I firmly believe that now is the best time to grab a pair of AirPods Max if you’ve been longing for your own pair of Apple’s most expensive headphones.
Prices are dropping – quite significantly. This may well suggest that we’ll see a new version soon, but that’s completely irrelevant and, as Jon Prosser demonstrated last year, impossible to predict.
AirPods Max are a superb pair of consumer headphones. Nothing else beats their build quality, design, or inevitable convenience when placed within the Apple ecosystem.
But there’s just one problem, and for many, it’s a dealbreaker.
The case. The stupid, stupid case.
So, a couple of weeks ago, I threw it in the bin.
This is what happened afterwards.
Disclaimer (and a reminder about my battery tests)
A quick word on my battery testing.
It doesn’t exist.
I don’t undertake any kind of rigorous testing on anything. I’d rather eat my own hair than sit down and obsess over every last second of battery performance under differing conditions, use cases, and against every possible competing product.
What follows is a feel for battery life. More in-depth tests are out there, conducted by people far smarter (and more patient) than I.
Last March, Apple issued a firmware update for AirPods Max which fixed one of its biggest flaws – the standby time.
Before the lovingly named 3C39 update, standby time on AirPods Max was pretty dreadful. In fact, it was noticeably worse than the standby time exhibited by every other pair of over-the-ear wireless headphones I own.
Now, it’s getting closer to the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose QC45. It’s not there yet, but I’ll get to that later.
This was the reason for my No Stupid Case experiment. Well, that, and the fact that someone pointed out the standby time without the case is practically indistinguishable from that of when AirPods Max are encased within it.
They’re right. For the last two weeks, my AirPods Max have either dangled from their stand or sat within a non-low-power-mode-equipped hard case. The standby time hasn’t felt any different to what I was achieving with the stupid case in tow.
I’ve not used my AirPods Max consistently during that time. I’ve simply grabbed them when I fancied a listen, or when it was convenient to do so.
As a result, I haven’t charged them for over a week, and the battery now finally stands at 1%. While not exactly ground-breaking, that feels fair, given the time they’ve been in use (I’d estimate it’s a good few hours), and the fact that in-between use, I haven’t even considered plugging them in.
But there’s more to this caseless world than relatively good standby performance.
A new ownership experience
Anyone who watches my YouTube channel will know that I’ve made a bit of a ‘thing’ about throwing the AirPods Max case either over my shoulder or inadvertently in the direction of my 16” MacBook Pro.
This is partly for comedic effect, but there’s a serious point attached to my schoolboy antics.
The AirPods Max case dents the ownership experience. It was a laughing stock right from the moment Apple launched their most expensive pair of headphones. It looks silly, feels horrible, and, worst of all, offers no meaningful protection for your expensive AirPods Max.
It was a very silly, obnoxious, and downright pretentious design decision by Apple.
Getting rid of the stupid case entirely is akin to Alan Partridge removing the ‘cock piss Partridge’ graffiti from his beloved Lexus; you can finally enjoy your headphones without feeling like everyone is laughing at you.
Sure, you’re going to need to invest in an alternative case – which is yet more expense – but at least it will actually be a case.
If you’re interested, I’ve been using the co2CREA Hard Storage Case, which is now available with sleep mode (many other examples exist, including the wonderful option from Waterfield Designs).
We need an off button, Tim.
As noted above, it’s possible to rid your life of the stupid AirPods Max case and still benefit from low power mode if you choose the right case, but the fact remains that these headphones have been designed to be on show.
They look wonderful on a headphone stand like my favourite from Benks, and you won’t stop admiring them if they’re simply placed haphazardly on your desk.
Indeed, many of the people who have commented on my previous AirPods Max content have agreed that they’re best suited to home use, which means these headphones spend far less time in any kind of case – stupid or not.
Most importantly, and as acceptable as the standby time has been without the case, it still isn’t on a par with competing headphones, and the only difference is the presence of a power switch on every single example of the latter.
We just need to be able to turn the damn things off. Why is that too much to ask?
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If you had to use one for the next year what are you choosing, XM4 or AirPods Max? I own the XM4 thanks to your reviews (how I came upon your channel in the first place) and keep getting dazzled by the Max but cannot justify the cost, yet.
The AirPods Max – purely because of their Apple ecosystem compatibility.
Excellent point. I do really enjoy the XM4 but they don’t fit into the system and it is really nice when everything just works. Thanks.