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Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones: Which Smart Headphones Are Best?

Apple AirPods Max headphones

Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones: Which Smart Headphones Are Best?

After years spent focusing on making earbuds as tiny, as wireless, and as advanced as technologically possible, the biggest brands in audio have begun to shift their focus back to headphones. Not just regular old headphones, though. No way. These are smart headphones, jam-packed with the same sorts of advanced features we’ve come to expect from wireless smart earbuds. Two of the most popular smart headphones come from Apple and Microsoft. But how do the two compare? Let’s see how Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones stack up against one another below.

Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones: Side-By-Side Comparison

Apple AirPods MaxMicrosoft Surface Headphones
BrandAppleMicrosoft
First ReleasedDecember 15th, 2020October 2nd, 2018
Latest Model1st Gen. AirPods MaxSurface Headphones 2
Latest Release DateDecember 15th, 2020August 15th, 2020
Battery LifeUp to 20 hoursUp to 18.5 hours
Charge TimeFully charged in around two hoursFully charged in less than two hours
BluetoothBluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 5.0
Compatible DevicesBluetooth, iOS, and Android devicesBluetooth, iOS, and Android devices
Size6.64 in. x 7.37 in. x 3.28 in.8.03 in. x 7.68 in. x 1.89 in.
Weight13.6 oz.10.24 oz.
ColorsSilver, Space Gray, Sky Blue, Pink, GreenLight Gray, Matte Black
Price$549.00$232.99
Best for Apple Users/ Over-Ear
Apple AirPods Max (Space Gray)
$525.00
  • Apple-designed dynamic driver for high-fidelity audio
  • Active Noise Cancellation
  • Transparency mode
  • Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking
  • Designed with a knit-mesh canopy and memory foam ear cushions
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/25/2024 03:18 pm GMT

Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones: Key Differences

With these basic specs outlined side by side above, it’s worth making a number of things clear. What are the most important areas where the Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones diverge? And how do the above specs factor into the Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones debate overall? Let’s take a look at the key differences between these two smart headphones, paying close attention to important factors such as battery life, charge time, size and weight, coloring, and pricing.

Battery Life

Firstly, let’s talk about batteries. Is there any factor more important to a wireless smart headphone than its battery life? With this in mind, Apple AirPods Max take precedence over the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2. At 20 hours of listening time, the AirPods Max add an additional 90 minutes to their overall battery life over the Surface Headphones 2’s total listening time of 18-1/2 hours. This might not sound like much, but 90 minutes can make all the difference during an important conference call (or even something as simple as a long workout or car ride).

Charge Time

Secondly — and going hand in hand with this previous consideration — is the total charge time. How long does it take to fully charge the Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones? Once again, we have a pretty close call here. The AirPods Max can fully charge in around two hours, maybe a little more. The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2, by comparison, will fully charge in less than two hours. Again, it’s a very slim difference in total time, but it’s an important difference nonetheless. The Surface Headphones win this round.

Size and Weight

Thirdly, after a headphone’s battery specs, there’s the all-important size and weight to consider. After all, no one wants to wear clunky, heavy headphones around. They’re uncomfortable, they’re painful, and they’re just not worth the trouble. The AirPods Max measure 6.64 inches from left to right, 7.37 inches from top to bottom, and 3.28 inches from front to back. They weigh 13.6 ounces. The Surface Headphones 2 are 7.68 inches from left to right, 8.03 inches from top to bottom, and 1.89 inches from front to back. They weigh 10.24 ounces.

Colors

While color options might not be as important as battery life or physical specs, they nevertheless factor into the decision between Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones. The AirPods Max come in five possible color options. These include Silver, Space Gray, Sky Blue, Pink, and Green. The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2, by comparison, come in just a couple of color options. These include Light Gray and Matte Black. These are both pretty safe options, leaving no room for any fun color choices.

Price

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, we have the difference in price between the Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones. What good are any one of these aforementioned specs if the headphones you prefer are ultimately far outside your price range? With that being said, the Apple AirPods Max come in at a price tag of $549 a pop. (Apple products rarely go on sale, and even when they do, it’s not much of a discount.) The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2, on the other hand, cost just $232.99. (That’s down from an original price of $249.99 at launch.)

The History of Apple AirPods Max

Before the release of the Apple AirPods Max in December of 2020, Apple Apple had already launched two incredibly popular types of wireless earbuds: the AirPods and AirPods Pro. Unlike these wireless products, the AirPods Max marked the very first set of wireless headphones released under Apple branding. (However, Apple has owned Beats by Dre since 2014, meaning the AirPods Max are not their first experience with wireless headphones.) While they look sleek and feel well-made, the $550 price tag attached to the AirPods Max makes them quite the luxury item.

Though rumored pretty much from the start of the AirPods product line, the research and development process behind the AirPods Max remained as closely guarded and secretive as you’d expect for any Apple product. Apple refused to confirm or deny reports of the AirPods Max’s existence, even in the face of numerous leaks that legitimized rumors. Ultimately, the rumor mill was validated when Apple made the AirPods Max public on December 8th, 2020 — just a week before the wireless headphones went up for sale.

Surprisingly for Apple, reviews and initial thoughts surrounding the AirPods Max were mixed at the time of release. The biggest target of these criticisms? That insanely large price tag. However, that wasn’t the only issue. The sheer lack of luxury features and the underwhelming number of sound customizations at launch were also called into question. Thankfully, Apple heard these complaints and issued a software update a few months after launch. This successfully amended many of the product’s most pressing software issues. Today, the product remains a hit with Apple and audio enthusiasts.

How Microsoft Surface Headphones Compare

By the time the Apple AirPods Max vs Microsoft Surface Headphones debate was initiated by the release of the former, the latter already had two products on the market. The first generation of Surface Headphones was released in November of 2018, and the Surface Headphones 2 were released in May of 2020 — a good seven months before the AirPods Max were even confirmed to exist. In fact, at the time of the Surface Headphones’ inception, the only serious competitors in the smart headphones space were Bose and Sony.

Unlike Apple and their AirPods Max, the Microsoft Surface Headphones were met with immediate and enthusiastic praise. From a physical design standpoint and a technical audio quality standpoint alike, the Surface Headphones impressed both critics and listeners alike. Plus, with a price under $250, you really can’t get smart headphones at a much better cost than that. With improved noise cancellation, increased battery life, better Bluetooth tech, and a lower price point than the first generation, the Surface Headphones 2 only underlined this success.

Additionally, Microsoft Surface Headphones have a number of unique physical and digital features that help them stand out against the increasingly crowded hearables technology marketplace. Take the unique rotating dial on each ear, for instance. This dial lets listeners control volume, skip, and tweak noise cancellation levels. Not to mention, the headphones pause music when removed and resume music when placed back on the ears. Clearly, of all the wireless smart headphones out there, the Microsoft Surface Headphones are one of the AirPods Max’s most worthy adversaries.

Best Value
NEW Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 - Light Gray
$299.99
  • Omnisonic sound for music, videos, and calls
  • On-ear volume control with 13 levels of active noise cancellation
  • Touch controls allow you to skip tracks, answer and end calls, or access hands-free assistance
  • Battery provides up to 18.5 hours of listening time
  • Breathable over-ear pads are lightweight and comfortable


We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/24/2024 11:58 pm GMT

Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • Despite such a massive shift toward Bluetooth headphones and earbuds throughout the audio industry, the truth is that wired headphones or earbuds provide superior audio quality. (Not to mention the fact that they aren’t dependent on battery life, either.) Alas, the convenience and ease of Bluetooth accounts for a large part of its appeal.
  • Though Apple has plenty invested into the success of the AirPods Max, what you might not know is that Apple also owns Beats by Dre. That’s right: the fruit-themed tech giant actually has two contenders in the smart headphones space. The look and feel of each product is distinct enough that the average Joe wouldn’t even be able to tell they came from the same company.
  • The popularity of wireless earbuds combined with the burgeoning success of wireless headphones has resulted in the coining of a brand-new term for this technology: hearables. (Not to be confused with wearables, which is the term for tech such as the Apple Watch or the Fitbit.) Hearables encapsulate anything and everything having to do with smart listening technology, whether it be earbuds or headphones, or some other kind of Bluetooth audio tech for your ears.
  • While Apple claims that their AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max can be enjoyed with any Bluetooth-enabled device, there are a great number of features exclusive to Apple device users. Take Siri functionality, for example: This feature is limited only to iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac users. Android users aren’t going to be as lucky when it comes to AirPods Max features.
  • The Microsoft Surface Headphones come as part of a long and ever-growing line of Surface-branded products. Other Microsoft products attached to the Surface family include the Surface Book, Surface Laptop, Surface Studio, Surface Hub, Surface Keyboard, Surface Mouse, Surface Dock, and numerous other products and accessories.

Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones: Pros and Cons

Pros of Apple AirPods MaxCons of Apple AirPods Max
Remarkable sound qualityVery expensive compared to other headphones
Great noise cancellationQuite heavy, which could hurt the ears or head
Comfortable designFew physical controls on the actual headphones
Incorporates spatial audio technologyNo option for wired listening
Pros of Microsoft Surface HeadphonesCons of Microsoft Surface Headphones
Lower price than the AirPods MaxShorter battery life than AirPods Max
Wonderful sound qualityWider and taller than the AirPods Max
High-quality noise cancellationNo sound or audio customization options
Plenty of physical controlsPricier than some other wireless headphones

Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones: Which Is Best?

As you can clearly see, the showdown between the Apple AirPods Max vs. Microsoft Surface Headphones is a pretty close call. For every advantage the AirPods Max have over the Microsoft Surface Headphones, the Microsoft Surface Headphones have another spec that will best Apple’s rival offering. All in all, the AirPods Max just barely edge ahead of the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2. However, that’s not to suggest the Surface Headphones 2 are not worth your time or your money — especially considering they’re half the price of their closest rival.

  1. Apple AirPods Max (Space Gray)
    $525.00
    • Apple-designed dynamic driver for high-fidelity audio
    • Active Noise Cancellation
    • Transparency mode
    • Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking
    • Designed with a knit-mesh canopy and memory foam ear cushions
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    02/25/2024 03:18 pm GMT
  2. NEW Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 - Light Gray
    $299.99
    • Omnisonic sound for music, videos, and calls
    • On-ear volume control with 13 levels of active noise cancellation
    • Touch controls allow you to skip tracks, answer and end calls, or access hands-free assistance
    • Battery provides up to 18.5 hours of listening time
    • Breathable over-ear pads are lightweight and comfortable


    Buy Now

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    02/24/2024 11:58 pm GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

When will the second generation Apple AirPods Max be released?

Apple has yet to make an official announcement surrounding a second generation of Apple AirPods Max headphones. Whether or not they decide to pursue a second generation of this particular product depends on a number of factors including sales figures and general interest from consumers. Only time will tell if the company decides to issue an updated version of this very expensive product.

Did Microsoft discontinue the Surface Headphones?

No, Microsoft has not discontinued their line of Surface Headphones. Currently on its second generation, the Microsoft Surface Headphones have proved to be quite popular for the Microsoft brand. Their Surface line of products is one of their most successful under the corporate umbrella, and though a third generation has not been announced, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one in the coming months or years.

What is Spatial Audio on AirPods Max?

Spatial Audio is a special kind of surround sound technology that makes Apple AirPods Max users feel like they’re in the middle of the sound. It’s not unlike Dolby Atmos and its use of 3D sound, centering the listener inside a virtual audio space to take surround sound listening to a whole new level. It’s more or less fancy word for surround sound, basically.

Can you use Apple AirPods Max with an Android device?

While Apple AirPods Max will work with any device capable of Bluetooth 5.0, the listening experience of an Apple product paired with an Android device is not totally ideal. For example, Android users using this Apple-specific product will lack a number of features an Apple user would have access to when paired with the Apple AirPods Max. (Siri functionality is a big one, but it’s even more than that. There are also a number of audio features that will be lacking on an Android device over an Apple device.)

What is the battery life and charge time of the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2?

The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 offer a battery life of up to 18.5 hours of listening in total. Their charge time is less than two hours, meaning you can get right back to listening after a relatively short amount of time. (For context, the Apple AirPods Max give you 20 hours of listening, but take two hours or more to charge.) No matter which way you look at it, this battery life is far superior to that of any wireless earbuds on the market.

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