It’s normal to bring noise-canceling headphones on a long flight to drown out the sounds of any passengers, or just so you can be in your own world while you watch movies or listen to music.
However, if you’re in a tight-knit space with someone rocking a pair of headphones, you can often hear what the other person is listening to.
But would you expect a supposedly premium pair of headphones—ones that cost hundreds of dollars—to suffer from this issue?
That’s what TikToker Abby Monea (@abbymonea) said happened during a flight to San Diego while she was wearing her pair of Apple AirPods Max. Monea says that because she didn’t adequately prepare for the flight, she only had one song downloaded on her phone—Rihanna’s “Sex With Me.”
Not wanting to sit in silence, she put on her headphones and played the song on repeat for the duration of her journey on the plane. When she landed, however, a comment from a fellow passenger seated next to her made her realize that folks could hear more of what was blaring through her AirPods Max than she anticipated.
“I was sitting next to a mom and young daughter,” Monea says in the clip. “And I had [the volume] halfway because I know like sometimes with AirPods or headphones whatever you can hear if it’s all the way up, so I had it halfway to be mindful.”
Monea says she listened to the song “probably 30 times” for the duration of the flight.
“The mom, as we’re getting off the plane, she was like, ‘Wow, you really like that song, huh?'” Monea says. “And I was like, huh? What do you mean?’ She was like, ‘You listened to the same song the whole way here. You really like that one?'”
Monea opens her mouth and eyes wide into the camera while covering her bottom lip before the video cuts out.
The incident caused her to urge viewers to stay away from the Apple product.
@abbymonea she left me speechless sos #storytime #embarrassing #dayinmylife #lol #barbie #luxurytravel ♬ original sound – abby monea
Different review outlets have posted about sound “leakage” on the AirPods Max. RTINGS wrote in a February 2023 piece that “the Apple AirPods Max are decent for office use. They block out office chatter around you, which is handy if you work in a noisy environment. They also don’t leak too much audio, so you won’t disturb others around you.”
However, another outlet, BlinqBlinq penned a piece suggesting methods Apple AirPods Max customers can implement in order to remedy their audio leakage issues. The article’s author, Doug Stevenson, said they’ve had issues with the premium headphones leaking audio.
“Recently, I bought the AirPods Max, and soon enough, I started to notice the obvious audio leakage, or at least I was made aware of the same by many a bystander,” he wrote. “I researched a bit into the topic and figured out that I am experiencing a phenomenon called Sound Leakage where the audio is spilled beyond the desired area of impact.”
The YouTube channel Featured Tech also posted the results of audio leakage tests online, recording different audio leakage amounts contingent on the sound levels of the headphones. Several users said they were happy to have seen the clip as it helped sway them from purchasing the product.
“Wow just as I thought, basically constant sound leaking. I cant imagine using these in a enclosed space next to a lot of people,” one person wrote.
TikTokers who saw Monea’s clip mentioned they weren’t fans of audio leakage either, like one user who penned, “Sound leakage is pure evil.”
Another user seemed to take more of an issue with the fact that Monea decided to replay the same song over and over again throughout the duration of the flight.
“I mean replaying the same song the entire plane ride is psycho,” they said.
Someone else also didn’t seem to be a big fan of the AirPods Max presumably emitting that much audio leakage for its price point.
The user wrote, “I feel like for $600 they shouldn’t be emitting that much sound from what you’re listening to??”
The Daily Dot has reached out to Apple and Monea via email for further comment.