Following months of rumours, Apple officially announced the AirPods Max. Yes, you read that right; despite pre-announcement leaks suggesting the high-end cans would be called AirPods Studio, it seems Apple went in a slightly different direction.
Regardless, the AirPods Max are the high-end cans we've been hearing whispers about online for quite some time, complete with a premium over-ear design and impressive audio chops.
The catch? They're pretty expensive at £549/$549. Here’s everything there is to know about Apple’s AirPods Max, including release date, pricing and key features of the high-end cans.
AirPods Max release date
Though some rumours suggested the AirPods Max had been pushed back until 2021, Apple announced the high-end over-ear cans via press release on 8 December 2020, with pre-orders live now and delivery scheduled for 15 December.
AirPods Max pricing
Despite notable leaker Jon Prosser initially suggesting a $349 price tag before then claiming a $599 price tag, the AirPods Max actually cost £549/$549, putting them comfortably at the top of the table in terms of Apple's current audio offering.
The price tag makes the high-end cans more than double the price of the £249/$249 AirPods Pro - can Apple justify such a high price? It's not just more expensive than Apple's own products after all, it's also more expensive than some of the most popular over-ear headphones available right now, including Bose's QC35II and Sony’s WH-1000XM4.
Those interested can pre-order the AirPods Max from the Apple Store right now, with orders beginning to ship from 15 December. For great alternatives, take a look at our selection of the best wireless headphones and best noise-cancelling headphones too.
See also: Where to buy Apple AirPods Max
AirPods Max design and features
Let's start with the obvious: these aren't your standard wireless earbuds. Despite featuring the AirPods branding, the AirPods Max are a pair of over-ear headphones, although in typical Apple fashion, there's nothing standard about the design.
The headband, for example, is comprised of two parts: a mesh canopy to help distribute weight evenly and remove the pressure you tend to feel on the top of your head during long listening sessions, and a stainless steel band that's durable but flexible, ideal for accomodating a variety of headshapes. You'll also find telescopic arms to aid the perfect fit, and unlike other headphones, these should stay in place - no need to adjust each time you put the cans on.
That idea of ultimate comfort extends to the earcups themselves, featuring memory foam cushioning and a pivot hinge system that allows the earcups to move independently of one another to achieve the best seal possible.
Interestingly, unlike other AirPods products, the AirPods Max aren't swipe-based. Instead, the cans feature an Apple Watch-esque digital crown on the cup, allowing for quick control over music playback, the ability to answer calls and summon Siri. The latter suggests that hands-free Hey Siri support isn't available, but that's yet to be confirmed.
It's also available in more colours than Apple's standard high-end offerings, with the AirPods Max available not only in space grey and silver, but sky blue, green and pink too.
Of course, it's more about the design - especially at such a high price point. At the heart of the AirPods Max you'll find Apple's H1 chipset, powering all the on-board smarts including the automatic pairing, easy-switch and automatic play/pause technology we've come to appreciate from the rest of the AirPods range.
Like the AirPods Pro, you'll get Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency Mode and Spatial Audio support alongside a new Adaptive EQ mode previously exclusive to the HomePod range. Apple claims that the headphones can analyse the sound signal being delivered to the ear and use that data to adjust the low- and mid-range frequencies in real-time to improve audio quality. It's an impressive claim we're yet to hear for ourselves, but given how well the Adaptive EQ works on the HomePod, it's something we're interested in experiencing.
The audio experience is powered by custom Apple-designed 40mm drivers that feature, among other custom-designed elements, a dual neodymium magnet motor that the company claims can "maintain harmonic distortion of less than 1 percent across the entire audible range," which to you and I means that the headphones should sound distortion-free, even at high volumes.
The smart features are of course welcome on such a high-end pair of wireless headphones, but the downside is that to make sure they stay asleep when they're moving around in a rucksack, you have to put them into what has to be one of the weirdest carry cases we've ever seen at Tech Advisor.
There's also the issue with compatibility: despite the high-end price tag, the AirPods Max are only compatible with Apple products.
If you want a more detailed look at Apple's new cans, take a look at our AirPods Max review.