Apple launches AirPods Max with a ‘custom acoustic design’ and Digital Crown for $549

Apple's holiday surprise is very expensive

After many months of rumors, Apple today announced AirPods Max, the latest member of its headphone line that brings the technology of its popular AirPods earbuds to a new over-ear design to rival high-fidelity offerings from Sony, Bose, and Beats. And in a nod to Apple’s other ubiquitous wearable, the Apple Watch, the AirPods Max have a Digital Crown to control your music.

The new headphones, which come in five colors to match the iPad Air 4 and cost a whopping $549, include all of the features Apple has brought to the AirPods and AirPods Pro, including active noise cancelation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio. The somewhat large cups are wrapped in a “breathable knit mesh canopy” that spans the stainless-steel headband and is designed “to distribute weight and reduce on-head pressure.”

That bit is important since the AirPods Max weighs 13.6 ounces, which is significantly more than the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 (8.3 ounces), Sony’s WH-1000XM3 (8.99 ounces), and the Beats Studio 3 (9.2 ounces).

airpods max internal Apple

The AirPods Max feature a “custom acoustic design” and feature all of the technology Apple debuted in the AirPods and AirPods Pro.

The ear cups aren’t customizable as was rumored, but Apple says they attach to the headband “through a revolutionary 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.” A Digital Crown is affixed to the right cup to bring volume control as well as playback and other controls.

Like the second-gen AirPods and AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max are powered by Apple’s H1 chip to bring super-connectivity with low latency and lengthy battery life. Apple says the new headphones feature 20 hours of battery life on a single charge with noise cancellation and spatial audio enabled, but they don’t include a charging case. Instead, you get a soft Smart Case that puts the AirPods Max into an ultralow power state to preserve battery between uses.

Curiously, the AirPods Max do not have “Hey Siri” support, so you’ll need to use the Digital Crown to activate Siri. They charge via a Lightning-to-USB-C cable but a power adapter is not included in the box. As with other Airpods models, they can be used as Bluetooth headphones with non-Apple devices but Apple warns that functionality is limited.

The AirPods Max are available for preorder today for $549 and will begin shipping on Tuesday, December 15.