Audio | December 15, 2020 12:02 pm

The 6 Best Alternatives to Apple’s AirPods Max Headphones

If $549 is too much for a pair of ANC wireless cans, we offer worthy (and like-minded) alternatives

The 6 Best Alternatives to Apple’s AirPods Max Headphones
Sony, House of Marley, Amazon

Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.

Apple’s new AirPods Max headphones sure look cool — although the style-forward carrying case certainly has its critics.

Also raising eyebrows? That $549 price tag. Which is nearly two times as much as some of our favorite wireless, noise-cancelling cans, many of which we’ll list below.

But this rundown of AirPods Max alternatives isn’t just about price; we’re emphasizing different features of Apple’s new headphones that you can find in other over-ear sets.

Sennheiser Momentum

For fit: Sennheiser Momentum

The Max’s telescoping arms and memory foam ear cushions make them an ideal set for long listening days. Sennheiser’s wireless cans feature an industrial design that you’ll either like or not, but the adjustable sliding ear cups and sheepskin leather head strap do make this a comfortable, ergonomic and immersive listen.

Bose 700

For noise cancellation: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Apple’s headphones feature adaptive audio that conforms to the fit and seal of each user’s ear cushions and active noise cancellation. Bose goes much further — their 700 release offers noise isolation on the microphones (the better to make and receive calls), a whopping 11 levels of noise cancellation and even a proprietary feature called Bose AR, where you can experience enhanced, augmented-reality audio apps that react to your head orientation and body movement.

Marshall Monitor II

For tactile controls: Marshall Monitor II ANC

The AirPods Max mimic the Apple Watch in using a digital crown for volume, Siri and track controls — and as someone who much prefers tactile commands, that’s preferable to the tapping of ear cups. Several headphone brands use touch controls, but the vintage-inspired Marshall features a control knob and two separate buttons for volume, presets and noise cancellation (and bonus, a longer time between charges).

Sony WH-1000XM4

For sound: Sony WH-1000XM4

Spatial audio, Adaptive EQ (aka sound and frequency adjusting to the fit and seal of the ear cushions, all done in real time) and the power of Apple’s H1 chip means you’re going to end up with a strong, consistent and balanced sound. But Sony’s wireless ANC headphones still offer up the richest listening experience, and the new XM4 even upscales your compressed digital files.

Master & Dynamic MW65
Master & Dynamic

For looks: Master & Dynamic MW65

Of course the Apple headphones looks great. But even with five colorways you’re getting a monochromatic experience … which isn’t unusual with personal audio. But Master & Dynamic not only offers a better contrast with their leather and silver combos, they’ve also been coming up with some funkier tones and patterns via collaborations with Automobili Lamborghini, Oliver Peoples, Leica and more.

House of Marley Exodus
House of Marley

For the environment: House of Marley Exodus ANC

Apple made a big splash by announcing their carbon neutral plans during their fall product event, but surprisingly didn’t mention (or remind us of) any environmental or sustainable goals while introducing the AirPods Max. If wireless, noise-cancellation, good sound and a more pronounced eco-friendly ethos is your goal with your headphones, House of Marley’s cans are built (in part) from FSC certified wood and recycled materials.