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Best AirPods Max alternatives — and they all cost less

AirPods Max altternatives
(Image credit: Apple)

The best AirPods Max alternatives could save you a lot of money, without missing out on great audio and features. Apple may have gone all in on its first set of noise-cancelling over-ear headphones, which have already proven to be popular. But at $549, AirPods Max don't come cheap.

Sure there are a lot of features to love, as we discovered in our AirPods Max review. Included are adaptive EQ, 3D spatial audio, powerful noise cancelation, and sensors that detect if you're wearing the headphones or not. But the price still stings, and they're far from what you'd call an impulse purchase. Fortunately there are a lot more great headphones from the likes of Sony, Bose, Beats, and other top brands. So here are the best AirPods Max alternatives you can buy right now.

best airpods max alternatives

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. Sony WH-1000xM4

The best noise cancelling headphones for the money

Size and weight: 9.94 x 3.03 x 7.27 inches, 8.95 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

Excellent sound and noise cancellation
Plenty of features via Sony Connect Headphones app
Stellar touch controls
Multiple ways to connect the headphones
Call quality could be improved

Sony has been absolutely killing it in the headphone department in recent years, and the latest WH-1000xM4 are unquestionably the one of the best pairs of headphones you can buy right now. The MSRP is $349, but  you can regularly find them on sale for under $300.

The WH-1000xM4 comes with everything you could want from a pair of headphones. During our testing we found that they outperformed every competitor in numerous categories, including audio quality and noise cancelation. On top of that, they’re packed with special features, including customizable EQ, touch controls, adaptive sound control and more. 

Better still, the Sony xM4 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

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

2. Bose NC Headphones 700

Great audio performance on calls

Size and weight: 8 x 6.5 x 2 inches, 8.8 ounces | Battery life (rated): 20 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Adjustable active noise cancellation, customizable EQ, charging case (optional)

Adjustable ANC levels
Slick, attractive design
Excellent noise cancelling on calls and music
Smart, intuitive buttons and touch controls
A bit expensive

A strong runner up in our headphone testing, the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 headphones 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.

This is some of the best noise cancelling we’ve used, with 11 adjustable levels to choose from, so you can pick the one that’s right for each situation. On top of this you have smart and intuitive touch controls and 20-hour battery life when noise cancelling is switched on. It’s not as good as Sony, but it’s the same as the AirPods Max, and you can top them up by another 40 hours with the included charging case

The Bose Music App is one of the real stars, and that’s where all the fancy features are kept. The usual things like noise cancelling and adjustable EQ are found here, but it also lets you swap between voice assistants and change how much of your own voice you can hear during a call. 

Read our full Bose 700 review

best airpods max alternatives

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

3. Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

Stellar productivity headphones for low price

Size: 8.03 x 7.68 x 1.89 inches | Weight: 10.22 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth range: 800 feet (243 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Adjustable ANC levels
Pairs with 10 devices simultaneously
Smart controls
Lower battery life than competitors
Surface Audio app needs more features

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

The unique thing about the Surface Headphones 2 is that they integrate 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. They also have 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 are well worth checking out. 

Read our full Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 review

best airpods max alternatives

Bose QuietComfort 35 II (Image credit: Future)

4. Bose QuietComfort 35 II

The best noise cancelling bargain

Size and weight: 7.1 x 6.7 x 3.2 inches, 8.2 ounces | Battery life (rated): 20 hours (NC on), 40 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Active noise cancellation, dedicated digital assistant button, Music Share

Great noise cancellation
Clean and crisp sound
Comfortable design
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 $250 less than the AirPods Max. It only has three levels of ANC, compared to 11 in the pricier Bose 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

(Image credit: Beats)

5. Beats Studio3 Wireless

Noise cancelling with big bass

Size and Weight: 9.2 x 7.2 x 4.5 inches, 9.2 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC On), 35 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 51 feet (15 meters) | Special features: Active noise cancellation, adjustable EQ, quick charging

Improved Beats sound
Attractive design
Steady battery life
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 Beats Studio3 are the headphones to check out. Particularly if you’re a fan of the heavy bass performance Beats headphones are known for.

The Studio3 also offer 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 they don’t have the best noise cancellation around. Still the sound is good, and they can be easily paired with iOS devices. 

While not the best performing headphones on the market, Beats Studio3 are definitely worth checking out of you’re on a tighter budget. After all, with prices under $200 in a lot of places, they’re one of the cheapest pairs of headphones on this list.

Read out full Beats Studio3 Wireless review

best airpods max alternatives

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

6. Apple AirPods Pro

Apple noise cancelling for less than half the price

Size and weight: 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches, 8.8 ounces | Battery life (rated): 4.5 hours (NC on), 24 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 800 feet | Special features: Active noise cancellation, “Hey Siri” support, spatial audio

Modern, functional design
Great active noise cancelling
Comfortable semi-custom fit
Adaptive sound
Battery life could be longer

If you want the Apple audio experience for less, the best AirPods Max alternative is the AirPods Pro. Sure, they're not over-ear headphones, but the AirPods Pro are still some of the best wireless earbuds on the market.

Not only are the AirPods Pro so comfortable you might forget you’re wearing them, they also feature active noise cancelling and a transparency mode to hear the world around you. You also get both water resistance and sweat resistance, plus multiple ear tips to achieve the best fit. 

The battery life isn’t as good due to the AirPods Pro’s size, and you’ll only get 4.5 hours of power with noise cancelling on. Thankfully, the charging case can top them up on the move, offering up to 24 hours in total. The AirPods Max reaches 20 hours. 

If you have your heart set on a pair of over-ear headphones, these are not going to suit you. But overall the AirPods Pro are a great choice at less than half the price than the AirPods Max. 

Read our full AirPods Pro review