It's quiet. Actually quiet. For the first time in over a year, my apartment is quiet. But no, it's not because life is fully back to normal: my wife is working remotely right next to me, our kids are on Zoom school in the other room, and the puppy is as needy as ever, barking at me for another treat. It's quiet because I am wearing the AirPods Max from Apple, and the one-touch noise-canceling feature is truly something else.
Apple was nice enough to send me a pair on loan to test for a few weeks, and I tried to make the most of it in my home life and with what travel is returning to my routine. To cut to the chase, I need these headphones, and Father's Day is coming up, so hopefully my wife reads this.
As many have said, the design is a little strange. They're as minimal as you'd expect from Apple, but weirdly bigger than I had imagined. There's no denying that they are comfortable, more than any over-the-ear set I've ever used. But they're not collapsable; when in the "Smart Case" they're basically the same as out of it, just flatter. I took them out around the city for a day with my laptop bag, and after a few in-and-outs, I just kept them on my head or around my neck, which felt natural. So, it takes some time to get used to them, but then you don't notice them as much.
The controls are a little strange too — the right ear cup looks like a king-sized Apple Watch; the digital crown dial is for volume up and down when turned, and pushed once for play, twice to go ahead, three times to go back. Once you get the hang of it, it's easy. The only other physical button resembles the side button on the watch, and it toggles the incredible noise canceling. This thing took subway clanking to a faraway rumble, traffic cacophony to the occasional distant horn, and general urban noise to near-zero. Impressive, all while keeping my podcasts and music balanced and easy.
They also jump from Apple device to device so seamlessly, and just work so well with all the newest features on my Macbook or iPhone. There is a new iOS feature with headphone volume warnings that has been telling me I listen to everything way too loud lately on my BeatsX, but it never once came on during my time with the AirPods Max, which says something. When the fit is this comfortable and secure, and the noise cancelling works so well, you truly don't need the volume up to Spinal Tap levels. They also just sound so great; I've been an in-ear headphone guy for so long, I forgot how much more clear and surrounding over-the-ear sounds. It's true stereo, and it's just so crisp I appreciated more of my music than I have in a while. Plus, because the headband on top is so cushy, and the cans are big and comfortable even for my big ears, a few times I even forgot they were over, not in.
After a day of errands and music and phone calls and Zoom calls and Headspace and doomscrolling on Twitter and searching Google Flights for the next place to take these, I barely made a dent on the battery life, which Apple claims is "all day." I believe it, and even if not, the lightning charging seemed, well, lightning fast. I can't wait to take these on a plane and doze-off to my favorite podcast, but they were also just so natural and easy for my Zoom calls and daily routine. But please, let's seriously consider this round trip ticket to Kauai I saw, it would be a great chance to put these things to the ultimate comfort test.
To buy: amazon.com, from $458
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