December 20, 2020

On The Tech Doctor Blog and Podcast, I chatted with Robert and Allison about our thoughts and experiences with the AirPods Max.

These are my review notes of the AirPod Max (funny in the podcast I may have slipped up a time or two or three and called the AirPods Max the AirPods Pro Max smile).

Apple - AirPods Max

 

Https://www.apple.com/airpodsmax

 

Cost: $895.00 Australian.

 

Brief Product Description:

 

Apple’s over the ear version of the AirPods Pro with a lot of great features and sound. Stainless steel head band with mesh canopy, aluminium ear cups, and magnetically removable/replaceable ear cup fabric cushions.

 

What you Get in the Box:

 

AirPods Max.

Smart case (AirPods Max already inserted in to the case).

Lightning to USBC cable.

Getting started guide.

 

Purchased  Separately:

 

USB charger.

Lightning to 3.5mm TRS audio cable.

Note - plug AirPods Max in to chargers that you would usually plug your iPhone in to.

Audio cable is to allow AirPods Max to be plugged in to older devices purely for getting audio out of them, can’t use Siri etc with this cable plugged in.

 

Physical description and Details of the Head Phones:

 

Stainless steel frame head  band with a soft to touch and stretchy canopy

 to take weight off top of head.

Telescoping stainless steel ear cup arms to adjust ear cups to fit over ears.

Brushed aluminium rectangular ear cups with rounded corners.

Stainless steel had band colour to match iPhone 12 colour, and ear cups colour to match iPad Air or MacBook colour.

Ear cup cushions magnetically attached to ear cups, and can be replaced.

Sensors to detect if AirPods max removed from head and will stop media, continuing once head set back on.

Noise Control (Noise/transparency or Off) rectangular button Botton top front of right ear cup with round Digital Crown knob at  back (either side of where the telescoping arm fits in to the ear cup).

Both Digital Crown Knob and Noise Control buttons are quite prominent and easy to locate by touch.

Nice touch with a bevelled edge on the Digital Crown to assist when physically  rotating with fingers. 

When taken off, both ear cups can be rotated 90 degrees to lay flat or to be inserted in to the smart case.

When wearing the head set, ear cups rotate slightly for a better and more comfortable fit.

Lightning connecter bottom middle of right ear cup.

9 microphones spread   over both ear cups  to deal with calls, noise/transparency modes, and wind noise reduction.

Microphone vents can be felt at  both top from and back corners of each ear cup,  back bottom corner, and the bottom middle.

In the middle of the left ear cup bottom, there is a small window to allow the radios within the ear cup to operate. 

 

Each ear cup also contains the H1 chip and 10 core audio computational processor.

 

On the right ear cup, there is a light indicator to show different battery states or whether the head set is charging. However, when using the head set, hey Siri “what is the battery level?” Will also give battery status.

When the head set is at 10%, and about to turn off, an audio tone will be heard (also sent to the iOS device).

 

Colours:

Space grey.

Sky blue.

Pink.

Green.

Silver.

Note - Smart Case colour equals the head band colour.

 

Press Noise Control button to toggle between modes. Hold down this button for at least 10 seconds to force AirPods Max in to pairing mode.

Hold down Noise and Digital Crown buttons to reset.

When first taking head set out of the box, when positioned next to an iPhone or iPad, connection box pops up on screen to connect.

Like the AirPods Pro and Beats Flex, AirPods Max will be available on all Apple devices via iCloud (making accessing the head set extremely convenient).

When using noise cancellation, user can still hear own voice which prevents shouting at others around you.

 

Digital Crown works in similar manner to the original clicker on the wired Apple Ear Pods or the Beats Flex:

Press once - start/top media or answer/hang up call.

Press twice, next track.

Pressed three times - previous track.

Hold in the Digital Crown - evoke Siri. Hey Siri can be also used.

 

When adjusting volume, an audio click can be heard (like turning an old fashion dial with clicks). At the top and bottom of the volume range, a confirmation tone can be also heard.:

 

Settings for the AirPods Max:

 

In Settings, Bluetooth, AirPods Max info screen, the following can be changed:

Name (change name of the AirPods Max).

Noise Control - Noise Cancellation, off (no noise control at all) or Transparency.

Noise Control button cycles between (each can be selected) - Noise Cancellation, Transparency, and Off.

Digital Crown - can set front to back or back to front (for which way you turn the Digital Crown to adjust volume).

Automatic Head Detection toggle - transfers audio to head set when placed on head.

Connect to this iPhone - automatically  or when last connected to this iPhone.

Spacial Audio toggle - immersive audio which follows the position of the iPhone.

About - Model Name, Model Number, Serial Number, and Version..

Disconnect.

Forget Device.

 

In Settings, Accessibility, Audio/Visual, Head Phone Accommodations - make adjustments to make AirPods Max even sound better - for Balance Tone, Vocal Range, and Brightness. Users can slo custom tune the audio by going through some voice and sample test.

 

In Settings, Accessibility, AirPods - adjust the:

press Speed -  default, Slower or Slowest.

Press and Hold Duration - Default, Shorter or Shortest.

 

In Control Centre, you can also use the AirPods Max with Live Listen.

 

Battery Usage and Status:

 

AirPods Max are rated for 20 hours of use with Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode turned on.

After plugging in AirPods Max for only 5 minutes, an extra 1.5 hours of battery level will be available.

If charging AirPods in the smart case, both ear cups have to be facing forward in the case to allow the lightning port in the right ear cup to line up with the notch in the case to allow the user to easily plug in a lightning cable.

Battery status or charging status can be checked via Siri or from the Battery Widget on iOS.or when connecting from Mac, the battery level of the AirPods Max is shown after the device name when choosing to connect.

You can also check the battery status of the AirPods Max whilst not wearing them by bringing them close to the iOS device and pressing the Noice Cancellation button, AirPods battery level and charge case is shown.

User will receive a notification on their iPhone or iPad when the head set reach’s 20%, 10, 5%, and when they are about to turn off.  In addition, an audible tone will be heard at 10% and when about to turn off.

Putting down the head set out of the case for more than 5 minutes, AirPods Max will go in to the low power mode to save battery.

From 0 to 95 percent charge takes about 2hrs when head set plugged in to a standard USB iPhone charger (not a fast charger).

 

Smart Case:

 

The Smart Case only covers the actual ear cups of the AirPods Max according to some reviewers like a bra, leaving a portion of the top of each ear cup and all of the head band exposed.

Under each of the ear cup holders, the case is open with a single strap in the middle to support each ear cup in the case.

A user slides the ear cups of the AirPods Max in to the smart case with a divider in the middle separating each ear cup.

This middle divider contains magnets to determine when the AirPods Max are in or out of the case.

A flap comes from over the back to cover the middle of the Smart Case and is secured in front by a magnet.

If facing the front of the smart case where the flap comes over and magnetically attach’s, the bottom left edge of the right ear cup cover contains a notch where the user can locate the lightning port on the ear cup to plug in a lightning cable for charging.

Seems to be much easier to carry the smart case with the AirPods in them by holding the case with the hand under the case where the rest of the head set is underneath.

Note - when AirPods are in the smart case and not moved for 18hrs or not in the smart case and not moved for 72hrs, AirPods Max enter a lower battery saving mode where BT is turned off to further save battery(which will then prevent Find My from locating the headset. If AirPods are placed in to the smart case or taken off (and after 5 minutes), AirPods go in to a low power state to save battery as well.

This reviewer beliefs if the Smart Case was called a Smart Pouch, which suggests a small case just for conveniently accessing the head set, that expectations would have been better managed.

 

Find My:

 

The AirPods Max can be located by Find My if not in the completely powered down state (in the Smart Case  after 72 hours or 18 hours as stated above).

More of a jingle sound is played when using Play Sound to locate the head set than is traditionally used with Find My with other devices.

 

What they Sound Like:

 

Music is absolutely brilliant with individual instruments almost having their own space.

Rich sound.

Spacial audio sound is amazing with the music surrounding the listener.

Not basie  at all, only when music calls for it.

Excellent with Head Phone Accommodations that you can truly customise the sound.

Lovely to listen to audio books or podcasts.

Phone calls are clear, and callers report ease of listening. Video conferencing services such as Zoom worked just as well with audio quality.

Noise reduction even better than that of the AirPods Pro, this goes the same for the transparency mode.

VoiceOver is just as responsive with the AirPods Max as it is with the AirPods Pro.

Hey Siri is very responsive.

 

Benefits:

They just feel like very amazing head phones every time you touch them.

Extremely responsive with VoiceOver on iOS or Mac.

Very comfortable to wear, even though weight is 380 grams. As reviewer is a voiceOver user, wearing the head set all day is not an issue at all.

Telescoping arms allow the perfect position to be set, and take a little effort to adjust when is great as they then do not shorten or lengthen.

Ear cups feel very comfortable over ears, and do not seem to cause sweating etc.

When the AirPods Max are placed in to the Smart Case, magnets in the case put the head set in to a low power mode.

Instant reconnection to an Apple device when placed back on the head. Just simply convenient to turn a dial or press a button.

Easy to locate and use the Digital Crown (volume etc), and Noise Control buttons.

Easy to locate lightning port for charging or plugging in the not supplied audio cable. There is a notch in the smart case to allow a lightning cable to be plugged in to the head set as well.

The aluminium ear cups feel smooth and cool to the touch.

Unlike some head phone cushions, these cushions have a whole magnetic housing which magnetically clips in to the ear cups.

Works with Find My.

Like with AirPods Pro, when playing media or dictating, AirPods Max does not turn this off when using Siri, which it does on Mac OS.

When plugging head set in to a 20W UsBC fast charger, 1.5hours of battery is gained within 5 minutes.

When plugged in to a standard iPhone charger (not a fast charger), from 0 to 95% is achieved in 2hrs.

The aluminium used in the ear cups is the same in the iPod air or MacBook Pros, and is quite durable.

The not supplied Lightning to 3.5MM audio jack cable is purely to connect the head set to older 3.5MM audio devices and offers no benefit besides the physical connection.

Hey Siri and Announce Messages by Siri is also available.

 

Points to consider:

 

Note - a few software issues, but the hardware is excellent, software can be improved upon.

Supply own charger.

Supply own audio cable.

The 3.5MM audio cable takes its volume from the device, not the head set, maximum volume therefore on such devices such as the Victor Reader Stream, Victor Trek or the Envoy Connect are about half the volume that the AirPods can put out at maximum volume.

Head set is not water proof.

Smart case doesn’t offer that much protection especially if they are placed in a bag etc.

How durable the mesh is at the top of the head set remains to be seen.

Whilst head set automatically pops up for iPhone/iPad, this is not the case on the Mac if using VoiceOver, this has only happened once with the reviewer.

Same issue still happens on the Apple Watch with the AirPods Pro, when using AirPods Max on iPhone, when chime goes off on Apple Watch, audio is switched back to the Apple Watch, and may or may not come back to the iPhone.

Current issue for VoiceOver users, when sound is being played on the AirPods Max, VoiceOver is also sent to the head set making the iPhone currently being used with Find My unusable.

The battery status of the AirPods is not correctly reported by VoiceOver when the head set is brought near to an iOS device when not wearing them and the Noise Control button is pressed.

No notifications on iOS when AirPods Max reach 20%, 10% or are about to power down due to battery level. Also only an audio alert at 10%.

Given the cost, strongly suggest Apple Care.

Reviewer would suggest these are more for office/home use, rather than being out in the community.

 

Tech Specs:

 

Audio

Apple designed dynamic driver.

Active Noise Cancellation.

Transparency Mode.

Adaptive EQ.

Spacial Audio with dynamic head tracking.

 

Sensors

Optical Sensor each ear cup.

Position sensor each ear cup.

Case Detect sensor each ear cup.

Accelerometer each ear cup.

Gyroscope each ear cup.

 

Microphones

9 total.

8 mics for Noise Cancellation.

3 mics for voice pickup: 2 shared with Noise Cancellation and 1 additional mic).

 

Chip:

H1 chip each ear cup.

 

Size and Weight

 

Width - 168.6MM, depth 83.4mm, and hight 187.3mm.

Weight - 384.6 grams.

 

David Woodbridge December 20 2020

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