The much-anticipated Apple “AirPods Studio” are here, but the over-ear active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones are officially called the AirPods Max, and the name isn’t the only surprise. Apple’s asking price of $549 sets a new high watermark for the over-ear ANC category. To put it in perspective, Sony’s top-rated WH-1000XM4 are just $350, while their biggest traditional competitor, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, sell for just $380.
The AirPods Max come in space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink, and they ship with their own carrying and storage case. They can be ordered via Apple.com starting today, with availability beginning Tuesday, December 15.
So what is Apple offering for that massive price premium? Let’s take a look.
As with so many Apple products, the design of the
Meanwhile, a set of stainless steel sliders connect the headband to the aluminum earcups. Apple says the connection between these two parts is a mechanism that “balances and distributes earcup pressure, and allows it to independently pivot and rotate to fit the unique contours of a user’s head.”
These comfort features will be important: The
The right earcup features a similar digital crown multifunction dial to the one that Apple uses on the Apple Watch. This controls volume, play/pause, skip forward/back, answer/end calls, and activate Siri. Siri can also be activated hands-free using a wake word, as you can do on the AirPods and AirPods Pro. A dedicated noise control button lets you quickly switch between ANC and transparency modes.
There are a total of nine microphones onboard. Three per earcup are used for voice pickup, and two of these mics are shared with the ANC feature. ANC uses eight of the nine mics.
As impressive as that hardware sounds, what might make the biggest difference in the actual listening experience versus other headphones is Apple’s use of computational audio. It’s the same technology the company runs inside the HomePod mini, which helps that product produce sound quality that is considerably better than the speaker’s small size suggests. It’s all powered by the same H1 wireless chip that Apple uses in its AirPods, AirPods Pro, and several of its Beats by Dr Dre line of wireless headphones and earbuds. The
Many of the
In keeping with Apple’s tradition of offering just enough battery life to get you through a day — but no more — the
A fast-charge feature gives you an additional 1.5 hours of listening time for just five minutes of charging time.
Charging is accomplished via an included USB-C to Apple lightning cable, but there’s no AC adapter included in the box. This means you’ll need some kind of USB-C-equipped device for charging, like a newer Apple laptop, or a dedicated USB-C charger.
Like the Sony WH-1000XM4, the
There’s no Bluetooth multipoint for pairing with two wireless source devices simultaneously (e.g., a phone and a computer), but the
With audio sharing, the
Will Apple be able to justify the sky-high asking price of the
- A foldable iPad in 2024? This Apple insider is ‘positive’ it’s happening
- Trading in your iPhone with Apple? You’ll get less than yesterday
- NAD’s CS1 adds wireless streaming music to any audio system
- I bought a $50 Apple Watch Ultra clone, and it blew me away
- The iPhone 15 Pro’s rumored new design is one I can’t wait for