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Apple Audio Gear

AirPods Max: Apple’s first over-ear headphones sound expensive

AT - TIME

Apple has taken the wraps off its first over-ear headphones (Beats by Dre, excluded)—the AirPods Max, previously rumoured to be called AirPods Studio. Uniquely designed, the AirPods Max injects the magic of the best-selling AirPods, including the power of computational audio thanks to powerful H1 chips. The headphones feature Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), Transparency mode, and spatial audio. Available in five colours including space grey, silver, sky blue, green, and pink, the AirPods Max delivers up to 20 hours of battery life with ANC and spatial audio enabled.

From the get go, the AirPods Max looks unique—from the breathable knit mesh canopy that spans the headband and the stainless steel headband frame. The telescoping headband arms extend and stay in place for desired fit.

Each ear cup attaches to the headband through a unique mechanism that Apple says balances and distributes ear cup pressure. The mechanism allows it to independently pivot and rotate to fit a user’s head.

They do look comfortable, an important aspect to consider with headphones. Each ear cushion uses acoustically engineered memory foam to create an effective seal—passive noise cancellation if you will.

What’s also unique is the integration of the Digital Crown, yes, inspired by the Apple Watch. This familiar tactile interface enables you to precisely control volume and gives you the ability to play or pause audio, skip tracks, answer or end phone calls, and activate Siri.

It’s interesting that Apple has not opted for a touch interface like on its AirPods.

The AirPods Max feature a 40mm Apple-designed dynamic driver that provides “rich, deep bass, accurate mid-ranges, and crisp, clean high frequency extension.”

Apple explains it uses a unique dual neodymium ring magnet motor that allows the headphones to maintain total harmonic distortion of less than one per cent across the entire audible range. Even at maximum volume.

The Apple-designed H1 chip, armed with 10 audio cores capable of nine billion operations per second, unleashes the power of computational audio, bringing you Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio.

Adaptive EQ adjusts the sound to the fit and seal of the ear cushions, measuring the sound signal delivered to you. It adjusts low and mid-frequencies in real time.

Like the AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max features outward facing mics in each ear cup to detect environmental noise while one mic in each ear cup monitors sound that reaches your ear. Noise cancellation continuously adapts to the headphone fit and your movement in real time.

Transparency Mode is the critical ability to be aware of your environment while you’re enjoying your music and voice communications. Switching from ANC and Transparency mode can be done with a single press of the noise control button.

AirPods Max can deliver an immersive, theatre-like experience for content recorded in 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos. Using the built-in gyroscope and accelerometer and in the iPhone or iPad, spatial audio tracks the motion of your head as well as the device. It remaps the sound field so it stays anchored to the device.

The magical setup experience that millions have enjoyed with the AirPods and AirPods Pro extends to the AirPods Max. It’s a familiar one-tap setup, followed by automatic pairing with all devices signed into your iCloud, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.

In terms of battery life, the AirPods Max delivers and impressive up to 20 hours of high-fidelity audio, talktime or movie playback with ANC and spatial audio enabled.

The polarising soft, slim Smart Case can put the headphones in an ultralow power state to preserve battery charge when idle.

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Hmmm….

Pricing and availability

The AirPods Max will be available for order soon for MYR2,399 (USD549) from apple.com/my and in the Apple Store app.

For those who prefer in-ear options, the AirPods start at MYR699 (USD159) while the AirPods Pro are available for MYR1,099 (USD249).

Personal engraving to all AirPods is available for free on apple.com/my and the Apple Store app.

Initial thoughts

The AirPods Max looks iconic and seems to pack plenty in the audio department. It remains to be seen how good they sound. I’m sure they sound incredible but I’ll reserve my comments until I can get a pair to test out. One thing’s for sure, the price tag pushes it higher up the premium ANC headphones segment, outpricing the current champion—Sony WH-100XM4 and Bose QC35 II. Then again, when it comes to Apple-y things, it’s never an Apple-to-Apple comparison, is it? What’s polarising is the Smart Case, though. What do you think?


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By Vernon

Vernon is the founder and chief editor of Vernonchan.com. A graphic designer by profession, he has a deep love for technology, cars, gadgets, food, and travel. He tweets too much and is also known as a caffeine bacterium ("life's too short for bad coffee"). Bleeds Blue (go Chelsea FC!) and considers BMW, Porsche, Alfa Romeo cars to have in the garage--for true petrolheads, that is.