AirPods Max Alternatives

Apple has finally unveiled its first pair of over-ear headphones. The AirPods Max rather than Air Pods Studio which was the name that was rumoured, are wireless headphones that cost a mere (coughs) £549! Pre-orders start today & will be available to buy on the 15th of December.

As you’d imagine for their hefty price tag, the AirPods Max combine wireless connectivity with active noise cancellation and Apple’s H1 chip, Adaptive EQ and spatial audio technologies. Apple has designed its own 40mm dynamic driver for the AirPods Max, promising “rich, deep bass, accurate mid-range, and crisp, clean high-frequency extension”. Apple says that their neodymium ring magnet motor maintains total harmonic distortion of less than one per cent across the frequency range, even at maximum volume. The AirPods Max offer 20 hours battery life and charge over the Lightning connector, not USB-C. There’s also a “smart case” for the AirPods Max that automatically puts them into a low power state. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that Apple is selling a more protective hardshell case at this time, although you can bet there will be a whole host of third party cases already being quickly designed. The AirPods Max come in five colours; space grey, silver, sky blue, green, and pink.

The synergy between its hardware by introducing features like automatic device switching will certainly be one of the key factors for many when deciding whether to buy these premium headphones over other options from the more traditional manufacturers. 

Obviously, at this stage we have to accept Apple’s claims on the sound quality of these over the ear cans, although we are sure they will indeed sound fantastic & perform beautifully. With the guy in the big red suit aiming to make deliveries in less than 3 weeks however you may be cutting it fine for treating your loved one, or indeed yourself. We therefore have looked at a few other options that fall into the ‘over-ear’, ‘noise-cancelling’, ‘wireless’ and ‘premium’ category that you may want to consider.

Sony WH-1000XM4 (£349)

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are the upgraded version of Sony’s WH-1000XM3 wireless that comes with longer continuous battery life, additional touch-sensitive control features, and allow for multi-device pairing. Like their predecessor, they have outstanding noise isolation performance thanks to their ANC feature and a comfortable, premium design. Their bass-heavy sound profile may not be preferred by all listeners, but you can customize the sound using the graphic EQ and presets on the Sony Headphones Connect App. Overall, these decently versatile headphones are a solid choice for many different listeners. What Hi-Fi cites them as the biggest headphone launch of 2020 and their 2020 Award Winner t’boot.


Bowers & Wilkins PX7 (£299)

The PX7s look is one of the more striking pairs of headphones on the market today and will furnish you with plenty of street cred should you choose these. The 43.6mm drivers in these headphones are the largest in B&W’s headphone collection and are developed and tuned by the same engineers behind the Series Diamond loudspeakers found in Abbey Road Studios. The PX7’s sport a very impressive 30-hour battery life, but if you do find yourself forgetting to charge them up one day, a quick 15 minutes into the nearest plug socket will reward you with 5 hours playback. Other brands might offer a few more features, but if you’re looking to buy (or hoping to receive) some new headphones this Christmas, the PX7s are a superb choice.


Sennheiser Momentum 3 BT (£309)

The Momentum Wireless 3 are a beautiful pair of noise-cancelling headphones that put the build quality and design first, without ignoring the importance of sound quality. They are supremely well balanced and the Momentum’s don’t favour bass over other frequencies. A 3 mode noise cancelling mode lets you fine tune how much noise reduction you want and voice support is offered on Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. With noise cancelling turned on, the battery lasts 13 hours, 17 minutes which is less than some of our other options in this list but shouldn’t be a problem for most users we’d suggest. Sennheiser celebrates 75 years in the audio business in 2020 so there’s no doubt they know a thing or two about sound quality. There’s a reason you will often find a pair of Sennheiser headphones knocking around a lot of recording studios or radio stations.


Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9 (£299)

The first thing you notice about the Beoplay H9’s is those shiny aluminium ear cups. They’re not all bling though, as the right ear cup also has a touch-sensitive interface that lets you control stuff like playback, skipping tracks, volume, and ANC modes (they also work with gloves on). The Beoplay H9’s deliver B&O’s signature sound which has been fine-tuned through generations of making audio equipment & it won’t let you down. That said, and like all headphones, it’s down to personal choice as to what you want your audio to sound like. 25 hours of wireless playtime with Bluetooth and active noise reduction turned on should be enough juice for a week’s worth of commuting for most people as well. 


Montblanc MB 01 (£525)

If you’re after something a bit more exclusive, a bit more premium, the Montblanc MB 01 has you covered. You have a choice of grey leather with polished metal, black leather with chromed metal or brown leather with gold coloured metal with these high-end headphones. As with all our options here they are more than capable in the audio department which is surely why you buy a pair of headphones ultimately. So much so Audio Design has been drafted in to oversee the sonic aspects of the MB 01 and give the entire project audio credibility. Battery life sits at 20 hours which is fairly competitive to most others in this category & the noise cancellation works well also.