Apple’s AirPods Max are among my favorite pairs of headphones right now for one amazing reason: spatial sound. Let me explain.
I admit, I wasn’t always a fan of the model, which has been a mainstay in the best roundup of over-ear headphones since its launch. First, there’s the $549 price, which despite being regularly discounted across online retailers, still seems disproportionately high when compared to many of the best AirPods Max alternatives out there.
Then there’s the design with the chunky, rectangular earcups which in my opinion are a complete contrast to the softer, easier-on-the-eyes round earbud designs worn by the majority of earphone models out there. The headband’s wide, strappy frame is also a design stumble. It all adds up to the fact that the AirPods Max feel a bit cheap, though if anything, but when compared to the more traditional designs I prefer that offer a more premium look and feel for less.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling out the levels of build or comfort that the AirPods Max achieve. It’s just that the style doesn’t seem right to me, that it’s very unlikely that you’ll see me wearing a pair in public or prefer them as a pair of headphones to take on my travels.
It is important to note that none of the factors that caused my injury had any effect on others. Apple fans love them, and they seem to be more popular than ever, popping up on the heads of fellow train commuters and even accidentally worn by gym-goers. Obviously, not everyone is as concerned with the AirPods Max’s looks or the price as I am.
no. For me, the AirPods Max are purely for home listening, and spatial audio content is where they excel.
Apple AirPods Max: Where spatial audio becomes fully functional
While my colleague Kate Kozuch enjoyed the clear, balanced audio delivered by the AirPods Max, our AirPods Max review noted that spatial audio was the killer feature. I agree! At the time, though, there were limited tracks available to accurately experience spatial audio across a wide range of content, but today the number of spatial audio tracks is growing daily, and it’s estimated that about 80% of new recordings are currently getting a simultaneous spatial audio version. .
Another admission is that I was skeptical about the benefits spatial audio could bring to music played through true stereo speaker systems and headphones. I’m a big fan of traditional stereo recordings which, with the right equipment, can produce powerful 3D sound between the ears. So as you can see, anything that starts messing with that for the purposes of creating a more immersive sound is going to be hit and miss from my point of view.
And so it is. Although the AirPods Max deliver an amazing immersive effect with some spatial audio content, not everything works as it should. There are certain recordings where spatial audio makes a mix of a track sound more powerful, layered, and more detailed, to the point where you can easily track the individual strands of the mix and the instruments within the recording. Then there are some tracks where the spatial audio version sounds almost unfamiliar, like a completely different version of a melody altogether, and loses some of its originality along the way for the spatial audio processing.
Whether the spatial audio version of a track works as well as the version you already know and love is not up to the AirPods Max. It comes down to the way spatial audio content is grouped, and AirPods Max provide a compelling tool in highlighting transitions. Which is one of the reasons I love them.
How to hear spatial audio if you don’t have AirPods Max
From Apple’s headphones to the latest HomePod 2 (Opens in a new tab) A smart speaker, the idea of spatial sound seems to be finding its way into all sorts of products. In fact, it’s a key part of the distinctive design of the new Sonos Era 300 smart speaker, which will officially go on sale on March 27th.
It’s no surprise, then, that spatial acoustic music has taken off, with both old and new recordings given the spatial acoustic treatment and appearing on streaming services like Amazon Music Unlimited. (Opens in a new tab)Apple Music (Opens in a new tab)and tides (Opens in a new tab).
In addition to AirPods Max, you can also experience the full impact of spatial audio content on AirPods Pro 2. (Opens in a new tab)Or the new Beats Fit Pro or Apple HomePod 2 (Opens in a new tab). And besides the Sonos Era 300, there will likely be more products offering full spatial audio support as the format becomes more widely known.
In the meantime, if you’re an iOS user and an Apple Music subscriber, this third-party music library tracker automatically detects which of the tracks and albums in your Apple Music library have a spatial audio version without you having to perform lengthy searches of the artist’s back catalog the favorite.
I found it particularly useful for working with spatial audio content in my own library, rather than relying on an Apple Music playlist for spatial tracks, and making experiencing the latest immersive audio through AirPods Max even easier.