5 things I wish I'd known before buying AirPods Max

Apple's top-tier wireless headphones are really impressive, but they're not perfect

Apple AirPods Max being worn by a woman looking at an iPad
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's AirPods Max are the firm's best headphones, and up there with the very best wireless headphones you can buy. I've had mine for many months now, and while I still love the way they sound the novelty has worn off and I'm more aware of their flaws than I was before.

With the AirPods Max, Apple has got so many things right that the wrongs are often quite frustrating – especially when you compare them to rival products. Here are five things I wish I'd known before I bought my AirPods Max.

1. They don't do lossless audio

Apple Music does, but AirPods Max don't. That's because they don't support Apple's ALAC Bluetooth codec, which can handle higher quality audio; they're stuck with AAC. And while I knew going in that Bluetooth wouldn't give me true lossless audio, it's still odd that Apple's most expensive headphones aren't capable of playing Apple Music in its very best quality.

2. There's no cable

I know Apple likes to pack light, but not bundling a 3.5mm cable with headphones this expensive feels like unnecessary penny pinching: if you want to use your AirPods Max on a plane, with a wired connection for better audio or with other devices that aren't Bluetooth enabled, that's an extra £35/$35. Boo.

3. The case doesn't grow on you

I absolutely hate the stupid stupid headphone bra that Apple decided to wrap its AirPods in. It's extremely ugly and makes you look ridiculous if you hold it like a handbag, but that's not the key problem. The key problem is that the whole point of a protective case is to protect your expensive headphones, and Apple's case doesn't do that. Huge parts of your headphones remain exposed to dirt and possible scratching. So much for form following function.

4. Sometimes they're too good

This is a niche problem I know, but mixing music on the AirPods Max is a bad idea: what sounds brilliant on Apple's best headphones doesn't sound brilliant on lesser kit. They're great for finding flaws that you might not hear on other headphones, but if you're making things for other people to hear then you really need to be using studio monitoring headphones.

5. The Sony WH-1000XM5 now exist

As much as I like my AirPods Max, there's no doubt in my mind that the brand new Sony WH-1000XM5 are, today in August 2022, the better buy. Even though they're not widely discounted they're still cheaper than Apple's top option, too, and in addition to all the Sony sonic goodness you'd expect they have a proper protective case too.

And if I didn't work from home, I think I'd rather be seen in public with a black pair of Sonys: as nice as my metallic green AirPods Max are, it makes it very obvious to other people that you're wearing a very expensive pair of headphones.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).