My AirPods Max saved my dream vacation from becoming a disaster — here’s how

Apple AirPods Max
(Image credit: Future)

Apple’s AirPods Max are the best headphones I’ve ever owned. And it’s not remotely close. Not only do they effortlessly pair with my iPad Pro and aging iPhone X, the company’s premium over-ear headphones just single-handedly saved a recent dream holiday from becoming an insomnia-plagued nightmare.

I’ve owned my AirPods Max for well over a year, but it was only after a recent trip to Hawaii that they finally started to fully prove their worth. 

Over the space of three weeks, Apple’s headphones salvaged a once in a lifetime vacation that could have descended into a sleep-deprived ordeal that would rival Al Pacino’s bleary-eyed night terrors from Insomnia.  

Before I get into my holiday musings, I’m still not sure I can justify paying $550 for my AirPods Max. Yes, they sound amazing. I’ve never owned a pair of headphones that so effortlessly convey such a sense of spine-tingling bass mixed with expertly judged midtones.

$550 is still a stupid amount of money to pay for a piece of tech I normally only use when walking my dog.

$550, though?! I don’t care how much the AirPods Max titillate my suggestive eardrums. That’s a stupid amount of money to spend on a piece of tech I normally only use when taking my husky for a walk.

Thankfully, my recent trip to the Rainbow State made me reevaluate my AirPods Max and their game-changing noise-canceling features. 

If Apple ever wants to run a test study on the perfect consumer who would benefit from noise-canceling, may I direct the company to Past Me in Hawaii. I found the sleeping conditions there aggressively objectionable.

Sleepless in Kauai 


(Image credit: Future)

To try and save some pennies on what proved to be an uncomfortably expensive trip, I ended up checking myself and my best pal into a couple of two star hotels. The first establishment in Waikiki involved a nearby food truck operating the world’s noisiest generator until 2am every morning. Not ideal. 

As for the second establishment? I routinely woke up before sunrise as it apparently had 793 roosters residing on its gorgeous Kauai premises. In retrospect, I really should have loaded my iPad Pro up with some of the best sleep apps.

Be it the hum of spam gently grilling at midnight or male chickens losing their shizzle at 4:43am, my AirPods Max are the only reason I enjoyed the merest sliver of sleep on my trip. By sticking them on in bed, then enabling their noise-canceling features, I all but killed the obnoxious caterwauling coming from that hideously humming van and perpetually clucking poultry.

Rooster in Hawaii

Why did no one ever tell me Hawaii is seemingly home to 17 billion roosters?!  (Image credit: Future)

My AirPods Max’s noise canceling attributes didn’t just salvage my Hawaiian trip; they also made a series of long-haul flights bearable. As someone who has developed a completely irrational (but still crippling) fear of flying in his 30s, I can’t fully tell you how much more agreeable Apple’s headphones made my transatlantic trips.

When you suffer from vertigo and suddenly find yourself hovering 38,000 feet above terra firma, you quickly seek out comfort from whatever avenue presents itself. In my nerve-shredding case, it was discovering my AirPods Max noise-canceling button all but eliminated the unbearable ambient humming that comes with being stuck in a flying tube that’s cutting a path through the clouds.

To the Max

Apple AirPods Max

(Image credit: Future)

Not only did my AirPods Max let me drown out all that sleep-killing cabin noise, they actually improved the crappy in-flight headphones most airlines usually provide you with. By placing my AirPods on top of United Airlines’ terrible courtesy buds, I suddenly created a cocoon of sound that made the gratis in-flight headphones tolerable. 

Creating a weird AirPods Max / in-flight headphones hybrid probably comes across as unhinged. Still, there's no denying this audio abomination made listening to movies on my long haul flights a lot easier. So much so, I could almost make out what Billy Murray whispers to Scarlett  Johansson at the end of Lost in Translation while watching Sofia Coppola's masterful Tokyo-set dramedy. Almost.  

Are there downsides to wearing Apple’s AirPods Max headphones while trying to sleep. Of course! As a regular side-sleeper, trying to enjoy forty winks with over-ear cans strapped to my cranium can be irritatingly uncomfortable.  

Yet when it comes to an orchestra of cockerels trying to flood my ear canals with their annoying clucks or wearing slightly awkward headphones to bed, I know which scenario my lobes are choosing. 

I don’t know who came up with the concept of noise-canceling headphones, but I do know they have my undying respect. 

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Dave Meikleham
UK Computing Editor

Dave is a computing editor at Tom’s Guide and covers everything from cutting edge laptops to ultrawide monitors. When he’s not worrying about dead pixels, Dave enjoys regularly rebuilding his PC for absolutely no reason at all. In a previous life, he worked as a video game journalist for 15 years, with bylines across GamesRadar+, PC Gamer and TechRadar. Despite owning a graphics card that costs roughly the same as your average used car, he still enjoys gaming on the go and is regularly glued to his Switch. Away from tech, most of Dave’s time is taken up by walking his husky, buying new TVs at an embarrassing rate and obsessing over his beloved Arsenal.