20th Jan, 2023

The AirPods Pro Max

When the AirPods Pro were announced, I did not really bat an eye. They looked weird and were a lot more expensive than their Bose or Sony counterparts. I was a happy Bose user back then and did not see any reason to even think about these headphones. My Bose since broke and I now am using a pair of AirPods Pro Max. Let’s explore why anyone would ever want to pay that much money for a pair of rosetooth headphones.

The AirPods Pro Max on my kitchen table

I am convinced that starting at a certain price point, it does not matter which rosetooth headphones with active noise cancellation you buy, they will all make you happy. I think there will be no impactful difference in your happiness with the product if you go with the Sony over the Bose. Sure, one might have a feature the other does not have and you want that, but if what you want is “Good headphones with ANC” you can’t really go wrong here.

This is also true for the AirPods Pro Max. I think would I have bought the Bose QC 45 (or whatever Sony calls theirs currently, their naming is hard) over them, I would not miss anything or be less content with my headphones. Nonetheless, if you lay them all out on a table, the AirPods really stick out as different. And if you pick them and go to pay them, the AirPods also stick out, as they cost about 300 Euros more at the time of writing this.

What is it you pay for?

Given that they all sound good (I’m no audiophile, but I listen to a lot of music and the experience is good, to give you a rough idea how I ended up with this rating) and the noise cancelling is also good in all of them, what do you actually get for 300 bucks more in comparison to the Bose or Sony?

First of all, it’s Apple, and that means it’s expensive. They have this "luxury designer item" feel to it: More metal is used, they're heavy, they come in fancy colors and feel more sturdy (to be fair, I must have dropped my Bose about 20 times without any damage; then again, in the end a small plastic part broke what made me replace them) and they just look… different overall.
Depending on whom you ask, they look nice (me) or totally stupid to the point where people start laughing out loud (my wife).
So, that’s the first thing you might pay for: They look good. I like that, I try to have visually pleasing objects in my home. But while I think they look better than their counterparts, the Bose or Sonys don’t look teriible.

The other think you get is connectivity and integration in the Apple ecosystem, which is awesome.
If you just ask any random person on the street what they like most about their AirPods, I'd assume 8 out of 10 times you will hear something about the connectivity. It’s just so nice. You get them out of the case and they immediately connect. No fiddling in settings. If your phone rings, you're able to get them out of the case, in your ear and connected before the caller hangs up. You pull one out of your ear and the music stops. You put it back in and it continues. It’s so effortless and I would not want to miss that about my AirPods I use on my phone. You get the same thing with the AirPods Pro Max. Switching between devices is easy, you pull them out of their purse (that damned purse) and they are connected, it feels like they work with you instead of against you. They never really stand in the way.

I’m willing to pay extra for a feature like that on an item that I use daily. But am I willing to pay 300 bucks extra and should you be?

Should you buy them?

I have not been honest with you. You might have been under the impression that I actually bought the AirPods Pro Max. I haven’t. I own them, but my work paid for them (they have a home office budget and I spent it all on headphones because I did not need anything else). I’m sorry for lying.

But while this kind of changes the dynamic of the article, it also allows me to take a more neutral position here. Because I own them and I can now answer with confidence if I had paid the extra money for those features, would it have been my own money. I would not.
As much as I love them, I don’t think I could justify the extra expense. My Bose were just fine, they also connected fine (a little slower and less reliable, though) and ANC and sound were great. As I said earlier, in this price range, you can probably pick one blind and be happy no matter which one you choose.

Sent from my AirPods Pro Max

© 2024 Chris Jarling