Apple’s AirPods Max headphones have hit the cabinets, and boy have they divided the opinion of tech consultants and potential consumers alike. On one hand, everybody seems to be in love with the audio high quality and the design to some extent, however their a-little-too-handsome asking worth of $549 is proving to be a significant deterrent on the subject of recommending Apple’s trendy headphones. Rival-in-chief Sony WH-1000XM4 prices considerably lesser and have already acquired nearly common acclaim. So, how does Apple’s luxurious providing stacks up towards Sony’s greatest? If you happen to’re torn between the 2 as your subsequent work-from-home companion, our Apple AirPods Max vs Sony WH-1000XM4 comparability is likely to be of some assist. And oh, it’s going to be a protracted one!
Design and construct
Now, that is going to be an enormous deciding issue. Apple’s AirPods Max comply with the corporate’s signature industrial design aesthetics, so you’re primarily getting a mixture of minimalism and a really distinct aura of luxurious. I’m not going to mince phrases right here – the AirPods Max look improbable, and so they’ll undoubtedly make an enduring style assertion. On prime of that, the fabric high quality is terrific as properly. As for the colour choices, you possibly can select between Silver, House Grey, Sky Blue, Pink, and Inexperienced.
Apple depends on stainless-steel for the headscarf body, whereas the earcups are made out of anodized aluminum. The telescopic arms supply an appropriate diploma of motion whereas the higher band is made out of breathable knit mesh to scale back any strain on the pinnacle. Many customers have identified that the AirPods Design is extraordinarily versatile, and that they may match simply high-quality even you probably have a bigger than common head. In my private expertise, I discovered that to be true.
The ear cushions make use of acoustic reminiscence foam that has a breathable mesh layer. These are sufficiently massive, whereas the mesh cloth will hopefully assist with the sweat state of affairs on hotter days – one thing that is still an enormous subject with leather-based ear cushions. Extra importantly, the AirPods Max’s ear cushions are extraordinarily snug and fasten magnetically. You may swap them too, however at $69 a pair.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t assist however discover that the AirPods Max clamp somewhat too tightly across the ears in a bid to completely cowl the world and isolate noise. Whereas the target is sweet, I’m not too positive how snug they’ll be for lengthy hours of utilization similar to flights or a marathon work session.
There’s a crown (akin to the Apple Watch) for quantity controls and a devoted button for enabling the transparency mode that lets ambient noise by means of. However I strongly really feel that the button placement may’ve been higher, particularly for the crown, which is situated on the prime and makes for an uncomfortable quantity adjustment or playback management expertise.
Total, the AirPods Max appears extraordinarily trendy, however the case Apple ships with them is nothing in need of an abomination from a design standpoint. The headphones enter a low-energy mode to avoid wasting battery if you put them within the purse case. However let me put it in crystal clear phrases – The bra-butt hybrid design of the case is ugly. And on prime of that, the open design doesn’t actually a lot confidence on the subject of truly defending the AirPods Max towards scratches or different types of bodily harm.
However the greatest subject with Apple’s headphones is the load of the AirPods Max. The tip the dimensions at 385 grams, which implies you’re undoubtedly going to really feel their heft. And if you happen to plan on carrying them on a protracted flight or all through the day, it is best to strive them on first at a retailer or borrow them from a pal earlier than shelling out. As compared, the Sony WH-1000XM4 weighs 254 grams and the Bose 700 noise-canceling headphones are 249 grams. And oh, these should not waterproof.
Coming to the Sony WH-1000XM4, they appear equivalent to their acclaimed predecessor – the WH-1000XM4. However hey, why repair one thing that ain’t damaged. Sony’s cans depend on high-quality plastic and a beneficiant quantity of leather-based padding. The earcups are angular with an egg-shaped define. In comparison with the AirPods Max, the over-ear match is a tad extra snug, and the load distinction clearly turns into obvious right here.
As for the cushion, Sony has used what it calls pressure-relieving earpads in foamed urethane that supply a cosy match and guarantee a fair strain distribution. However identical to the AirPods Max, there isn’t a waterproofing of any type right here. It is likely one of the greatest drawbacks of an in any other case glorious pair of noise-canceling headphones which are deemed the highest canine.
The remainder of the package deal can also be acquainted. The ability/pairing and noise-canceling button remains to be situated within the decrease portion of the earcup, and there’s a Three.5mm USB Sort-C jack as properly. The outer earcup has a capacitive floor that can be utilized for playback management and even enabling the ambient mode quickly by overlaying one of many earcups together with your fingers to let in exterior sound.
Capacitive controls are a godsend reward, and make it a lot simpler to execute a big selection of duties, quite than awkwardly reaching for the crown on AirPods Max. For a $549 price ticket, I believe capacitive controls ought to have been part of the package deal as I sorely missed the comfort.
And in case you’re questioning, Sony bundles the WH-1000XM4 with a case that appears premium and likewise features a cable for a wired listening expertise. Nothing beats wired playback on the subject of having fun with high-resolution music. In Apple’s case, you’ll must spend an additional $35 to purchase the Lightning-to-Three.5mm cable for wired listening. Sure, you pay individually for a cable for wired listening if you buy Apple’s $549 cans.
Internals and options
On the AirPods Max, every earcup comes geared up with the in-house H1 headphone chip, whereas the audio output is dealt with by a 40-mm dynamic driver. There’s a twin neodymium ring magnet motor that’s claimed to scale back harmonic distortions and ship a transparent playback expertise even at full quantity. Contained in the Sony WH-10000XM4 is the QN1 HD noise-canceling processor accompanied by a brand new Bluetooth audio chip.
There are a complete of 9 mics on the AirPods Max. Alternatively, the Sony cans have two mics on every earcup for its twin noise sensor know-how whereas the speak-to-chat function makes use of all 5 mics in tandem. Now, there are plenty of options shared between the 2 competing headphones.
Let’s begin with 3D audio. Apple’s iteration on the AirPods Max known as Spatial Audio, which employs gyroscopes and accelerometers for head-tracking to supply a theater-like expertise. Sony’s model known as 360 Actuality Sound and it additionally makes use of spatial audio know-how. Nevertheless, you possibly can solely benefit from this function with a choose few streaming companies similar to Tidal and Deezer that supply high-resolution music playback assist.
Each the AirPods Max and the Sony WH-1000XM4 can detect if you put the headphones on or take them off, and accordingly pause or resume playback. Moreover, each the headphones assist multi-device connection. So, you probably have linked the AirPods Max with an iPhone and a Mac, it is going to seamlessly swap from the Mac to the iPhone on which you’re attending a voice name.
There’s an ambient mode on each headphones too. Apple calls it Transparency mode, and it may be enabled by tapping the devoted noise-canceling button. Nevertheless, the Sony providing has just a few extra tips up its sleeve. You may management the extent of background sound you need to hear utilizing the Headphones Join app. Plus, inserting your fingers over the earcup immediately lowers the music and permits exterior sound by means of.
The AirPods Max, then again, permits customers to share audio between two AirPods linked to an iPhone, iPod, iPad, or an Apple TV 4K. Nevertheless, a significant comfort that’s unique to Apple is the one-tap setup. All it’s a must to is place the AirPods Max close to your system and choose the connection immediate on the display.
Sony, then again, nonetheless depends on the same old Bluetooth pairing course of. On the intense aspect, the WH-1000XM4 presents some audio-centric conveniences similar to LDAC transmission (as much as 990 kbps) for having fun with hi-res music. Moreover, the Sony headphones additionally assist the DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) Excessive know-how that upscales compressed music recordsdata in real-time to ship a richer audio expertise.
Adjustable EQ settings can be found on each Apple and Sony’s headphones, however there’s an enormous distinction right here. Apple does all of it mechanically with out providing any handbook controls, whereas Sony’s companion app presents a ton of granular management to let customers fine-tune the audio output to their liking. That is one thing of us who’re critical about their music listening expertise ought to know.
One other extraordinarily handy and funky function that the WH-1000XM4 headphones carry to the desk is Converse-to-Chat. This function depends on the Exact Voice Pickup Expertise that makes use of 5 mics to acknowledge and react to the person’s voice. On the floor, it mechanically stops the music playback and permits ambient sound by means of the headphones as quickly as customers communicate, enabling them to have interaction in a dialog with out having to take off the headphones or performing a gesture. You simply communicate and the music playback mechanically stops. How cool is that?
Then there may be Atmospheric Stress Optimization on the Sony WH-1000XM4 that makes changes for high-altitude and is tailor-made for flights. One other trick is the Private Noise-Canceling Optimizer, which takes under consideration attributes similar to glasses, the scale of head and hair to tweak the sound output.
The AirPods Max, then again, depends on computational audio courtesy of the 10-core H1 chip to tune the sound output by blocking exterior noise and adapting the sonic steadiness based mostly on the seal and match of the ear cushions. An always-on assistant can also be at your disposal, with the AirPods Max counting on Siri, whereas the WH-1000XM4 financial institution on Google Assistant and Alexa for some AI smarts.
Sound high quality
Now, I’ve solely had a short expertise with the Sony WH-1000XM4 (which I borrowed from a pal) and examined the AirPods Max for merely a few hours after leasing them briefly from an audio gear retailer whose proprietor get a few items imported from the US. Whereas I may get a style of the uncooked sound output in my transient expertise, I couldn’t assess the mic high quality intimately.
Proper off the bat, I seen that the soundstage of the AirPods Max is narrower than these on the Sony WH-1000XM4, however not an excessive amount of. Nevertheless, the distinction may also be attributed to the various sonic signature of every system. The bass is tight, and the mids, highs, and lows are dealt with very well. I couldn’t assist however come out with the impression that the audio output is immersive and excessive on readability. The AirPods Max takes a really balanced method to automated EQ changes, and it displays in how they deal with a variety of devices starting from acoustic guitars to thumping bass plates.
The AirPods Max additionally excels at noise cancellation. The truth is, they sit proper there on the prime alongside Sony and Bose’s greatest, if not higher. I loved just a few instrumental, classical Indian, jazz, and R&B songs in a retailer that was repeatedly music blasting adverts and occasional Drake tracks from all instructions, however the AirPods Max excelled at isolating the exterior noise. The Transparency mode additionally works like a allure. The truth is, it’s undoubtedly among the many greatest iterations of an ambient mode I’ve skilled to date.
Nevertheless, there may be solely to date that the AirPods Max can go along with all that hardware and computation tips. The utmost you possibly can obtain is Dolby Atmos if you wish to transcend commonplace music listening over Bluetooth. Apple Music doesn’t supply a hi-res audio tier like Tidal, so it’s a must to stick to the common 256kbps AAC stream. There is no such thing as a aptX or aptX HD compatibility both.
That is one space the place the Sony WH-1000XM4 leaves the Sony far behind. You get LDAC assist that brings a CD-like music expertise to your ears. When it comes to high quality, the sonic signature of the WH-1000XM4 is enjoyable. However if you need a extra refined bass output with a noticeable thump, the Sony WH-1000XM4 seems to be the higher choice – at the least to my ears. In fact, noise cancellation high quality is top-notch right here, with nearly no discernible superiority (or inferiority) over the AirPods Max.
Battery and energy
Apple says that the AirPods Max can last as long as 20 hours of listening time with ANC or Transparency mode enabled, and people numbers should not too shabby. The corporate additionally touts 20 hours of film playback or calling on a single cost. Plus, 5 minutes of charging time will probably be adequate for 1.5 hours of playtime, which is nothing in need of wonderful.
Nevertheless, there isn’t a wi-fi charging assist right here. Sure, you don’t get this comfort on Apple’s $549 headphones, however AirPods Pro earbuds that value lower than half supply this comfort. Bewildering, to say the least, and disappointing too.
One other main disappointment is how wired charging works. Once more, for causes solely identified to Apple, the corporate is sticking with the Lightning port, as a substitute of utilizing the USB Sort-C port. Why on earth does the Lightning port exist even in 2021? So yeah, all the time carry the lightning cable round to cost your AirPods Max.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 can last as long as 30 hours on a single cost with noise-cancellation whereas disabling ANC extends that quantity to 38 hours. Totally charging these takes as much as Three hours, however fortunately, Sony has opted for the USB-C commonplace.
AirPods Max vs Sony WH-1000XM4: Verdict
The AirPods Max is Apple’s greatest. Be it audio high quality, noise cancellation, or sensible options, they nail each facet. However they aren’t vastly superior to the Sony WH-1000XM4 both. You actually must ask whether or not the Apple ecosystem-locked options similar to Spatial Audio and always-on Siri help are extraordinarily vital to you earlier than shelling out $549 on the AirPods Max. Plus, they’re enormous and heavy, although they appear attractive and rock arguably the perfect construct high quality you possibly can come throughout on a pair of over-the-ear headphones on the market.
If not, the Sony WH-1000XM4 will give you a best-in-class audio expertise for $200 much less. And oh, you don’t must spend additional on a cable for wired listening, and received’t must reside with an unsightly case both. Plus, you received’t be shedding any main options switching between an iPhone or an Android system with them.
Personally, I simply can’t get this concept out of my head that I can buy each the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the AirPods Professional for lower than the AirPods Max. And that’s the place the comparability and the entire level of debating merits-demerits successfully finish for me.