AirPods Max three months later — is it really worth $549?

AirPods Max review
(Image credit: Future)

The Apple AirPods Max launched about three months ago. Perhaps you ordered this pair of headphones the day it debuted, or perhaps you waited a little longer to get yours, since finding it in stock was no simple task for a while. 

Perhaps you still have some questions about how the AirPods Max holds up over time before making the $549 purchase. If that’s the case, hopefully I can provide some answers for you.

I’ve been using the AirPods Max almost every day since it launched, and while that should tell you I enjoy it enough, Apple has not made the best headphones money can buy. My feelings towards the AirPods Max have changed now that we’re past the fog of first impressions, so here’s what I like and dislike about Apple AirPods Max after three months.

AirPods Max noise cancellation is next-level

When I first reviewed the AirPods Max, I couldn’t fully experience the active noise cancellation (ANC) feature. A combination of winter weather and the pandemic kept me inside my fairly quiet apartment. I resorted to playing a phony city sounds loop through my speakers to test how well the headphones filtered out car traffic and passing pedestrians.

But a few weeks ago I finally flew on an airplane, where the AirPods Max managed to drown out the jet’s noisy engines and chatty passengers. I think I might’ve even gotten a few minutes of sleep. My AirPods Pro could never help me find the quiet I need to catch some zzz’s mid-flight. While I still wish the AirPods Max offered various levels of noise cancellation like the Bose 700, its one setting is as effective as the best noise-cancelling headphones get.

AirPods Max review

(Image credit: Future)

The microphone quality is the best of any AirPods model

I’ve owned a lot of wireless headphones throughout the years, and my consistent complaint among them all is the microphone quality. No matter how pricey the buds or headsets, I worry that whoever I’m speaking to can’t hear me clearly on the other end. I also dislike how I sound when I wear most wireless headphones to record audio or video.

That’s no longer the case, thanks to the AirPods Max. Whether I need to gather voice-over for a project, chime in during a team meeting or just make a friendly phone call, the microphone quality consistently impresses.

The cups fall out too easily

Swappable, magnetic earcups are a defining aesthetic feature of AirPods Max. The oval pillows of memory foam aren’t as pulpy as those of the Sony WH-1000XM4, but they create a spongy seal around my ears. That is, when they stay put. 

On my AirPods Max unit, the earcups have a tendency to detach when the headset is jostled around. I don’t have this issue when they’re stowed away in their case (which is still ugly, by the way) but even when I place them down my desk too forcefully, the pads fall out. I mean, it’s not like I’m Hulk smashing them off my head — the way the earcups eject is a little dramatic for my liking. 

AirPods Max review

(Image credit: Future)

AirPods Max shouldn’t cost $549

The earcups’ magnetic effectiveness is one of the several reasons AirPods Max shouldn’t cost $549. If you ask me what my favorite piece of tech is, it’s my $399 Apple Watch Series 6. For $150 less than AirPods Max, my Apple Watch is an advanced health device, communication center and more. It seems like a rip off to pay more for a device with just one main function.

$549 is a lot of money for a pair of headphones, even one from Apple. It’s not easy to look past, considering most of the best AirPods Max alternatives right now cost several hundred dollars less. I wish Apple found a way to offer its first AirPods-brand over-ear headphones at a less controversial price. 

If you have the dough to spend, the AirPods Max is a one-way ticket to listening luxury. But be sure to check out our guide to the best headphones deals for savings on all kinds of headsets and buds — yes, including the rare AirPods Max sale.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.