Apple AirPods Max – New, Big and Crazy Expensive

The new headphones promise high-fidelity audio and loads of other features but have a huge price tag.
Tom Fogden

Apple has followed-up on the massive success of its regular AirPods with a new over-ear headphone design, the AirPods Max.

The AirPods Max promise to bring some of the most advanced audio features to well-heeled users. With a price point of $549, they're no small investment.

Let's take a look at what the AirPods Max offer and who exactly they're for.

AirPods Max: Everything You Need to Know

Right off the bat, let's talk price tag. Apple's newest headphones cost a whopping $549 — $300 more than the AirPods Pro and $390 more than the standard AirPods.

So what do you get for that extra cash? The most obvious benefit is those over-ear cups. Not only will they provide better comfort during long listening sessions, but, they also allow more space for significantly bigger drivers and bigger batteries.

AirPods Max Drivers

Let's start with those drivers. The AirPods Max have 40mm drivers in each ear. Apple doesn't list what size drivers the AirPods Pro have but, considering most wireless earbuds have 6-10mm drivers, it's safe to say that the AirPods Max will have a significantly deeper sound than the little AirPods Pro.

Battery life of 20 hours

Apple also reckons that the AirPods Max will manage 20 hours of battery life with active noise cancellation and spatial audio which remaps sound to stay constant as users move their heads.

Apple claims that a unique “neodymium ring magnet” (us neither) allows the headphones to “maintain total harmonic distortion of less than 1 per cent across the entire audible range.” Of course, we'll have to hear that to believe it.

The AirPods Max also offer some high tech audio features including an adaptive equalizer that adjusts the mid-and-low-frequencies in real-time. They also have active noise cancellation, with microphones in each ear cup to detect and block outside noise.

Noise Cancellation with Transparency Mode

Of course, it would be remiss of any high-end pair of headphones to come without a feature to undo the active noise cancellation, and the AirPods Max are no different. Apple's coined the term “Transparency Mode” which allows you to hear the world around you — handy if you're riding a pushbike (though you really should have a helmet on instead) or you're on a train and don't quite know where you're getting off.

As ever with AirPods, you'll find the AirPods Pro Max sync perfectly with your iPhones, iPads, and Macs — something other headphone brands can't quite match.

AirPods Max: Design

As ever with new Apple, the company is giving a lot of gusto about the breakthrough design of the new headphones. The headband, for example, “is made to distribute weight and reduce on-head pressure.” Similar, then, to most over-ear headphones.

Of more interest, is the memory foam ear cushions which adapt to create an effective seal without the need for stiff surrounds.

Digital Crown for control

It also has a Digital Crown, similar to the Apple Watch, which allows you to control the volume, play or pause audio, skip tracks, answer and end phone calls, or activate Siri.

Color Options

The AirPods Max, quite unlike the other AirPods, are available in five colors: silver, space gray, sky blue, and tastefully muted pink and green hues.

The AirPods Max also come with a Smart Case. It not only stores the headphones but puts them in an “ultralow power state” to preserve battery life when not in use.

airpods pro max smart case

All told, the AirPods Max are a stylish piece of kit. Though, of course, we'd expect nothing less from Apple.

AirPods Max: Should You Buy Them?

Tough one. While the sound will undoubtedly be an improvement over the regular AirPods and AirPods Max, it's harder to say how the new headphones will stack up against more establish cans from audio specialists such as Bose.

However, the AirPods Max are meant for long listening sessions (think flights) or even use in a professional capacity — making music or high-end video production, for example — rather than simply sticking on your head for a quick trip to the gym or your commute.

Certainly, the price tag alone would make us think twice about taking these out and about.

If you want to truly indulge in some self-care this Christmas, or are feeling especially generous, you'll be relieved to find that you can order the AirPods Max in 25 countries (including the US) and they'll begin shipping on December 15.

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Tom Fogden is a writer for Tech.co with a range of experience in the world of tech publishing. Tom covers everything from cybersecurity, to social media, website builders, and point of sale software when he's not reviewing the latest phones.

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