Nearly two years since their last gaming headphone was made, Audeze returns to the realm, releasing their newest model, Maxwell. Audeze is no stranger to making gaming headsets, the Penrose, Mobius, and their flagship model, LCD-GX, have all had their fair share of success and praise. With so much experience developing gaming-focused headphones, did Audeze make something truly next level with Maxwell or is it simply an iterative update in Audeze’s gaming lineup?
Build, Design, and Features
Sleek and low profile are two words that come to mind when looking at Maxwell. In a world where RGB dominates the gaming scene, it’s refreshing to see a product with a simpler look. The aluminum finish is stylish and durable, and the memory foam earpads wrapped in synthetic leather provide both comfort and sound isolation. The spring steel headband distributes weight evenly even with a relatively heavy headset, but I had some issues with the headband adjustment. Although I was lucky enough to find it fit my head well the first time I put the headset on, those with bigger or smaller heads have to break out a Phillips head screwdriver to adjust the headband. An adjustable, clicky headband would’ve been the cherry on top to an extremely well made headset.
Not only did Audeze create a premium and solid headset on the outside, the guts of Maxwell are feature rich and create an intuitive experience for every user. Plugging in Maxwell for fifteen minutes has carried me well into three days of use, as should be the case, since Maxwell’s battery life is claimed to be around eighty hours. Very, very impressive. The boom mic sounds crisp and clear, and noise suppression for Maxwell’s boom mic works very well and can be accessed at the click of a button, so friends in your party no longer have to hear the ruckus your dog is making in the living room. Sidetone, for those that don’t know, is similar to transparency mode in the way that it amplifies outside noise, including your voice, and feeds it back into the headphone, making you conscious of how loud you're screaming at your friends to revive you in an intense round of Call of Duty. While sidetone has never been my cup of tea, it’s a great feature to have so easily accessible.
Connecting to your console is easy and seamless, plug in the dongle via USB-C and you should immediately see your headset pop up. Pairing with an iOS device is as simple as hitting the Maxwell’s power button twice to switch into pairing mode and finding “Audeze Maxwell BT” in your Bluetooth devices. The dongle connection is strong, allowing me to get up from my setup and get something from the kitchen, as regular Bluetooth pairing is a bit weaker. I wasn’t able to travel the same distance, but since I’m rarely without my phone, this didn’t prove to be a very big deal. Although I haven’t delved too deeply into Maxwell’s app, EQ settings, sidetone, mic noise filtering, and both mic and game chat mix can be accessed through there. Maxwell’s very impressive build quality and features set it apart from many gaming headphones on the market today, but does Maxwell's sound quality take it to new heights?
Immediately upon putting Maxwell on, games I’m familiar with opened up in a way that I’ve never experienced before. The roaring of a crowd in a sports game became much more full, while the player chatter came from both my left and right, immersing me completely as if I was truly on the field. Enemy footsteps were easy to decipher in Call of Duty, and my first free for all multiplayer match in over 2 months was won with ease due to the expansive soundstage and incredible imaging Maxwell provides. Using a finisher on a member of the Underground in Spider-Man: Miles Morales became much more surreal when I could truly hear the impact and rumble of a hard punch connecting on the torso of another person. That in combination with the thematic music created for what may be some of the most riveting gameplay I’ve experienced in quite a while.
Maxwell’s V shaped sound signature should come as no surprise as most gaming headsets today put an emphasis on low end and have the mids take a step back, but I haven’t found a better balance in a gaming headphone to date than I have with Maxwell. While the mids may be a bit sheltered, the crisp, airy treble makes the crack of a gun loud and shocking, as a gunshot should, and the rumble in the low end makes a building explosion rattle my skull, making the dire situation at hand much more intense.
When listening to music, the Maxwell makes for a pretty solid all around option. While the superb soundstage remains, the treble comes back to earth a bit, as the timbre sounds a tad unnatural. The midrange doesn’t fill the massive space the Maxwell has to offer as much as I’d like, but the low end is very well textured, has amazing impact, and is extremely fast. Listening to rap and hard hitting beats, as demonstrated by Lil Uzi Vert on his track “Two,” is fun and exciting when the 808 hits. Enjoying a melancholy jazz number such as “Stardust” by Bobby Hutcherson is an on stage experience with holographic imaging. And a slower paced folk song such as “The Stable Song” by Gregory Alan Isakov gives a good look at the complete package that the Maxwell is. Maxwell's planar magnetic 90mm drivers do an outstanding job making the games and music you love truly come to life.
With all this said, I’m sure it’s become evident that my time with Maxwell has been extremely enjoyable. While it’s always exciting to test new tech and unbox something shiny, it’s quite rare that a product grips me as much as Maxwell did in such a short amount of time. The attention to detail with Maxwell's premium build quality, impressive feature set, and exciting sound signature, make the two year wait for Maxwell well worth it. And at around $300 dollars, Maxwell isn’t simply looking to take part in, but take over as the best gaming headphone on the market.