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The best AirPods Max alternatives in 2022

Best AirPods Max
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If you'd like a pair of AirPods Max but find the high price difficult to stomach, our guide to the best AirPods Max alternatives demonstrates what a great range of headphone options there are at more affordable prices. While the AirPods Max is undoubtedly among the best noise-cancelling headphones we've tested, it is possible that one of the many other headphone models we've reviewed could be a more affordable solution without compromising performance.

You won’t get Apple-specific features of course, such as Spatial Audio with head tracking, but there are plenty of pairs that match or even exceed the AirPods Max on comfort, sound quality and especially battery life in our testing. You can find all our picks of the best AirPods Max alternatives below, and you may also want to check out the best over-ear headphones overall. Or, if the best sound quality is a must-have, give our best audiophile headphones a read.

What are the best Apple AirPods Max alternatives?

As our #1 noise-cancelling headphone, Sony's WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphone easily outperforms Apple's AirPods Max in terms of sound quality (with and without ANC enabled) and battery life. Comfort levels and build are outstanding and backed up by responsive touch controls and a useful control app that gives a high degree of adjustment for sound tinkering.

Second and third place runners up awards go to two Bose models: the Bose 700 and the Bose QuietComfort 45 respectively. Both are on par with the AirPods Max when it comes to sound quality, but ANC performance is superior on both Bose models. The only downside is that ANC is permanently enabled on the QC45 model, so make sure to consider that before making any buying decision.

Black and ecru (off-white) color versions against a office window

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
The top AirPods Max alternative overall

Specifications

Weight: 8.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours (ANC on); 40 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 33 feet
ANC: Yes
Codec support: SBC, AAC, LDAC

Reasons to buy

+
Articulate and engaging sound
+
Great control options
+
Impressive noise-cancelation

Reasons to avoid

-
Redesign and eco credentials ups the price
-
Gets hot around the ears during longer listening

Sony has been absolutely killing it in the headphone department in recent years, and the newly released WH-1000XM5 are unquestionably one of the best pairs of headphones you can buy right now.

The WH-1000XM5 comes with everything you could want and even with their price hike, they're still cheaper than the AirPods Max and a great value alternative. They have strong audio quality and are the best active noise cancellation (ANC) headphones you can buy right now. The 30-hour battery life (with ANC) is excellent (or 40 without), which is considerably more than the AirPods Max, and everything from the touch controls to the ability to tweak the EQ via the Sony Headphones Connect app is well thought out and seamlessly integrated. Call quality has also been improved greatly and there's really nothing to criticize beyond the slightly bland styling and the $50 price increase over the XM4, which are still available and another great AirPods Max alternative that cost even less.   

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review.

best airpods max alternatives: Bose 700

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

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.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones being held aloft against a backdrop of a coastal street with palm trees

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
Newest QC model brings improved noise cancellation and sound

Specifications

Size and weight: 7.25 x 6 x 3 inches; 8.5 ounces
Battery life (rated): 24 hours
Bluetooth: 50 feet (15 meters)
ANC: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Elite active noise cancellation
+
Refined sound signature
+
Increased battery life
+
Good comfort levels

Reasons to avoid

-
ANC permanently on
-
Lower feature count than predecessor

The latest QC over-ear series is the best yet, welcoming several improvements, including better active noise cancellation, sound, and battery life. ANC is as effective as it is on the 700, blocking out nearly 90 percent of ambient sound at a high rate. Bose’s ambient-listening mode (Aware) does a fantastic job of piping in external sounds for increased awareness. The combination of proprietary TriPort acoustic architecture and a volume-optimized Active EQ gives these headphones a refined, well-balanced sound signature to enjoy most music genres. Having 24 hours of ANC playtime is also huge, and although you cant turn it off, means it's still on par with the AirPods Max.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort 45 review.

Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

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

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)
Bargain buy with effective noise cancelling

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)
ANC: Yes

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)
A great budget buy 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)
ANC: Yes

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)
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)
ANC: Yes

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 Bowers & Wilkins PX7 is markedly more expensive than the Sony 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 review.

best airpods max alternatives: Beats Studio3 Wireless

(Image credit: Beats)
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)
ANC: Yes

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)
Another cheap AirPods Max alternative

Specifications

Size and weight: Not specified; 9.3 ounces
Battery life (rated): 40 hours (ANC On); 50 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 45 feet (13 meters)
ANC: Yes

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 tracks downloaded and stored to a portable music device covering a range of different music genres. Check out our headphone playlist on Tidal and Spotify for examples of the variety of tracks we use. 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.

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.

With contributions from