Just like the cases that come with most other noise canceling headphones, the Shield case closes around the AirPod Max and closes with a zipper, providing complete protection. You can store the headphones on their own or with the Apple case if you like it for some reason. Inside you will find a plush lining to prevent scratches; it’s the same extremely soft lining that Waterfield uses in handbag laptop bags like their leather Messenger. (I own that bag and can confirm the plush lining is absurdly soft.) There’s also an internal mesh case that can hold a 20W power supply and charging cables.
Inside there is also a clever feature specific to AirPods Max: a magnetic “butterfly” separates the two ear cups and activates the low-power mode of the headphones. While the AirPods Max eventually go into low-power mode, it’s nice that Waterfield’s Shield case duplicates the only useful feature in the Apple one built into its case.
On the outside, two hinges close the Shield case, which means you can leave it slightly open and plug in the AirPod Max to charge them. There is also a handle at the top, which should make the case easier to take out of the backpack. The case also has two other pockets on the outside: a mesh back pocket for quick access and a front zip pocket for the things you want to protect. The front exterior is available in brown leather with oilcloth trim or in red, blue or black leather with black ballistic nylon trim.
I’ve been using Waterfield products for years, so I admit maybe I’m biased, but I also have the experience to know that they usually make really smart decisions in their designs, whether it’s a general purpose laptop bag or a case made for a specific gadget like this. It’s not cheap at $ 99, but the company does everything by hand in small batches and the quality has always been consistent and excellent. There aren’t many other third-party cases on the market yet, but that should change soon if you want something a little less expensive. But Waterfield’s Shield case looks like a cleverly designed product for headphones that absolutely need more protection than those offered by Apple.