Apple in December 2020 surprised us with the AirPods Max, the long-rumored high-end over-ear headphones that have been in development for the last two years.
AirPods Max are the first Apple-branded over-ear headphones that Apple has designed. There have been similar over-ear headphones sold under the Beats brand, but the AirPods Max join the AirPods and AirPods Pro as an Apple audio accessory.
The AirPods Max feature oval-shaped ear cups with a U-shaped inverted knit mesh headband and knit mesh ear cushions. The design of the headband allows it to distribute weight and reduce on-head pressure, plus it has adjustable arms to fit multiple head sizes.
Ear cups attach to the headband through what Apple calls a “revolutionary mechanism” meant to balance and distribute pressure, and each ear cushion has been designed with acoustically engineered memory foam to create a seal for immersive sound.
Ear cushions attach to ear cups magnetically and are interchangeable, with Apple selling ear cushions on a standalone basis. AirPods Max come in five colors: silver, space gray, blue, pink, and green, all with matching ear cups.
At the top of the AirPods Max, there’s an Apple Watch-inspired Digital Crown that provides precise volume controls and gestures for playing/pausing audio, skipping tracks, answering/ending phone calls, and activating Siri.
To provide excellent sound quality, the AirPods Max are equipped with a 40mm Apple-designed dynamic driver. Apple says the AirPods Max deliver deep bass, accurate mid-ranges, and crisp, clean high-frequency extension. With a dual neodymium ring magnet motor, AirPods Max maintain a harmonic distortion of less than 1 percent across the audible range, even at max volume.
Like the AirPods and the AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max are equipped with two Apple H1 chips that provide high quality sound thanks to the 10 cores that power computational audio capabilities.
AirPods Max feature Active Noise Cancellation technology and the same Transparency mode, Adaptive EQ, and spatial audio features that are in the AirPods Pro.
Active Noise Cancellation works through three outward-facing microphones that detect environmental noise, along with a microphone inside the ear cup to monitor the sound reaching the listener’s ear. Apple’s software adapts the noise cancellation to the environment in real time.
Transparency mode allows outside sounds to still be heard even with ANC turned on, while Adaptive EW adjusts the sound to the fit and seal of the ear cushions by measuring the sound signal and adjusting it in real time. Spatial audio uses dynamic head tracking to place sounds anywhere in space for an immersive, theater-like experience.