why it’s not a (good) helmet

Are the AirPods Max a good headset? Besides, is it really a helmet? Here is my (subjective) opinion after a year spent with the AirPods Max on the ears.

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AirPods Max. AirPods Max? The AirPods Max? The story of this helmet did not start very well. But you have to go back a little further to really understand the place of this very atypical product.

Apple and music is a long love story. It was with the iPod that the company fully relaunched its marketing war machine thanks to the explosive presentations of Steve Jobs and a flagship slogan: “1000 songs in your pocket”. More than a product, it was also a real cataclysm in the music industry with the appearance of iTunes and the generalization of dematerialized music.

But why are we talking about iPod? It is in the logic of things. Apple creates the iPod. Apple creates the iPhone. The iPhone kills the iPod. Apple kills the iPhone jack, and creates the AirPods. Small wireless headphones becoming an almost essential option for any music lover with an iPhone, and no longer having the possibility of connecting their old headphones without an adapter. That’s how Apple killed the headset… only to bring it back to life in a new form.

A few years later, after intense rumors relayed year after year by analysts around the world, the brand finally unsheathed its very first own-brand headphones, the AirPods Max.

Really the first? Not really. There was also the acquisition of Beats in 2014 for the modest sum of 3 billion dollars. The opportunity to acquire some basics to lay the foundations of Apple Music thanks to the work carried out upstream with Beats Music. And in this takeover, there were above all helmets. Of questionable quality at the time, yes, but there was potential.

But let’s get back to what matters here. The AirPods Max. Or the AirPods Max, whatever you want. A strange nomenclature for a product that comes to integrate as if nothing had happened in the range of AirPods today composed of AirPods 2, AirPods 3, AirPods Pro, and therefore, these famous AirPods Max.

Isn’t there a problem somewhere? AirPods, in the collective imagination, aren’t they headphones? So ask someone on the street to explain to you what AirPods are, and you’re almost certain to get that answer. Introducing a helmet in this range may therefore seem inconsistent, even if the launch of such a product had been expected for several years.

What if that was precisely the mistake we all made when the AirPods Max was launched, that is to consider them as a simple helmet and not as AirPods? A device for listening to content, escaping any form already defined?

Qualities and defects of the AirPods Max

The AirPods Max are great in some ways, like sound qualityon which I will not dwell here because I am only basing myself on a personal feeling, or even active noise reductionwhich allowed me to survive working from home while an army of workers marched with jackhammers and pickaxes downstairs from my house for months.

After a year of use, I also noticed several major flaws, but I realized that they were almost all related to this helmet format. Or rather, the format I thought a helmet should fit.

The lack of a jack to connect the AirPods Max and enjoy them without any latency, for professional use, for example. Yes, there is the option to plug in headphones, but it looks like Apple doesn’t want you to. This cable is not included, it is very expensive, and to top it off, it is extremely thin and probably shouldn’t last very long. In short, not the kind of cable you can count on for professional use.

And this protective cover? It’s a disaster. It hardly protects what needs to be protected, and is anything but ergonomic. The most annoying thing is that even if we hate it, we will still need it under certain conditions to switch the AirPods Max to low power mode more quickly and thus preserve their battery. But that only confirms the fact that Apple designed its AirPods Max as AirPods that we just put in their box every time we finish using them.

We thus come to the last big black point of the device: AirPods Max never turn off. They just don’t have an Off button. This can be very restrictive when you don’t use them for a long time, and you find your headphones with an empty battery when you want to put them on. But then again, the AirPods Max simply work like AirPods, which we would find with a flat battery if we dared to put them out of their box.

The AirPods Max is not a headset

Conclusion after a year of use: the AirPods Max is not a good headset. Quite simply because it is not a helmet. These are AirPods, in a headset format. So if you are looking for a headset as we have been doing for years with all its qualities and not being linked to a particular ecosystem, the AirPods Max is not for you.

On the other hand, if you just want to enjoy the AirPods experience in a more generous format, with much better sound, excellent dynamics, unrivaled noise reduction, impeccable manufacturing quality, and that you are immersed in the Apple universe, then the AirPods Max should tick all the boxes. There, you are not likely to be disappointed, especially with recent additions from Apple such as spatial audio capable of immersing you in your content like the AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro will never be able to.

In short, AirPods Max is the luxury AirPods experience. Sound quality, ecosystem, active noise reduction and price… The best of AirPods, with all the sliders at Max.

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