Likelihood is you have come to this story since you desire a pair of AirPods, and also you’re deciding between the AirPods Max and the AirPods Pro. Sure, there are many different glorious headphones and true wi-fi earphones with sturdy ANC (energetic noise cancellation) on the market that aren’t made by Apple, however let’s set these apart and assume you undoubtedly desire a pair of AirPods. The usual AirPods aren’t in the identical league because the AirPods Max or AirPods Professional by way of sound high quality or noise cancellation capabilities, so we have left them out of this comparability.
It’s not usually we examine earphones and headphones as they are typically fairly totally different, however the $549 AirPods Max and the $249 AirPods Professional current a novel case in that they each supply many related options, like high-quality ANC, spatial audio, hands-free Siri entry, and Apple’s H1 chip for a seamless pairing course of with iOS gadgets. So it is smart that iPhone and iPad customers, specifically, could be drawn to headphones which might be designed to work particularly with their gadgets. Contemplating the $300 totally different in value, nonetheless, selecting between the AirPods Max and AirPods Professional is not a choice to be made flippantly, and we’re right here that can assist you determine which pair you need to get.
First, Who Shouldn’t Get AirPods?
We’ll be blunt right here: The costs for each of those fashions are excessive, so if you happen to’re in search of a cut price, that’s not going to occur with both the AirPods Max or Professional. Take a look at our roundups of the best noise-cancelling headphones and the best noise-cancelling true wireless earphones for an inventory of extra reasonably priced options.
The AirPods are made to work with iOS/iPad OS, so if you happen to do not use an Apple cellphone or pill, you will be lacking out on quite a lot of the wow issue. That isn’t to say the AirPods do not shine on their very own, you simply will not be getting the complete expertise.
Lastly, audiophiles and purists searching for a super-accurate listening expertise ought to avoid AirPods. These are audio signatures designed for listeners who don’t thoughts loads of boosting and sculpting. Do not count on a lot management over the sonics, both—neither pair has adjustable EQ. Sure, Apple Music has built-in EQ, however there’s no graphic EQ within the settings menu for both pair of AirPods.
Lively Noise Cancellation
At their finest, the AirPods Max have probably the most highly effective ANC for low frequencies we’ve examined thus far. At their worst, they’re nonetheless fairly stable, however mysteriously inconsistent. The ANC right here is adaptive, and whereas that’s principally a superb factor, it can lead to some inconsistent noise cancellation. It is able to utterly eliminating highly effective low-frequency rumble such as you’d hear on an airplane, however if you happen to modify the match of the headphones even barely, that noise cancellation can change. Generally a sound being cancelled out will really be louder in a single ear, although the sound is just about equal in each ears once you hear it with the headphones off. However if you happen to get a consequence you don’t assume is nice, all it’s important to do is flip your head a bit or shift the earcups and, typically, the ANC will recalculate and (normally) enhance.
Highs are a bit problematic for the AirPods Max. Examined towards a recording of a crowded restaurant, they haven’t any downside with the lows and mids, however the highs would seemingly move by means of the ANC at instances undetected, nearly as in the event that they have been being highlighted or the headphones have been in ambient mode. This, too, wasn’t a wholly constant challenge in testing, however typically talking, the headphones fare higher with lows and mids.
The in-ear Professionals, in the meantime, are much more constant of their noise cancellation. They do not hit the identical highs, they usually do not hit the identical lows (each figuratively and actually). They’ll’t dial again bass rumble just like the Max can, and whereas they do an awesome job with lows and mids, they can also wrestle a bit eliminating the very best frequencies. However additionally they do not are inclined to shift as wildly once you transfer them round.
So we’ll say that the AirPods Max are able to probably the most highly effective ANC, however their adaptive strategy usually results in inconsistencies, whereas the in-ear AirPods Professional are much more constant, if much less highly effective towards deep bass drones and rumble. Finally, each are top-notch ANC choices.
Apple in all probability tried actually exhausting to match the sound signatures of the AirPods Max and Professional, which is not any simple feat as a result of your ears will naturally hear issues in another way when listening by means of headphones versus earphones. Sometimes, the variations will be drastic, however right here the variations between the 2 sound signatures listed below are delicate. Each increase the lows to a level, however not an excessive amount of, and each supply crisp high-mids and highs.
I’d say that, between the 2, the in-ear AirPods Professional sound just a little extra sculpted—they’re each a bit extra bass-forward and brighter, however we’re speaking only a smidge. The over-ear Max headphones sound just a little extra pure and fewer sculpted, however once more, not wildly so. Listening for drastic variations whereas enjoying our check suite, the bass drum on a selected monitor might need just a little extra low-end push by means of the AirPods Professional, however simply barely. And that may have extra to do with the in-canal seal than the drivers themselves.
So, sonically, it’s a little bit of a toss-up. One be aware of curiosity: Each fashions solely help AAC and SBC Bluetooth streaming (there’s no AptX help). That is no actual shock for an Apple product, however you need to nonetheless count on extra out of your typical high-fidelity, costly headphones or earphones. Regardless, they each sound nice—exaggerated, certain, however extra subtly sculpted than loads of competing fashions we check.
Fingers-Free Siri, iOS Integration, and Spatial Audio
The expertise for the entire above-mentioned options is almost an identical with the AirPods Max and AirPods Professional. Neither has a notable benefit in the case of Siri, spatial audio, or how the headphones work together with your iPhone or iPad. That mentioned, these options are both utterly or principally distinctive to AirPods, so it is price going into just a little extra element.
For starters, each fashions work fairly nicely with hands-free Siri instructions. Constructed-in mics decide your voice up, and Siri can provide you climate stories or play your Apple Music requests inside seconds, amongst many different prospects. You can too disable this characteristic if you don’t need the mic to all the time be on.
iOS integration is one other approach these fashions stand out. They each robotically set off an on-screen pairing course of together with your iPhone or iPad when used for the primary time. This actually solely saves you a small step of handbook pairing, nevertheless it’s a cool solution to begin issues off, and it provides a way of luxurious to the person expertise, with the sensation that the merchandise are tailored for each other. When you personal each pairs they usually’re each linked to your iPhone, your cellphone will detect which pair you are carrying and swap to that one. It is impressively fast, and saves quite a lot of further Bluetooth menu work. Every mannequin additionally has its personal settings menus in your machine’s Bluetooth menu to make some fundamental changes.
Spatial audio is one other cool characteristic, however in the end, it is nonetheless kind of a gimmick. It takes 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos movie audio and applies an impact that makes it appear as if it is occurring inside a room or theater. It is not encompass sound, however a little bit of magic that creates a considerably extra life like sense of area. It sounds nice on each pairs of headphones, maybe just a little extra so on the Max, however not sufficient to tip the scales by hook or by crook.
Earphones match everybody in another way. My very own in depth use of the AirPods Professional tells me that individuals with ears like mine will principally take pleasure in them, however may discover that the match tends to get much less and fewer safe because the day goes on. For brief-term listening situations, this is not an enormous concern, but when your day is crammed with a number of lengthy Zoom conferences, you may really feel them begin to wiggle and loosen. This may be much less noteworthy if Apple included extra eartip match choices, however in its true minimalist vogue, you get three white eartip pairs to work with, and no stabilizer fins or hooks.
If there’s one factor you study shortly carrying the AirPods Professional for an extended interval, it’s that you need to by no means modify them by casually grabbing the stems, until you wish to unintentionally set off the contact controls and play or pause music playback. It’s unlucky, as a result of adjusting the match by making an attempt to safe the slippery rounded high a part of the earpiece is much less efficient. Fastidiously grabbing the stems is certainly one of the simplest ways to shortly modify the match, and with some apply, it may be completed with out misfiring on the management panel.
With the AirPods Max, these considerations kind of exit the window. The match may be very safe and unlikely to require a lot adjustment over lengthy listening intervals. That mentioned, once you do modify the match, you do not wish to pull down from the highest of the earcups—that is the place the controls are, and it’s very simple to unintentionally bump the Digital Crown management and play music or instantly blast the quantity.
If we’re speaking about which pair is more likely to retain its ideally suited match over the course of an hour or extra, the AirPods Max have the clear benefit. Though match is subjective, the Max’s headband is extra adaptable to totally different head shapes than the three pairs of AirPods Professional eartips are to totally different ear canals.
Winner: AirPods Max
Main Design Variations and Battery Life
The AirPods Max and AirPods Professional couldn’t look or really feel extra totally different, however that is apparent. Previous the shape elements, although, there are nonetheless loads of notable design variations to focus on. As an illustration, the AirPods Professional have an IPX4 rating, which means they’ll face up to gentle splashes and needs to be wonderful to wipe down with a moist fabric. The AirPods Max haven’t any IP ranking, and due to this fact you should not get them moist.
Controls on the AirPods Professional are dealt with with urgent or holding on the stems of every earpiece—they’re simple to function and pretty intuitively laid out. We’ll give the sting to the AirPods Max right here, although, which merely have extra actual property to work with. The Digital Crown is a dial/button combo that handles a lot of the fundamental features gracefully, and there’s a devoted ANC button that may swap between three modes.
Charging is one other fundamental purposeful design distinction. The AirPods Max use a Lightning-to-USB-C cable for charging, and don’t ship with an influence adapter for shops. This implies if you happen to don’t have a solution to cost them by way of USB-C, you’ll want to purchase an adapter. The AirPods Professional, alternatively, additionally cost (inside their included battery case) by way of a Lightning-to-USB-C cable, however the case can be suitable with Qi wi-fi charging pads. There’s nothing comparable with the AirPods Max—their included Good Case merely places the headphones into sleep mode.
And talking of the Good Case, whereas it seems sort of cool, its floor is a mud magnet and it hardly protects the headphones in any respect. What seems like probably the most weak a part of the AirPods Max—the knit mesh cover—sits out of the case within the open with zero safety.
With regards to battery life, the AirPods Max have roughly 20 hours of battery life, whereas the AirPods Professional have round 5 hours of battery life, with one other 20 hours within the charging case. Evaluating battery life between cumbersome over-ear headphones and tiny true wi-fi earphones is like evaluating apples with oranges, however in the end, each are fairly common of their respective classes.
Merely put, you should purchase two pairs of AirPods Professional for the worth of a pair of AirPods Max—and nonetheless have $50 to spare. There’s no query which mannequin wins the worth struggle. The AirPods Professional supply among the finest in-ear ANC we’ve examined, and are among the many most reasonably priced of the highest true wi-fi fashions, making them a relative cut price.
Nothing concerning the $550 AirPods Max will be described as a cut price. The headphones are implausible, sure, however their closest competitors, the $399.95 Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and the $349.99 Sony WH-1000XM4, each value considerably much less. Bundle that with the fact that the AirPods Max aren’t more likely to get a markdown anytime quickly, and what we you may have is a pair of gorgeous, extremely efficient ANC headphones that, even with all of their positives taken into consideration, are overpriced.
Winner: AirPods Professional
It Comes All the way down to Worth
Do I believe you’ll remorse spending $550 on the AirPods Max? No—if you happen to can afford them, I believe you’ll actually take pleasure in nearly every part they convey to the desk. I do need to admit that, for probably the most half, the AirPods Max are barely higher than the AirPods Professional within the ANC realm, and extra visually pleasing. You’ll simply have spend twice as a lot as you’ll for a pair of AirPods Professional.
However I’m undecided the distinction is sufficient to warrant the worth gulf between them. In my evaluations of each fashions, solely the AirPods Professional earned our Editors’ Alternative award, and you may wager that pricing has loads to do with it. Greenback for the greenback, you merely cannot deny that the AirPods Professional supply a lot better worth, making them the higher selection for most individuals.
When you want extra assist deciding, and also you’re prepared to look past Apple, try our tales on AirPods Pro vs. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds and AirPods Max vs. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4.