I bought the Apple AirPods Max as soon as they came out and I have to say they are not good for running, working out in the gym, or any high-intensity activity.
To add a little more weight to my statement, I am more of an over-ear guy. I work out 3-4 times a week in the gym, always with over-ear headphones. As I was already committed to the Apple ecosystem, I thought why not give this new pair a try.
So here is what I think after a few months of daily power usage as a fitness-oriented person.
I know it is difficult to trust just anything on the internet. So for your proof check, I reckoned it would make somewhat more sense if I add a few raw photos taken on my iPhone.
1. Comfortable to Wear, But Doesn’t Stay in Place When the Center of Gravity Changes
Apple AirPods Max is super comfortable to wear. It is 384.8 grams (13.6 ounces) in weight which is 1/3 heavier than most over-ear headphones. However, Apple intelligently transferred this weight from the top of the headband to the earcups. It is distributed around the ears so nicely that you don’t feel it at all.
Here is the catch. This headphone uses the headband to create a balance. It doesn’t clamp strongly to the ears to keep your ears relaxed. But, if you don’t position the headband on the top of the head, it will feel heavier. It will also create a sensation of falling off.
I realized this when I was tying shoes for the first few days bending forward. It felt like it was slipping off the head because the center of gravity shifted. The same happened when I lay flat on the bed. I became more certain about this when I started using it in the gym.
The headphone is comfortable when you are sitting or walking straight. If you wear this in an exercise, where you have to bend, it will feel a lot heavier and it won’t stay in the right place. In fact, if you rigorously bend back and forth, it will probably fall off altogether.
2. Money at Risk for No Waterproofing
This headphone is not cheap in the first place. Even after this hefty price tag, Apple decided to not include any water protection on this device. Which marks a new target audience, high-quality wireless music listeners.
Apple knows what they are doing business-wise. But as a consumer, it might not be a viable option if you want to take it with you to your gym workouts. It would be like putting your hand out in the mouth of an alligator.
Since there is no water resistance, protection, or whatsoever, if water gets inside the headphones and touches the circuit, it will get short. Your warranty might not cover the damage if the company figures out it happened from water touching the internal parts.
3. No Condensation Issue (At least, Not in Germany)
It was one of the heated discussions on the forums and social media. It still is! A user tweeted that he saw water condensation on the inside of the ear cups from extended use.
I was skeptical at first because Apple, as a tech giant, must have tested it against all these common criteria. But also at the same time, science says that the inside of the metal surface can condensate when the outside temperature is too low.
For the trust I had in Apple, I decided to keep the headphones and give this a try. I also backed up the device with AppleCare+, just in case anything goes wrong.
So many months have passed and I can confirm from Germany that it didn’t create any condensation or dampness after long gym sessions. I cannot say certainly for extreme places but it worked fine here when the temperature dipped down to -10°C or -15°C.
4. Amazing Sound Quality and ANC. Period.
Having said that, Apple AirPods Max outperforms all the major wireless competitors in and beyond its price category in terms of sound quality and active noise cancellation.
I have compared this with the Sony WH-1000XM4 and it is a significant upgrade in the department of sound. There wasn’t much difference in the ANC quality, however, the transparent mode on the AirPods Max was the decider for me.
So if you are questioning whether these are good enough for music or noise cancellation, I can vouch that you will hear the difference as soon as you put it on. And the difference is in a very positive way.
5. How to Use AirPods Max Safely in the Gym (If You Still Want to)
If you want to trade risk for better sound quality and having realized that it may fall off in certain exercises, they are a few things you could do for its protection.
First of all, the AppleCare+ is highly recommended for this headphone. For the money you are spending, it is safe to assume you are looking at at least 2-3 years of problem-free usage. When you get your headphone ensured with AppleCare+, you will have peace of mind for the first 2 years, compared to 1 year without the AppleCare+.
Another thing you should keep in mind is that AirPods Max is shy of 400 grams in weight which is actually a lot for a headphone. So if you drop this to the floor while exercising, it can create major damage both on the inside and on the outside.
Since this headphone comes with detachable ear cups, you should think about getting an extra pair of these that you will use only for workouts. It will keep your regular pair away from bacteria and germs.
Also if you are prone to sweating a lot, it is ideal that you take the ear cups out after your workouts and wipe the whole thing with a dry microfiber cloth.
6. Better Over-Ear Solutions for Working Out
AirPods Max is not intended for exercises. If it was, Apple wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to talk about it over and over again in their advertisements.
If you don’t see yourself going outside the convenience of the Apple ecosystem, the AirPods Pro is still your best bet. It is the only IPX4 water-rated earbuds from Apple designed for running and working out.
But perhaps you are like me who doesn’t fancy earbuds and wants to stick with an over-ear model no matter what. Provided a few drawbacks, there are some over-ear headphones that are designed for gyms boasting IP52 water resistance, sporty headband, and more. You might want to take a look into that!