Apple grows AirPods into pricey over-ear wireless headphones
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.
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