Apple AirPods Max impressions

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Serious, Jul 26, 2021.

  1. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

    Friend BWC MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,955
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    near Munich, Germany
    [​IMG]
    I came into this review expecting a very different sound than what I hear with the AirPods Max. I expected a fairly laid-back sound with a tuning not too unlike the 2016 to 2020 Audeze Era or the STAX SR-007, but with a bass boost.
    Cue measurements:
    APM vs LCD2C, SR007.jpg

    Instead what I got was a brutally honest, revealing and neutral midrange and treble, but with still the same bass boost. The midrange tuning of these headphones is so spot on to my own tastes that it's almost scary. Seriously, the midrange reminds me more of my modded HD800s than my UERMs or, frankly, any other headphone does. I have no clue how Apple arrived at their target, but I know it's not a Harman midrange tuning (albeit the bass is very close to Harman tuning). Either way, hats off to the engineers who came up with the tuning. Think HD600, but kinda smoother somehow?.

    More importantly it's not insipid, not soft and boring sounding. This is what I feared the most coming from other ANC headphones. The Sony and Bose headphones are major offenders in that regard.
    Plugging an HD600 straight into my old phone results in a more boring sound. Sure, even the lowly Vali + HD600 combo results in a livelier sound, but the Vali is actually a really good amp in that regard for the price. A better comparison is the MOTU M4's headphone output (which kind of sucks in the grand scheme of things). The AirPods Max is comparable in micro dynamics, if not slightly better compared to that. It makes me bop my head and shake my foot more than I expected.

    The soundstaging is also very impressive for what it is. Far bigger stage than the Sony, no doubt also due to its deeper and more leaky pads. To my ears the stage is somewhat bigger than an HD600/Focal Utopia size, but images are a bit blurred. I've read some people complain about instrument separation and it certainly isn't as good as an HD600 here. I'm fairly certain it's hurt by the bitrate as the acoustic design seems quite good.

    Where it completely obliterates most closed back headphones is in the lack of cup coloration and bass quality. It's funny how making the cups really inert seems to have paid off so much for the sound. None of that plasticky sound that plagues other ANC headphones. And its bass is solid and doesn't linger when it shouldn't. Plus it's cleaner than a 40mm driver has any right to be. Bass quality seems to be superior to entry level orthos and even the HD800 on a decent rig, only surpassed by the best kilobuck orthos. ANC headphones generally seem to use microphone servo technology to dramatically reduce low frequency distortion, but neither the Bose nor the Sony flagship sound anywhere near as clean to me. It holds up extremely well to very high SPLs. Bass distortion is much lower than an HD800 or Focal Stellia for sure. The tuning even reminds me somewhat of the Abyss AB-1266 with a broken seal, except the emphasis is centered on 30Hz rather than 40Hz. Not that the bass approaches what the Abyss can do, but it's addictive nonetheless.

    Where it fails most is the occasional sibilance. The treble tone is sharper than it should be and as a result some tracks are hard to listen to. It's only the tracks which I already knew for being borderline, but in that case it often pushes it over the edge. 95% of what I listen to sounds fine. The treble is still quite linear and transparent sounding.

    Overall the AirPods Max sound like an almost metal driver headphone to me. Kind of a hard sound in general, bass to treble. Not in a bad way, however. It also makes it fast and responsive sounding. It's like the engineers spent a lot of time listening to Focal flagships and turning them into a more portable ANC headphone. It'd be fun to compare to the Focal Stellia (which I absolutely loved when I briefly auditioned it). The APM may even sound cleaner due to it being lower distortion. The Stellia is on another level technically, of course.


    NON SOUND STUFF:

    The ANC is the best in the business, seriously. I have both the Sony WH-1000XM3 and XM4 here and the APM consistently outperforms both while also sounding more natural.

    The transparency mode is a joke on the Sony headphones. On the AirPods Max it's actually quite natural sounding, if a bit sibilant. More natural than the shouty APP transparency mode and that's already first rate.

    While the noise in both NC and transparency modes is still audible, it's the lowest I've heard so far. Impressive considering how noisy these small microphones are. Also I've heard that the Sony's microphones are easier to clip, so these must be the widest dynamic range microphones available in this size.
    Noise in the NC active mode I'd estimate is in the 10 dBA range! In transparency mode I'd guess it's in the 25 dBA range. APP noise is roughly 5dB louder subjectively.

    Sometimes I find the pads a bit itchy. The material is somewhat hard. However I find them comfortable despite the weight. The headband works really well for me and might be the most comfortable one I've worn so far. The clamp is strong, but manageable for me. Might be a dealbreaker for some, but you can't have this kind of NC performance without it clamping your skull.

    The build quality! Seriously impressive. The 3D audio is thankfully not overdone. There's not really any loss from using them on an android phone, sonically. Charging is slow and battery life isn't that good. You'll likely end up charging them every other day or so. Pressure on the ears with ANC active is there, but I don't find it too bothersome. The Sony headphones have somewhat less of a pressure feeling for me.
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 25
    • Respectively Disagree Respectively Disagree x 2
    • Miss Information Miss Information x 2
    • Epic Epic x 1
    • List
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2021
  2. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

    Friend BWC MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,955
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    near Munich, Germany
    Select comparisons:

    SONY WH-1000XM3
    PREFACE: I prefer the XM3 over the XM4 sonically. I'm using the built-in EQ with the XM3 for a less U-shaped sound.
    The AirPods Max are the much more transparent sounding headphones. Larger stage, better micro and macro dynamics. Smoother sound in general, most notably the upper midrange to lower treble. Faster. More resolving.
    Really no comparison.

    AirPods Pro (AZLA tips)
    • Midrange on the Pros is really fake due to their 3kHz bump. No way the same engineers voiced these.
    • Treble smoothness is a strong suit of the Pro and it wins here.
    • Overall clarity, transparency, resolution etc. goes to the Max
    • AirPods Pro sound boring in comparison, more compressed. This is where the HFM TWS600 might win versus the APP.
    • Surprisingly even the bass on the APM sounds like it has better pitch differentiation,
    • Treble on the APP is too smooth however and lacks zing and sibilance when called for.
    • APP just sound much more boring.

    OPPO HA-2 - OPPO PM-3
    • With a light break in the seal (glasses) the PM-3 is similar tonally, but I prefer the APM's tonality overall
    • Need to compare again with replacement pads as the original pads aren't available anymore.
    • APM is more spacious and somewhat cleaner sounding, somewhat smoother midrange
    • Similar in terms of liveliness and resolution, slight edge for the APM
    • PM-3 probably has a slight edge in resolution, but with the HA-2 it's hard to say.
    • APM is also more open sounding, less closed back coloration.
    • I think I prefer the APM for its dynamic driver sound.

    MOTU M4 - SCHIIT VALI - HD600
    PREFACE: My HD600 is slightly modded to boost the region between 100Hz and 2kHz to prevent the upper midrange bump around 3-4kHz from standing out and to make them slightly warmer sounding in general.
    • tonality is overall very comparable
    • Treble is somewhat smoother on the HD600
    • better micro dynamics, macro similar
    • stage is larger on the APM, imaging is more precise on the HD600
    • Bass quality is a joke on the HD600
    • HD600 is more open sounding (duh)
    • APM isn't trailing by a lot in resolution
    • APM has a bit smoother midrange tonality (this depends on fit)
    • both lack stage depth in this comparison
    • APM seems faster, somewhat cleaner
    • delineation during busy passages is better on the HD600 setup
    • Don't get me wrong, I'd rate the HD600 as the more transparent headphone in this case. Still, the APM is surprisingly close.
    • Also this rig is more expensive than the AirPods Max.
    I know this sounds like an outrageous claim, but overall I think many of the AirPods Max disadvantages come down to lossy signal transmission, small chip amps and finally their closed back nature. When comparing against the HD600 driven from the M4's built in amp and listening to 256kbps lossy files the advantages are much slimmer.


    Other comparisons:

    I wish I had UE4s to compare. From memory I'd say I prefer the UE4. Between TWFK IEMs and the APM I may prefer the APM.
    Comparing against the UERMs isn't really fair. UERMs all the way.
    Audeze Penrose is likely interesting. Might buy one to compare.

    ADDENDUM: Quick measurements (album):
    https://imgur.com/a/Eql2TUn
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 8
    • List
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2021
  3. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    8,486
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I had need of a pair of noise canceling over ears and would have gotten these if not for the price. I ended up with the Bose 700 instead. Still wish I could have splurged for these, oh well.
     
  4. scblock

    scblock Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2019
    Likes Received:
    716
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Denver
    I never did get around to writing good impressions of these before, so I'm pulling some of what I wrote elsewhere on this site into this thread so at least it's in the right place, and expanding on it a bit.

    The AirPods Max certainly seem to aim for a more U-shaped presentation. They feel a bit recessed in the middle, but have a fairly spacious sound, and firm bass without too much over-emphasis. There is some additional emphasis in the highs but it's not strident or painful (unlike my Beyer DT990s). I find them to be very comfortable.

    I see from the measurements posted above the strong bass boost, and the mids do look a little recessed. No surprise I guess. The bass doesn't feel sloppy, despite the boost.

    I agree on the ANC, it's the best I've heard. I use some Sennheiser MB660 wireless phones for work calls and the ANC is OK but not great. The AirPods Max are significantly better. To me Senns are almost useless for music, especially with ANC active, while I pretty much never turn ANC off on the AirPods. Transparency mode sounds very natural, and is the best I've heard (or at least is tied with AirPods Pro).

    They don't replace my desktop headphones/amplifiers at all, but they are a nice addition, especially when I'm working on my iPad or listening to music while cooking or cleaning.
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 3
    • List
  5. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

    Friend BWC MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,955
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    near Munich, Germany
    An important thing to note is that prices for the AirPods Max seem to have dropped significantly since release. While they used to cost 612€ here on release, the regular price has gone down to 480€ and with an amazon warehouse deal I got mine for 420€. They can be had for even cheaper on the used market. At 600€ it's much harder to stomach than it is at 400€. Even then they are expensive, but it seems you at least sort of get what you pay for.

    I was a bit scared by the lousy looking ANC isolation measurements on RTINGS' site and got the Sonys instead for comparison, but I'll see if I can check out the Bose 700 somewhere locally. From the measurements it looks like the upper midrange emphasis of the older models is gone and if the evolution from 15 to 25 to 35 and 35 II is anything to go by (I've heard those), the 700 should make for a more interesting comparison. They seemingly got smoother and cleaner with each iteration. If I had to guess it's probably not as lifeless sounding as the overdamped Sony*. Then again if the noise cancelling really did get worse in the process it's sort of pointless.

    One thing I haven't quite figured out is that the noise cancelling with all of these headphones actually seems to get significantly worse when I wear IEMs or even foam earplugs underneath the over-ears. It seems to depend on the pressure on the eardrum somewhat and I thought it might have something to do with the eustachian tube, but I'm not too sure. Maybe it's just bone conduction?
    So in that sense it's even more important to have the best sounding ANC headphones when needed. It's kind of a shame I can't really use them as advanced earmuffs for low frequencies while listening to my UERMs, though.


    *Seriously, look at how much stuffing there is in front of the drivers. No wonder they sound lifeless and boring, despite being inherently peaky and uneven.
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 2
    • List
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2021
  6. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

    Friend Contributor
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2017
    Likes Received:
    1,143
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    SF Bay Area Peninsula
    There is a loaner, I think it's still open.

    I will be comparing the two soon, I have the Max and the Penrose loaner. So far impressions mostly agree with what I'm hearing.
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 1
    • List
  7. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

    Friend Staff Member Gearmaster
    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2020
    Likes Received:
    6,072
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Bay Area
    Yes the Penrose loaner is open and needs more people to sign up. Please feel free!
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 1
    • List
  8. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2016
    Likes Received:
    1,220
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Europe
    Not as black and white. I for one prefer the 700s.
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 2
    • List
  9. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    8,486
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I think the ANC of the Bose is excellent. The wireless audio quality is meh, but that’s probably the fault of Apple for still using the AAC Bluetooth codec. Wired the Bose sounds decent as a headphone.
     
  10. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

    Friend BWC MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,955
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    near Munich, Germany
    @Walderstorn I'll try to audition the Bose 700 ASAP. Would you want to share your impressions?
     
  11. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2016
    Likes Received:
    1,220
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Europe

    Context:

    I only bought the QC35II/XM3/Flow II/Soundcore Q30, the other 2 were loaners.


    Taking some of the main ideas from a review i did in Portuguese:


    Android x IOS

    I have to say that i use Android, so for you IOS ecosystem lover, the scales will be influenced by this, because the compatibility with Android is more limited, which is to be expected.


    Looks

    I know a lot of people like the Airpods Max but i think they look like something bought from Alibaba and only when you have them in your hands they look and feel much more premium. They are well made but when i was a kid we had soap holders that looked like it and boy i think they look ridiculous in someones head, they are one of the fuggliest headphones i ever seen in someone's head.
    The Bose 700 are much better looking imo and, unless you have a very small head, or a head which has a lot of "depth", because they won't look good on your head. The XM3 are the best looking ones of the bunch by far, imo.


    ANC

    I think that Apple did great for the ones that commute a lot. The lower frequencies on the bus and train were so damn well cancelled, better than the Bose for sure. Unfortunately i would prefer the voices and higher frequencies to be as good as the Bose but they weren't. In those frequencies ANC was not as excellent as the lower frequencies and i would put it only a bit above the Cleer Flow II, which must cost 1/3 of the price. I think if you take the Bus/Train to work (and the fit/weight works for you) you will be happier with the Apples. It has transparency mode (it's called something else i don´t remember on the Bose), which i absolutely love as well (unlike with the Sony's).
    I couldn't control the ANC of the Apples which was a big disappointment (even with the QC35 i can go from off-low-high).


    Sound

    They sound very good, for what they are...yes let's just keep in that context IF you ain't treble sensitive. I never had the Sony XM4 but i had the XM3 and i prefer the Bose QC35II and the 700 are an upgrade of the QC35II.

    Sound-wise it goes two ways for me:
    Airpods - Bose - XM3, if you can handle that piercing treble. They are the most fun to be honest.
    Bose - Airpods - XM3 if you like balance, which i prefer, when traveling.

    I think that sound-wise Apple did very well and wireless only i would say it would please almost everyone but i could live with both (although not the XM3 because that bass was too bloomy for me) but i had more problems with seal, when i wore my glasses, with the Apples.


    Comfort and Fit

    The fit (the way the sit around my head) on the Airpods Max felt better as a first impression but the extra 100gr and bulkiness don't take long to turn into "discomfortness". Because of my smaller head i didn't have problems with "clampiness" but i lost seal frequently while leaning on the train or car. They were easier to "remove" while sleeping because of their size/weight i believe. Anyway both suck for travel-sleeping imo.


    Controls

    I am not a fan of touch controls to be honest. So in this regards i don't mind having physical buttons and, imo, they are the best solution. For the ones that are not aware the XM3 had a problem when the weather is really cold, which makes them misbehave. It pissed the f out of me until Sony kinda recognized the problem. I didn't have this problem with the 700 though.


    Portability

    They both (700 and Airpods) suck. Next.


    Calls

    This is not close, the Apple is not as good as the 700, but not as bad as the XM3 comparing to the 700.


    Battery

    Battery wise they both pull off a good battery life with ANC, so i won't go into the +2-2 hours discussion because i don´t think many people will use either of them for 20h straight without the opportunity to charge them.


    Bluetooth

    Both worked flawlessy with me but 700 has multipoint.


    Updates

    Bose sent some updates but i, for one, never update my headsets because i never felt the need. I wouldn't be able to update the Airpods (even if i actually had bought them) because i have no Iphone /shrug.


    The awful

    Price (MSRP) and that "case" are absolutely ridiculous...Airmax (edit - airpods =) )
    Registration and data mining (and "loss of portability) ... Bose


    Hope it helps.

    Edit 2 - i forgot to mention i also have the Q30 from Soundcore, which is the best budget ANC headphone, by far, that i tried.
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 4
    • Epic Epic x 1
    • List
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2021
  12. HHS

    HHS Facebook Friend

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2016
    Likes Received:
    140
    Trophy Points:
    33
    Location:
    United States
    The 700 only supports AAC and SBC anyway, so it's not like you could use higher quality codecs even if iOS supported any
     
  13. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    8,486
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    That’s wild when you consider that’s a flagship pair of headphones. I think Bose knows their audience cares more about comfort and convenience than total sound quality. My use calls involves calls for work, and every report I read said the Bose by far had the best call quality.
     
  14. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

    Friend BWC MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,955
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    near Munich, Germany
    The main win for me with the AirPods Max is basically that to me and with the right fit the midrange is incredibly close to my HD800, as backed up by my measurements (more in the link at the end of the 2nd post).
    [​IMG]

    Just auditioned the Bose 700 at the store for roughly half an hour and compared them against the AirPods Max...
    Yup, I see now why you would prefer the Bose 700. Treble is nicer on the ears. Generally I'd say:
    • The Bose 700 are still shouty. I didn't directly compare against the QC 35, but I think they're just a tiny bit less shouty than the 35. Makes the midrange sound fake and plasticky. I wonder how close to the Harman target it is :rolleyes:...
      According to crinacle - too much 2kHz even for the Harman target. More than the QC35 II even. Now I regret not trying the QC 35 II. RTINGS' measurements looked similar enough where I thought I didn't need to bother.
    • I wore them pretty far forward with the back of my ears touching the rear of the cups to try to negate that and pretty far down for deeper staging. The AirPods I wear pretty far back for a better midrange balance (see the measurements above).
    • I found the upper midrange to lower treble transition still somewhat harsh or at least unrefined. The Sonys aren't any better, but I also don't think it's a major improvement over the QC35. I find the AirPods Max more natural sounding.
    • They are less sharp, but they also lack any air. Similar to the Sony, but I found it quite annoying.
    • The stage is less wide, but that also makes it deeper relatively. Imaging is similar enough.
    • I still found it quite clean, likely cleaner than either Sony and also the QC 35.
    • Like the Sony headphones I still found it a bit overdamped sounding, too smoothed over in general. Not as bad as the Sonys however.
    • As a result it also glosses over some detail. I like to use the 'Alice in Chains - Unplugged' album here and the claps and guitars were noticeably smeared together. Some reverb cues were lacking, some almost gone. The AirPods Max does seem to resolve more information - more than it has any right to for a Bluetooth AAC 256 ANC headphone.
    • Even if it is quite clean, I think the APM are still cleaner and clearer sounding.
    • The bass boost was focused more on the upper bass and midbass as compared to the subbass emphasis on the APM.
    • Partly as a result of that the bass on the APM slams harder, but I also found it tauter, less blurry, less soft. The Bose 700 didn't like being tortured with 'Infected Mushroom - Never Ever Land' (spectrum peaks at 19Hz!), while the APM seems to have no issues with it. Generally I think it sounds like a smaller driver.
    • With the treble shelved from the midtreble on and the upper midrange emphasis it ends up sounding less U-shaped. I can see why one would prefer that.
    Overall I find them better than the Sony XM3 and XM4 for sure. Screw higher bitrate codecs when the hardware and acoustics behind them are lacking. IMO there's almost no difference when comparing aptX and AAC listening to Tidal HiFi on the XM4.

    For evaluating the noise cancelling performance I tend to focus on low frequency sounds. I compared the XM3/XM4 to the APM in the car (as a passenger obviously) on the Autobahn. While the APM let more of the upper midrange through (which I attribute to the pads), it was more effective at blocking sounds up to the middle midrange. The XM4 seemed to improve on the lower frequencies somewhat, but the midrange suffered compared to the XM3. Overall I found the APM more effective than the XM3 (but it depends more on fit and seal), which I overall found more effective than the XM4 due to it blocking more of the midrange sounds.
    Where the XM3 failed was that when passing a truck you would get a whooshing noise from the wind somehow. This is obviously despite closed windows in the car. It happened every time we passed a larger truck. The XM4 alleviated that issue almost entirely and the APM straight up didn't have that issue. I imagine the wind must've clipped the microphones temporarily.
    BTW: I tried taking measurements of the ANC performance, but they all looked quite similar.

    So in the store I obviously didn't have a lot of low frequency content to test the ANC like you have in a moving vehicle. But to me it sounded like the Bose 700 was in between the XM3 and XM4 in blocking midrange sounds. If I had to guess I'd say low frequency sounds are blocked less effectively, but that's just a guess.
     
  15. HHS

    HHS Facebook Friend

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2016
    Likes Received:
    140
    Trophy Points:
    33
    Location:
    United States
    Yeah, given their audience and brand recognition I'm sure they decided the extra licensing fees to include LDAC and AptX probably weren't necessary.

    I'm not entirely convinced AAC is really the bottleneck anyway. Lower bandwidth over Bluetooth yes, but it's at least a psychoacoustic codec unlike LDAC and AptX, so it should be transparent at lower bitrates. It's probably more down to how good the specific implementation is rather than just what codec you're using.
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 1
    • List
  16. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2021
    Likes Received:
    1,662
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Do the APM have all the funky settings in the iPad as the Sony Headphones Connect? On the Sony, I found it very useful where I could dial in the level of ambient sounds, and especially the mode where ambient sounds are blocked, but voices allowed. My wife uses the XM3 and allows the sounds so she can hear the kids.

    That doesn't mean anything. That's like saying the main win with APM is that the midrange is incredibly similar to the Grado GS1000. Or the main win with the GS1000 is that the midrange is incredibly similar to the HD800/APM. I think you are finding reasons to be excited. The bass on the APM looks like it was prescribed by Doctor Olive, the upper mids and highs look uneven with a peak at 9-10kHz.

    Grado GS1000
    upload_2021-7-28_9-6-21.png

    upload_2021-7-28_9-11-0.png
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 4
    • List
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
  17. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

    Friend BWC MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,955
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    near Munich, Germany
    Nope, no companion app and it only has transparency mode, noise cancelling and off. No in-between settings and I find the off setting useless.

    It is, in fact there's more subbass than even Harman calls for. I find it surprising that I can stand it, much less enjoy it somehow. The Sony was unacceptably flabby, partly due to it simply having a worse bass quality and also because its emphasis creeps up much higher, almost into the lower midrange. The APM is at least not that bassy around 100Hz, so it sounds normal on midrange-focused pieces.
    Also it's thankfully not like the AirPods Pro, which follows the Harman target more closely with a dip centered around 200Hz.

    Using PEQ: 30Hz, -8dB, Q0.5 and it's flat. The "ClearBass" setting in the Sony app doesn't work properly for adjusting the bass levels on the XM3 anyway, so it's not a huge loss there's no native EQ for the APM.

    Yup, they are sort of uneven. I'd say on the level of the Focal Utopia, maybe better. I think it's in the nature of having virtually no damping between the ear and a large reflective surface (the driver).
    The dip around 6kHz is there to my ears. I hear a similar dip on the HD650 and I find it sort of benign. The dip in the 7-8kHz region followed by the large peak sound smoother to my ears. As I mentioned, flat plate coupler and free air measurements look fine in that region (attached). Mid-treble to upper treble is somewhat hot, though and that's coming from an HD800 guy (albeit heavily modded). But I'd rather have 2dB too much than the air being lacking by 5-10dB like on the Sony.


    As an aside: I know the comparison with the GS1000 is hyperbole, but on a dummy head the whole region from 1.5kHz on is raised. At least according to Tyll's data. The fact is the APM midrange as a whole does sound quite similar to my modded HD800 to me.
     

    Attached Files:

    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 1
    • List
  18. Marvey

    Marvey Super Friend

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2021
    Likes Received:
    1,662
    Trophy Points:
    93
    If bass quality is good, may not be so bad (thinking Fostex TH900 where it's low/sub bass emphasized) and not so much at 100Hz. The Sony XM3/4 have great software, but sound is overdamped and reminds me of Dan Clark small orthos. I'm sure Sony used a cheap driver and did whatever tricks they could. Apple actually makes decent stuff.
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 2
    • List
  19. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

    Friend Contributor
    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2017
    Likes Received:
    1,143
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    SF Bay Area Peninsula
    I posted some thoughts here in the Penrose impressions thread. Some thoughts I didn't mention because they are more specific to these and my intended use case:
    • My biggest concern was fatigue. I didn't want some crappy bass cannons or hot treble and in that way these delivered. I find them inoffensive and even enjoyed their tuning. Unfortunately I find them less "well tuned" after comparing with the Penrose. If sound quality is your first priority and you don't need ANC, I recommend getting on the Penrose loaner.
    • I wanted something easy to use for before bed relaxation listening and to help with traveling, I find airplane noise really annoying. I haven't traveled yet but I think these will do nicely, the ANC is excellent. Also despite the goofy lack of an on/off switch, I found a stand that puts them into sleep mode so I can use that for optimal convenience.
    • I find non replaceable batteries very irritating and that was a factor in this purchase. I didn't want to spend the high dollar amount but the Airpods Pro didn't work for me (all IEMs make my ears itch) and I know Apple will replace the battery, for a fee. I'm sick of everything being disposable.
    These are not perfect but probably the best option for my specific needs.

    max.jpg
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 5
    • List
  20. skem

    skem Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2017
    Likes Received:
    1,810
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    People’s Republic of Cambridge
    2¢ from the peanut gallery.

    1. Clamping force can be made high, and combined with the firmer pads this sometimes causes the APM to compress the temples on my glasses causing pain. The Sony has big cushy earpads that prevent that at the cost of less-good seal.

    2. Noise cancellation on APM is truly the best, especially with high frequency noise.

    3. I feel there's a lack of dynamics with APM that bugs me. I'm not sure if it's the codec or if they've flattened out the driver response with DSP that is killing the life of the music somewhere in the mids and lower-mids. Dynamics seem better on my ER3XR balanced armatures, for example—and those are hardly the standard for headphone dynamics.

    4. Ux integration is very nice. Knob for volume/track adjustment is better than Sony's swipe system. I like that it pauses audio when removing headphones.

    5. They look stupid.
     
    • Like / Agree Like / Agree x 5
    • List
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2021

Share This Page