WaterField AirPods Max Shield Case review: The case that Apple should have included

In my AirPods Max review, I noted that Apple’s headphones sound and feel great, but are perhaps a little on the heavy side and cost more than they’re worth. I also noted that the so-called Smart Case is neither smart nor a case, and is an absolutely embarrassing piece of junk.

Apple should have included a real case with the AirPods Max. In fact, for the price, it should have included a nice premium leather or nylon case. Fortunately, WaterField Designs has just such a case for $99 ($89 for the nylon version).

It’s absurd that you need to buy something like this after shelling out $550 for the headphones themselves, but that’s not WaterField’s fault. For its part, the company has made a simple and fantastic case that is reasonably price for what you get.

The case that Apple should have made

WaterField’s case is uncomplicated, but thoughtfully designed. It’s relatively soft leather but rigid enough to offer some crush protection to your overpriced Apple headphones. There’s a lot of padding and an absurdly soft and fluffy material inside.

waterfield airpods max case Jason Cross/IDG

The case is relatively nondescript, with a carry loop and a diagonal pouch across the front.

Outside, the front has a diagonal zipper pouch suitable for a small cable or maybe the 3.5mm adapter. The back is covered by a mesh pouch that can store more cables. It, along with the sides, are a tough nylon material. (WaterField also sells fully vegan cases for $10 less, where the front material is this same tough nylon.)

waterfield airpods max cable Jason Cross/IDG

The back is a large mesh pouch for cables or what-have-you.

Inside you’ll find a small stretchy pouch near the top that seems made for a power adapter, and a pair of small leather “flaps” at the bottom with magnets inside. These fit between your earcups, keeping them from knocking against each other. The magnets set your AirPods Max into the low power mode the same way Apple’s Smart Case does.

waterfield airpods max magnets Jason Cross/IDG

Little magnetic flaps keep your earcups apart and engage low power mode.

Everything is very well made. The stitching is tight and clean, the zippers are big and sturdy and don’t catch, the nylon doesn’t easily tear or rip. We’ve reviewed plenty of WaterField products over the years, and are always impressed by the craftsmanship.

A hundred bucks you shouldn’t have to spend

For $550, the AirPods Max should have come with a real case like this one and the 3.5mm to Lightning cable. The fact that it didn’t is on Apple, not WaterField, but it still seems crazy to throw another $100 on top of already-overpriced headphones.