I love music and I’m working hard to get my partner’s new podcast infrastructure up and running at Tip-Top Deutsch. Doing the production on the podcasts requires over-ear quality headphones. I’m also a music lover and an Apple fan.
I have used a pair of Beats Studio 3 wireless since 2018 or so. I’d been very pleased with the sound and the integration with my Apple devices, though the build quality and microphone were quite poor for some aspects of the Studio 3s. For example, I had to replace the ear cushions within a year as they began to peel and flake in a manner that got all over my shirt and face when wearing them. But they sound really good, had decent noise canceling, and the replacement cushions were the sort of quality I’d have expected from Apple in the first place. So it worked out.
But “tragedy” struck when my partner needed a pair of quality over ear headphones to record her podcasts. I took a deep breath and made the most of it. I gave her my killer pair of Beats Studio 3 headphones and went to see what the Apple AirPod Max experience was like.
So they are expensive, but DAMN! they sound noticeably better than the Studio 3s. The build quality is Apple all the way—aluminum, steel, super comfortable. Like the Studio 3s, the AirPods Max seamlessly integrated with all my devices connected to my AppleId. The reviews I’d read online had consensus that the AirPods Max were the best when it came to ANC. I believe it. As I’m typing this, I can’t hear the clickety-clack of my mechanical DasKeyboard.
But what about the mic? Would people complain about not being able to hear me clearly on the phone like they did on the Studio 3s? Siri even complained she couldn’t understand me on the Studio 3s.
I’ll let you hear for yourself. I put together an audio file where I speak on each of three microphones with the gain set at 75%. I start with my 2019 MacBook Pro. Then, I move to a Blue Yeti mic that I use for podcasting and pandemic driven Zoom days. Lastly, I use the mic built into the AirPods Max. This is the raw audio recording from Voice Memos on Mac OS (i.e., no production processing or filtering).
You can hear that the MBP is only ok. I wish more people on pandemic era Zoom calls would have to listen to how to how they sound on default mics—I mean we have to listen to each other for hours a day after all.
The Blue Yeti has several settings. So for full transparency, it’s set to run in Cardoid Mode, which Blue says, “records sound sources that are directly in front of the microphone, delivering rich, full-bodied sound.” At any rate, you can hear the fuller sound of my voice and the fan on my MBP drops out noticeably.
My voice in the AirPods Max recording didn’t sound as full; however, it was ghostly silent outside of my voice. That’s without running a noise reduction filter in Garage Band like I do for podcasts. For phone calls on the AirPods Max, I think I’m good.
But let’s be clear, you don’t buy premium headphones for the mic. You buy them for the immersive, other worldly transport, the enraptured engagement with the music that moves in you, through you, and around you. And that, the AirPods Max accomplish magnificently.