Real vs. Fake AirPods Max: 5 Tests to Tell the Difference

Man looking closely at a pair of AirPods Max (From: Pexels).
Man looking closely at a pair of AirPods Max (From: Pexels).

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Here are five ways to distinguish between authentic and fake AirPods Max like a pro.

The AirPods Max are famous for their intuitive functionality and award-winning design. This makes them appealing not just as an audio device but as a fashion item, too.

Unfortunately, these things also make the AirPods Max a prime target for counterfeiting. Some fakes even pass iOS 16 verification and have Apple-exclusive features, making them harder to distinguish.

No worries. Fake AirPods Max may be well-made, but they don’t quite hit the mark in terms of materials, design elements, packaging, and sound quality when compared to the real thing. Read on to learn how to tell the difference between both!

1. Software Test to Spot Fake AirPods Max

Due to the rising prevalence of fake AirPods and AirPods Max, Apple included a counterfeit detection function in the recent iOS 16 update.

To access this, simply connect your AirPods Max using the one-tap method, and it’ll trigger a pop-up notification on your iOS device.

The alert reads, “These headphones could not be verified as genuine AirPods and may not behave as expected,” and has an optional “Don’t connect” button.
iOS 16 fake AirPods verification alert.
iOS 16 fake AirPods verification alert.

The downside is that this feature isn’t completely foolproof.

The iOS 16 verification doesn’t prevent fake AirPods Max from working with other Apple devices. Nor does it work with other branded headphones.

Worse, some exceptionally well-made AirPods Max can even reportedly bypass the iOS 16 verification.

Fake AirPods Max passing the iOS 16 verification (From: Youtube/NikkiFarah) 
Fake AirPods Max passing the iOS 16 verification (From: Youtube/NikkiFarah

Others can also trigger Apple-exclusive functions like automatic pairing and wearing detection and features like personalized Spatial Audio, ANC, Transparency mode, and Find My.

That’s why it’s still good to investigate other factors. Continue through the next sections to learn how to tell if your AirPods Max are fake.

2. Materials Used in Real vs. Fake AirPods Max

One easy way to determine the difference between fake and real AirPods Max is by looking at their materials and build.

Real AirPods Max mostly have steel and aluminum construction.

The headband is stainless steel, and instead of the typical cushion padding, it uses a synthetic mesh fabric that forms a reverse canopy over the head. Additionally, the ear cups are anodized aluminum, which makes them distinctly heavier than other premium headphones.

In contrast, fake AirPods Max feel cheaper, as most of them are made from plastic and low-quality silicone.

Knock-offs usually have plastic ear cups. If you try tapping the ear cups against each other, you’ll notice a dull, clacking sound characteristic of anything made from hard plastic.

Real AirPods Max weighing slightly less than fake AirPods Max. (From: Youtube/Linus Tech Tips)
Real AirPods Max weighing slightly less than fake AirPods Max. (From: Youtube/Linus Tech Tips)

While the plastic construction should make them lighter than the authentic AirPods Max, some sneaky manufacturers sometimes install lead weights inside the ear cups to make them feel heavier and, thus, more premium.

Moreover, the synthetic mesh canopy on fake AirPods Max is often significantly more flimsy, as opposed to feeling firm or dense. If you apply pressure, some fake AirPods Max headbands will bend, while the real ones will retain shape.

Fake AirPods Max headband squeezing from pressure, while the one won't budge. (From: Youtube/Joe's Gaming & Electronics)
Fake AirPods Max headband squeezing from pressure, while the one won’t budge. (From: Youtube/Joe’s Gaming & Electronics)

In some cases, you’ll also notice a distinct seam along the silicone material.

Lastly, the headband’s sliding mechanism also doesn’t feel smooth. Sometimes, it even creaks when extended.

3. Design Differences Between Real and Fake AirPods Max

The overall design and quality of the real AirPods Max are unfailingly consistent. However, this is less true for many counterfeits. Although some are very well-made, other fakes are much easier to detect.

That said, here are specific things you can look out for if you suspect your AirPods Max are fake:

Check the buttons

Fake AirPods Max typically features the same buttons and placement as the original ones. However, minor differences are easy to see if you know where to look.

For instance, a fake digital crown button generally looks cheaper. It has thicker and shorter grooves and a noticeable clicking when you turn the button. Additionally, it may feel stiffer and more difficult to turn, which is a dead giveaway that the headphones are fake.

Real AirPods Max digital crown looks more polished than the fake's. (From: Youtube/Allsortzz)
Real AirPods Max digital crown looks more polished than the fake’s. (From: Youtube/Allsortzz)

On the other hand, the grooves on an authentic digital crown are sleeker and slightly longer. The turning mechanism also feels effortless and smooth.

Furthermore, some fake Noise Control buttons have a “clicky” quality, whereas authentic ones operate smoothly and soundlessly. Pressing this button on fake AirPods Max also sometimes triggers a voice alert, which doesn’t happen on an authentic pair.

The Noise Control and Digital Crown buttons are both essential in different functions such as resetting your AirPods Max.

Check the ear cups

The ear cups on counterfeit AirPods Max often have more discrepancies, telling you they’re fake.

Uneven ear pads on fake AirPods Max (From: Youtube/Jay Brokers)
Uneven ear pads on fake AirPods Max (From: Youtube/Jay Brokers)

First, the ear pads tend to have creases, wrinkles, uneven dents, or folds, while the original ear pads are smooth and even all around.

When you remove the ear pads, you’ll see that the pinholes are missing on some fake AirPods Max as well, meaning the earcups cannot be removed from the headband.

Fake AirPods Max have no pin holes inside the ear cups (From: Youtube/Phone Repair Guru)
Fake AirPods Max have no pin holes inside the ear cups (From: Youtube/Phone Repair Guru)

Also, on the original AirPods Max, you’ll see text on the inside of both ear cups that tells you where they’re designed and assembled. You’ll also see “R” and “L” markers printed on the hard plastic and woven into the ear cup fabric.

These details are sometimes missing from most counterfeit AirPods Max and help determine their authenticity.

Some fake ones may have these inscriptions; however, they’re not usually printed clearly.

The screws that secure the internal ear cup housing are another giveaway. Pentalobe or Torx screws sit flush in the housing on the original AirPods Max. Conversely, many fake AirPods Max come with what looks like Phillips screws that are slightly raised.

Phillips screw on fake AirPods Max vs torx screws on real AirPods Max (From: Youtube/Phone Repair Guru)
Phillips screw on fake AirPods Max vs torx screws on real AirPods Max (From: Youtube/Phone Repair Guru)

The last and most noticeable feature on some fake AirPods Max is a rough seam that circles the length of the ear cups. This is noticeably absent in the real version, which features an utterly smooth aluminum housing.

Check the charging port

The metal charging port on the real AirPods Max has a seamless, smooth construction. However, on the fake version, you may notice that the way the charging port is installed will sometimes distort the material around it.

Next to the charging port, you also have the LED status light and the microphone. The former sits flush in the ear cup for original headphones, whereas fake units may feature an LED light that protrudes or is positioned too deep. Additionally, the mic should have a silver metal mesh, not something that looks like black net fabric.

Make sure to check the color of the LED light too. Authentic AirPods Max feature a white light, while some fakes have a blue and red light.

Check the case

Many fake AirPods Max smart cases look almost identical to the real thing. It has a strong magnetic flap that does the job and even has a cut-out for the charging port and LED light. However, there are still telltale signs that your smart case may not be legit.

Firstly, the inside of the smart case flap has the “Designed by Apple in California” and “Assembled in China” lettering, while some fakes do not. And even if they do, it’s not printed clearly.

The inner lining on the inside of the flap is also completely smooth and feels like a soft, suede-like material. In contrast, some fake smart cases come with an inner lining that feels rough and has a noticeable groove along the area where it folds.

4. Packaging Differences Between Real and Fake AirPods Max

The clean, immaculate packaging of the AirPods Max (and Apple products in general) is unmatched.

They’re packaged using premium and sustainable box stock with a satin finish. It has embossed details on the lid and foil-stamped printing. Even the vacuum seal inside the box is designed to build anticipation when opening the package.

Fortunately, not all counterfeits get these details right. So, they’re easy to spot if you take the time to look. Here are several things to check for on your AirPods Max packaging:

  • Color: The box that comes with authentic AirPods Max is a pure, bright white color. On the other hand, a fake box sometimes looks slightly more cream-colored or yellowish.
  • Images: The AirPods Max box has an embossed image of the product on top of the lid. You should feel the grooves when you run your hand across it. In contrast, the image on a counterfeit box usually has no embossing. Sometimes, the picture and color quality also aren’t as clear or accurate.
  • Text/Lettering: Fake AirPods Max boxes sometimes have missing or incomplete text labels or lettering. For instance, knock-offs may have no Apple logo or only say “Max” instead of “AirPods Max.” You’ll also see glaring misspellings on the back of the box, like “Designed by Apole in California” or “Compatible with Apole Watch.”

    Typographical errors on fake AirPods Max box (From: Youtube/Linus Tech Tips)
    Typographical errors on fake AirPods Max box (From: Youtube/Linus Tech Tips)
Sometimes, you’ll even see Chinese characters that shouldn’t be there.
  • Serial Number: The serial number on authentic AirPods Max should be on a sticker, whereas fakes sometimes have it printed directly on the box.
  • Internal Packaging Materials: The booklet that comes with every Apple product is made from a premium type of material that doesn’t feel loose or flimsy. Conversely, a fake booklet tends to come apart more easily due to its flimsier construction. The smart case comes with thin, see-through protective paper, whereas this sometimes looks like regular paper on the fakes.
Some counterfeit AirPods Max will also have gray ear cup protectors instead of white.

5. Sound Quality Check: Do Fake AirPods Max Sound Good?

As expected, the authentic AirPods Max have excellent sound quality that’ll surely impress any music lover. Although whether they’re audiophile quality is another story.

That said, the AirPods Max deliver a warm, V-shaped sound signature. They have a wide soundstage, punchy sub-bass, natural-sounding mids, and decent treble. Coupled with Apple’s Spatial Audio, you get a pretty immersive listening experience.

The same cannot be said of many counterfeit AirPods Max, even the well-made ones. Some fakes typically sound more compressed or muffled. This lack of clarity becomes even more noticeable when you compare them side by side.

However, they’re not entirely terrible. So if you’re a casual listener and don’t mind using fake headphones, these may still get the job done for you.

Conclusion

There are increasingly more counterfeits out there. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it as long as there’s a market for it.

Luckily, there are ways to ensure you’re not buying a fake pair of AirPods Max. With a guide like this and a sharp eye, you should be able to spot those differences and avoid wasting time and money on purchasing a knock-off.

Counterfeiters are constantly changing and adapting their tactics. So if you’ve come across any new telltale signs that your AirPods Max are fake, do share them in the comments below. We’d love to hear them, and you may also end up helping someone else in the process!

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