Last week, I published my first impressions of the AirPods Max. It turned out to be my most polarising video to date.

That’s understandable, to be honest. This is an incredibly curious product launch by Apple. A week later, I still can’t quite get my head around some of the decisions they’ve made in terms of design, functionality and, yes, that damn price.

If you haven’t watched it yet, here’s my video:


Minutes after publishing, the comments started flying in. Some took me by surprise, while others raised incredibly interesting questions about the AirPods Max.

Responding to the comments

I’ll start by saying that I love my audience – all of them. Even those who suggest I’m resorting to click bait or “talk too much”. They all have a part to play in growing my channel and making it as great as it can be.

They never fail to put a smile on my face, either.

Here’s what they thought about by AirPods Max video, and the product itself.

To have a first impression it would be helpful if you had one, and had listened to it.

It really is a shame that, occasionally, the desire to publish one’s thoughts on a product before having it to hand is frowned upon. Is it really impossible to have a first impression worth listing to if you haven’t used the thing in question?

this is such a thoughtful video, thank you! i bought a nice pair of headphones for myself a few months ago (audio technica) that were only 100 dollars, so i was totally shocked at how expensive these were!!
Gioia M.

Predictably, the price features heavily in my video’s comments thread. Gioia will be one of millions who will not be able to see past the price tag of the AirPods Max. At £549 they immediately price themselves out of a huge swathe of the market.

There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s one of the most common ways to bracket a product – but can anyone think of a reason to tempt Gioia into spending five times the price of those Audio Technica cans on Apple’s headphones?

I’ve watched so many reviews and I keep hearing complaints about pricing and comparing them to more affordable options. Apple is a Luxury brand and therefore they can charge whatever they want and many people will still buy. It’s like a $1500 Christian Dior shirt vs a random brand $50 shirt, they cover the same parts of the body, but it’s about prestige, style, and quality. No one has to buy a luxury good, if you don’t like it or can’t afford it, move on and buy a cheaper version. Now, people should destroy Apple if they sound terrible or are faulty in quality, because luxury brands should be best in class. Thanks for your video.

This is spot on, in my opinion. Apple is a luxury brand, and has long placed aspirational products onto the market.

I remember desperately wanting a MacBook Pro for many years before I could afford and justify one. Whether or not they’ll achieve this level of desire with AirPods Max is another matter, but there is certainly the argument to say it’ll create a signifiant amount of product lust which could be satisfied with a lower-priced ‘SE’ version of these headphones in the near future.

Which, of course, will sell like hotcakes.

Clever Apple.

Buddy the AirPods Pro you have sitting there have spatial audio. So if you want to get an idea of what it’s like stick them in and give it a go.
David Nelson

This reminded me that, despite the huge play Apple is making about the AirPods Max sound quality and spatial audio capabilities, their cheaper in-ear cousins can actually make identical claims.

Spatial audio and high fidelity aren’t reserved solely for the AirPods Max, therefore that’s two differentiators you can strike off your list if you were trying to think of a viable reason to spend £549.

I have a number of wired headphones, dynamics, planar, graphene drivers. They all get use depending on use case, genre and desired “sound signature”. I purchased a pair of the new Apple headphones, for three reasons: much of my home and office are Apple ecosystem dominant, I am curious to compare these AirPods Max to my other headphones and I’m curious as to the “computational audio” move by Apple. I’ll have 14 days to return them if they aren’t better than anything I already own and I can sell some of my existing audio gear if the AirPods Max wind up delivering something new and different to my existing gear.
Jeff J

This is a fascinating take from an audiophile. I didn’t expect to hear from this bunch, because, one would assume, the AirPods Max would simply be comedy fodder for them.

Maybe not. Perhaps Apple has a point here – could it actually tempt a portion of that audience away from an even more expensive combination of top-end headphones, pre-amps and the other paraphernalia needed for an audiophile listening experience?

Mark ——- Gee, I wonder what y’all are gonna do when you realize that these are not just headphones? In about 6 months you’ll see what I’m talking about. Gonna be fun to hear what you whinge about then.
Fala Ai

You’ve got me there, Fala. And I pushed him on this comment, too. What else is Apple planning with the AirPods Max?

Are they really just a pair of expensive over-the-ear headphones, or is there something deeper at play here?

Further replies suggest that the magnets in the ear cups are actually intended for something rather more exciting than replacement cushions.

But I still, for the life of me, can’t think what that might be. Can you? I really do think these are just an expensive pair of Apple headphones.

It’s funny when people talk about apple’s design (air pods case). They always become the joke like air pods, air pods pro, iPhone and now ALL of those designs have become iconic and the norm. ??‍♂️

There’s a fair point being made here. I thought AirPods looked ridiculous when I first bought them, and I despised the notch on the iPhone X. Now, they’re iconic designs replicated by countless third parties.

However; that AirPods Max case is a different kettle of fish. Unlike the notch and in-ear AirPods design, it fails to provide any meaningful function. Look at those gaps. Would you happily toss these expensive headphones into your bag with only that flimsy piece of leather to protect them?
I’m yet to read a single piece of positive commentary about the case. It’s clearly a huge misstep on Apple’s part and, as another commenter pointed out, likely a lingering influence of outgoing Apple SVP of Retail, Angela Ahrendts.

But, does Apple care? Of course they don’t. You should count yourself lucky we’re getting anything to place those headphones in.

The case is awful, and the omission of a 3.5mm cable is pretty gross. I bought and returned both Sony WH-1000XM3 & 4’s because raw Bluetooth is a chore to manage with multiple devices (the dual Bluetooth implementation on the 4’s is half baked), and call quality is miserable on a laptop because they switch to Bluetooth voice call protocols.
I’m super disappointed in the price, but I’m trying AirPods Max out. They definitively check boxes on paper that I can’t achieve otherwise. I’ll have no issues returning them if they don’t blow me away. Fingers crossed.
Brandon Bews

If you’re wondering who made all those AirPod Max preorders, I’ve found someone other than me. Brandon is spot on when it comes to the omission of the aux cable, too. The lack of a power brick was bad enough, but charging £35 extra for something that’s included with all competing products is just obnoxious.

Brandon is also swayed in part by the ease with which AirPods products interact with the Apple ecosystem. I’ll give him that; the AirPods Max will be just as joyful to use on a daily basis as their in-ear equivalent, thanks to that H1 chip.

I agree with you, both about the price and the case. I love Apple products and use many of them, but sometimes they just leave you scratching your head. I’ll be passing on these.

My sentiments exactly. I have a feeling it’s going to take me a while to draw a full conclusion on this – even after I finally get my hands on the AirPods Max in January.

If you’re right then these won’t sell and will have to be radically changed, reduced in price, or dropped altogether. My bet is you’ll turn out to be wrong. Let’s see

To be clear, I don’t think Apple will change anything relating to the AirPods Max design for an awfully long time. They’ve demonstrated how little they’re willing to budge on design with every other product in their lineup.

Nor will they be dropped altogether. The original HomePod can still be bought today, after all, and that’s such a similar product in terms of price and weird market positioning (or lack of it).

And as for price drops – no chance. Apple will simply insert a lower-priced version of the AirPods Max at some stage during 2021.

I don’t see how they could sound that much better than the Bose 700, Sony Wh-1000 XM4 , or Sennheiser Momentum 3. I got both the Bose 700 and Sony XM4 on sale for $578 combined during the week of Black Friday- I’m passing on these
Slinky BanDinky

Wow. Says it all, right? And neatly illustrates what the AirPods Max are up against, competition-wise.

Alas, will die-hard Apple fans really care about what Sony, Sennheiser and Bose have to offer if they don’t carry the same H1 convenience or Apple brand appeal?

A lot of takes. I’m guessing most of them will be wrong. We’ll see
Mutebi M

My video was more of a reactions piece, and my ‘takes’ are actually expectations of what we should be provided with in exchange for that huge price tag.

Apple is asking us to spend a lot of money on the AirPods Max. I simply want to ensure we’re not being taken for a ride.

Clickbait. ??
H. A.

Again – when did it become a content crime to offer a bunch of first reactions on a product?

My AirPods Max are arriving in January, after which I’ll provide a full review and comparisons with the competition. I want to suss out if these are worth your money, and the comments above have left me with even more unanswered questions.

I can’t wait.