Max and Bose 700 have a cool, stainless steel frame, but on the 700s the stems bisect the plastic ear cups while on AirPods Max the stems meet the top of the cans. The headbands are different, too: the 700s have a cushiony layer, while the AirPods Max have a mesh canopy on top.

The Bose 700 have both control buttons and a capacitive-touch panel. The AirPods Max don't offer touch controls, but there is a button for noise cancellation and a digital crown that's been borrowed from the Apple Watch design.

Airpods Max

(Image credit: Apple)

When it comes to color options, the AirPods Max and Bose 700 are pretty evenly matched, although the AirPods Max's colors are more playful (Space gray, Silver, Sky blue, Green, Pink) while the 700's colors are more mature (Black, Luxe Silver, Soapstone and Triple Midnight.)

AirPods Max vs. Bose 700: Sound quality and active noise cancellation

AirPods Max

(Image credit: Apple)

Until we test AirPods Max, there's no way to know how the sound quality will compare to Bose 700. That said, we can take a look at the different speaker and audio features to help you make sense of what each pair offers.

AirPods Max is powered by a 40mm Apple-designed dynamic driver, 9 microphones, and Apple's H1 chip for computational audio performance. In addition to active noise cancellation, these AirPods have Adaptive EQ, a transparency mode and the Spatial Audio feature currently found on AirPods Pro. Using the built-in gyroscope and accelerometer to gauge your head movements, Spatial Audio can create a surround sound experience. 

Meanwhile, the Bose 700s uses 8 integrated microphones to block out ambient noise without affecting audio quality. There's also a transparency mode (Bose calls it Conversation mode) that lets you hear what's outside your headphones without taking them off.

ANC aside, we love how the Bose 700 sound. AirPods Max have a high bar to jump, so stay tuned for side-by-side testing.

AirPods Max vs. Bose 700: Battery life

Bose 700

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

Both the AirPods Max and Bose 700 are rated for 20 hours battery life for listening, talking or quieting the world around you. For the price, we'd hope AirPods Max could offer more stamina, but we'll have to see how long they last with average use. 

When AirPods Max need a recharge, you'll be able to juice them up with a Lightning cable. Five minutes of charge will reward you with another 1.5 hours of listening which is nice.

AirPods Max

(Image credit: Apple)

But perhaps not as nice as the 3.5 hours of listening you'll get with 15 minutes of charging the Bose 700 with USB-C. Although Apple fans are accustomed to the absence of USB-C by now, it's a more ubiquitous charging option.

AirPods Max vs. Bose 700: Outlook 

AirPods Max might be more expensive than the Bose 700, but they offer something other Bose can't match — advanced computational audio and seamless integration with the expanse of Apple's product ecosystem. 

The question remains whether that's enough to slice into Bose's popularity. $170 is a significant price difference for headphones. Perhaps Bose will counter with a beefed-up version of the 700s, but for now they remain a more affordable, high-quality headphone option than the AirPods Max. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.