This morning I went through my “how do I come up with a Substack subject today” routine - I go through the last day’s tweets, I think of stuff that pissed me off or made me happy, and then I make sure none of those things are things I’ve written about at length before. Today I realized that I’ve become old, and that I am slowly moving toward tech that I buy not necessarily because it’s the best, though I do try and buy the best I can afford, but because it just works.
I got the AirPods Max a few days ago, about two months earlier than Best Buy had predicted them to arrive, and honestly thought I’d be returning them out of disgust for the fact that they are expensive and likely didn’t sound better than my Bose headphones, or my Sony headphones, or my Senheiser HD800s.
In short, no, they do not sound better than $1500 headphones that require an amp, but they do sound better than the QC30s, or the MX1000m3s, or the in-ear headphones I have, or really anything else I have that isn’t my big fancy dickhead headphones that are a pain in the ass and require me to change the sound device on my computer specifically to listen to a song, which is fun when I know I’m going to have totally uninterrupted music time.
I really like them. They sound great. I am not able to tell you what the mids or the treble or whatever is, but I have incredibly sensitive ears and these things have the depth of sound (?) that I’d expect at the price range. They sound markedly better than Bose or Sony, and they are also significantly more comfortable than either for me and my freak ears - cover the entirety of my ears, versus pressing against them, and they have this nice cushiony softness thing going on. It’s really nice, and I’ve sat listening to hours of Tidal Master Quality Music (TM) on them and I’m really happy. And yeah, the noise cancelling is great, comparable to Bose, though I have not been to an airport in them. I will also say, using my non-technical experience, that the drums on everything sound better on them. If you are a music person, tell me what this means.
But, crucially, there’s one thing that makes me love them the most, as an iPhone user: they just work. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but my relationship with Bluetooth is extremely tortured, and I will, reliably, not be able to use some sort of function that comes with a non-Apple developed Bluetooth device. In the case of every single pair of headphones I’ve ever owned that weren’t Apple devices, I’ve had some sort of issue with being able to successfully take phone calls, with bluetooth connectivity issues, with some sort of weird distortion that comes out of nowhere…just a nightmare.
The AirPods Max just work. Hell, they work better than my AirPods Pro or regular AirPods, though I will never connect them to my Mac, because that doesn’t work for whatever reason. I pick them up, and they connect. I take a phone call, and the call works perfectly. I didn’t have to go into settings to connect them, they just popped up and then they connected, and the music came out of them, loud and bright and clear. When I go to use my iPad Pro to play piano, they recognize that and just connect, and when they accidentally connect to my phone I hit a little arrow and they connect right away.
I cannot overstate how important things just working is to me. I’m easily knocked off task, I am an irritable asshole, and things that just work are important to me. And these just work! And they sound great! It’s really something.
It’s a similar logic to why I use Macs in general - things just work, they are all available and all synced in a way that’s probably not safe for my privacy, but they just work. I don’t have to think about drivers. My iMessage is there, so I don’t have to look at my phone. I can take my calls from the computer too. It works! It all works! I realize that PCs have got a lot better (yes, I have a gaming PC) at not being a pain in the ass, but the whole ecosystem approach Apple has makes me happy. I’m a mark, I’m sure.
This is also why I slowly (despite writing at a PC gaming magazine for years) moved toward console gaming, only veering back to PC when consoles started to age poorly. Why? Because I could just put the game in and it’d load up. I play games on the PS5 now because they load in half a second, their performance is great, and it just works on a big screen or on my phone via remote play. PC-based remote play involves 8 different menus and can crash, which I could forgive if there wasn’t another option.
What’s Your Point
I grew up always using the first generations of technology, so I think I naturally gravitate to stuff that just works without messing around with it more. Being able to control my lights by speaking to my phone, or just listen to music in seconds because my headphones know to connect without me doing anything is definitely not that impressive to most, but it makes me really happy. Maybe it’s my coordination disability that leads me toward it - that extra futzing with stuff makes me aware of how deficient I am in certain things, and things that do that futzing for me help bridge that gap between me and what a normal person must feel like.
Or maybe this is just where technology is going - removing the layers and abstractions between object and function that, at some point, real nerd-ass fellas like myself used to kind of embrace, as if that difficulty was part of a crusade toward earning the function of the device. I’m getting older now, and I just want things to work. I’m tired. Get me my pills.
Anyway, if you want really nice headphones, get the AirPods Max, but if you are more patient than I am, don’t. Easy!