The only way to explain how amazing the Apple AirPods Max headphones are is to compare them to the Morty’s Mind Blowers episode of Rick and Morty.
Morty is using a spirit level to ensure a shelf is straight, which Rick tells him is pathetic — and offers to show him what “true level” is.
Rick smooths out a section of the garage floor with a range of tools and laser goggles and invites Morty to stand on it.
When Morty stands on the newly-levelled ground, he is ravished by the experience. When he steps off onto “normal” ground, he instantly loses his mind and must have his memory erased to forget the ecstasy of the perfectly level floor.
This is what it’s like going from a “normal” pair of headphones to the AirPods Max.
Once your ears have experienced their greatness, your baseline for an acceptable audio experience moves stratospherically upward.
Opening the box
We purchased a pair of AirPods Max for this review, with a strong suspicion we would be writing a “Why these R11,000 Apple headphones are way too expensive” article.
This angle quickly fell apart from the moment we opened the box.
The AirPods Max box is classic Apple: lovely to hold, clean design, and that “new tech smell”.
The image of the headphones on the box is also physically raised, which means you can run your fingers across it and feel what you’re about to unwrap.
Inside, you find the headphones in their Apple Smart Case, along with a USB-C to Lightning cable and a small instruction manual.
The Smart Case receives the proper noun treatment from Apple and earns its title by automatically putting the AirPods Max into sleep mode when placed in the soft, fabric-lined cover.
A small gap in the cover then leaves the device’s Lightning port exposed for charging. It’s the small details.
AirPods Max on your head
To ensure we got the full Apple experience, we tested the AirPods Max with a MacBook Pro.
The headphones paired easily and received a dedicated mini-menu in the MacOS taskbar at the top-right of the screen.
You can use this menu combined with the two buttons on the AirPods Max to adjust the volume and turn the noise-cancelling mode on or off.
And what a noise-cancelling mode it is.
Turning it on feels like your ears have been placed in a dark box that is sealed against the outside world. The only noise you hear is the distant taps of your own keyboard, while harsh sounds like hooters and cars driving by form a single, soft purr.
Apple’s design for the headphones complements the tech powering them, as they fit snuggly over your ears and ensure they are enclosed in the soft padding around the speakers.
The power of the noise cancellation is even more pronounced when you turn it off and hear what is really going on around you.
Listening to music and media on the AirPods Max is equally great, and the sound quality is excellent.
The bass level is also decent, considering the AirPods Max are light and will not place strain on your head or ears when wearing them for long durations.
Apple has done a top job of styling the AirPods Max, too.
They are a sleek combination of metal, rubber, and fabric – and provide an elegant look which you could rock in the office or at home.
In fact, if you are using the AirPods Max with a MacBook while drinking coffee at a Starbucks, I have no doubt you will be offered at least three marketing director jobs and have multiple publication offers for your upcoming novel.
That’s how stylish they are.
The question we wanted to answer in this review was: Are the AirPods Max worth their R11,000 price tag?
Apple does lots of little things exceptionally well with the AirPods Max, and these add up to make one fine pair of headphones.
The physical crown button on the right ear cup, which you scroll to adjust the volume, is so smooth it feels like you are running your finger along a digital slider.
When you take the headphones off, they automatically detect they are leaving your head and pause your music.
The AirPods Max look and feel high-quality — where other brands have used plastic, Apple has used steel.
There is also more processing power and technology inside each AirPods Max earcup than you will ever want to read about, whose only goal is to make everything sound better.
Are they worth R11,000, then?
I don’t know. It depends on what you want from a pair of headphones.
But what I can tell you is that I will be using the AirPods Max for the foreseeable future, and if they are taken away from me, I will need my memory of what they offered erased.