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AirPods Max vs AirPods Pro: Which should you buy?

By Prakhar Khanna December 29, 2020, 10:00 am
AirPods Pro vs AirPods Max

Apple launched its first-ever pair of over-ear headphones and included them in its AirPods lineup. While the new headphones share the naming scheme, everything else from the price to the design is vastly different. Hence, you might be wondering which ones are the best for your new iPhone. Here’s an AirPods Max vs AirPods Pro comparison to help you make an educated purchase decision.

AirPods Max vs AirPods Pro: Price

Let’s start off by comparing the price since both reside in different segments. The AirPods Max costs $549, which is much more than its direct competitors that usually sell low $300. On the other hand, the AirPods Pro was launched for $249. However, that’s not the price you pay now. The earphones have since dropped to as low as $199. Hence, it is a $549 vs $199 competition.


AirPods Max vs AirPods Pro: Design

AirPods Max design

Comparing the design of the AirPods Pro vs AirPods Max is not the ideal way to differentiate. They offer different form factors. The most prominent difference between the two devices is obviously the design.

While the AirPods Max is an over the ear pair of headphones with memory foam cups, the AirPods Pro has an in-ear approach that has replaceable ear-tips for the perfect seal in your ear canal. The former should technically form a seal around your ears and deliver high-quality sound.

Wear it and forget it?

With the AirPods Pro, you might forget you have them in your ears with hours of usage. However, the AirPods Max won’t let you forget that you spent $550 on it as you’ll feel them on your head with prolonged usage. One benefit that the latter does offer is that it wouldn’t accidentally fall out of your ears. I lose my AirPods Pro all the time. And, I lose them in the house because they are so small. By contrast, that won’t be the case with its Max sibling.

Size and Weight

There is no option for you to adjust the size of the AirPods Pro. On the other hand, you can adjust the length of the AirPods Max with their telescoping arms. Not to forget, you get replaceable ear tips with the Pro to offer you the best fit possible.

AirPods Max vs AirPods Pro

As for the numbers, the AirPods Max is much heavier than its Pro sibling. The former weighs 384.8 grams, which is even more than the competitors like Sony WH-1000XM4 that weighs 253 grams. Meanwhile, the AirPods Pro weighs just 5.4 grams each, which totals 10.8 grams of weight in your ears.


The AirPods Pro is available in a single color option. However, with its new AirPods Max, Apple has taken the route of iPhones and iPads for color offerings. The Max comes in five color options, namely: Silver, Space Grey, Sky Blue, Pink, and Green.


AirPods Max vs AirPods Pro controls

The AirPods Max isn’t one of the usual offerings with touch controls. Apple decided to bring its Watch’s Digital Crown to its latest product. The headphones have this crown and a dedicated Noise Cancelation button to switch between ANC on/off and transparency modes.

By contrast, the AirPods Pro has pressure-sensitive stems. You can press them on both ears to play/pause music, skip tracks, enable/disable active noise cancellation and more. It must be noted that you can’t control the volume levels on the Pro, while the Digital Crown handles it with ease on the Max. To change the volume on the AirPods Pro, you will either have to ask Siri to do it or use your iPhone’s volume rocker.


Let me tell you straight off the bat, the AirPods Max case serves no purpose. It is smaller than the competition, but it is honestly useless. It doesn’t serve a purpose other than to place the headphones on standby. Yeah, these headphones don’t have a switch on/off button and they never switch off. In this case, you cannot carry any wires or other accessories. Plus, unlike the AirPods Pro, it doesn’t add any functionality, like wireless charging. Coming to the AirPods Pro, the charging case forms part of a fairly simple accessory pack that comes within the box. Plus, it provides extra battery life to the earbuds.

Water and Sweat Resistance

The most premium AirPods from Apple don’t offer any sort of water or sweat resistance, which is quite surprising. On the other hand, the AirPods Pro offers IPX4 sweat and water resistance, which means you can use them even in light rain. The Max is likely to handle some level of sweat, but don’t go out wearing them if it’s raining. 

AirPods Max vs AirPods Pro: Performance

Both AirPods are equipped with a wide range of features. They have Active Noise Cancelation, Spatial audio, top-class audio quality, and more. Let’s focus on all these aspects one by one.

Sound Quality

AirPods Max exploded parts view

Generally, headphones sound better than earphones. Hence, it is reasonable to expect the AirPods Max to deliver better sound than the Pro. After all, the Max sports 40mm drivers within the ear cups, compared to the tiny driver inside the AirPods Pro. Plus, Apple has used a custom-designed dynamic 40mm driver for the AirPods Max. They vibrate to the beat in a way that doesn’t deter from the music or video, making the sound more immersive than the Pro.

Moreover, the memory-foam ensures that your ears get a seal, which translates into better sound quality. The Max also has a dual-neodymium ring magnet motor, which is claimed to be modeled after the ones you’d find in high-end floor speakers. On paper, you get spatial audio on both devices, but it is seriously amazing on the Max.

The AirPods Max doesn’t dominate everything, though. They are fine for phone calls, but not necessarily as good at picking up your voice as the AirPods Pro. Moreover, the Max can track your head movements to anchor the sound output, so it seemingly originates from a consistent source point even as you look around.

Active Noise Cancelation (ANC)

AirPods Pro exploded parts view

Active Noise Cancelation effectively cuts out the background noise. Both these audio devices feature ANC. The AirPods Pro is referred to as the gold standard of ANC on TWS earphones. That said, in the words of our own Jaime Rivera, ANC on the AirPods Max is “epic,” which was expected since headphones generally offer batter ANC.

The AirPods Pro uses one external mix on each earbud to measure outside noise and cancel it out. On the other hand, the AirPods Max have six such mics on the outside and two inside, for a total of eight microphones working together for noise cancelation.

There is a Transparency mode on both the devices as well. For the unaware, with Transparency, you will be able to hear outside sounds along with whatever is playing on your headphones. And, the number of mics help the Max here too. Jaime says that transparency is the best on the AirPods Max out of the devices he has tested so far. To trigger ANC on the AirPods Pro, you need to long press the stem, while on the AirPods Max, you get a dedicated button for the function.

Battery and Charging

Unsurprisingly, the AirPods Max, due to its size, offers a better battery life than the AirPods Pro. The former is claimed to last up to 20 hours on a single charge with ANC and spatial audio enabled. Meanwhile, the Pro counterpart is slated to last up to 4-5 hours on a single charge. However, unlike the AirPods Max, the Pro comes with a charging case that can charge the earbuds multiple times for a total battery life of 24 hours.

AirPods Pro charging case

As mentioned under ‘Case’, the AirPods Max never switches off, and you place it in the case to have them in standby mode. Moreover, they lose about 2% battery life per hour, while sitting out of the case when not in use. Both these headphones charge via Lightning cables. However, Apple includes a USB Type-C to Lightning cable in the box with the AirPods Max.

AirPods Max vs AirPods Pro: Which ones to go for?

Going from AirPods Pro to the Max is quite a price jump. Hence, price is one of the most prominent deciding factors when comparing the AirPods Max vs AirPods Pro. The AirPods Max offers better sound, Spatial Audio, and ANC but is a bit messy to travel with since they do not fold. On the other hand, the AirPods Pro is compact, offers similar battery life with the case, has sweat and water resistance rating as well as wireless charging support. You can’t go wrong with either of them.


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