I swung by and picked my set up this morning. Had a few hours to listen with them and do some basic comparisons with the WH-1000XM3*.
I’m not going to be doing a full review of these (nor probably of any other headphones for that matter), maybe not even full-blown impressions, but I’ll throw out my initial thoughts and may follow up with proper measurements using my new measurement rig.
At default settings, straight out of the box, they’re really not that much different to the Sony WH-1000XM3. Too much bass (so, basically, a Harmon-like consumer-bass tuning), a bit muddy as a result, but with better speed, impact and detail and much better staging/sense of space.
But … if you set them up PROPERLY … they’re a different story …
And in this case, “properly” means going into Settings | Accessibility | Audio/Visual and enabling “Headphone Accommodations” (and go through the whole process, which takes a couple of minutes).
After which, they’re MUCH more even handed in their delivery. Actually results will vary here depending on what selections you make as to the which samples you prefer, but after I went through the process they’re a much closer to neutral, if still with a little extra low-end heft. The initial “V” shaped signature shallows significantly, and while still not a true-neutral, is vastly more listenable for me than at default settings. Mids, and vocals in particular, take their proper place in the mix and overall balance is more in line with some of the warmer audiophile options.
Since this is an Apple-specific capability, getting the best of them will require some EQ on other platforms. A shame, because it is clear they’re more technically capable, resolving and natural when appropriately adjusted.
I like the feel of the pads on my skin of the Sony’s a little more (they’re smoother), but the AirPods Max breathe much better, and the pads are actually replaceable ($69/set). The Sony’s pads can be removed, but you can’t buy replacements, so it’s either a warranty job when they peel/flake/tear or new cans time.
The ear-cups are larger, particularly internally, on the Apple unit. With the WH-1000XM3 my ears just touch the insides of the cups at times. Not the case with the AirPods Max.
I am not really noticing the “weight”. Probably because I am used to more serious headphones, and >90% of mine are heavier than these. If this really is an issue for you, and you don’t have some kind of neck trauma, you might want to consider reducing your soy intake …
Slightly more clamp than the Sony’s, but not especially noticeable … especially not compared to common Sennheiser’s.
The “case” is a bit pointless. It does protect the ear-cups/drivers - though probably more from scratches/punctures than anything. But the headband is completely exposed, and I imagine the mesh is going to catch and snag on anything and everything if tossed into a backup for travel.
I imagine some enterprising third-party will be along shortly with a case that properly encloses the whole setup, and no doubt Apple will offer their own option (no doubt at a much higher price), but as-is the case is a miss.
The Apple set occupy less volume than the Sony’s, as they’re quite a bit thinner when laid flat. But they take up a fair bit more area. The bigger problem is the case, and there the Sony are way ahead. Which is a shame, because the Apple set seem to offer better NC, comfort and sound … which doesn’t do you much good if you can’t wedge them in your pack due to a poor case/odd ergonomics.
These edge out the WH-1000XM3. They’re comparable … i.e. at least as good, maybe a hair better, at lower frequencies, but the AirPods Max do a noticeably better job of shutting out people talking (a traditional weak point for NC systems) and higher frequencies.
The Sony’s (and the Bose options) feel like toys in comparison. Proper replaceable ear-pads. Published process for battery replacement. Metal where it counts. No creaks etc. Very solid feeling.
Much better than the Sony’s … especially for the person on the other end of the line. Microphones were, for me, not great on the Sony’s vs. even standard AirPods.
*I tried the WH-1000XM4 at launch, but couldn’t hear any difference vs. the 3 when listening to music, and the 4 had issues on calls, so I stuck with the 3.