It seems Apple is certainly fond of closing the year off with a bang. Hot on the heels of the iPhone 12 series, the tech giant finally unveiled its first over-ear noise-cancelling headphones following months of gestating rumours. Called AirPods Max, the wireless device is set to feature a blend of custom acoustic design and high-fidelity sound, as well as a host of elements from the AirPods line including adaptive EQ, transparency mode, spatial audio, and audio sharing. The price to pay for sophisticated technology and premium aesthetics? S$849.
“AirPods are the most popular headphones in the world, beloved for their effortless setup, incredible sound quality, and iconic design. With AirPods Max, we are bringing that magical AirPods experience to a stunning over-ear design with high-fidelity audio,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “The custom acoustic design, combined with powerful H1 chips, and advanced software enable AirPods Max to use computational audio to wirelessly deliver the ultimate personal listening experience.”
What this experience entails is the combination of active noise cancellation, 20 hours of audio, talk time, or movie playback, ergonomic comfort, and Apple Watch’s Digital Crown technology. The latter two are particularly interesting: not only are users introduced to a knit mesh headband that’s described by Apple to “distribute weight and reduce on-head pressure,” they can also use the Digital Crown to control volume levels, play or pause audio, skip tracks, answer or end phone calls, and activate Siri.
Additionally, the earcups themselves are further attached to a mechanism that “balances and distributes ear cup pressure, and allows it to independently pivot and rotate to fit the unique contours of a user’s head,” which allows for maximum comfort. At the bottom of the earcup is an Apple Lightning port for charging, with a noise control button by the side to switch between active noise cancellation and Transparency mode.
Other smart features include the automatic detection of the AirPods Max’s placement on a user’s head, and the intuitive pausing of audio when one over-ear can is lifted, or upon their removal from the head. The headphones will come in the colours of space grey, silver, sky blue, green, and pink, alongside an accompanying slim Smart Case that puts the AirPods Max in an ultralow-power state to preserve battery charge.
Apple’s foray into the over-ear headphones scene doesn’t quite come as a surprise, though it’s difficult to gauge just how they’ll hold up against the competition. The industry, which sees the likes of established big boys like Sony, Sennheiser, and Bose, is already oversaturated, and the hefty price of the AirPods Max doesn’t exactly give it an edge. Between the company’s great synergy of its hardware and their impressively strong fanbase, however, the Apple magic may very well come true. For users in Singapore, that will take a while – the AirPods Max are available to order soon on the official website, but the specific date has yet to be confirmed.