When it comes to glitzy product release announcements and creating enormous demand for premium quality tech goods, no company does it like Apple. Their fans are known to line up for days for mere pedestrian upgrades, not to mention iPhones, Apple Watches, and AirPods. It’s safe to say, however, that the Apple AirPods Max is no common piece of tech.
The AirPods name is a bit of a misnomer that’s rescued by the Max label: these are no mere earbuds nor are they simply “Apple Headphones” with the AirPods name slapped onto them. Apple has poured all the premium design it could come up with into these over-ear, noise-canceling headphones.
But, like all of Apple’s new releases, be prepared to plunk down some coin when they’re released. $549 is the asking price for the AirPods Max, while steep compared to other premium headphones on the market, was expected coming from an Apple product. The most convenient portal through which to pick up a pair of the new latest-greatest Apple tech is Amazon.
AirPods Max are Apple’s Most Ambitious Headphones Yet
The first thing that you’ll notice about the AirPods Max is that they really don’t look like any headphones that you’ve ever seen. Apple calls the overall look a “custom acoustic design” that utilizes 40mm drivers to provide the rich sound that AirPods are typically famous for. These headphones deliver clear crisp sound from the upper and mid ranges to deep, booming bass.
Along with doubling down on the dependable audio that fans expect out of AirPods, the AirPods Max feature a number of familiar amenities: adaptive EQ, audio sharing, transparency mode, and spatial audio. Spatial audio tracks with your head movements in a dynamic fashion to bring effective three-dimensional sound so that it will seem as if the sound is coming from all around you. When watching video, the audio will stay mapped to the presentation even as you move your head or your device.
But let’s get back to that look. The headband is made up of a breathable knit mesh that’s made to distribute weight and reduce on-head pressure. Underneath the mesh is a stainless steel frame that provides strength and comfort no matter what your head size might be. Telescoping headband arms feel premium while adjusting and stay in place once in the desired place.
The ear cups feature an attachment mechanism to the headband that balances and distributes pressure, allowing them to independently pivot and rotate to fit the user’s head. The ear cups are made of a special memory foam which should go a long way to personalize the AirPods Max to the owner. They connect to the headphones with magnets, an interesting solution that should help with cleaning and replacement.
As you must have noticed from the images by now, the AirPods Max will come in five colors: space gray, sky blue, green, silver, and pink. They all have a decidedly lighter feel than other headphones on the market as if to remind us not to take life too seriously and to enjoy the ride.
Now, for some technical details. For some crazy reason, the designers brought over a bit from the Apple Watch, namely the Digital Crown. For the AirPods Pro, it will offer fine volume control and track control including play, pause, and skip as well as the ability to answer or end phone calls and even activate Siri.
Leave it to Apple to devise a way to create so much control with one larger knob instead of sixteen identical tiny buttons. The other large button on the earpiece is to control transparency and noise-cancelation.
The AirPods Max are said to offer 20 hours of battery life and can be recharged using an included Apple Lightning Cable, not USB-C. The Lightning Cable also allows for wired listening. In a hurry but you still need your headphones? No worries: a five-minute charge will bring 90 more minutes of wireless listening time.
The AirPods Max come with one of Apple’s most ingenious features, the ability to stop playback merely by removing the headphones. They’ll resume when they’re replaced on the user’s head. A soft, slim Smart Case included with the AirPods Max provides a storage pouch which makes the headphones enter into an “ultralow” power state to help save battery life. The case is a nice touch but I’m not sure I’d use it to pack my AirPods Max into a travel bag.
Allow me to wrap this up with some technical details about these premium headphones. First, the AirPods Max will require your Apple devices to run iOS 14.3 or later, 7.2 or later for Apple Watches, so prepare to upgrade when you can.
Also, for your Android (gasp!) users, the AirPods Pro will work on your devices however, certain features such as spatial audio and pairing will need iOS. AirPods are very much geared toward Apple’s tech base as I’m sure you’re already aware.