As rumored since the beginning of the year, Apple has expanded the AirPods family with the new AirPods Max. These are earphones that are growing in comparison to what we had previously seen from Cupertino’s company, as they leave the in-ear format of the AirPods Pro to become circumaural headphones.
Apple already marketed headphones of this type, but not under their brand, but under Beats. On top of that, the AirPods Max adds several elements that explain that this is a higher-end item in many ways, improving functions ranging from active noise cancellation to space audio. Before trying them out, the first proof that Apple considers them superior is that they will be sold for $549.
Apple AirPods Max Features
|Apple AirPods Max|
|Chip||Two Apple H1s|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.0, Lightning|
|Autonomy||Up to 20 hours of playback|
|Measurements||16.86 x 8.34 x 18.73 cm|
Computational Audio as the Foundation
The new AirPod Max comes equipped with an H1 chip on each of its two ends, i.e. the left and right earpiece. This H1, already present in the AirPods Pro, is a chip that has 10 audio cores, which give a processing capacity of 9 billion operations per second.
As with the HomePods and their spatial analysis to adapt to the environment where we place them, these new AirPods Max and H1 are not understood without the concept of computational audio. According to Apple, “this technology uses the ten cores of each chip to eliminate background noise, modulate sound to fit and isolate the pads, and get you to enjoy movies as if they were happening all around you.
But just like sensor photography, computer audio is nothing without hardware to help the processors. In this sense, in addition to the two H1s, the AirPods Max has nine microphones in total. Of these, eight are dedicated to active noise cancellation, and of those eight, two are also used to pick up voice along with one additional.
Apple mentions that in calls, we will be heard loud and clear even in the wind. Of the eight, six are outward-facing, and two are inward-facing. By comparison, the Bose 700 NCH has eight microphones in total, while the Sony WH-1000XM4 has seven.
Apple promises to deliver “industry-leading active noise cancellation,” and like the AirPods Pro, the Max allows you to switch between normal and ambient sound mode, which blends the sound of the headphones with the sound of the surrounding environment. A dedicated button, the noise button, is used to turn it on and off.
The computational audio features do not end there. Apple also talks about adaptive equalization. With their in-ear microphones, the AirPods Max analyze what we hear and adjust the frequencies, depending on how we wear the ear pads and the isolation they provide.
Finally, the AirPods Max inherit another feature that recently came into the AirPods Pro, and that is spatial audio with dynamic head tracking, which generates a much more immersive experience in compatible applications, although it will only be available on iOS devices with compatible applications.
In this section of software features, it is also worth mentioning that the AirPods Max has one-touch activation, immediate device switching, and audio sharing with other AirPods. The AirPods Max has usage detection, so when we take them off the audio stops, and when we put them back in our head, they play again.
As for the sound, Apple boasts of offering “outrageous distortion across the entire audible spectrum”, and playing “every note with deep, crisp bass, precise mid-range and clear, crystalline highs”. Key to the experience will be the quality of the dynamic drivers that Apple has included in both the left and right, which rely on a two-ring neodymium magnetic motor to reduce harmonic distortion “just like high-end floor-standing speakers. We will go over all of this in our review.
A sleek design that incorporates elements of the Apple Watch and even the Mac Pro
The design of the Apple AirPods Max is quite minimalist and clean and has materials that, without testing, seem to be of high quality. The main part is the right and left earphones, which are made of anodized aluminum, and can be rotated independently to balance the pressure.
The ear cushions are wrapped in a mesh fabric and are made of visco-elastic foam, which according to Apple, improve insulation, and from here we see elements that are also present in other devices. The most striking thing is that Apple has chosen to include the ‘Digital Crown’ of the Apple Watch, which is used to control the volume, change songs, answer calls, and activate Siri. Thus, no-touch control on the AirPods Max, something that had been rumored.
At the top of the head will be the headband mesh, made of a breathable braided material that, according to Apple, distributes the weight of the headphones to reduce pressure. Connecting the two headsets is a soft stainless steel frame, and the telescopic, extendable arms are reminiscent of the legs and arms of the Mac Pro.
The AirPods Max is available in five colors: silver, space gray, sky blue, pink, and green. All of them, as you can see in the pictures, have combinations. For example, the pink, which reminds the iPhone pink gold also has the red headband, and silver, in turn, has the white.
A Smart Case is also included in the box, which protects them and conserves the battery by putting the AirPods in ultra-low power mode. In this way, Apple boasts up to 20 hours of audio, video playback, and calls with active noise cancellation and spatial audio enabled. Unlike what you might expect, they are charged by Lightning and not USB-C. For this, they have a built-in cable that allows them an hour and a half of playback with five minutes of charge.
Price and Availability of Apple AirPods Max
The new AirPods Max cost $549 and is now available from the Apple online store. They will be shipped starting Tuesday, December 15th. However, at the time of writing this article, the website indicates that the space grey and silver versions will be received from December 28th, while the remaining ones will be delivered from January 8th.
As an added element, the AirPods Max has an optional AppleCare+ for $59 which adds up into “two years of technical assistance and protection against accidental damage”.