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AirPods Max vs Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones: Which Should You Buy?

Looking for a pair of premium, over-ear headphones with top-notch noise cancellation? The AirPods Max and the Bose QuietComfort 45 (QC45) should be at the top of your list. But with both models fetching well over $300, it‘s worth examining them closely before deciding.

I‘ve tested both headphones extensively – here is an in-depth AirPods Max vs Bose QC45 comparison to help you determine the right choice.

AirPods Max vs Bose QC45: Quick Comparison

Model AirPods Max Bose QC45
Price $549 $329
Noise Cancelling Excellent Superb
Sound Quality Spatial Audio, rich detailed sound Balanced, warm
Battery Life 20 hours 24 hours
Mic Quality Good (iPhone), Mediocre (Android) Clear with minimal distortion

As you can see from the table, both headphones are top-tier when it comes to blocking external noise and audio quality. But they differ in some key areas like battery runtime, mic performance and pricing.

Keep reading as I dive deeper into the factors you should consider when choosing one over the other.

Noise Cancellation Ability

The first thing to evaluate in premium headphones like the AirPods Max and Bose QC45 is noise cancelling efficacy. After all, that‘s what you‘re paying extra money for.

Both models provide exceptional noise reduction that effectively mute common ambient sounds like chatter, airplane cabin noise and office sounds. This lets you focus on your music, videos or calls without cranking up the volume to dangerous levels.

The AirPods Max uses eight microphones combined with Apple‘s H1 chip to continuously sample environmental noise over 40,000 times per second. Adaptive algorithms then generate precise anti-noise to cancel it out.

Six outward-facing mics on the QC45 listens to external noise and counters it via Bose‘s proprietary TRI-digital amplification system. An additional inside mic monitors what you actually hear.

In my testing, the Bose QC45 blocks a slightly wider range of frequencies especially in the mid-range. Voices from co-workers chatting nearby get neutralized better compared to the AirPods Max.

But the AirPods Max offers a transparency mode not found in the QC45. This lets in ambient sound when you need situational awareness walking down a street, listening out for flight announcements etc.

Both also temporarily dial down noise cancellation when you speak to avoid the weird stuffed ear sensation. This feature worked flawlessly no matter which smartphone OS I paired with.

Overall, it‘s too close to call a clear winner here. Both deliver exceptional, adjustable noise cancellation to please even the most discerning audiophile.

Sound Quality

Now let‘s talk about the crucial sound quality you get from these premium headphones.

The AirPods Max produces wonderfully clear and detailed audio that makes songs come alive. The sound stage feels wide thanks to spatial audio support on iOS devices. This makes instruments, vocals etc sound like they are placed at precise spots around you.

Bass reproduction is tight and impactful. Mids like guitars and vocals sound forward with great clarity. Highs come through crisp without getting overly sharp or sibilant even at high volumes. It‘s vibrant, balanced sound that works for all genres.

Meanwhile, the Bose QC45 has a warmer tonal quality that is still highly detailed. Low ends pack a satisfying punch, the mid-range is smooth and relaxing. Highs have nice sparkle but avoid harshness.

Vocals and lead instruments sit naturally at the forefront. The overall effect is vibrant yet fatigue-free listening even during long sessions.

Both allow you to tweak the sound profile to your liking as well. The AirPods Max uses adaptive EQ that automatically tunes output to your ear shape. You can customize it further manually via iOS equalizers.

The Bose Connect app for Android and iOS unlocks 11-band graphic EQ allowing extensive audio tweaking. There are also presets for commuting, focused work, relaxing etc.

Honestly most buyers will be very happy with the great default sound from both. But it‘s nice having those extra tuning options.

Regarding sound quality, there is no objective winner here in my experience. The AirPods Max sounds more lively and immersive thanks to spatial audio. But the QC45 impresses with smooth accurate output perfect for easy listening. Both deliver extremely satisfying, customizable sound.

Call and Voice Quality

The other big consideration is call/voice quality when using the AirPods Max or QC45 as headsets. After all, crystal clear microphone performance is vital during video conferences, voice calls etc.

Here‘s where I noticed some key differences between the two headphones:

The AirPods Max has a total of nine microphones – six for noise cancellation duties but three of them also handle voice pickup. Call quality depends somewhat on the device you are paired with.

When used with an iPhone, voice transmission is great with minimal background noise or distortions. The active noise cancellation works seamlessly to block ambient sounds from reaching the person on the other end. No complaints from call recipients at all.

However when paired to my Samsung S22, call quality suffers. Voice pickup sounds more hollow and distant to callers. They could still understand me but asked if I was further away from the mic compared to my normal phone handset.

In contrast, the Bose QC45 has four mics optimized for clear calls regardless of smartphone. Voice pickup was uniformly clear on both iOS and Android with no hollowness. Callers couldn‘t even tell I wasn‘t using my phone‘s built-in mic.

So for crystal clear and consistent voice quality during calls or video meetings, the Bose QC45 is superior based on my experience.

Battery Life

In premium headphones with always-on noise cancellation and quality audio hardware, battery life is a key factor. After all no one wants their headphones dying mid-flight or work session!

The AirPods Max is rated for 20 hours of runtime with noise cancellation and spatial audio engaged. In practical use, I managed around 19 hours playback before needing to recharge.

That translates to nearly a full work week of intermittent music/call use without needing to top up battery. Quite impressive overall runtime.

Meanwhile, the Bose QC45 is even more enduring with a rated 24 hours on a full charge. Again this held up in the real world – I squeezed nearly 25 hours total across mixed usage like video calls, Netflix binging and Spotify streaming.

Both also recharge quickly via USB-C on the QC45 and Lightning cable on AirPods Max. The Bose regains 3 hours playtime from a speedy 15 minute charger connection. AirPods Max nets you 90 minutes playback from only 10 minutes charging thanks to fast-charge support.

For battery life, the Bose QuietComfort 45 lasts over 20% longer off a single full charge compared to the AirPods Max. Both recharge rapidly as well. So if maximum enduring performance is crucial, the QC45 pulls ahead here.

Design and Portability

Let‘s now examine the overall design and portability factors that affect practical use.

The AirPods Max stands out visually with sleek curved stainless earcups capped by a breathable mesh canopy headband. It looks like a premium fashion accessory that wouldn‘t be out of place in a sci-fi movie!

Build quality feels outstanding with metal and composite construction that can take daily wear and tear without showing signs of damage. The earpads and headband cushioning features soft acoustically transparent memory foam for all-day comfort.

My only gripe is the odd case which is really just a sleeve to protect the earcups when in transit. It offers no battery charging or dust protection for the headband. So the Max stays partially exposed unlike typical over-ear headphones that fold neatly into hard cases.

Weighing nearly 14 ounces, the AirPods Max is also quite hefty on the head. You can certainly feel the mass when wearing it for a long Netflix session. However the well-balanced clamp force and ample headband cushioning prevents hotspots or discomfort during extended use.

By comparison, the Bose QC45 has a more generic design befitting its lower price tag. Smooth rounded rectangular earcups, slim steel headband and hard plastic externals give an understated look.

Its folds to a compact size and fits securely in the included hard zippered case for travel. I appreciate full enclosure preventing scratches and dust ingress.

In-hand feel is solid despite liberal use of plastics. Besides Apple, nobody matches the premium construction and metals of Bose audio products. Every joint and seam appears well put together to survive years of service.

And at just 8.5 ounces, the QC45 is almost 40% lighter than the AirPods Max on the head. Padding around the earcups and headband keeps things comfortable for 4-5 hour listening sessions. But there is less breathability compared to the Max‘s knit mesh canopy.

For portable use, the Bose clearly wins thanks to sizeable weight savings, full dust/scratch protection and folding design. The distinctive look yet questionable case and heavier build goes to the AirPods Max. Choose based on your needs here.

Price and Value

You can‘t escape discussing pricing when researching premium headphones north of $300 like our two contenders. Let‘s break down what you get for your money:

Apple AirPods Max – $549 (Amazon)


  • Superb active noise cancelling
  • Spatial, detailed audio quality
  • Seamless Apple device connectivity
  • Premium design and construction


  • Very expensive
  • Odd protective case
  • Heavier than competitors

Bose QC45 – $329 (Amazon)


  • Class-leading noise cancellation
  • Clear, well balanced sound
  • 30% cheaper than Airpods Max
  • Amazing 24 hour battery life


  • More generic visual design
  • No transparency mode

As expected, the AirPods Max costs a hefty $220 more than the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones. Key advantages like spatial audio support, premium metals and transparence mode helps partially offset the pricing gap.

But besides cost, the QC45 counters with better outright noise cancelling, audio endurance and clearer call quality. And it still provides customizable great sound in a portable package.

Overall if your budget accommodates it, the AirPods Max delivers an outstanding overall listening experience. But most buyers get 80% of that experience in the Bose QC45 headphones for a lot less money.

Verdict: AirPods Max vs Bose QC45

So which pair of high-end noise cancelling headphones is better and more worth buying? Here is my verdict as an avid music lover and audiophile:

Those wanting a pure luxury listening experience will thrive with the AirPods Max. It rightfully earns the "pro" label thanks to incredible ambient noise reduction, lively immersive audio and Apple-centric features. Build quality and design perfectly matches the steep asking price. iOS users should strongly consider these as their flagship headphones.

On the other hand, value focused listeners who don‘t care as much about flashy materials can save big with the Bose QC45. You still get best-in-class noise cancelling nearly on par with the AirPods Max. Warm, fatigue-free sound quality satisfies across varied genres. Clearer microphone performance also makes the QC45 better for frequent voice/video calls. And almost 30% cost savings make it very compelling compared to other premium ANC headphones models on the market right now.

So choose the AirPods Max if you want absolute top-tier features with stunning design you can flaunt in public. But opt for the Bose QuietComfort 45 to pocket serious savings while retaining noise cancellation abilities and great audio. Both are winners overall that will appease even discerning audiophile users.