Apple AirPods Max vs Surface Headphones 2: Which headphones should you buy?

Surface Headphones 2 Black
Surface Headphones 2 Black (Image credit: Windows Central)

Shunning the Beats brand this time around and going with AirPods, the somewhat confusingly named AirPods Max will certainly be a quality product with excellent sound quality. But with battery life on par with the Surface Headphones 2, which also sound great and boast ANC, is Apple really worth $300 more of your money than Microsoft? Unless you're a fan, probably not.

Microsoft vs Apple

Surface Headphones 2 Black

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Both Microsoft and Apple find themselves in the high-end headphones market. Of the two, Apple normally puts out headphones under its Beats brand, which has massive identity and appeal. But the company has much more experience in creating audio products.

However, the AirPods Max certainly are not a regular pair of Beats Headphones, not least because of that $549 price tag.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has now launched only its second generation of Surface Headphones. Rather than attempting to redesign the product completely, Microsoft simply refined the original model significantly while chopping a massive chunk off the asking price.

What we end up with is both Apple and Microsoft producing high-quality headphones, though the final word on the AirPods Max sound and ANC quality will have to be reserved until they're on people's ears.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Surface Headphones 2AirPods Max
Noise cancellationActiveActive
Battery lifeUp to 20 hours (with ANC, Bluetooth, and voice-enabled)Up to 20 hours (with ANC)
Charging portUSB-CFast chargeLightning

We do, of course, know all about the Surface Headphones 2 and feel confident recommending them. You may well find better overall sound quality and ANC elsewhere, but they're excellent indeed as a complete package. And it doesn't matter whether you use them with Android, iOS, or Windows; you'll get the same feature set. The same cannot be said of the AirPods Max.

It's hard to recommend to anyone that they should definitely spend an additional $300 on a similar product, and honestly, will the AirPods Max truly sound $300 better? Probably not, but then if you have a budget for $549 headphones, are you necessarily concerned?

A great all-rounder

The Surface Headphones 2 are undoubtedly worthy contenders against the likes of Apple, Sony, and Bose. The latest model is a definite improvement, and you have a high-end pair of ANC headphones to use with any device at a pretty attractive price. If you're not entrenched in Apple's ecosystem, or you'd like to save a serious amount of cash, they're the ones to get.

Time will tell

There's no doubting that the AirPods Max is going to be a quality product, and if the pre-order shipping dates are anything to go by, then already people are flocking to buy. But $549 is a lot to ask for any headphones, no matter how good the sound. And when the Surface Headphones cost $300 less while offering similar battery life and features, is that money you're happy to spend? Only time will tell truly how good they are, but for non-Apple fans, it's a tough recommendation to make.

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at