Apple debuts $549 AirPods Max headphones: pre-order today, arriving December 15

Apple today announced its long-rumored premium over-hear headphones, dubbed the AirPods Max and priced at $549. They are available to pre-order today ahead of retail availability next Tuesday, December 15, in more than 25 countries and regions.

The headphones feature an over-ear design, bring high-fidelity sound and combine a custom acoustic design, Apple’s H1 headphone chips for one-tap iCloud setup and computational audio with features like adaptive EQ, active noise cancellation, Transparency mode and spatial audio. With adaptive EQ, the product adjusts the sound to the fit and seal of the ear cushions. It works by measuring the sound signal delivered to a user and adjusting the low and mid-frequencies in real time.

They are available in five color finishes — Space Gray, Silver, Sky Blue, Green and Pink — and can be pre-ordered starting today ahead of retail availability beginning Tuesday, December 15.

“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,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.

The headphones have a breathable knit mesh canopy that covers the stainless steel headband distributes weight to reduce on-head pressure. a product video available on Apple’s website shows the telescoping headband arms smoothly extending and staying in place to maintain the desired fit.

Each ear cup attaches 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. Each ear cushion uses acoustically engineered memory foam to create an effective seal — a critical factor in delivering immersive sound.

The AirPods Max headphones have  the Apple Watch-inspired Digital Crown for precise volume control. You can also use it to play/pause audio, skip tracks, answer/end phone calls and activate Siri.

A dedicated button switches between active noise cancellation and Transparency mode.

AirPods Max feature a 40-mm Apple-designed dynamic driver that provides rich, deep bass, accurate mid-ranges, and crisp, clean high-frequency extension so every note can be heard. A unique dual neodymium ring magnet motor allows AirPods Max to maintain total harmonic distortion of less than 1 percent across the entire audible range, even at maximum volume.

Computational audio is also a big feature.

Equipped with an Apple-designed H1 chip in each ear cup, a custom acoustic design and advanced software, AirPods Max use computational audio to deliver the highest quality listening experience possible. Utilizing each of the chips’ 10 audio cores — capable of 9 billion operations per second — computational audio powers a breakthrough listening experience that includes adaptive EQ, active noise cancellation, Transparency mode and spatial audio.

For active noise cancellation, the AirPods Max use three outward-facing microphones in each ear cup, with one microphone inside the ear cup monitoring the sound that hits your ear. “Using computational audio, noise cancellation continuously adapts to the headphone fit and movement in real time,” Apple notes. Like the AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max also support Transparency mode (simultaneously listen to music while hearing the environment around you) and spatial audio, which uses the built-in gyroscope and accelerometer to dynamically tracks your head and place content recorded in 5.1, 7.1, and Dolby Atmos virtually anywhere in a space.

AirPods Max automatically detect when they are on a user’s head using the optical and position sensors. Once in place, AirPods Max play audio and can pause once removed or when the user simply lifts one ear cup. With AirPods Max, voice calls and Siri commands are crisp and clear due to beam-forming microphones that block out ambient noise and focus on the user’s voice.

Apple has rated the AirPods Max with a 20-hour battery life in terms of audio, talk time or movie playback with active noise cancellation and spatial audio enabled. The included Smart Case automatically puts the headphones into an ultra-low power state to preserve battery charge when not in use.

The new headphones are available to order starting today for $549 in the United States and 24 other countries and regions from and in the Apple Store app. The AirPods Max will begin shipping next Tuesday, December 15. The audio accessory requires Apple devices running iOS 14.3, iPadOS 14.3, macOS Big Sur 11.1, watchOS 7.2 or tvOS 14.3 or later.

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