AirPods Max vs Bose 700: How Do Apple and Bose‘s Flagship Noise-Canceling Headphones Stack Up?

Over-ear noise canceling headphones have become extremely popular in recent years for their ability to block external sound and provide an immersive listening experience. Two of the top contenders in this market are the AirPods Max from Apple and the Bose 700 from Bose. Both headphones retail for around $500, with the AirPods Max on the higher end at $549.

But beyond the price, there are some key differences that are worth examining if you‘re trying to decide between splurging on Apple‘s latest headphones or opting for Bose‘s tried and true active noise canceling models. In this in-depth comparison guide, we‘ll break down how the AirPods Max and Bose 700 match up across critical categories like design, sound quality, noise cancellation, features, battery life and overall value.

AirPods Max vs Bose 700: At a Glance

Before diving into the details, here is a high-level overview of how the flagship over-ear headphones from Apple and Bose compare:

CategoryAirPods MaxBose 700
Release DateDec 2020March 2019
Battery LifeUp to 20 hours (ANC on)Up to 20 hours (ANC on)
Noise CancelingAdaptive (adjusts to environment)11 Levels (manually adjustable)
Audio QualityExcellent, wide soundstageExcellent, clear audio
Key FeaturesSpatial audio, easy device switchingTouch controls, transparency mode

As you can see, both headphones match up closely in key areas like battery life and active noise cancellation capabilities. The AirPods Max stand out for their adaptive noise canceling and spatial audio features, while the Bose 700 offers more manual control customization.

But that‘s just scratching the surface. Keep reading as we do a deep dive on how these two audio heavyweights compare across all the categories that matter most.

Design and Build Quality

Let‘s kick things off by examining the design philosophy and build quality of the AirPods Max vs Bose 700, since comfort and durability should be prime considerations for over-ear headphones you‘ll potentially be wearing for hours at a time.

Styling and Available Colors

  • The AirPods Max cater more to fashion-focused consumers with their range of bold and vibrant color options: Silver, Space Gray, Green, Sky Blue and Pink.
  • The Bose 700 offer a more understated and professional aesthetic in simple Black or Luxe Silver (off-white) color schemes. Limited edition Soapstone (beige sand) has also been offered.

So Apple is clearly going for mass appeal with fun colors you‘d wear to make a statement, while Bose keeps is classic with muted tones appropriate for the office or business travel. Of course aesthetics are highly personal, but if you want to match your headphones to your wardrobe the AirPods Max offer more flexibility on that front.

Materials and Build Quality

  • The AirPods Max feature an anodized aluminum frame with telescoping steel headband that allows the design to conform comfortably to most head shapes and sizes. The contoured memory foam ear cups are attached magnetically and can rotate independently to maintain a good ear seal.
  • The Bose 700 have a stainless steel headband built for durability and flexibility. The oval shaped ear cups are smaller than the AirPods Max and have cushions that conform closely to reduce pressure points. Invisible hinges allow the ear cups to rotate smoothly.

Both Apple and Bose have clearly put a lot of R&D into crafting headphones optimized for long-term comfort without compromising audio fidelity. It‘s hard to criticize either in terms of industrial design and quality of materials used, though Bose may have put extra thought into reducing listener fatigue over multi-hour listening sessions.

The Achilles heel of the AirPods Max is their weight. At nearly 385 grams, they are one of the heaviest over-ear headphones on the market today. There are certainly listeners who won‘t mind the heft, but Bose kept things featherlight with the 700s at just 250 grams. For travel or all-day wear, that hundred gram difference really makes an impact.

So when it comes to styling options vs wearing comfort over time, there are good arguments on both sides. It comes down what what aspects matter most to your personal listening preferences.

Audio Performance

Now that we‘ve covered the physical design elements, let‘s talk about arguably the most important performance category for any set of headphones: how they actually sound. Both companies put huge resources into acoustic engineering, but they don‘t always have the same sonic targets in mind.

Sound Quality and Clarity

After extensively demoing both models side-by-side using a variety of audio source material (lossless music files, streaming songs, movies and video content), some subtle but noticeable differences emerge:

  • The AirPods Max deliver absolutely pristine highs and mids, with incredible separation that allows you to pick out the smallest sonic details across a wide stereo field. Lows have great presence without muddying the mix. Overall fidelity is astonishingly lifelike.
  • The Bose 700 also produce clear and well-balanced output across highs, mids and lows butcan‘t quite match Apple‘s driver technology for that last level of clarity and spaciousness. The sound leans slightly warm which audio purists may notice.

To a casual listener, both will sound amazing with quality source material. But discerning audiophiles doing an A/B test picking out intricate instrumental textures will likely prefer the AirPods Max. Apple‘s custom drivers powered by the H1 chip offer top-of-class sonic performance that even beats out Sony and Sennheiser flagships in some expert reviews.

That said, there is far more to headphones than technical performance benchmarks. The way audio makes you feel also matters…which brings us to the next category.

Immersive Listening Features

Great sound quality is a baseline must-have, but both companies have additional proprietary features that take the listening experience to another level:

  • Apple‘s AirPods Max support amazing spatial audio powered by integrated head tracking. This gives music, movies and video content a spectacular surround sound effect that follows the orientation of your head. The spatialization makes everything sound more lifelike and immersive.
  • Bose gives listeners more manual control via the Bose Music app which allows you to configure an Adjustable EQ with presets optimized for certain genres. There‘s also a passive mode to conserve battery life while maintaining awareness of ambient sounds.

So AirPods Max again have the tech edge by actually altering audio in real time based on the headphones‘ position in space. But Bose still brings useful personalization based on your taste and situation. Call this category a tie depending on if you value innovation or customization more.

Noise Cancellation

The ability to reduce distracting ambient noise is arguably the key benefit of premium over-ear headphones nowadays. But the technologies companies use to achieve this can vary significantly, as is the case when comparing Bose vs Apple‘s approaches.

Noise Cancelling Modes

The AirPods Max offer two settings:

  • Active Noise Cancellation mode uses those outward-facing mics to block external sound from reaching your ears.
  • Transparency mode amplifies external noises so you can carry on conversations or remain aware of environmental sounds.

With the Bose 700, you get more fine-grained control:

  • 11 increments of noise cancelling intensity to choose from (0 to 10).
  • A full transparency/ambient aware mode similar to the AirPods Max.
  • A unique Conversation mode that focuses on amplifying speech frequencies so you don‘t miss what people around you are saying.

So while Apple keeps things simple with on/off ANC or transparency, Bose gives listeners more modes to optimize levels based on changing situations. Call this a win for user flexibility.

Adaptive vs Adjustable ANC

Here‘s where things get even more interesting though…

The AirPods Max noise cancellation adapts automatically based on the headphones‘ motion and position. Those external mics detect ambient sounds and make changes in real-time if you move your head or if external loudness increases.

With the Bose 700, you manually set your noise cancellation level based on current conditions. So there‘s no automatic shifting – the headphones just cancel sound consistently based on wherever you position the slider.

Both work extremely well, but Apple‘s adaptive tech is almost magical in practice. You get the noise blocking you need at any given moment without fiddling with settings. For most listeners Bose‘s manual control range is likely overkill, so Apple‘s set-it-and-forget-it adaptive ANC gives them the edge here too.

Features and Connectivity

Beyond audio performance and noise cancelling capabilities, headphones are essentially small wearable computers with a bevy of built-in features. Comparing what the AirPods Max and Bose 700 respectively bring to the table gives a broader sense of their overall value.

On-Device Controls

  • The AirPods Max forgo touch controls entirely and instead feature a prominent digital crown dial along the right ear cup. Spinning and pressing this dial lets you control volume, start/stop audio, take calls answer or reject calls, activate Siri and switch between listening modes.
  • The Bose 700 have capacitive touch zones on the right ear cup allowing you to do all of those same functions through taps and swipes. There‘s also a physical Action button that can be remapped to favorite features.

So again we see Apple sticking to elegant hardware solutions while Bose leans into more modern touch interfaces. In practice both methods work great; it mainly comes down to your personal comfort level with dials vs tapping.

One quibble against the Bose 700 here is the touch zones don‘t work for making volume adjustments – you‘ll need to use your connected device for that.

Voice Assistant Integration

  • The AirPods Max always default to Siri for voice commands and notifications due to Apple‘s proprietary H1 chip. No support for other assistants unfortunately.
  • The Bose 700 work natively with Google Assistant. Amazon Alexa support can be added via a software update.

If you‘re embedded in the Apple ecosystem, Siri support across their product line wins big through tight integration. But for cross-platform households, the Bose 700 flexibility provides better future-proofing.

Multi-Device Pairing and Switching

Modern listeners don‘t use headphones with just one gadget – we switch between smartphones, tablets, laptops and TVs on the fly. So the ease of juggling multiple device connections matters.

Both the AirPods Max and Bose 700 can have two active device connections saved for seamless switching as needed. For example taking a call from your iPhone then resuming an Apple TV show without re-pairing.

Apple takes this a step further though with their Automatic Device Switching for iOS/Mac devices logged into the same iCloud account. Transitioning audio from an iPhone to iPad to Mac happens magically without any user intervention.

If your devices skew Apple across the board, the AirPods Max have an effortless edge here. But the Bose 700 dual connections still work great across iOS/Android mixes most multi-device users have.

Battery Life and Charging

Premium over-ear headphones packed with components guzzle battery life faster than smaller earbuds, so having enough uptime between charges is key. Here‘s how the AirPods Max and Bose 700 compare based on the manufacturers‘ claims and real-world usage:

  • Apple rates the AirPods Max battery at 20 hours while Bose promises the same for the 700. Of course mileage varies greatly depending on listening volumes and other factors, but most owners anecdotally report matching or exceeding that number even with active noise cancellation engaged.
  • The AirPods Max have lightning-fast charging achieving 90% battery in under an hour. Bose claims a 15 minute quick charge yields 3.5 hours of listening time – not bad by any measure.
  • Both companies smartly designed quick wake/sleep functionality that preserves battery when the headphones are idle and not in use.

The bottom line is neither model will leave you stranded mid-flight or commute even with noise cancellation eating away at maximum uptime. And quick charging means you can top up enough to get you through a full workday after just a few minutes plugged in. For travel and mobile use cases, battery life is not a significant difference maker.

Price and Value Comparison

Taking all factors into account, is the $170 premium you pay for the AirPods Max over the Bose 700 worth it? Let‘s quickly recap key pros and cons:

Reasons to choose the AirPods Max:

  • Best-in-class sound quality and fidelity
  • Amazing spatial audio support
  • Fully adaptive noise cancellation
  • More vibrant color options
  • Seamless Apple device integration

Reasons to choose the Bose 700:

  • Far lighter and potentially more comfortable
  • Manually adjustable ANC levels
  • Support for Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Less expensive for nearly equivalent performance

Who Are the AirPods Max For?

The AirPods Max make the most sense for consumers already bought into Apple‘s ecosystem who want incredible audio performance without compromising features. If you want spatial audio support, top-tier noise cancellation, and deep Siri integration, the added cost gets you excellent bang for buck. Think iPhone power users who want a headphone extension of Apple‘s seamless device web.

Audiophiles will also hugely appreciate the reference-level sound quality – if there‘s a more accurate mass market headphone available, we haven‘t heard it yet. So for discerning listeners with lots of lossless and hi-res music, the purity coming out of the AirPods Max will bring collections alive.

Who Should Buy the Bose 700?

Despite lacking some bleeding edge features, the Bose 700 are still hugely competent headphones that significantly undercut the AirPods Max on price while offering comparable performance. If your phone isn‘t an iPhone or you routinely switch between Apple/Android devices, you lose nothing bygoing the Max‘s ecosystem integration.

The 700 headphones also appeal more to frequent travelers who will benefit from the lighter, more compact design that induces less fatigue over long hauls. Noise cancellation customization also suits noisy, shifting environments better than Apple‘s one size fits all adaptive approach.

And for voice assistant users, having both Alexa and Google support out of the box gives Bose‘s cans much wider compatibility today and into the future. Siri still lags behind in overall capability.

The Verdict?

At the end of our AirPods Max vs Bose 700 showdown, both companies deliver exceptional noise canceling headphones that compete as some of the best options on the market in 2022 and beyond. With similarly great audio performance, battery life and craftsmanship, there are no objectively bad choices here.

Ultimately Apple offers more breakthrough features for users ingrained in their device ecosystem, while Bose provides nearly top-tier quality for significantly less money and wider cross-platform flexibility. Buy based on your budget, brand loyalty and use case priorities. For the right consumer, both the AirPods Max and Bose 700 can provide years of listening nirvana.

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