There are many times in life, when I wonder, why does my past-self make decisions that torture the present me. Why do I spend so much time and energy into evaluating if a particular product serves my need or not? Why am I looking for solutions for problems that I do not have? If my current use case is satisfactory, why am I searching for better?
This tale started approximately a week ago when, in a moment of weakness, I purchased the AirPods Max and Sony WH-1000XM4 (XM4) for $550 and $279.99 respectively. You may recall, I have previously reviewed the AirPods Max and returned them as they were not a good fit for my use case. Today, history repeated itself. I once again returned the AirPods Max and also returned the XM4.
The issue is, I have never had a good pair of headphones that strike the right balance of comfort and sound. Actually, I have never owned a pair of headphones because headphones are just not comfortable and each time; I end up returning them. I figured, if anyone can make headphones for me, that would be Apple. With high hopes, I waited for years and now that dream is here, yet it’s not what I want. Apple has failed me or dare I say, I have failed Apple. It baffles my mind that I was ready to spend an outrageous $550 on pair headphones that I only found comfort in holding it rather than not using it. My most precious memory of the AirPods Max is the relief I feel when I take off the AirPods Max from my head and let it stand, looking all mighty. How can people claim to wear headphones all day? I can wear AirPods all day because AirPods are less than 10 grams. Perhaps my head is not built for headphones.
I always envied people who understand the nuance in sound. The privileged few who are blessed with ears that can identify the low, the mids, and the highs. To this very day, I have no idea what they are talking about. I tried to learn, I really did, but I just have to accept that I couldn’t care less. Perhaps, I just do not have the ears that can identify and/or appreciate outstanding sound. I am not a complete imbecile, I can most certainly distinguish bad quality sound from good quality sound. I, also very much enjoy listening to music on my SONOS devices. I figured, with age comes maturity and I owe it to myself to give another chance.
After testing the AirPods Max again, the XM4 felt like a feather on my head. The weight difference is definitely noticeable, after all the AirPods Max is almost 50% heavier than the XM4. The fancy Apple canopy cannot defy physics. It's a matter of time until you feel the weight on your head. There are two major flaws with the AirPods Max:
- It’s heavy and therefore is uncomfortable compared to lighter headphones
- The lack of a proper case but honestly, third parties have filled this gap.
You may be comfortable making this compromise by subjecting yourself to heavier, uncomfortable headphones for amazing soundstage and crisp sound. I most certainly am not. Clearly, the past me thought I would be happy with this compromise. Past me was wrong.
I, as a mere civilian cannot question why Apple would use heavy materials to make headphones when almost every other manufacturer is focusing on reducing the weight. Ironic, considering Apple is happy to take away features from their MacBook and iPhone to make it thin and light, but not on the headphones where weight makes a real difference. And of course, they didn’t tell us why….. Why would they…? I gather using aluminium instead of plastic to give it a premium feel.
So if the XM4 are so comfortable, why is it on its way back? The only reason the XM4 are on their way is that they do not have features that are exclusive to the Apple branded devices. After using AirPods and AirPods Pro, it’s difficult to switch to non-Apple headphones. The seamless switching between devices and the in-depth integration with iOS makes it difficult to switch to almost any other pair of audio devices. Apple should licence their technology to other manufactures, so I can broaden my headphones search. AirPlay is a good example where the market is flooded with a variety of AirPlay compatible speakers that serve the various needs.
Fortunately, I am coming to this decision from the perspective of having a fallback position, namely the AirPods and the AirPods Pro. The AirPods have served me well since 2016, and they still do.
I hope future me does not put me in a position where I am considering headphones again. Maybe only if Apple releases v2 of the AirPods Max which are lighter and more importantly; more comfortable.
Less is more
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