All AirPods share a similar feature set, thanks to Apple’s stellar system-wide integration. However, certain models come with exclusive perks. Take the AirPods Max, for example. Did you know that placing these over-ear headphones in their Smart Case automatically turns on power save mode? Or that they have a customizable, multifunctional dial button that controls everything from playback to volume to Siri voice activation?
That’s just a taste of what the best noise-canceling headphones for Apple users can do. Here’s a list of essential tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your AirPods Max headphones — including many that will also work with your AirPods earbuds.
1. How to pair your AirPods Max with an iPhone
All AirPods are designed to seamlessly connect with Apple devices that use your iCloud account. These include the Apple Watch, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and, of course, iPhone.
Powering on the AirPods Max will automatically display a pairing notification on your iPhone or iPad touchscreen. Tap connect and you’re all set. Need to connect to a non-Apple device? Skip ahead to tip 14.
2. Dial or press the Digital Crown for playback and volume controls
Unlike the AirPods earbuds, which use force and touch sensors, the AirPods Max feature a unique multifunctional button called the Digital Crown that can be dialed or pressed to activate different functions.
Turning it left/right will increase/decrease volume. Here are the number of the presses required for playback, call management and Siri activation:
• One press: Toggle play/pause; answer/end call or put first call on hold and answer second incoming call
• Double press: Skip forward; reject incoming call or end current call and switch to second call
• Triple press: Skip back
• Long press: Turn on Siri; reject second incoming call
On the opposite side of the Digital Crown is the Noise Control button to switch between active noise cancellation (ANC) and transparency modes.
Keep in mind, too, that the AirPods Max come with motion detection to auto-pause/play content when taking off or putting on the headphones.
3. Check your AirPods Max’s battery life
Apple makes monitoring the AirPods Max’s battery levels simple. Holding the headphones close to your iPhone and pressing the Noise Control button will show the charge status on the screen.
Another way is to add the Batteries widget to your iPhone home screen. Perform the long-press gesture on a blank area on your screen until the app icon jiggles. Tap the “+” sign in the top left corner and search for “Batteries” in the list of widgets. Drag the preferred widget size to your home screen to see your headphones’ battery life.
4. Access and customize settings with the AirPods dashboard
A new dashboard feature was introduced in the latest iOS 16 software update. It’s essentially a shortcut to the AirPods Max’s primary settings. You can customize the controls, switch ANC modes, turn on spatial audio and much more.
Just open the Settings menu while your headphones are connected, select the AirPods Max dashboard tab and modify the settings to your liking.
5. Personalize your spatial audio
The newest version of Apple’s 3D audio format works with the AirPods Max. You’ll need an iPhone with the TrueDepth camera (so iPhone X or newer, but not the iPhone SE) to scan your ears for a tailored 360 audio listening experience.
Enter the AirPods Max dashboard and select Personalized Spatial Audio. Follow the on-screen instructions. Once completed, your sound profile will be saved and synced across your Apple devices via iCloud.
6. Quickly adjust settings
Listening modes can be adjusted in the dashboard, but there is a faster way to do this. Go to the Control Center (swipe down on the top right of your iPhone screen) and you’ll find multiple toggles for different functions. For example, long-pressing the volume slider while wearing the AirPods Max will present options to turn on/off ANC and spatial audio.
7. Turn on lossless audio for hi-fi sound
You’re missing out on Apple’s hi-fi listening experience by having lossless audio disabled. This needs to be on to enjoy millions of Apple Music tracks encoded using lossless audio compression. Instruments and vocals will sound clearer, while subtle nuances on complex recordings become more discernible.
Follow these instructions to turn it on: Settings > Music > Audio Quality > turn on Lossless Audio (24-bit/48 kHz). You can then choose the audio quality for streaming and downloads. There is a Hi-Res Lossless (24-bit/192 kHz) option, but an external DAC converter is required to take advantage of this format.
8. Use “Hey Siri” for nearly everything
Controlling your AirPods Max headphones through Siri voice commands is one the coolest features of any audio product on the market. Apple’s AI bot can do everything, from answering calls to controlling smart home products to playing Apple Music tracks. Here are 16 awesome Siri tips and tricks you can try right now.
If you don’t want to activate the feature manually, just say, “Hey Siri” followed by a command, and the digital assistant will meet your request in seconds.
9. How to find your lost AirPods Max
Any iPhone/iPad running iOS 15 (or higher) should have the Find My app. If not, run the latest software update or download it from the App Store. Open the app, select the Devices tab and pick the AirPods Max from the list. A map will appear showing their current location for up to 24 hours since they were last connected to an Apple device, which must be linked to your iCloud account.
You can also receive alerts whenever leaving your headphones behind. Go to the Notifications setting in the Find My app and turn on the Notify When Left Behind option.
Lost Mode is another feature that can help retrieve lost AirPods. This will send a message to your phone number or email and any iPhone user who finds the product. Enter the Find My app and scroll down to Mark as Lost, where you’ll select Activate and follow the on-screen instructions.
AirPods Pro 2 users have the advantage of playing a sound on the charging case with built-in speaker to help locate it. Unfortunately, the AirPods Max’s Smart Case does not support this feature.
10. Keep the AirPods Max in the Smart Case to preserve battery life
Speaking of which, Apple’s Smart Case has one neat trick up its sleeve: an ultra-low-power mode. The feature automatically activates when the headphones are stored in the accessory. According to Apple, you can leave the AirPods Max in the Smart Case for months and still have plenty of playtime. It also grants access to the Lightning charging socket for immediately wired charging.
11. Get extra protection for the Smart Case
Getting a case for the Smart Case sounds redundant, but it’s a wise investment that protects the headphones from scuffs and scratches. We recommend the Co2Crea Hard Case, which is compact, stores the entire product and comes in matching AirPods Max colors. The Urban Armor Gear Ration Weatherproof Case is another solid choice with sturdier protection and more pockets to hold multiple accessories.
Here are eight more great AirPods Max cases and covers we recommend.
12. Customize audio through multiple sound settings
The AirPods Max are Apple’s most impressive-sounding product to date. Two custom-built 40mm dynamic drivers and an adaptive EQ that adjusts sonics in real time give music and movies a lively presence.
But what if you prefer more bass, treble or midrange in your sound? You can make these changes in the iOS settings. If you tap Music and select EQ, there are more than 20 sound settings that complement different music genres and media formats.
There are other ways to fine-tune sound on the AirPods Max. Feel free to do the job manually through the Accessibility feature, which is under Settings. Tap on Audio/Visual and scroll down to see a balance slider that adjusts volume on the left or right channel. The Headphone Accommodations feature (on the same page) offers even more personalization by letting you tune balance, range and brightness as well as increase or decrease the presence of soft sounds. You’ll also see a Custom Audio Setup feature that creates a personalized sound profile through a series of listening tests.
Lastly, we have the Apple Health app. You can use the audiogram data it collects and map the AirPods Max to your hearing profile. Follow these steps: Settings > Accessibility > Audio/Visual > Headphone Accommodations > Custom Audio Setup > Headphone Audio Customization > Use Audiogram.
13. Adjust how you hear ambient sound
Headphone Accommodations doesn’t just modify sound — it lets you adjust transparency settings such as amplification, noise reduction, tone and transparency balance between each channel.
Tap Transparency Mode, turn on Custom Transparency Mode and then turn on Ambient Noise Reduction. There’s a slider to adjust the amount of ambient noise you block out in Transparency Mode.
14. Use your AirPods Max with Android and Windows devices
All AirPods can be used as a Bluetooth headset with Android and Windows devices. Press and hold the noise control button on your AirPods Max until the LED flashes white, which indicates pairing mode. Then select your model from the available devices list.
Most playback controls will work on non-Apple devices, but smart features like hands-free Siri and auto-pause/play are unavailable.
15. Connect the AirPods Max to a next-gen gaming console
If you prefer using wireless headphones for gaming instead of the best gaming headsets, this hack is for you. The AirPods Max will work on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.
You can pair Bluetooth headphones directly to your Nintendo Switch, and that includes the AirPods Max. For other consoles, you’ll just need a compatible Bluetooth adapter. The Twelve South AirFly is one of our favorites, but there are several others that will work as well. Plug it into your controller’s headphone jack and pair the headphones the same way you would a smartphone, tablet or computer.
16. Boost the sound quality of music streaming services
The best music streaming services have several sound features hidden on their backend. Dig around and you’ll find some that increase sound quality when streaming over mobile data or Wi-Fi.
Apple Music subscribers can enter the Settings page and select Music, where they’ll discover the Audio Quality option and can switch Mobile Data Streaming to High Quality. Spotify users should tap the Settings icon, then Audio Quality, and set streaming to High/Very High. Tidal is the most straightforward: Settings > Quality > Streaming > select quality (Normal/High/HiFi/Master).
Apps like Spotify also come with a customizable EQ to tweak lows, mids and highs.
17. Change the direction of volume control on the Digital Crown
Not a fan of the Digital Crown’s volume control? It turns out you can change the orientation from back to front or front to back. Go to Bluetooth and tap the encircled “i” symbol. Select Digital Crown and set the volume direction to your preference.
18. Use the AirPods Max as wired headphones
Traditional headphone users who prefer cables can smile knowing the AirPods Max supports wired mode via Lightning to 3.5mm audio cable. The accessory does not come bundled with the purchase, but you can pick one up for $35 from Apple or any major online retailer like Amazon.
19. Turn your iPhone into a remote mic with Live Listen
Originally developed for people with hearing issues, Live Listen transforms the iPhone or iPad into a live mic that amplifies the sounds of voices. College students are using this feature in creative ways; some will place their iPhone on the professor’s desk to hear lectures clearer when seated far away. Live Listen works with all AirPods models.
Go to the Control Center, tap the Hearing Devices button, select the AirPods Max and turn on Live Listen.
20. Automatically switch between Apple devices
The AirPods Max can automatically switch from one Apple device to another, as long as they are signed in to the same Apple ID. Follow these steps to ensure the feature is turned on: Settings > tap the More Info button next to your AirPods model > tap Connect to This iPhone > tap When Last Connected to This iPhone > tap Automatically.
21. Manage the AirPods Max controls on Apple computers
Those running macOS Ventura on an Apple desktop or MacBook can customize the AirPods Max’s controls and enable features.
Tap the AirPods icon on the top right of the menu bar, which will then present a dropdown menu with output options for your current Apple devices. Select the AirPods Max and you can toggle between ANC and transparency mode.
You should also see an option at the bottom of the menu that says AirPods Max controls. This lets you change the force sensor controls, locate missing buds in the Find My app and access other settings.
22. Maximize battery life by disabling key features
The AirPods Max deliver up to 20 hours of playtime with ANC activated. In order to get the most use per charge, turn off all power-draining features (ANC, spatial audio, Bluetooth) when not in use. Doing this will stretch out battery life.
23. Share audio with other AirPods users
Share Audio lets you hear what’s playing on one iDevice using two separate sets of AirPods. This also works with H1-powered Beats headphones and earbuds. Go to the Control Panel, tap the audio icon, select Share Audio and choose the second set of AirPods when they appear on the screen.
24. How to clean your AirPods Max
Apple offers suggestions on how to properly clean these cans. Disinfect them by gently wiping the exterior surfaces with a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe, 75% ethyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipe. If your AirPods Max were exposed to products that leave stains, wipe them clean with a slightly dampened cloth and dry using a lint-free cloth.
Cleaning the cushions and headband requires extra effort but is vital for upkeep. After removing the cushions from the ear cups, mix 1 teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent into 1 cup (250 mL) of water. Dip a lint-free cloth into the solution and gently rub on the cushions and headband for one minute each. Use a separate cloth that is slightly dampened with fresh water to wipe the materials. Dry them with a lint-free cloth and lay the headphones flat for a day before reattaching the cushions.
Experts recommend cleaning your headphones every one to two months.
25. Swap out the headband for style customization
A teardown of the AirPods Max performed by iFixIt shows the headband is removable. That means style mongers can redesign the AirPods Max with sleek multicolor combinations.
A professional tool kit isn’t necessary to remove the headband. Just a SIM card eject tool or unfolded paper clip to push into the small hole in each ear cup.