The AirPods Max are Apple's over-ear headphones and they don't come cheap. They're clearly a premium pair of cans, yet they enter a competitive field more than capable of taking them on, including established and perhaps lesser-known brands that have already proven themselves. If you've got your eyes on an alternative to what Apple has put out there, look no further than this group.
These headphones stand out for their superb performance across the board, led by active noise cancelation (ANC) that blocks out background noise better than anyone. They also sound great, boast improved call quality, and have the ability to simultaneously pair with two devices. Throw in solid battery life, and you round out an elite package.
Canceling the noise
Bose had a big act to follow from the QC 35, and it delivered by retaining one of the best, customizable ANC performances for any pair of headphones. In fact, ANC applies at all times unless you turn on Aware mode, since there's no "off" switch here. Great sound and a comfortable fit complement things, along with decent battery life.
Sennheiser's pedigree in sound quality continues with the Momentum 4 Wireless, which offer excellent sound signatures that get even better with the EQ in the Smart Control app. Onboard ANC is pretty good, but the real benefit here is the crisp sound and vastly better battery life when compared to their predecessors.
When it comes to quality and sophistication, Bowers & Wilkins' Px8 checks off both boxes. There is a certain elegance to them, but what matters more is the outstanding audio fidelity and consistent performance. Hi-res audio fans will love the support for aptX Adaptive, though the sound quality is fantastic no matter what codec you've got going.
The Focal Bathys aren't your ordinary over-ear headphones, mainly because they sound better than just about any other pair you can wrap around your head. You can even use the built-in DAC mode when using the included USB-C cable to listen to tunes that way. Good ANC performance and solid battery life feel like extras for these excellent cans.
Bang & Olufsen has earned its reputation as one of the best in the industry for producing quality sound, and the Beoplay HX are no exception. They come with several features worth considering, including multiple levels of noise-canceling, dual device pairing, and the ability to selectively filter in background sounds with a quick swipe gesture.
Stacking the deck
Edifier really found its way with these headphones, mainly because they use planar drivers, which means they'll sound phenomenally good compared to cans using dynamic drivers. The trouble is, you don't get noise cancelation, so you have to make do with the two sets of ear cushions in the box to passively drown out the background.
Looking the part
Technics won't beat Apple in the ANC game, but these headphones bring an elegant look and performance to the table. Led by great sound and a comfortable fit, the EAH-A800 show what this brand can do when piecing together the right components. Doesn't hurt that you can get up to 50 hours per charge with ANC on to boot.
You can still get a lot of bang for your buck with the 1More SonoFlow — headphones that punch way above their weight and price tag. From great sound quality and surprisingly great ANC performance, these cans top it off with spectacular battery life of up to 50 hours with ANC on. You can even listen to hi-res tunes on these. What more can you ask for?
Take a chance with the best AirPods Max alternatives
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If you can't stomach the price of the AirPods Max because you think there's something better, you wouldn't be wrong. For the same amount of money or less, you can find some exceptional headphones that outdo Apple's best efforts so far. The Sony WH-1000XM5 stand out as our top pick for the best wireless headphones overall. They simply deliver the kind of performative balance you want in a good pair of cans, proving it every time you wear them while listening to some tunes.
Others are on the board here that also offer unique abilities. The Bose QuietComfort 45 and Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless are among them, as are additional models coming from Bowers & Wilkins, Bang & Olufsen, and Focal. This list covers the elite of consumer headphones, so whatever it is you're looking for, you'll find something for every need here.
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Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.