Apple’s AirPods Max are among the best high-end headphones available today, but they face two major problems. First, the AirPods Max̵
What to look for in an AirPods Max alternative
It’s hard to look at premium wireless headphones without comparing them to the AirPods Max. But really, Apple’s over-ear headphones aren’t that groundbreaking. Bose launched its first Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones in 2016, and several of today’s high-end wireless headphones have the same ANC (Active Noise Cancelation) and transparency features that helped popularize the AirPods Max.
Still, it’s hard to find headphones that share all of the functions of the AirPods Max. Let’s take a quick look at what the AirPods Max has to offer so you know what features are important to you before buying another pair of headphones.
- Sound: AirPods Max have a relatively “flat” or “clean” sound profile without the excessive bass boost found in many Bluetooth headphones. They also have an exclusive feature called Adaptive EQ to automatically adjust the audio quality to the shape of your ears. While Adaptive EQ is exclusive to Apple’s flagship headphones, most wireless headphones offer manual EQ control via an app.
- ANC: Apple is known for its advanced noise-canceling technology, but high-end headphones from Bose, Sony and Sennheiser feature ANC systems that are practically indistinguishable from what you get with the AirPods Max.
- Transparency mode: Transparency mode is the opposite of ANC. Rather than blocking out sounds, the AirPods Max uses its microphones to pipe around you, so you can hear people talking to you while you work. Many other advanced wireless headphones have a transparency mode.
- Main detection: AirPods Max uses gyroscopes and proximity sensors to detect when it’s on your head. Removing an ear cup pauses your music, and putting the headphones back on your head resumes the music. Other premium headphones, such as the Sony WH-1000XM4, share this feature.
- 3D spatial audio: 3D Spatial Audio puts you in a virtual surround sound environment while watching movies on supported Apple devices. AirPods Max can track your head movements in this virtual environment and mimic the change in sound you would hear when turning your head in a theater. None of the headphones in this collection support 3D Spatial Audio or an equivalent function.
- Battery and charging: AirPods Max have a battery life of 20 hours and are charged via Lightning cable. They don’t have a power button and instead go into a power saving mode when slid into their carrying case. While the AirPods Max’s 20-hour battery is fairly common, the lack of a power button is (thankfully) a rare feature. Of all the products featured in this collection, the Sennheiser Momentum 3 is the only headphone that does not need to use an on / off button, but goes into a power-saving mode when closed.
- Connecting and switching devices: You can connect your AirPods Max to your iPhone by holding devices close together. Only headphones from Apple and Beats can do this. (Apple owns Beats by Dre.)
Now that you know what to look for in high-end ANC headphones, let’s get started. These are the best AirPods Max alternatives.
Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM4
The Sony WH-1000XM4s were the most popular wireless noise canceling headphones for a while. I believe the WH-1000XM4s would still have that crown if Sony hadn’t blessed the headphones with a nonsensical name. Not only are the WH-1000XM4s more than $ 200 cheaper than the AirPods Max, but they also have nearly identical ANC and Transparency features, customizable EQ settings, head sensing, and 30 hours of battery life with ANC on – a much longer listening time than some the AirPods Max has to offer.
But functions aren’t everything. The Sony WH-1000XM4s also sound fantastic, with a “flat” frequency response comparable to the AirPods Max. Considering all the features, battery life and sound quality, Sony’s WH-1000XM4s are the best alternative to the AirPods Max, and they cost almost half the price of Apple’s headphones.
The Sony WH-1000XM4s offer the same ANC and Transparency features you get with AirPods Max, plus a longer battery life of 38 hours and a lower price tag.
Another favorite: Bose NC Headphones 700
If ANC is your top priority, the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are a fantastic, powerful alternative to Apple’s AirPods Max. They have 11 levels of ANC, with options ranging from full transparency to heavy-duty noise cancellation. And an intuitive ‘favorites’ button lets you quickly browse your 3 favorite ANC modes without opening the Bose Music app (where your EQ, ANC and Smart Assistant settings are live).
Like the Sony WH-1000XM4s, the Bose NC Headphones 700 have a relatively “flat” sound profile that should appeal to Apple fans. And while the NC Headphones 700 only offer 20 hours of playtime with ANC on (same as the AirPods Max), you can extend that battery up to 60 hours with the included charging case (which is just a protective case with a built-in battery). , you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to).
Bose NC headphones 700
The Bose NC Headphones 700 have 11 ANC settings, ranging from full transparency to heavy noise cancellation. For fans of ANC, they are an attractive alternative to the AirPods Pro.
Best Budget Option: Anker SoundCore Life Q30
Why spend hundreds of dollars on noise canceling headphones when you could buy the Anker SoundCore Life Q30s? The affordable SoundCore Life Q30s have three ANC modes specially designed for office, outdoor or airplane environments, along with an impressive 40 hours of battery life (with ANC enabled) and an extremely lightweight design.
Unsurprisingly, the SoundCore Life Q30s can’t match the sound quality of the AirPods Pro or any other high-end wireless headphones, but they sound good enough for the price and place a strong emphasis on bass frequencies. They also lack a special transparency mode, which is a defining feature of Apple’s AirPods Max.
Best budget option
Anchor SoundCore Life Q30
For just under $ 100, the Anker SoundCore Life Q30 headphones offer three ANC settings and 60 hours of battery life. They are the best budget alternative to AirPods Max.
Premium Choice: Sennheiser Momentum 3
It’s a shame the AirPods Max has a battery drain issue, as using a power saving mode is actually a bit ingenious. Since the AirPods Max doesn’t need to be turned on every time, it can connect to your device and play music as soon as you take it out of the carrying case.
Sennheiser’s Momentum 3 headphones offer a much more reliable take on the energy-efficient concept: “turn off” when closed and “turn on” when opened. The Momentum 3 headphones also use Head Detection to automatically pause or play music and feature three increasingly effective ANC modes.
Unfortunately, the Sennheiser Momentum 3 headphones don’t have Transparency mode and only offer 13 hours of battery life with ANC. But the headphones sound great, with a greater emphasis on bass frequencies than the AirPods Max (you can flatten the EQ via the Sennheiser Smart Control app).
Best premium option
Sennheiser Momentum 3
Like the AirPods Max, Sennheiser’s Momentum 3 headphones use a power-saving mode and can reconnect to your phone faster than other wireless headphones.
Best for Apple Features: Beats Solo Pro
Let’s keep it in the family. Apple owns the Beats by Dre brand, so all Beats headphones include exclusive Apple features, such as automatic iPhone pairing and Lightning charging. Of all the great Beats headphones available today, Beats Solo Pro comes the closest to AirPods Max, featuring ANC and Transparency modes, a 22-hour battery and Apple’s signature ‘flat’ sound profile.
We rated the Beats Solo Pro with an 8/10 in a review last year, which declined a few points because the headphones are too tight and (like the AirPods Max) only work wirelessly. Beats Solo Pro also lacks Adaptive EQ and the AirPods Max’s main sensing auto-pause feature. If you can ignore these errors, the Solo Pro headphones are an attractive and cost-effective alternative to the AirPods Max.
Best for Apple Features
Beats Solo Pro
The Beats Solo Pro includes some of Apple’s signature features such as automatic iPhone pairing, Lightning charging, and Adaptive EQ.