A high-end wireless gaming headset
Pros: Good mic – as long as it works
Great battery life
Good sound for the category
You can tune them for different gaming/music types
Good spatial sound and in-game sound – near 360 field
Cons: Mediocre comfort/headband adjustment
A bit heavy and a little uncomfortable
Build quality is a bit questionable
If you only want music, get a set of IEMs in the same price-range
Up for review today is the Audeze Maxwell gaming headset. This is definitely different from my normal higher-end IEM/headphone reviews, but I’ll treat it the same as those except for an extra microphone section replacing the cable section and several sound tests in y’know…video games, both on PC and PS5. The Maxwell is the newest gaming headset from Audeze, following the Penrose and the Mobius. This one has 90mm planar drivers, which are quite large for a gaming headset, though 10mm smaller than the Mobius. Trust me when I say that the size doesn’t matter though – Focal Audio uses 40mm drivers in their award-winning $3k headphones and JM Audio uses 50mm drivers in their fantastic headphones. The Maxwell has an 80-hour battery life, which is phenomenal, but not quite the 300 hours the Hyper Cloud X gets. It also has spatial audio and an AI noise-filtering microphone for clear audio. It also comes in an XBOX and Playstation version – the XBOX version has Dolby ATMOS and costs $30 more.
Better than the LCD-X 2020, that’s for sure. But really, it comes with exactly what it should come with as a gaming headset. It has a microphone, a USB charging cable, a USB dongle for connection, and a 3.5mm cable if your power dies – that’s about it. It doesn’t really need anything else – a carrying case would probably never get used, and a carrying bag is useless (stickers are fun, but who cares – excluding FiR’s awesome Bunny stickers – those rock.) So, yeah, good.
Mine decided not to work on PC or PS5 for a while for some reason – no clue why, but cycling the mute switch seemed to maybe have been the fix. Once I got the mic working again, the 3 different noise reduction settings seemed to have some effect with the High setting reducing not only background noise but also my voice volume as well. All three seemed to work well and the sound quality was really good if a bit sibilant. I suggest playing around with the settings to see which one your friends who have to listen to you prefer.
Build Quality/Comfort (6/10):
The build quality is…OK. I like the metal cups – it’s a premium feel. So why did Audeze put a crappy plastic power button on those metal cups? And a crappy plastic slider to mute/unmute – at least it’s a slider and not a button so you know up is on and down is mute. The leather headband is nice, but not very comfortable. To get the best fit, I had to raise one side, but not the other side, which makes them feel lopsided on my head. Also, after about an hour of use, that headband started to hurt a little – these are heavy (classic Audeze). So that’s not well designed – or comfortable. The volume and mic volume knobs on the side are really nice and I like having them separate – they feel nice and work well. There’s a button on the front to turn the AI mic on/off – ok. There are also two onboard mics for some reason that are separate from the boom mic – maybe for noise canceling? At least the earpads are really comfy, something that Audeze does pretty well. There are also a bunch of different settings you can choose to change how you hear stuff in the game, or with music – more on that below.
I am driving these off of my…computer running Windows 11 at volume level 65-75 and my PS5 running… PlayStation-ness. I don’t have a frequency response for these – feel free to send me a headphone test rig if you want one. Yes, the Maxwell has editable presets. The Audeze one is probably the best for music, and if you a bit extra bass, then Bass Boost will boost it a couple of extra Db. It’s not a lot, but it’s noticeable. The Immersive mode does nothing with music – literally nothing – but it makes everything a bit more dynamic and 3D for gaming if you have 5.1 enabled – barely. Treble Boost really does boost the treble from basically nothing to being able to hear the treble quite distinctly – it doesn’t sound amazing, but you can hear it at least. Competition and Footsteps are literally only for gaming because they will make music sound horrendous by accentuating the things you want to hear while gaming. They really do work, so that’s something at least. So yes, these are a pretty versatile headset, especially for gaming – not so much for music, but it won’t hurt anyone’s feelings either.
I’m starting off with the Mid-bass/Sub-bass test I’m using David Guetta’s “I’m Good (Blue).” To no one’s surprise, these are super bassy IEMs. The initial bass drum impact is pretty good and avoids some harsh unwanted bass reverb – so really good mid-bass. The sub-bass windup before it kicks in is barely noticeable, so points off for detail and the sub-bass itself is good enough, but not spectacular. I’m not testing mids here, but it’s important to note that they sound a bit harsh/sharp. 7/10 points.
Up next is Demon Hunter’s “I Am A Stone,” which I use to test whether the bass is too strong and overwhelms the mids as that is just as important as how strong/good the bass is. The bass here is good – if honestly a little muted. On the plus side, the bass doesn’t overwhelm the mids, but it doesn’t have the balance I really look for on this song and the vocals are still a bit rough. Since I’m not testing vocals here, the Maxwell ears a 7/10 for the bass here – points for not being overwhelming, but points lost for not enough bass either – unless you use Bass Boost.
Weaving The Fate’s “The Fall” is my test song for clean/dirty guitars and vocals with background instruments to see how clearly the vocals can be heard. Ugh – distinctly unlikeable. I had to turn the volume down because of how sharp the guitars are. They’re lacking detail and just come across as a loud, sharp, noise. Yes, I’m comparing these to some really good/expensive IEMs as far as sound quality goes, but I’m not going to say these sound great if they don’t. The vocals at least sound good if too far away. 2/6 points.
Staind’s “Something to Remind You” has clean electric guitars and wonderful vocals – this song tests vocal quality and background noise. Tinny and metallic. That’s my first impression of the guitars in the intro of this song. The vocals again sound good, if a bit flat, but the guitars are not the strengths of this headset. The vocals are more forward on this song and the bass guitars are audible, but almost too quiet and a lot of detail is missing. Again, this is a $300 gaming headset, but I’ve heard better from Audeze. 3/7 points.
To test classical instruments in the mids, I’m using The Piano Guys’ “Code Name Vivaldi.” The intro bass sounds really good here, somewhat surprisingly. Each instrument comes in clearly with depth and body. Color me surprised that these perform well on classical music – even the pianos sound good – if a tad sharp. 6/7 points.
To test sibilance on headphones I use Panic! At The Disco’s “High Hopes. I was expecting sharpness on this song and definitely got some, but less than I was expecting – also very little sibilance. Clearly, these were tuned to cut that out as much as possible. That said, the song doesn’t have the body and great sound I’m used to, but since this song is only testing sharpness and sibilance it ears 4/6 points.
Dream Theater’s “The Alien,” is the highs test song I use to see if the cymbals/high-hats/snare drum can be clearly heard and distinguished from the rest of the music (also good for instrument separation.) Yep, there is no discernable treble whatsoever here in the intro. No instrument separation and the cymbals are completely drowned out by the rest of the music. That explains why the previous song did so well. 1/7 points here – unless you use Treble Boost.
Michelle McLaughlin’s “Across The Burren” is another of my favorite highs/sharpness test songs as it can easily sound painful on some headphones. Based on the previous results I’m actually expecting there to be no sharpness here and there isn’t because there really isn’t much treble at all. This song is also lacking the emotion you can get from it as well. 5/7 points.
Soundstage/Instrument Separation/Imaging/Gaming (5/10):
I use MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” to test soundstage, instrument separation, and imaging. The bubbles come in from the front left, while the guitars come in both ears, though a little forward, and the synths come in on both sides, but don’t really feel like they’re anywhere. The entire soundstage is in front of me – a letdown on a gaming headset where you’d expect a large soundstage. Instrument separation and imaging are exactly what I’d expect from a $300 headset – poor. 2/10 points here.
In Warhammer Darktide (PC): Yes, this is where this headset shines. The surround and soundstage in games sound fantastic. There’s an almost 360 feel to the world around you and each sound can be heard quite clearly. I would hear people talking around me as I turned in a circle – it was easy to pinpoint their direction – here’s the staging/imaging I was looking for. Who knew, a gaming headset is for gaming, not music? So yes, it works great for gaming with 5.1 enabled – at least on Darktide. I also had no connection issues in-game but did have music cut out a little when going to a new song with Tidal on PC – ymmv.
In Gotham Knights (PS5): The sound wasn’t quite as good here, no clue why – it was just a slight step down on immersion from PC. The 360 audio though was very good with the spatial imaging on point. I was talking to Penguin, who was in front and to the right of my character and that’s exactly where the sound came from. While wandering around the city, I heard a police siren off to my left and all sorts of city noise that made it feel alive – more so than on my Blackshark. 3 extra points for in-game performance, which is much better than the music performance.
Compared to my Razer Blackshark V2, it’s not much of a competition. The Maxwell is better in just about every way – as it should be at 2-3x the cost. That said, the Blackshark is a really well-rounded headset and I can easily recommend it to anyone not looking to spend as much for the Maxwell. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles, the Blackshark is a great barebones headset – it’s also more comfortable. Now, if you need an AI mic, the ability to change presets, good spatial audio, better sound with music and gaming, etc. – the Maxwell is a no-brainer as well.
If you really need your battery to last a month, you can get the Hyper X Cloud Alpha with 300 hours of battery. You will take a hit to sound quality though – at half the price of the Maxwell. The Alpha is also more comfortable, but the Maxwell feels like a more premium product.
The Audeze Maxwell is probably the nicest gaming headset I’ve used. Yeah, the headband is stupid and it’s a little heavier than I’d like – more pressure spots on the head than ideal. The sound quality is really good though, and you have the ability to adjust it a bit to your preference. The plastic pieces on the headset kill the quality feel a bit, but I like having a mic volume control separate from the headset sound control. The mic itself works great and the battery life is insane, though not the best. This may be the most well-rounded gaming headset out there though, with good battery life, good sound, and good gaming performance. It costs a lot, but it may just be worth it – assuming your mic works. Please keep in mind that my scoring system is designed solely for headphones and IEMs, not really gaming headphones. Yes, these have some negatives, but they’re by no means a bad headset – just keep the negatives in mind when shopping, the Maxwell is a good all-rounder.
|Headphone Scoring (v3):|
|Accessories / Earpads / Eartips (10 pts):||10|
|Microphone (10 pts):||8|
|Build Quality/ Design / Comfort (10 pts):||6|
|Lows (20 pts):||14|
|Mids (20 pts):||14|
|Highs (20 pts):||10|
|Soundstage / Instrument Separation / Imaging (10 pts):||5|