Wearables

Apple grows AirPods into pricey over-ear wireless headphones

Apple grows AirPods into price...
The AirPods Max headphones are reported to deliver high-fidelity audio, adaptive EQ, active noise cancellation and spatial audio
The AirPods Max headphones are reported to deliver high-fidelity audio, adaptive EQ, active noise cancellation and spatial audio
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Listeners can expect total harmonic distortion of less than 1 percent, even at maximum volume
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Listeners can expect total harmonic distortion of less than 1 percent, even at maximum volume
The AirPods Mac wireless ANC headphones are built around Apple-designed 40-mm dynamic drivers
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The AirPods Mac wireless ANC headphones are built around Apple-designed 40-mm dynamic drivers
Inside, the AirPods Max headphones feature a 10-core H1 chip and a battery that's good for 20 hours per charge
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Inside, the AirPods Max headphones feature a 10-core H1 chip and a battery that's good for 20 hours per charge
The AirPods Max headphones are reported to deliver high-fidelity audio, adaptive EQ, active noise cancellation and spatial audio
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The AirPods Max headphones are reported to deliver high-fidelity audio, adaptive EQ, active noise cancellation and spatial audio
The hinges are designed to ensure a secure, comfortable fit on the side of the head, while the knit mesh headband distributes weight and reduces on-head pressure
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The hinges are designed to ensure a secure, comfortable fit on the side of the head, while the knit mesh headband distributes weight and reduces on-head pressure
The controls to the top of one earcup are inspired by the Apple Watch
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The controls to the top of one earcup are inspired by the Apple Watch
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After months of rumors and leaks, Apple has officially added another member to the AirPods family in the shape of an expensive pair of over-ear headphones called the AirPods Max.

"AirPods are the most popular headphones in the world, beloved for their effortless setup, incredible sound quality, and iconic design," said Apple's Greg Joswiak. "With AirPods Max, we are bringing that magical AirPods experience to a stunning over-ear design with high-fidelity audio. The custom acoustic design, combined with powerful H1 chips, and advanced software enable AirPods Max to use computational audio to wirelessly deliver the ultimate personal listening experience."

The stylish cans are built around 40-mm dynamic drivers, which are reported to offer "rich, deep bass, accurate mid-ranges, and crisp, clean high-frequency extension." And listeners can expect total harmonic distortion of less than 1 percent, even at maximum output, thanks to a dual neodymium ring magnet motor.

The headband has been designed to marry strength and flexibility with optimum weight distribution so that the cans feel light on the head, and special hinges allow the earcups to better fit the contours of a wearer's head, while the memory foam cushions do their best to seal off the outside world.

Adaptive EQ can then measure the sonic signal delivered to the wearer, and adjust low and mid frequencies to best match the fit and seal at the ear cushions. That's just one of the features delivered by the H1 chip in each earcup, which also oversees the operation of active noise cancellation (ANC) with transparency mode, and spatial audio.

Inside, the AirPods Max headphones feature a 10-core H1 chip and a battery that's good for 20 hours per charge
Inside, the AirPods Max headphones feature a 10-core H1 chip and a battery that's good for 20 hours per charge

Three outward-facing microphones on each earcup, and one inside, are used for the noise cancellation chops, with real-time adaptation for fit and movement. And like other ANC ear candy on the market, wearers can choose to let the outside world in by activating transparency mode. With ANC keeping background distractions to a minimum, battery life per charge is reckoned to be up to 20 hours.

The AirPods Max employ dynamic head tracking to deliver an immersive listening experience for content recorded in 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos, and sensors detect when the headphones are removed or when an earcup is lifted slightly, and will pause playback.

Controls to the top of one of the earcups have been inspired by the Apple Watch, and are used for playback, taking calls and engaging the Siri voice assistant, with beam-forming microphones cutting away background noise to bring the user's voice into focus.

If your music is being served up from a Mac or iPad and a call comes in on your iPhone, the Bluetooth 5.0 headphones will auto switch to the phone so that you can take the call. And you can also share the sound from an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Apple TV 4K between two AirPods users at the same time.

The AirPods Max can be ordered now for US$549, with shipping expected to start on December 15. That's even pricier than Sony's excellent WH1000XM4 wireless ANC headphones. Ouch.

Product page: Apple AirPods Max

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4 comments
4 comments
Daishi
They are expensive but that's a lot of technology inside of a set of headphones and price really isn't an issue for something that exists to serve as a status symbol and intentional display of wealth. For many people the fact that they are expensive is maybe the most important feature. I'm sure Apple has design patents to stop someone from selling a set of headphones that look the same and sound almost as good for $80.
PGilbert
Anybody getting cognitive dissonance with Apple supposedly building all this high fidelity audio when their music platform is built on lowfi mp3 audio? If these cans are that good, you're going to hear how bad Apple streaming quality is. I can certainly hear it with my $180 Beyerdynamics.
guzmanchinky
Those look nice, I'll have to try them against my Bose 700
Dale Neibaur
Anybody able to actually put these on yet? I have a pair of Bose 700s I use in my wood shop, but they do a poor job of eliminating the noise from saws & dust extractors. I'm hoping these will be better.