The AirPods Max is built around Apple’s H1 chip, a 10-core processor designed with computational audio in mind, with each earcup featuring its own, independent chip. Each earcup also features a 40mm dynamic driver that Apple claims can “maintain total harmonic distortion of less than 1 percent across the entire audible range, even at maximum volume.”
Interestingly, rather than emphasizing touch-based controls like most high-end wireless headphones, Apple is including a Digital Crown button similar to the one seen on the latest Apple Watch Series 6, one which controls the volume and allows users to skip tracks, play/pause, answer phone calls and activate the Siri voice assistant. The headphones will also automatically play or pause when the user rotates either earcup.
Apple claims a 20-hour battery life for the AirPods Max, and the included Smart Case accessory will automatically put the headphone in low-power mode to preserve battery life. While the headphone will be compatible with all Bluetooth-capable devices, like other AirPods models it features added functionality on Apple devices, such as audio sharing and the ability to automatically switch between devices.
“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, in the company’s press release. “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.”
The AirPods Max are available to pre-order now in one of six colors and will begin shipping on December 15.
Apple AirPods Max Over-Ear Headphones Images
Both the AirPods and AirPods Pro made IGN’s list of the best wireless earbuds. It remains to be seen if the AirPods Max will be able to stake a claim in our list of the best over-ear headphones. With a price tag significantly higher than other flagship wireless headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4 and the Razer Opus, it may come down to whether Apple lives up to its promises of a high-fidelity audio experience. If the sound quality of the Max rivals wired, expensive over-ear favorites like the Sennheiser HD800S, then $550 may actually turn out to be a bargain.
The AirPods Max announcement comes shortly after Apple revealed a new lineup of MacBooks and Mac Minis built around its proprietary M1 processor.
Will you be forking over $549 for the AirPods Max? Let us know in the comments below.
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.