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Apple AirPods Max Price, Release Date, Design And Noise Cancelling: Tom’s Guide Report

Everything you need to know about Apple's new AirPods Max headphones

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple AirPods Max are a pair of premium, over-ear headphones with active noise cancellation and 20 hours of battery life that retail for $549.

Announced via Apple Newsroom on Tuesday, AirPods Max look to offer something different from all the other best headphones right now. These cans sport a retro design, complete with large cushions and a stainless steel-mesh hybrid headband, plus a digital crown that’s been pulled from the Apple Watch. Stand out performance features include Adaptive EQ, active noise cancellation, transparency mode and the AirPods Pro’s spatial audio.

Despite owning the Beats audio brand, rumors of a proprietary AirPods headphones heated up the latter half of this year. Following three virtual keynotes for Apple Watch 6, iPhone 12 and M1 chips, it seems, in extremely Apple fashion, that there was one more thing. Here’s everything we know about it.

AirPods Max price

AirPods Max available to order starting today (Dec. 8) for $549. The headphones come with a custom Smart Case and a Lighting to USB-C cable.

AirPods Max release date

According to Apple’s announcement, the headphones will begin shipping on Tuesday, December 15.

Intel from Apple insiders in recent months made it seem like AirPods Max faced production delays and wouldn’t be ready for launch this year. As it turns out, the headphones should arrive just in time for the holidays.

(Image credit: Apple)

AirPods Max design

Unlike AirPods earbuds, which are sheathed in an iconic white plastic, AirPods Max comes in a handful of colors included a standard space gray and silver, as well as fun sky blue, green and pink options.

AirPods Max’s color range lends itself well to a retro aesthetic. Those pivoting cans, covered by oval pillows of memory foam, seem massive. They’ll certainly cover most ears entirely, creating a seal for optimal sound performance.

The cans are connected by a headband with a stainless steel frame that expands for a mesh canopy designed to prevent on-head pressure. Meanwhile, the telescoping arms are slimmer and expose some sleek hardware details.

Perhaps the coolest detail is the addition of a Digital Crown, a key Apple Watch feature. Similar to how the crown provides navigation for Apple’s smartwatch, on AirPods Max the crown is used for volume control, skipping tracks and playing or pausing audio. It’s also a means of summoning Siri and answering or ending phone calls.

(Image credit: Apple)

AirPods Max audio features

For such a premium price, Apple really needs to deliver a listening experience that’s without equal. And it starts with a 40mm Apple-designed dynamic driver, which is designed to deliver deep bass, accurate mid-range sounds and clean high-frequencies. There’s also a dual neodymium ring magnet motor that enables the AirPods Max to keep harmonic distortion to less than 1 percent — even at max volume.

Apple leverages an H1 chip in each ear, a custom acoustic design and advanced software to achieve computational audio performance that’s akin to the computational photography prowess of the iPhone 12. In fact, each of the chips have 10 audio cores that can do 9 billion operations per second.

The AirPods Max use Adaptive EQ to adjust the sound based on the fit and seal of the ear cushions. It can measure the sound signal delivered to the user and adjust frequencies in real time.

(Image credit: Apple)

As you would expect, the AirPods Max feature active noise cancellation. Each ear but features three outward-facing mics to detect noise, ad there’s one mic inside the ear cup to monitor sound. Again, computational audio adapts the noise cancellation in real time based on the headphone fit and movement.

If you want to switch to Transparency mode to hear things around you, you can just tap the noise control button.

The killer audio feature is Spatial Audio. The AirPods Max use head tracking to place sounds around you to deliver a surround sound experience. The AirPods Max can track your head using the built-in gyroscope and accelerometer.

AirPods Max battery life and Smart Case

Apple rates AirPods Max’s battery life for 20 hours no matter how much time you spend listening, talking or quieting the world around you. This is pretty impressive considering certain features often drain headphone battery life faster than the standard listening mode.

The Bose 700 also gets 20 hours while the Sony WH-1000M4 get 30 hours.

Like AirPods Pro and other AirPods, AirPods Max charges via Lightning, and 5 minutes of charging gives you 1.5 hours of listening time. Although its case doesn’t provide charging, its Smart Case initiates a low-power state using magnets that preserves battery charge when the headphones are stowed away.

AirPods Max outlook

AirPods Max are arriving right in time for the holidays, and we’re sure every dedicated Apple fan will want their very own pair under the tree. But how about that $549 price tag?

Although AirPods Max are more expensive than many of the top headphones, they offer something other brands can’t match — seamless integration with the expanse of Apple’s product ecosystem.

When we test AirPods Max, we’ll see if the sound quality, comfort and battery life claims justify the cost.

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