Apple has earned a reputation over the years for offering high-quality hardware that comes at a high price tag. But the truth is some of the company’s latest phones, laptops, and desktops have starting prices that are pretty competitive (even if you have to pay a pretty penny for upgraded specs).
But Apple’s new wireless, over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones? They’re not cheap. At all.
Apple’s AirPods Max are up for pre-order for $549, and they’ll be available starting December 15.
To be clear, the best products in this category tend to be expensive. The list price for the latest Bose noise cancelling headphones is $380. Sony’s WH-1000XM4 headphones have a list price of $350. And Microsoft’s Surface Headphones 2 sell for $250.
But Apple’s first-gen entry in this space costs more than any of those items at list price… and you can often find the products listed above selling well below the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, something that’s not often true for Apple products.
So what makes Apple’s AirPods Max stand out?
Apple claims they have a “custom acoustic design,” 40mm dynamic drivers, and an Apple H1 chip in each speaker for processing audio and managing Bluetooth connections, and support for features including:
- Adaptive EQ (adjust the sound to match the “fit and seal of the ear cushions)
- Active Noise Cancellation (three outward-facing mics pick up environmental noise and, while an inward-facing one tracks sound traveling to your ear, with noise cancellation applied to filter out unwanted sound)
- Transparency Mode (make sure you can hear the sounds of the environment beyond your speakers while listening to music or other audio)
- Spatial Audio (head tracking can offer a pseudo theater-like experience with 5.1 channel, 7.1 channel, and Dolby Atmos audio)
The headband and speaker cushions also look pretty comfortable, with Apple explaining that the headband has a “breathable knit mesh canopy” and a stainless steel frame.
Apple’s new headphones are available in silver, gray, blue, pink, and green color options, and Apple says to expect up to 20 hours of battery life with noise cancellation and spatial audio enabled.
They’re also designed to play well with Apple devices, with one-tap setup and automatic pairing with devices signed into a user’s iCloud account. And AirPods Max can automatically track whether you’re wearing them or not, to automatically pause and resume playback.
AirPods Max are not designed for use with non-Apple products.. or even older Apple products. The company notes that you’ll need devices running iOS 14.3 or later, iPadOS 14.3 or later, macOS Big Sur 11.1 or later, watchOS 7.2 or later, or tvOS 14.3 or later to use the new headphones.