It’s a cliché to say in this space but the true benchmark test for a shiny new headset is feeling as if you’re hearing your favourite band for the first time when taking them for a spin. I’ve grown into something of an amateur audiophile these past few years, rapidly upgrading headsets and microphones in the pursuit of crisper tones and that illusive virginal listen recreation. So when I tell you that Audeze’s new Maxwell Wireless gaming headset allowed me to hear cowbell reverberations I’d never picked up before in Don Broco’s mammoth track Everybody, you know this is going to be a quality bit of tech. The only thing is that I’m also leading a gaming headset review with talk of a music track, but more on that in a bit.
Audeze has been slowly staking its place in the market for years now; based in California, the manufacturer has prided itself on USA homegrown tech and stellar audio quality. It’s a commitment that has largely served it well, though I’ve often heard its products talked about as high quality headsets with gaming features somewhat bolted on. With the Maxwell Wireless, this perception isn’t exactly challenged, but given the raw quality found in the unit, how much you care will vary depending on your personal needs.
What’s in the Audeze Maxwell Wireless box
The Maxwell Wireless is a bulking, dominant unit. There’s no real way around the size and form factor of this thing, the incredible audio undoubtedly the result of the sheer amount of tech packed into its rather larger earcups. This thing weighs in just under 500g, a not inconsiderable bit of heft to have on your head for any length of time, but the flexible design, considered clamping force, and supporting strap make the headset a surprisingly comfortable wear. The earcups, while large, are also fairly comfortable for long use sessions thanks to some substantial, faux-leather padding and minimal (but effective) pressure.
Aesthetically, the unit is an unremarkable wash of muted matte blacks and minimal coloured accents depending on the SKU (blue for PlayStation, green for Xbox). This isn’t an unwelcome design choice though, especially in a market dominated by gaudy trimmings and overdesigned form factor that might look cool on stream but is functionally useless for day-to-day gaming. Instead, the Maxwell Wireless is unassuming, mildly obscuring its bulk with clean lines and slim detailing, its on-unit functionality neatly hidden under the left earcup with the exception of its oddly unpleasant mute switch that has been slapped onto the outward facing side.
This assortment of dials and switches betray the unit’s otherwise comfortable useability. The dials for audio balance between game and chat, as well as flat volume, have a mechanical click between notches that forces hard jumps between levels as opposed to smooth, small incremental changes. Elsewhere, that bloody mute switch is a travesty, a ridged and large circular switch that needs more force to toggle on and off than you’d imagine, and its placement is as unpleasant as its useability. There are multiple settings attached to these choices at least, the volume wheel can be clicked to change tracks or double clicked to switch EQ profiles (on PC), so while I don’t much care for its feel, Audeze at least packs functionality into the headset.
Via Bluetooth or the USB dongle, the Maxwell Wireless can connect to almost all of your platforms
Wireless connectivity is handled by a 2.4GHz, low-latency USB-C dongle, or Bluetooth 5.3, with physical connections available via the unit’s 3.5mm analogue jack or USB-C cable. While we’re talking numbers, the internals on the Maxwell Wireless are powerful 90mm planar magnetic drivers offering a 10–50,000Hz range. The use of magnetic plates allows for a wider and deeper spectrum of sound too. All of this is in service of the Maxwell Wireless’ stunning audio quality – the baseline experience is fantastic and full bodied, but it varies somewhat depending on which device you’re pairing with.
While ostensibly billed as a PlayStation headset, the Maxwell Wireless’ functionality only truly comes alive when paired with a PC thanks to a combination of software issues. This isn’t to say that the PlayStation performance is poor by any stretch, especially given that the headset can take advantage of the PS5’s 3D spatial audio and will still offer a dynamic sound experience out of the box for the console. But Sony’s restrictions around chat and game audio balancing make the Maxwell Wireless’ toggle useless, and despite some fantastic high and low tone performance, I still found the audio to be somewhat flattened compared to other headsets in this price bracket.
The Maxwell Wireless will set you back $469 bucks, nearly breaching the Five Hundred Dollarydoo price range. My current staple, the Astro A50 Wireless, will run you about the same and thanks to its (admittedly clumsy) HDMI/optical workaround, offers PlayStation users a wider variety of sound profiles and audio control. Still, the soundscape on offer here is nothing to turn your nose up at, and the unit’s detachable microphone offers crisp voice quality, especially for a wireless unit. On the topic of wireless functionality, the range on the headset is impressive too; I was able to mosey down to the far end of my house, complete with thick brick walls, without interruption. Likewise, the battery on this thing is fantastic, a quick 20-minute charge out of the box saw me through multiple, multi-hour sessions and a full charge can run you 80+ hours.
Audeze HQ Software
Take that same USB dongle and slap it into your PC, however, and the Maxwell Wireless roars to life. Audeze’s proprietary sound software AudezeHQ looks like a program ripped from the early 2010’s, but offers a compact set of customisation options for the unit, including profiles and great balancing options. Out-of-the-box sound on the unit is solid, but AudezeHQ is essential to getting the best out of the headset for more than just gaming, with separate profiles suiting movies and music too. You can also use the software to update drivers, adjust sidetone and save preset settings for future use.
Audeze’s Maxwell Wireless headset is an absolute unit in more ways than one. A sizeable and heavy bit of hardware that through a minor miracle remains comfortable to use and wear for hours, the internal magnetic drivers bulk up both the form factor and sound quality alike. Despite some minor grumbles over its PlayStation functionality, this is a formidable headset that produces heady and clear gaming audio, but truly proves its worth when paired with the PC limited features. An investment to be sure, but one that will pay you back in kind, mostly.
Review unit supplied by the manufacturer