Everyone’s buying the AirPods Max, but these 5 over-ear headphones are so much better (and cheaper)

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The AirPods Max remains Apple’s most advanced headphone release to date, with a unique design that quickly became a fashion statement for some. While these headphones are good, their sound quality and active noise-canceling technology don’t justify the cost for many.

With this in mind, AirPods Max alternatives from brands like Bose, Sony, JBL and more well-known audio tech brands deliver better sound quality and comparably sleek designs for a much cheaper price.

Apple AirPods Max Wireless Over-Ear Headphones, $499.99 (Orig. $549)

Credit: Amazon

To make choosing the right one easier, we’ve listed our five favorites, separated into defining categories:

If you’re looking for the pair that bests the cult favorite AirPods Max in all aspects, the Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless Industry Leading Headphones are, hands down, the ones to buy.

For those who prioritize battery life, Sennheiser’s Momentum 4 Wireless Headphones should be top of mind. And if you’re looking to spend the least possible amount of money on a pair of quality active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones that sound as crisp and clear as the AirPods Max, the JBL Live 660NC is right up your alley.

Keep scrolling to check out each pick in more detail to ensure you get the best one for your needs.

1. Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless Industry Leading Headphones With Auto Noise-Canceling Optimizer, $398

Credit: Amazon

Currently, no over-ear headphones on the market have surpassed the 2022-released Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless Industry Leading Headphones. These check all the boxes that make a quality pair worth the money and are still cheaper than the AirPods Max.

They produce one of the absolute best active noise-canceling experiences I’ve ever heard in a pair of over-ear headphones, boast up to 40 hours of battery life on a single charge, have a wide Bluetooth range of 33 feet, great, easy-to-access control and touch options and a headphone jack for optional wired use (it also comes with a cable for wired connectivity).

If you travel often, it comes with a hard carrying case that’s easy to store in your hand luggage or a desk drawer. Honestly, these Sony noise-canceling headphones are leaps and bounds better than the AirPods Max in every possible aspect.

2. Best Battery Life: Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless Headphones, $276.57 (Orig. $349.95)

Credit: Amazon

Long-lasting battery life is a leading feature most shoppers look for when shopping for quality headphones. The AirPods Max lasts just 20 hours on a single charge — a stat that pales in comparison to all of the options featured on this list.

The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless Headphones, however, last up to 60 hours of playtime — with active noise-cancelation on — from a single charge. I’ve never encountered a pair of headphones that bested this impressive feature.

It also has crystal clear sound, super effective ANC performance, clear touch controls and a simple-yet-elegant design and style.

3. Most Affordable: JBL Live 660NC Wireless Over-Ear Noise-Canceling Headphones, $169.95 (Orig. $199.95)

Credit: Amazon

These JBL best sellers are more than $370 cheaper than the AirPods Max but offer similar quality to the best-selling Apple tech accessory.

These last up to 50 hours on a full charge with ANC turned off and have superior device connectivity. Where they shine, though, is with the bass. If you love a bass-heavy, distortion-free sound experience, these are the ones to buy.

4. Premium Active Noise-Canceling Pick: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, $329 (Orig. $379)

Credit: Amazon

These are arguably the second most popular and sought-after premium active noise-canceling headphones after the AirPods Max. However, the truth is, they’re much better.

Though the battery life isn’t the best (these last up to 20 hours with active noise-canceling turned on), they offer some of the best ANC features available in any piece of audio tech. You can adjust the ANC levels to your liking and use the feature during both calls and music listening.

Also, the sleek-yet-comfortable design makes these a pair you’ll have for years and years.

5. Most Travel-Friendly: Marshall Monitor II A.N.C., $319.99

Credit: Marshall

Lastly, for those who travel often, it’s best to invest in a pair of active noise-canceling headphones that collapse easily and won’t take up much space in your bag. These advanced headphones from iconic audio brand Marshall block out noise seamlessly for all-day listening with up to 30 hours of uninterrupted listening time (with ANC) on a single charge.

In addition to the retro design, these active noise-canceling headphones continuously pinpoint and measure ambient noise to block out the things you don’t want to hear.

They also have a gold control knob that lets you play, pause and shuffle your music, adjust the volume and more. There’s also an ANC button that lets you toggle between active noise-canceling and monitoring mode or turn off ANC altogether — and these features only scratch the surface.

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