After years of waiting and speculation, Apple has finally revealed their first - but certainly not last - pair of over ear headphones - the AirPods Max.
The news of the Airpods Max was just dropped on the internet not but a couple of days ago and already they are causing quite the stir. However, unless you are one of the slew of die hards who undoubtedly already have these on the way…
You shouldn't buy the AirPods Max. At least, not right away,
The first thing that must be talked about - and indeed the internet did talk about - was the hefty price tag. If you want to get your hands on these they are going to cost you a whopping $550 dollars. For a wireless over ear headphone, even with all these features, this is quite expensive.
For reference, the most comparable model based on what these will be delivering is the Sony 1000 XM4, but more on that in just a bit.
Looks wise, these have got some really quirky things going on. The most obvious is this mesh headband, which to my eyes honestly looks a little bit goofy. To be fair, it looks very light and comfortable, but I will have to see for myself if they can last and be durable, as this seems easily the flimsiest part.
Also, this is strangely the only part that isn’t covered by the case. Let’s be real, Apple surely spent copious amounts of money on the research and development of this product, and I’m sure there was a lot of work that went into arriving at the case they did. But it just seems... off.
I’m not even going to get into what everybody is saying the case looks like, ranging in things from a bra to other more wild anatomical comparisons, but this part of the product really does seem like a head scratcher. There is no hardshell case for this incredibly expensive product, and they don’t fold or collapse. So essentially, the case just covers the much more sturdy metal part and leaves the thin mesh headband exposed.
The case is also essentially the only way to manage the power. There is no on or off button, instead the headphones only go into low power mode when detected in the case. So if you just want to leave them out, they will stay on and sap your precious battery life.
The battery life information apple has released is that they last 20 hours while using active noise cancellation. This obviously means they will last longer if you use your features a little more conservatively, but still these are probably gonna be in the middle toward lower range of battery life.
Charging a premium price while offering certain features that are somewhat lacking or middling is no doubt one of these less endearing Apple iSMS that we have come to just accept - and there are more here. Such as...
- These do not come with an audio cable, so if you want the option of wired listening you’ll have to buy it separately from Apple for $35 bucks. All you get upon delivery is a usb c to lightning for charging.
- The replaceable magnetic memory foam earpads - which admittedly look quite nice - will also run you $70 dollars if you want to replace them or mix and match the color. This is quite bold for a product that’s already $550 dollars
Apart from some of these small annoyances, it really does look like there’s top notch quality in all the materials here.
The frame is stainless steel with aluminum housing, the earpads are memory foam. Internally, you’ve got 40mm drivers with neodymium rings, and a carry over of the spatial audio feature from the airpods pro. These also have a ton of internal microphones for ANC and transparency mode, and two H1 chips (one per side) to ensure the ultimate high efficiency computing within your apple ecosystem.
This is essentially the number one reason you have for buying a pair of these. If you are a dedicated Apple user, the addition of a good sounding over ear Bluetooth headphone that will instantly toggle between your devices, read your text messages, access Siri etc., is going to be really hard to pass up.
This has always been Apple's strength. Back when the original airpods were released, they were not the first true wireless earbuds. But it’s a credit to their marketing and their jumping on a novel idea that many people think it was, even if they didn’t sound the best. The original apple airpods dominated about 80 percent of the market share.
But I don’t think it’s especially bold of me to predict, with some confidence, that this success won’t be replicated in the same way. Not even a fraction of it. Because the airpods max have way more competition.
I’m hardly the first person to make this comparison, but the Sony 1000 XM4 that I mentioned earlier features really outstanding sound quality, perhaps the best noise cancelling of any bluetooth over ear headphone, collapses for easy transport, comes with headphone cable included...and is hundreds of dollars less than the Airpods Max.
When it comes to over ear headphones, there are a wealth of brands and products that offer studio quality sound and a mix and match of many of the other airpod max features, at much lower prices.
Apple knows this. The glamour with this release comes from the fact that the Airpods Max are from a top brand and not everyone will be able to have one, either due to price or availability. If you’re not the person who already pre ordered these in advance, they’re probably not worth it for you to get...at least not right now.
Inevitably, we will get an Airpod Max Pro, or a myriad of other equivalent upgrades with similar names that will eventually drive the price of these inaugural units down, perhaps to be more equal with its competitors. But as to whether or not Apple will replicate that market dominance? It seems highly unlikely.