• Kong

The $629 AirPods Max, Hi-fi hit or Apple luxury?

After purchasing Beats Electronic in 2014, Apple is making its debut on the headphone market with the AirPods Max. The new headphones will cost $629 and will be Apples first entry into the over-ear headphone market under their own brand. The headphones features the usual sleek Apple design with parts curated by Apple to provide "exceptional audio performance for the user, from the canopy right down to the ear cushions". This latest addition to the Apple family is set to deliver "the ultimate personal listening experience" according to Apple. But will this new Apple product also satisfy the audiophiles or will it just be a new piece of Apple luxury?

The highly anticipated Airpods Max will be a "revolutionary" wireless headphones version of their AirPods according to Apple. The over-ear design boasts an Apple-designed dynamic driver, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, Adaptive EQ and Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking among many other features.

"AirPods are the most popular headphones in the world, beloved for their effortless setup, incredible sound quality, and iconic design. With AirPods Max, we are bringing that magical AirPods experience to a stunning over-ear design with high-fidelity audio,"

said Greg Joswiak, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing.

The high price tag makes sure it's not competing with Apples own line of Beats products which they purchased back in 2014. The Beat lines of products has a bad reputation with audiophiles, but hopefully their new entry to the market will deliver. At least, Apples seems to really bring it with a list of futuristic technical features on the AirPod Max.

The sleek headphone design features a breathable knit mesh canopy which spans the headband, specially designed to distribute weight and reduce head on pressure. The stainless steel headband frame provides strength, flexibility and comfort regardless of head shape and size. And finally, the telescoping headband arms extend smoothly, staying in place to maintain your desired fit.

Audio wise the AirPods Max has a 40mm Apple-designed dynamic driver that aims to provide rich, deep bass, accurate mid-range and crisp, clean high-frequency extension ensuring that you can hear every note. Next to that its equipped with an Apple-designed H1 chip in each ear cup, with a custom acoustic design and advance software. The chip makes sure to use computational audio to deliver the highest-quality listening experience possible by utilising each of the chips' 10 audio cores, which is capable of a staggering nine billion operations per second. Finally Apple added the Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode and spatial audio to optimise the personal listening experience.

Adaptive EQ: This is to adjust the sound to fit and seal the ear cushions. It's done by measuring the sound signal delivered to a user, adjusting the low and mid-frequencies in real-time.

Active Noise Cancellation: The Noise Cancellation feature allows you to focus on what you're just listening to. Each ear cup has three outward-facing microphones that detect environmental noise, one of the microphones monitors the sound reaching your ear. And by combining that with computational audio, noise cancellation adapts in real-time.

Transparency Mode: When you use this mode, you can simultaneously listen to music while hearing the environment around you, ensuring that the user's own voice sounds natural while the audio plays at the same time. You can easily switch between Noise Cancellation and Transparency mode using the noise control button.

Spatial Audio: This is used together with dynamic head tracking to place sounds virtually anywhere in space. The result is an immersive, theatre-like experience for sound recorded in 5.1, 7.1 and Dolby Atmos. Regardless of how you move your head, spatial audio tracks your head and the AirPods Max and compares it with motion data then remaps the sound so it stays on the headphones.

Next to the audio features, the AirPod Max has the same set-up experience as the AirPods including the one-tap setup, automatic pairing with the devices on your iCloud account. The AirPods Max automatically detects when it's off your head, using optical and position sensors. It can play audio, pause once removed or when you lift one ear-cup. AirPods Max, voice calls and Siri commands are also promised to be flawless and smooth thanks to its beam-forming microphones that help block ambient noise, focusing only on your voice.

Additional features on the AirPod Max include Automatic Switching, that allows you to seamlessly move between Apple devices, whether it's iPhone, iPad or Max, and; Audio Sharing, which makes it possible to easily share an audio stream between two sets of AirPods with iPhone, iPod touch or Apple TV 4K.

The AirPods Max are promised to have battery life of up with to 20 hours of high-fidelity audio, talk time or movie playback, even with the Active Noise Cancellation and spatial audio enabled.

The numerous features on the AirPod Max are impressive but seem to more of a luxury statement than new hit on the hi-fi market. Pre-order is available now at the Apple website and shipping begins on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. AirPods Max requires Apple devices running iOS 14.2 or later, iPadOS 14.3, macOS Big Sur 11.1 or later, watchOS 7.2 or later and tvOS 14.3 or later.


Source: Apple | Tweakers | Tatler Hong Kong