Apple just announced the AirPods Max, its first pair of over-ear headphones. They're designed to deliver all the best features of AirPods Pro — including high-fidelity audio, active noise cancellation, Adaptive EQ, transparency mode, audio sharing and spatial audio (and Dolby Atmos support) — with an over-ear design. Oh, and they cost $549.
The design of the AirPods Max borrows a bunch of details from its other product lines. Most notably, there's a Digital Crown, inspired by Apple Watch, on top of one of the earcups, which is allows you to adjust volume, playback controls like play/pause control, answer calls and activate Siri.
The headband of the AirPods Max is made of stainless steel and a "canopy" of breathable knit mesh fabric, which is designed to evenly distribute weight and reduce on-head pressure. The earcups are made of memory foam and the same breathable mesh fabric that's on the headband.
The AirPods Max will charge via a Lightning port just like all of Apple's current line of AirPods. This is a little surprising because Apple has made moves towards USB-C in the past year, integrated the port into more iPads, and it'd be nice for these to also get that "pro" treatment. Apple says that the AirPods Max will have a battery life of 20 hours. They do not support wireless charging.
Like the AirPods and AirPods Pro before it, the AirPods Max will have some distinct advantages for people with multiple Apple devices. The integrated H1 chip will allow the the AirPods Max to automatically switch between the audio on your Mac/iPad or iPhone, depending on which you're listening to. It'll fast pair to your iPhone, obviously, and allow you to share audio with a friend.
The price of the AirPods Max might be its most interesting detail — because $549 is significantly more expensive that most flagship noise-canceling headphones. The Bose Headphones 700 (
$399 $339) and Sony WH-1000XM4 ( $349 $279), which will be the main competition for the AirPods Max, can be about $300 cheaper.
Aside from their price, the other potential caveat is the weight of the AirPods Max — they're made mostly of metal and weigh 13.6 ounces, which is substantially heavier than most other wireless headphones. For comparison, the Bose Headphones 700 are 8.78 ounces; the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II are 8.3 ounces; and the Sony WH-1000XM4 are 8.96 ounces.
The truth is that Apple's over-ear cans will have to be seriously high quality (or a significantly big status symbol) to prove their worth against the competition. But judging by Apple's past forays in the headphones and speaker categories, with the AirPod and HomePod lines, we're not too worried about it. And we can't wait to actually test them.
They are available in five different colors, including space gray, silver, sky blue, green and pink. You can preorder the AirPods Max today and they're expected to arrive on your doorstep next week, on December 15, just in time for Christmas.