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Apple AirPods Max Review (Noise Cancelling Headphone)

TimDH

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Hi

Here are some thoughts about the EQ.

Notes about the EQ design:
  • The average L/R is used to calculate the score.
  • The resolution is 12 points per octave interpolated from the raw data (provided by @amirm)
  • A Genetic Algorithm is used to optimize the EQ.
  • The EQ Score is designed to MAXIMIZE the Score WHILE fitting the Harman target curve with a fixed complexity.
    This will avoid weird results if one only optimizes for the Score.
    It will probably flatten the Error regression doing so, the tonal balance should be more neutral.
  • The EQs are starting point and may require tuning (certainly at LF).
  • The range around and above 10kHz is usually not EQed unless smooth enough to do so.
  • I am using PEQ (PK) as from my experience the definition is more consistent across different DSP/platform implementations than shelves.
  • With some HP/amp combo the boosts and preamp gain need to be carefully considered to avoid issues
  • Not all units of the same products are made equal. The EQ is based on the measurements of a single unit.
  • YMMV with regards to the very unit you are trying this EQ on.

Incredible L/R match.

I have generated one EQ, the APO config file is attached.

Score no EQ: 39.4
Score Armirm: 67.8
Score with EQ: 85.1

Code:
Apple Airpods Max APO EQ [email protected] 96000Hz
August092021-100955

Preamp: -9.3 dB

Filter 1: ON PK Fc 2236.11 Hz Gain 4.95 dB Q 0.91
Filter 2: ON PK Fc 4196.10 Hz Gain 7.00 dB Q 1.89
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 7352.39 Hz Gain 6.93 dB Q 3.79
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 13267.20 Hz Gain -4.66 dB Q 3.47

always appreciate your contributions. Maybe I should know this, but... is there a simple way to turn these APO setttings into .wav correction files such as can be imported into Roon for convolution? thanks!
 

Maiky76

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always appreciate your contributions. Maybe I should know this, but... is there a simple way to turn these APO setttings into .wav correction files such as can be imported into Roon for convolution? thanks!
Hi,

I think you can use rephase to input the IIR parameters and export the result as an impulse (FIR).
I am pretty sure it's been explained somewhere if someone or you can find it, post is here as a refresher.
 

MikeJ

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Can somebody try to re-measure these with the latest firmware (4C165)?

The reason I'm asking is because I've been enjoying these for the last month with the previous firmware with the Vocal Range profile turned on.

Now after the FW update circa 2 days ago, I'm constantly finding myself to turn it off and return to Balanced Tone profile in iOS adjustments - in other words, the Vocal Range profile now sounds piercing to me. Either they've reduced bass or lifted high-mids / highs. Could also be they updated the EQ in iOS (15.2), dunno.

I've also found some reddit comments on the sound change after this specific firmware update, but scientific / measured proof is what I'm all about.
 

MayaTlab

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Can somebody try to re-measure these with the latest firmware (4C165)?

No difference in FR when measured with blocked ear canal entrance microphones on my own head. Here's how the current sample that I own measure with the new vs precedent firmware :
Screenshot_2021-12-10_at_19.44.15.png

Average of the left and right channels, each channel averages of five individual seatings. ANC was turned on.
Please note as usual that in situ measurements with blocked ear canal microphones may not be representative of your own experience and that the absolute values are incorrect.
The measurements were made two weeks appart if I recall correctly.

The small difference, particularly at higher frequencies (5-6Khz in particular), could be traced back to averages to averages differences (most likely explanation as this is the one area that shows it the most for my current sample as the pads have now fully broken in), or measurement session to measurement session. These blocked ear canal mics have pretty good measurement session to measurements session consistency (when I remove and re-position the mics), but they're not perfect.
So I wouldn't read too much into it and so far conclude that this methodology doesn't provide any evidence that FR changed.

I haven't tested the headphones accommodation settings.

Now after the FW update circa 2 days ago, I'm constantly finding myself to turn it off and return to Balanced Tone profile in iOS adjustments - in other words, the Vocal Range profile now sounds piercing to me. Either they've reduced bass or lifted high-mids / highs. Could also be they updated the EQ in iOS (15.2), dunno.

Other points to consider :
- the pads have broken in during that month and in the ear canal gain region the response has filled in over time. I've realised over time that most of the difference that I saw in the 1-3kHz region between different samples was nearly entirely caused by the pads' various states of ageing.
- the BT transmission improved (skeptical but who knows, and that wouldn't appear in FR measurements).
 

MikeJ

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Thanks @MayaTlab! Glad that they measure the same. It could be my ears are just tired, so many studio sessions attended by the end of the year;)
 

Graph Feppar

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When using them wired with lightning to 3.5mm adapter, does it convert the signal to AAC codec?

The wired thing seems to me like an afterthought, converting digital to analog then back to digital and then again to analog is retarded. I would not be surprised if the chip inside was designed purely for AAC and SBC codec, it might not even be possible to have it play uncompressed PCM.
 

Monstieur

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I have stopped trusting frequency response measurements above 2-3 kHz. There is only a loose correlation between the sound to my ears and the graph in this range. Headphones which fall 2-3 dB short of the Harman treble are on the verge of ear-piercing to me. I had to apply a high shelf of -2 dB at 2 kHz to the LCD-XC. I like the treble of the SE846 and Mobius. The QC 35 is ear-piercing.

The AirPods Max are a bit dull but not nearly as much as the graph would suggest.
 

Monstieur

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If that were the case, and being an Apple prisoner, I might enjoy "spatializing" everything, including stereo, with these headphones. Maybe I'd be happy in that prison, as long as it had head tracking, ANC, sub-bass and low distortion.
The sound engineer's stereo mix sounds better than any Atmos HRTF downmix for headphones (without or without head-tracking). Spatialize Stereo destroys stereo tracks unless it's a poor mono-sounding recording. The Atmos tracks sound great when bitstreamed to an actual Atmos home theater system through Apple TV.
 

Dj7675

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Has anyone measured under headphone accommodations>tune audio for Vocal Range (slight/moderate/strong)? With headphone accommodations set to on and vocal range set to medium, I find these to be really good. I have been using this setting for quite a long time. When I turn it off, the sound is quite dull/muffled and not enjoyable to me at all. It would be interesting to see what frequency range and how much the vocal range setting boosts...
 

staticV3

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Has anyone measured under headphone accommodations>tune audio for Vocal Range (slight/moderate/strong)? With headphone accommodations set to on and vocal range set to medium, I find these to be really good. I have been using this setting for quite a long time. When I turn it off, the sound is quite dull/muffled and not enjoyable to me at all. It would be interesting to see what frequency range and how much the vocal range setting boosts...
oratory1990 measured a few combinations: http://headphonedatabase.com/oratory/headphones
simply search for Airpods to see all of his measurements.
 

FatElvis

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Appreciate the reviews here in general, but this one doesn't mirror my own experience with the Max. Haven't felt need to go for the EQ yet.
 

Merkurio

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Appreciate the reviews here in general, but this one doesn't mirror my own experience with the Max. Haven't felt need to go for the EQ yet.

Lucky you, you’re still to experience the transformation into a completely outstanding beasts with EQ. :)
 

Dj7675

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Appreciate the reviews here in general, but this one doesn't mirror my own experience with the Max. Haven't felt need to go for the EQ yet.
When I first got mine I thought they sounded very good... over time I found vocals to be quite dull. When using Roon at home I use EQ and they sound outstanding. When not using Roon, I use the headphone accommodations and select either balanced or vocal and it fixes that and sounds quite good.
 

FatElvis

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When I first got mine I thought they sounded very good... over time I found vocals to be quite dull. When using Roon at home I use EQ and they sound outstanding. When not using Roon, I use the headphone accommodations and select either balanced or vocal and it fixes that and sounds quite good.

Holy crap I just realized you didn’t mean EQ but in the accessibility settings.

This is quite good using “balanced tone” - which level of strength do you use?
 

acbarn

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Holy crap I just realized you didn’t mean EQ but in the accessibility settings.

This is quite good using “balanced tone” - which level of strength do you use?
I know you weren’t asking me, but in case it’s helpful, I use “Balanced Tone, Slight”. These settings sound surprisingly similar to Oratory’s Harman EQ settings applied through Roon, as well as Crinacle’s EQ through SoundSource.
 

Dj7675

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Holy crap I just realized you didn’t mean EQ but in the accessibility settings.

This is quite good using “balanced tone” - which level of strength do you use?
I use balanced slight normally... sometimes I bump it to medium. It really does sound excellent to me o these settings. Flipping it on/off you get to really hear how dull they are without it IMO.
 

FatElvis

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Yeah I hear it now, makes these even better. None of the preset EQ settings improve it but this does.
 

DeLub

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However it seems at the same time to compress the dynamics as well. And especially with recordings with a large dynamic range, such as classical music, this sounds just awful.
 
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