Will Apple AirPods Max headphones be worth $549?
I’m willing to bet that the wireless over-the-ear high-fidelity AirPods Max headphones Apple announced on Tuesday will sound really good. But we’ll have to wait until at least December 15 when they become available to learn the outcome of the wager.
What I do know is the new Max’s better live up to that bet, especially with a lofty price tag of $549. They better feel good on your head too.
That’s a considerably higher sum than rival wireless models from Bose and Sony, and, for that matter, Apple’s own premium Beats Pro over-the-ear headphones, which list for just under $400.
For now, here’s what Apple is telling us. These active noise cancellation Bluetooth headphones combine a custom acoustic design with an Apple-designed H1 chip in each ear cup, plus software to deliver “computational audio” that is supposed to recognize the unique characteristics of whatever you’re listening to. The headphones can take advantage of spatial audio (for 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos content), as well as Adaptive EQ, which adjusts sound to the fit and seal of the ear cushions.
The new AirPods have a breathable knit mesh canopy that spans the headband; Apple says it distributes the weight to avoid excess pressure on your noggin. And they have a Digital Crown similar to what’s found on the Apple Watch. Use it to control volume, play or pause music, skip ahead, answer calls or summon Siri.
You can also switch between active noise cancellation and a Transparency mode similar to what’s on the $249 AirPods Pro. (Entry AirPods cost $159.) The mode enables you to hear your surroundings at the same time you’re listening to music.
Apple’s existing AirPods recognize when you place them in your ears and pauses the audio when you remove one. In a similar fashion, AirPods Max models can detect when you place them on your head, using optical and position sensors for that purpose. Sound is likewise paused if you remove the headphones or merely lift one of the ear cups.
Apple claims battery life of 20 hours of hi-fi audio, talk time, or movie playback with active noise cancellation. The Max comes in a soft case that can put them in a low power state to preserve battery life when not in use.
You can order the headphones in one of five colors: space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink.
AirPods Max is awfully expensive. But I’m eager to try them out and see if my bet was a smart one.
Photos in post courtesy of Apple