I Tried the $549 AirPods Max and Found 3 Uncomfortable Compromises I Have to Live With

The AirPods Max weigh higher than typical over-ear headphones. (From: Kazi)
The AirPods Max weigh higher than typical over-ear headphones. (From: Kazi Mahbub Mutakabbir)

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Forget about using these headphones in your long listening sessions.

The AirPods Max offer a range of premium features, but there’s a catch.

During my time with these headphones, I noticed that their design actually focuses more on aesthetics than wearability. This became increasingly clear as I wore them for extended periods. Their excessive weight, tight fit, and other questionable design choices ultimately make them feel cheaper than they’re supposed to be.

Read on for a full discussion of the top three reasons why the AirPods Max aren’t as comfortable as they seem.

The Weight of Quality

Listening with the AirPods Max isn't exactly a 100% enjoyable experience. (From: Kazi)
Wearing the AirPods Max. (From: Kazi Mahbub Mutakabbir)

Apple’s AirPods Max come at a hefty 385-gram weight (0.84 lbs). This weight, stemming from their robust aluminum build, reflects Apple’s commitment to using high-end materials. But, my experience exposed some trade-offs.

When I first tested the AirPods Max, I initially found them comfortable. The luxurious materials felt good at first. However, over time, I started to feel fatigued, mainly at the crown of my head and around the ears.

Worse, the weight becomes increasingly noticeable over time, challenging the notion that quality materials always equate to a better user experience.

It’s true that the AirPods Max’s weight conveys a sense of premium status. But it begs the question: at what point does the pursuit of high-quality materials begin to detract from the practical aspect of everyday usability?

For reference, headphones that weigh below 0.55 lbs are often considered light, while those above 0.75 lbs are considered heavy.

Secure Fit, Tight Pressure

The AirPods Max inside their carrying case. (From: Kazi Mahbub Mutakabbir)
The AirPods Max inside their carrying case. (From: Kazi Mahbub Mutakabbir)

Another aspect that deserves attention is the clamping force of these headphones. Designed to ensure a secure fit, the AirPods Max exerts noticeable pressure, particularly around the jaw area.

This is a common compromise in over-ear headphones, aiming to balance stability with comfort. But, in the case of the AirPods Max, this balance seems to be slightly off-kilter.

After about an hour of usage, the pressure started to build up to the point that it became very uncomfortable. I had to take a few breaks just to release some of this pressure.

It makes me think that the design might be more focused on ensuring the headphones remain firmly in place. But, not in facilitating long-term wearability.

Good Looks Come at the Expense of Maintenance

An often overlooked aspect of premium headphones like the AirPods Max is the maintenance required to keep them in pristine condition.

Sure, the AirPods Max are a testament to Apple’s dedication to a unique design language. Yet, the use of luxury materials and the overall design make cleaning and general upkeep more challenging.

The sandblasted aluminum shells are prone to smudges. (From: Kazi Mahbub Mutakabbir)
The sandblasted aluminum shells are prone to smudges. (From: Kazi Mahbub Mutakabbir)

The sandblasted aluminum shells, while visually striking, are not immune to the everyday challenges of wear and tear. In my usage, these shells were prone to smudges and scratches, which could diminish their aesthetic appeal over time.

Furthermore, the mesh canopy and fabric ear cushions pose an additional dilemma. While these materials contribute to the initial comfort and premium feel, their long-term durability and ease of cleaning are questionable.

The breathable mesh pads catch dirt and grime. (From: Kazi Mahbub Mutakabbir)
The breathable mesh pads catch dirt and grime. (From: Kazi Mahbub Mutakabbir)

From a maintenance perspective, the fabric used on the earpads and headband is more susceptible to absorbing sweat, oils, and other residues from the skin. This can lead to a buildup of grime over time, which not only affects the appearance but can also cause the material to degrade faster than more resilient alternatives.

The porous nature of the fabric also makes it challenging to clean thoroughly without risking damage. Unlike leather or synthetic leather, which can often be wiped clean with a damp cloth, this fabric requires more careful handling to avoid fraying or fading.

To learn more, here’s a detailed guide on how to clean AirPods Max.

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