Apple Announces AirPods Max

Posted on December 8, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Music + Videos with 81 Comments

Apple today announced the long-rumored AirPods Max, which despite the name are not earbuds but over-the-ear headphones. They’re also ridiculously expensive.

“With AirPods Max, we are bringing that magical AirPods experience to a stunning over-ear design with high-fidelity audio,” Apple senior vice president Greg Joswiak said in a canned statement. “The custom acoustic design, combined with powerful H1 chips, and advanced software enable AirPods Max to use computational audio to wirelessly deliver the ultimate personal listening experience.”

Available in space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink at a cost of $549—yep, you read that right, $549—the AirPods Max are available for preorder today and will ship next Tuesday, December 15.

So what do you get for this mortgage payment? According to Apple, the new headphones feature “a custom acoustic design, H1 chips, and advanced software to power computational audio for a breakthrough listening experience with Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio.” There’s a so-called digital crown—others might just call it a volume nob—for “precise volume control and the ability to play or pause audio, skip tracks, answer or end phone calls, and activate Siri.” And a lame-looking wrap-around case of sorts that only covers the headphones. Battery life is rated at 20 hours.

You can learn more at the Apple website.

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Comments (81)

81 responses to “Apple Announces AirPods Max”

  1. bart

    More expensive than a Xbox Series X. I mean....?

    • andyhi

      In reply to Bart:

      I hear ya.
      To compare against Apples own products, imagine an iPhone 12 mini in one hand and these head phones in the other... think about the materials used, mans hours spent on refinement, overall capabilities, etc... then explain how these justify only a ~21% discount off the price of a 12 mini. No rational person could.

  2. behindmyscreen

    The amount of hostility to the price is amusing. People....if you don't like the price, don't buy it. No need to be hostile.

  3. mikegalos

    OK, that case is really, really silly.

    Seriously, it's worth going to the Apple site just to see that case.

  4. rmlounsbury

    They must be magical to get rational people to part with that much money for a wireless headset. Even Bose stays south of $400 for a headset (unless you get into their aviation line).

    Of course, I assume this product is aimed at actual sound professionals and not the masses. Much like the Mac Pro and their studio monitors that precious few people would benefit from spending that much on such a product.

    • branneth

      In reply to rmlounsbury:

      There is no way anyone actually needing to hear the direct reproduction of the sound is buying anything that is “computationally” manipulating it.

      These are aimed squarely at the consumer market. More specifically, the consumer who is blissfully ignorant of the market leaders who have been making high quality audio equipment for decades, and has money to burn.

    • jgraebner

      In reply to rmlounsbury:

      I doubt that is the target market as sound professionals are unlikely to use wireless headphones. All the signal processing that Apple is touting in these would also likely be a no-go for professionals.

  5. Saarek

    I love my AirPods Pro, but then they weren't that much more expensive than other decent brands out there and being an Apple user they made a lot of sense.

    But these...... Nah, I'll buy the Bowers & Wilkins PX7's that I've had my eye on. Way overpriced.

  6. SvenJ

    Colors are nice. Not sure the digital crown is the best idea for what it is designed to do. The Surface headphones have large knobs to do this sort of thing. Wonderful implementation. Easy to find and use. Case will support a robust third party case industry. There was a rumor that you would be able to put these on either way and it would figure out left and right. Saw an L in one earcup, so guess not.

  7. awright18

    Thank you Paul! You gave me something to snicker at while reading today's tech news. I think you should be awarded today's "digital crown" for the quality of this story.

  8. Sir_Timbit

    They're going to double-down on that Homepod pricing, I see...

  9. prebengh

    It is always funny to come to this site when Apple has released new products. I just know that the comments will always be negative (not from all, luckily).

    These headphones are expensive (and I will definitely not buy them), but if you look at hifi products they just are expensive.

    And Paul is as always on the front in the negative Apple comments (mortgage payments, digital crown/volume knob), as always without having seen them, or tested them. As he did with the M1 Macs.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Yeah, I find it funny when Apple's hyperbole meets reality as well. :)
    • curtisspendlove

      In reply to Prebengh:


      Most of us aren’t in the market for headphones like this. But professional headphones are crazy expensive.

      $500 is the starting price for those sort of headphones.

      But, Apple hate drives a lot of traffic to a site. So you can’t blame them. ;)

      • jgraebner

        In reply to curtisspendlove:

        These are obviously aimed at consumers, not professionals and the price is unquestionably higher than the typical high-end for that market. Maybe Apple really has created something that justifies the pricing, but it is completely reasonable to be skeptical.

        • kb923689

          In reply to jgraebner:

          Indeed. We all know this "magical" hardware is not up to pro headphones. The $549 price is mostly for the brand. These are not audiophile headphones.

        • curtisspendlove

          In reply to jgraebner:

          Hmm. I took a closer look at the site a bit ago and I agree with you. Their product site is pretty clearly aimed at muggles.

          They aren’t for me, but I’m sure they’ll sell a boatload or ten of them.

  10. Craig Smith

    At the current exchange rate, this will make them an eye-watering $700 to $740 in Australia. People will still buy them.

  11. curtisspendlove

    In reply to digiguy:

    For actual paid work, correct. But a lot of pros like to use “professional” level tools for their personal stuff as well.

    And if the muggles want to by up a bunch to look cool...well Apple is perfectly happy with that.

    • bkkcanuck

      In reply to curtisspendlove:

      Yep, my ears are just not refined enough to spend $500+ on headphones... I will stick with my Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones (wired) - very good headphones (neutral not bass boosted) for a mere $129 suggested retail price (lower on Amazon, but I had mine shipped from Germany to SE Asia - so a bit more for me).

  12. p1anetj0hn

    For just a little more $$$ I've got some real nice beach front property in Barstow California you might appreciate.

  13. behindmyscreen

    In reply to Daekar:

    You have a personal preference argument and an argument that’s true of any set of headphones.

  14. bschnatt

    I got a set of (wired) ear buds with my BlackBerry Key2 LE, and they are the best sounding ear buds I've ever had. See what I did there? I just saved a bunch of money by switching to... nothing. LOL

  15. rickcosby

    I have the new Sony MX-4 and the spatial audio is really nice. It only works on tracks that have been encoded for it. Maybe since Apple is mentioning it they will start offering spatial audio versions of music on Apple Music. Right now it's not very common. There are some tracks on Tidal but it's more of a proof of concept than a finished product.

  16. sabertooth920

    549 bucks...I think not. Guess they didn’t learn from HomePod.

  17. eeisner

    Audiophile prices from a company that's never produced audiophile quality. Beats were and still are overpriced for the audio quality and were always justified because of the brand/pop culture status. Will be interesting to see if Apple fans justify spending the money on these, or if they go the way of the Homepod.

  18. truerock2


    Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking gives you a theater‑like experience for movies and shows, with sound that surrounds you. Using built-in gyroscopes and accelerometers, AirPods Max and your iPhone or iPad track the subtle motion of your head, anchoring sounds to your device.

  19. StevenLayton

    So what do you get for this mortgage payment?

    Warm ears?

  20. andyhi

    Unless these have vastly superior sound quality due to revolutionary computational technology and/or materials used for the drivers (not likely) they belong in the $299 - $349 price range.

    Without a significant advance in sound quality, the H1 chip is merely a differentiator for current Apple customers to purchase over the current top mainstream wireless choices from Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, etc.

    I wont be trading down from my (over priced, under performing, but convenient) Air Pods Pro, rarely used QC 35 II’s, or wired Sennheiser HD650’s any time soon.

    And for audio quality, *EVERY* wired headphone option in the ~$300 range will almost certainly have significantly better sound quality.

  21. buzzmodo

    Twice as good as my Sony 1000MX2s? (now dated, but still outstanding!)

  22. ekim

    Apple created a product that is "ridiculously expensive"? That never happens :-)

  23. robinwilson16

    At least these can't fall out of your ears but wonder if they have managed to figure out how to get them working with Microsoft Teams on a Windows PC yet as the other Airpods make you really muffled to everyone else so they can't hear you and your audio is so loud everyone else deafens you and you can't control the volume properly. Hopefully for that price it will work!

  24. Vladimir Carli

    I would say outrageously expensive instead than ridiculously. We will see what serious audio reviewers say about these but I expect a similar bass heavy sound as all Beats headphones. I would be surprised if these provided high quality reference audio

  25. lezmaka

    $549 lol

  26. Travis

    I really despise Apple. They have no shame in asking for a kings ransom for their products.

  27. jrzoomer

    Still using Lightning port for charging instead of USB-C? Come on Apple

  28. jchampeau

    Well isn't that spatial.

  29. jm2016

    I don't get this at all... Is this really a thing? Honestly, I never got the whole Beats thing either, but I see them everywhere. A quick look at the Beats web site shows that these are ~$200 more than the most expensive Beats pair. Do people (other than studio pros) pay that for headphones?

    • helix2301

      In reply to jm2016:

      They don't fold like beats either so they take up a lot of space

    • wright_is

      In reply to jm2016:

      Audio, I buy from companies renowned for good audio quality, or I buy cheap. Expensive from a non-audio company doesn't compute.

      I'll wait until they are reviewed - c't in Germany usually compares them to Beyer Dynamics studio reference cans to show where they are good and bad.

  30. Daekar

    I can't wait to see the local college students wandering around with these. The airpods are already funny enough, this will be hilarious.

  31. wright_is

    At that price, I hope they have better sound than Beyer Dynamic's reference headphones...

  32. spiderman2

    LOL ... I go to read again all people comments complaining about Microsoft, Bose, Sony... headphones price

  33. Brett Barbier

    They are way too expensive for me too, but out of curiosity I went to Amazon, and searched for headphones. After sorting by price (high to low), I was shocked at how much some headphones cost. Some cost more than my car is worth. It took quite awhile to get to the page with headphones that "only" cost $550.

    so, are these Apple ones overpriced? I guess it will depend on how well they compare to the other expensive headphones they have to compete with.

  34. skramer49

    Ridiculous, as usual. I guess this is Pandemic Pricing. And no charger in the box.

  35. north of 49th

    Place your bets - how many headphones are going to come out next year in different pastel colors with an open mesh headband?

    I do wonder about the computational audio thing. Is this marketing or is this going to walk the path of computational photography in terms of difference?

    • SvenJ

      In reply to North of 49th: I can tell you the spatial audio feature/capability of the AirPods Pro is super interesting. It is a bit hard to explain though. It enables sound to be coming from a fixed position in space, regardless of which way your head is oriented. If something is in front of you, and you turn your head left, the sound will appear to be coming from the right. Swiveling completely around in a chair can have the sound appear behind you. This doesn't happen on anything, the audio/video must be properly encoded as I understand it. It was easiest to observe during one of the latest Apple Events when it was just Tim Cook speaking. It seemed as if he was in front of you and you turned to speak to a friend, he was now coming from the side. It was quite noticeable. I imagine this sort of thing would be great for gaming, having things be spatially accurate and cognizant of your head orientation. Is it worth an arm and a leg? Maybe to some. You can get AirPods Pro for just part of an arm. Sometimes just a hand on sale.

  36. angusmatheson

    I know it sounds crazy bur my air pods (regular, I think 2nd gerneration) are my favorite product ever. I have had a ton of headphones. And lots of Bluetooth. And it was always a pain. I love that airpods just live in my pocket and when I want o listen to a podcast or YouTube history video I just pop them out and it is all paired and just works. Maybe I just always bought the wrong Bluetooth headphones before. That being said I’m not buying these.

  37. olavgm

    Also, it doesn't include a charger!

  38. mclark2112

    Oooo, shiny!

  39. sammyg

    I am going to get the green version and use it with my XSX!

  40. jimchamplin

    The new thing overpaid white 20-somethings can wear in public to tune out the world.

  41. behindmyscreen

    Sounds like it's the same league as Bose QC line....just $200 more. I wonder if they will stack up well against the Bose QC35 II

  42. MarkPow

    "...bringing that magical AirPods experience... " Didn't realise "magic" was so expensive...

  43. brettscoast

    The most expensive air pods ever.