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AirPods Max

AirPods Max

Last updated: 6 days ago

AirPods Max are Apple's premium, over-ear headphones that use computational audio to optimize listening. These expensive headphones hope to penetrate the high-end headphone market with stainless steel and aluminum construction and best-in-class audio. There are five available colors with matte finishes.

● Premium over-ear headphones
● Adaptive EQ
● ANC and Transparency mode
● Stainless steel and aluminum materials
● Two H1 processors with 10 audio cores
● Space Gray, Green, Silver, Sky Blue, and Pink
● Costs $549


The AirPods Max are Apple's take on over-the-ear headphones packed with modern technology and a design that is uniquely Apple's. These headphones come to market as AirPods and AirPods Pro continue to dominate pop culture and sales charts.

Bigger headphones mean larger speakers and better sound, so expect Apple's audio tuning and algorithmic generated audio to be best-in-class for the size and price range. 

The headphones use two of Apple's H1 chip, one in each ear cup, also found in AirPods Pro and second-generation AirPods. AirPods Max also includes Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio. Apple is shipping them in five colors: space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink.

Apple put the headphones up for pre-order on December 8, with the ship date beginning on December 15, but they quickly sold out. The headphones cost $549, which are much more expensive than Apple's own Beats By Dre brand.

AirPods Max Features

Design

The AirPods Max are available in space gray, sky blue, pink, green, and silver The AirPods Max are available in space gray, sky blue, pink, green, and silver

The AirPods Max headband has a canopy design made with a synthetic "breathable knit mesh" material on the head-facing section. The headband's primary structure is stainless steel with telescoping arms to adjust length. Apple says the canopy distributes weight in a way that reduces head pressure.

The ear cups are suspended on a fully adjustable mechanism that rotates independently of the telescoping arm. Apple uses aluminum for the ear cups and a custom-designed mesh textile for the ear cushions.

Adaptive EQ

AirPods Max use Adaptive EQ, a feature that continually adjusts the audio to the ear cushions' fit and seal. It measures the sound signal and changes the low and mid frequencies in real time. Apple's intent is to use the real-time data to provider richer and more detailed audio.

Six external and two internal microphones listen for audio inside and outside the headphones to adjust playback dynamically. Each song, movie, or sound byte will be dynamically adjusted on the fly— custom for each listeners fit.

ANC

The AirPods Max have ANC, or Active Noise Cancelation. This means the headphones use an external microphone to pipe in "anti-noise" to eliminate external noise from your listening experience. An additional mic inside the ear also listens for in-ear noise, negating that as well.

Another use for the ANC technology is something Apple calls "transparency mode." By utilizing the same techniques for ANC, Apple can pass external audio through to your ears as if you were not wearing earbuds at all. This means moving around environments will be much safer as your ears won't be blocked.

Apple's headphones include a noise-control button on the right earpiece that lets you immediately switch between ANC and transparency modes.

A dedicated button can switch between ANC and Transparecny with a single tap. The functions can also be adjusted using controls on your iPhone or iPad.

Digital Crown

AirPods Max has a Digital Crown for volume, playback control, and Siri AirPods Max has a Digital Crown for volume, playback control, and Siri

The new headphones follow the Apple Watch as the second Apple product with a Digital Crown. Located on the right ear cup, users can turn the Digital Crown in either direction for volume control or press it inwards to play/pause, skip tracks, or activate Siri.

Other headphones have opted for touch sensitive pads or hard-to-press buttons to control playback. By placing all the audio controls in a single dial, users won't have trouble changing the volume or summoning Siri.

Spatial Audio

AirPods Max also supports the new Spatial Audio feature that launched with AirPods Pro on iOS 14. The feature mimics an immersive surround sound and movie theater-like experience, making the audio sound like it's coming from around the wearer.

Spatial audio uses the accelerometer to position audio elements in fixed points. When you move your head, the audio environment sounds like it stays in the same place, creating an illusion of being inside the soundstage. It's the same approach VR games and experiences use for immersive audio inside the virtual environment. Apple would likely use a similar technology for its rumored Apple Glass.

Spatial Audio only works with videos supporting Dolby Atmos and 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, and only works on the iPhone and iPad. Games and other apps can be designed to take advantage of Spatial Audio, but no known apps have done so yet.

Smart Case

The AirPods Max Smart Case The AirPods Max Smart Case

The Smart Case places the AirPods Max into a low power sleep state to conserve battery when not in use. When not in the case the headphones will be "awake" seeking out nearby devices to connect to, and could drain battery faster if inadvertently connected while idle.

Charging the headphones with a Lightning to USB-C cable and a 20W power adapter will give 1.5 hours of use after five minutes of charging.

The AirPods Max have about 20 hours of usable battery life when actively listening to audio. When you remove the headphones and leave them stationary for five minutes, they enter a low power state. After 72 hours not in use and out of the Smart Case they enter an ultra-low power state which disconnects bluetooth and Find My to further preserve power.

The Smart Case places the headphones in a low power state immediately. After 18 hours in the Smart Case they disconnect from bluetooth and Find My.

Audio Experience

The Apple-designed dynamic driver produces a wide frequency range that aims to uncover the rich details of every sound. Apple hopes that the combination of powerful hardware and algorithms can recreate sound and texture for maximum effect.

Apple boasts its driver’s dual-neodymium ring magnet motor minimizes total harmonic distortion across the entire audible range. This results in clear audio playback even at full volume.

Audio equipment can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars with no clear upper limit. Apple has targeted a pricey, yet reachable price point for consumers, and we will have to wait and see what audiophiles think of the AirPods Max.

Comparison: AirPods Max vs. Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4

L to R: AirPods Max vs. Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4 L to R: AirPods Max vs. Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4

While we haven't yet reviewed AirPods Max to gauge performance, we can compare the new headphones' basic features to two of its highly rated competitors, the Bose 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4.

Pricing

The Apple AirPods Max costs $549. The Bose 700 has a $379 retail price, while the Sony WH-1000XM4 rings up for $349.

ANC and Adaptive Modes

L to R: AirPods Max vs. Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4 L to R: AirPods Max vs. Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4

The AirPods Max, Bose 700, and Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones all use active noise cancelation to monitor external sounds continually and emit an "anti-noise" to tune out the outside world. All three headphones allow you to choose between transparency modes, letting you pick the degree of noise cancelation.

However, in addition to ANC, AirPods Max takes it a step further with Apple's Adaptive EQ feature, continually adjusting the sound based on the ear cushions' fit and seal. It analyzes real-time microphone input, changing what you hear on the fly. Apple's intent is to continually tune the headphones to provide the richest audio possible in each moment.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 has two features that may sound similar at first glance but work differently. Sony's headphones have an optimizer that plays tones and analyzes the microphone input to adjust noise canceling. However, unlike Apple's, it only adapts when you manually activate the feature and not on the fly. Sony also describes its optimizer as tweaking noise-canceling, while Apple's retunes the audio.

Sony includes a feature called Adaptive Sound Control that learns your frequently visited locations, adjusting the noise-canceling mode to reflect that. While Apple's adaptive feature changes the audio based on the microphone input, Sony's adaptive feature adjusts noise-canceling levels based on your location.

Apart from the continuous monitoring of the microphone's external noise input to adjust ANC, Bose doesn't advertise an adaptive audio feature for its 700 headphones.

Design and Build Materials

L to R: AirPods Max vs. Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4L to R: AirPods Max vs. Bose 700 vs. Sony WH-1000XM4

The Bose 700 has a stainless-steel collapsible band with a rubberized coating on the part that wraps around the user's head. Bose uses a hard plastic for the earpieces' outsides and a memory foam wrapped in synethetic leather for the ear cushions.

Sony uses a high-quality plastic for the WH-1000XM4's outer ear cups and outer headband. Both the headband lining and ear pads are a synthetic leather.

Apple uses a "breathable knit mesh" for the headband canopy on top of the headphones. The headband's structure, which telescopes for fit, is stainless steel. Apple uses aluminum for the ear cups and a custom-designed mesh textile for the ear cushions.

AirPods Max is the heaviest of the three, weighing 13.6 oz. The Bose 700 is 34% lighter at 8.96 oz, while the Sony WH-1000XM4 weighs around the same at 8.8 oz.

Controls

Sony's headphones have two microphones in each earcup to optimize ANC. AirPods Max and Bose 700 each have eight microphones total devoted to noise canceling. However, Sony's ANC has been considered top-of-the-line up to the point of the AirPods Max launch, so the lower mic-count alone isn't necessarily a strike against it.

AirPods Max includes a Digital Crown, familiar to Apple Watch owners, for user control. Located on the right ear cup, you can turn it in either direction for volume control or press it to play/pause, skip tracks, or activate Siri. Apple's headphones also have a noise-control button that lets you immediately switch between ANC and transparency modes.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 has touch sensors on the right earpad that let you control volume and tracks by swiping up/down or forwards/backward, respectively. Sony's headphones have a custom button on the left earpiece that you can set up to switch ANC modes, activate the ANC optimizer, or summon Alexa or Google Assistant. It allows you to choose two functions for the button – one for a single-press and another for a long-press.

The Bose 700 also uses swipe-based touch controls on the right earcup. The headphones also have separate dedicated buttons for ANC mode and voice assistant. Like the Sonys, Bose 700 also supports either Alexa or Google Assistant.

AirPods Max Price and Release Date

AirPods Max cost $549 and are available for purchase. They released to customers on December 15, but quickly sold out. Some retailers may have some stock, but online orders are shipping as late as March 2021.

Apple AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro

AirPods


Configurations                   Discount
Apple AirPods Pro
 
$249.00
 
$179.95
Coupon
 
$199.98
 
$219.95
 
$219.00
 
$249.00
Coupon
 
$249.99
 
$224.99
 
$234.99
$69.05
Apple AirPods With Charging Case
 
$159.00
 
$145.00
 
$128.98
 
$134.95
 
$129.00
 
$141.67
Coupon
 
$159.99
 
$143.10
 
n/a
$30.02
Apple AirPods With Wireless Charging Case
 
$199.00
 
$169.99
 
$187.92
 
$169.00
 
$157.00
 
$170.34
Coupon
 
$199.99
 
$179.10
 
n/a
$42.00
Apple Wireless Charging Case For AirPods
 
$79.00
 
$69.99
 
$69.53
 
$69.99
 
$79.00
 
$63.24
Coupon
 
$79.99
 
n/a
 
n/a
$15.76
Apple AirPods (First-gen)
 
$159.00
 
sold out
 
sold out
 
$169.00
 
sold out
 
sold out
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
$0.00
AirPods Max Space Gray
 
$549.00
 
place order
 
$549.00
 
pre-order
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
$0.00
AirPods Max Silver
 
$549.00
 
$549.00
 
sold out
 
pre-order
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
$0.00
AirPods Max Green
 
$549.00
 
$549.00
 
n/a
 
pre-order
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
$0.00
AirPods Max Sky Blue
 
$549.00
 
place order
 
n/a
 
pre-order
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
$0.00
AirPods Max Pink
 
$549.00
 
$549.00
 
n/a
 
pre-order
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
 
n/a
$0.00
 

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