If 2020 taught us anything, it was how important a good pair of headphones can be. Whether it was Zoom meetings with our boss, escaping the hell that is working from home while parenting (and schooling) with some tunes or getting outside for a run with a good beat, headphones have been our saviors.
And who showed up to the party just in time to save your 2020? The Apple AirPods Max. These wireless headphones changed the game by combining all the features of the AirPods with high-fidelity audio and a throwback over-ear design.
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No one can argue that the Apple AirPods Max headphones are some of the best wireless headphones on the market. Nothing beats them in terms of sound quality, battery life and features, especially in an over-ear headphone style.
Apple takes the traditionally somewhat bulky over-ear headphone design and turns it into something sleek and modern. They also feature some of the best noise-canceling options with an H1 chip in each ear cup to provide the most dynamic sound possible. And the beneficial Transparency Mode lets you hear your surroundings at the touch of a button without removing an earpiece.
Users love the “magic” one-touch connection Apple is known for and the smartest of Smart Cases that automatically puts these headphones into an ultra-low-power mode for extended battery life.
But if you don’t use Apple products or you don’t want to drop the $549 these will cost you, consider these 11 mighty and less expensive over-ear headphones.
The Sennheiser Momentum 3 noise-canceling headphones offer many features similar to the AirPods Max, including the price tag, coming in at $400.
With three noise-canceling modes accessible through a smartphone app and a customizable equalizer, you can fully tailor your listening experience to suit your environment and preferences. One Amazon reviewer noted that they almost immediately started noticing new sounds in the music that they’ve been listening to for years with these headphones.
The Momentum 3 is available in two colors, both with leather earpads and matte steel arms. They have a delightfully retro look to them and can deliver a 17-hour battery life.
Bose’s headphones were designed to turn whatever space you find yourself into a comfortable listening environment or workspace. Featuring noise-canceling technology intended for more than just improving your audio experience, the Bose 700 uses a specialized, adaptive microphone to find your voice and isolate it from the sounds around you (the perfect feature for outdoor phone calls). That same mic helps keep you connected without pulling out your phone via your Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
With 11 adjustable noise-canceling levels, intuitive earcup controls, 20-hour battery life and one-touch access to your Spotify music, these headphones more than deliver in features and options.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are available in three colors, all with a stainless steel headband and comfortable tilted earcups, perfect for board meetings or a music marathon. They will set you back about $379 on Amazon.
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With an impressive 30-hour battery life, the Sony WH-1000XM4 won’t leave you hanging with a dead battery when you need it most. Featuring innovative speak-to-chat technology, these headphones pause playback when your voice is detected, letting you hear your conversation without reaching to hit pause.
Unlike the popular Sony WH-1000XM3, the XM4 can connect to multiple devices at a time and detect when you are wearing them, pausing your music when you take them off.
The XM4 also features quick-connect technology, integrated Alexa voice control and proprietary LCP sound.
At $348 ($200 under AirPods Max), these headphones are a sweet and affordable alternative.
Bowers & Wilkins has been around since 1966 with the quest to create the perfect loudspeaker. Since then, the company has continued to be at the forefront of the audio industry with its innovative development team.
The Wireless PX7 headphones live up to the Bowers & Wilkins name’s hype with simple-to-use controls built into the ear cup, over-ear design for an improved listening experience and 30-hour battery life. Pair those features with the adaptive noise cancellation technology that senses your environment and adapts to your sound needs, and you’ve got a loaded pair of headphones coming in at just under $400.
One of the coolest features of the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 is how it responds to your actions. Lift either ear cup to quickly pause your music and lower it for playback to begin right where you left off. The aptX Adaptive tech means you won’t have latency issues between your headphones and your device.
If you’re looking for a high-quality pair of headphones that will cost you less than $50, the AKG K72 is for you. With an over-the-ear design, these closed-back headphones deliver impeccable audio isolation and extended low-frequency sound. And while they are wired and unable to use Bluetooth connectivity, the punchy bass more than makes up for it.
These AKG K72 is only available in black, but the automatically adjusting headband makes these headphones a perfect fit for every head shape and size.
The over-ear design of these headphones from Audio-Technica provide excellent noise isolation and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. And while they don’t offer noise cancelation, the lower price tag and same extended frequency range shared by other, more prestigious Audio-Technica models make this pair one to consider.
For just under $200, these headphones also feature an aptX adaptive codec, a collapsible design and comfort fit for long listening sessions.
Another pair to consider if you don’t require noise cancelation features is the JBL Tune 700BT. Get the same powerful bass sound you’ve come to expect from JBL in a wireless, over-ear design. Use the voice-activated controls to change audio and make calls. These headphones may not have all the AirPods Max features, but they are certainly worth the $80 price tag.
The TUNE 700BT is available in 4 colors and provides an impressive 22-hour battery life.
The Elite 85h from Jabra is one smart pair of headphones. Using active noise cancellation technology, this device automatically detects when your environment has background noise and switches on and off as needed. This technology is continually adapting to your listening experience, providing you with an optimal listening experience.
With eight microphones offering detailed quality, you’ll never sound muffled on a call again, and the Jabra app provides further customization of your audio experience.
Another option from Bose with superior audio quality and a reasonable price tag is the QuietComfort 35 II. This Bose model uses audio-only augmented reality to sense your direction in space and provide audio based on where you are, with enhanced AR features for iPhone users. The three levels of noise cancelation and customizable equalizer are accessible through the Bose app, and you can activate Alexa with the one-touch controls for a user-friendly interface.
For less than $300, these headphones offer an impressive list of features and come supported by the trusted Bose name.
The Beats Solo Pro is the next generation in the Beats by Dre family. The upgraded Pro model features ANC technology and the coveted Transparency Mode to let background noise in when necessary. The Solo Pro also features integrated on-ear controls and uses the same Apple H1 chip as the AirPods Max for a truly immersive listening experience.
Now, let’s talk about battery life. When using these headphones without noise-canceling features or Transparency mode, you can rock out for an impressive 40 hours. When using these features, you can still get over 20 hours on a full charge.
With iOs and Android compatibility and six saturated color options, these headphones work great on any device.
If battery life is at the top of your list, the Hesh 3 from Skullcandy has an impressive 22-hour playtime. When you find yourself drained, the rapid charging provides an instant boost to keep you rocking for up to four hours with only 10 minutes of charge time.
The snug and comfortable fit helps isolate noise without cancellation technology, keeping the under $100 headphones worth it. As expected from Skullcandy, these headphones are available in eight kick-ass colors.
Keep on Rockin’
Whatever your reason for picking an over-ear headphone style headphone, there are combinations of options and features to fit every lifestyle and budget. And while you can drop $549 on the newest member of the AirPod family, for as little as $50 bucks, you could be enjoying the peace and solitude a great pair of headphones can bring you.
As we look to the start of 2021, one thing can be sure; earbuds are so last year.
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The 11 Best AirPod Max Alternatives:
- Sennheiser Momentum 3
- Bose Noise Canceling 700
- Sony WH-1000XM4
- Bowers & Wilkins Wireless PX7
- AKG K72
- Audio-Technica ATHM50XBT
- JBL TUNE 700BT
- Jabra Elite 85h Bluetooth
- Bose QuietComfort 35 II
- Beats Solo Pro Wireless Headphones
- Skullcandy Hesh 3 Wireless Over-Ear Headphone