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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Apple introduces $549 AirPods Max over-the-ear headphones

Warning: This story has not been updated in several years and may contain out-of-date information.

AirPods Max
AirPods Max in green.

December surprise! As rumored, Apple had one more trick up its sleeve for the “year” that has been 2020. This morning the company announced its new AirPods Max headphones, a long-expected over-the-ear model that bring many of the features of its AirPods line.

Apple says that the new AirPods Max—which come in five colors1, including space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink—have a custom acoustic design and use the same H1 chips found in other AirPods models; each ear cup has one chip, and they both have 10 audio cores to power audio processing. Like the AirPods Pro, the Max have both Active Noise Cancelation and Transparency modes, as well as the new spatial audio introduced in iOS 14.

The ear cups are designed with memory foam to help seal in sound, and feature a mechanism to distribute ear cup pressure to fit one’s head. Inside each ear cup is a 40mm dynamic driver, with a “unique dual neodymium ring magnet” that Apple says helps maintain a distortion-free listening experience, even at high volumes. (Though no doubt audiophiles will make their own judgments when they arrive.)

Ah, but how will you control such a device? Well, look no further than the Apple Watch. The AirPods Max feature, yes, a Digital Crown, which you can use to control volume, as well as play/pause audio, skip tracks, answer and end phone calls, or, of course, activate Siri. There’s also a noise control button that can toggle between the ANC and Transparency modes.

Like the AirPods Pro, the setup of AirPods Max is done on your Apple device, and automatically pairs with all devices associated with your Apple ID. Optical and position sensors mean that playback automatically pauses if you lift one ear cup.

Apple also says that battery time is no slouch: the AirPods Max will provide 20 hours of audio playback, talk time, or movie playback with both ANC and spatial audio turned on.

The headphones also include a fascinating “soft” Smart Case, which puts AirPods Max into a low-power state when not in use. For charging, Apple uses a Lightning port (sorry USB-C fans) includes a Lightning-to-USB-C cable in the box, though, of course, no power brick.

All of this comes at a premium price, though. AirPods Max will cost $549, and are available to order today in the U.S. and more than 25 other countries and regions. They’ll start shipping on December 15.

  1. Yay, non-boring colors! These are almost the same as the new iPad Air, with the exception of pink instead of rose gold. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]

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