Apple has announced the “AirPods Max”, a headphones version of its smart earphones.
The new headphones feature all of the smart features of the AirPods Pro: noise cancellation, adaptive EQ, and spatial audio that makes sound follow your head as it moves around. They will also work with the Apple ecosystem in the same way, switching between devices.
But they are put into an entirely new form factor for Apple’s audio products: headphones. The company has previously only ever made earphones that go into the ears rather than over them.
They come in five different colours – space grey, silver, sky blue, green, and pink – and are available to pre-order today. They will be available on 15 December.
They cost £549, considerably more than even the pricier AirPods Pro. The normal AirPods cost £159 and the AirPods Pro cost £249.
As well as borrowing from the existing AirPods, the new headphones also take features from the Apple Watch. They have their own version of the “Digital Crown” found on that smartwatch, which can be used to control the volume and make other changes.
Apple also made a variety of claims about the hardware design of the new headphones. It said that it had created a “revolutionary mechanism” to attach the ear cups to the headband, and that those ear cushions themselves use “acoustically engineered memory foam” that allow them to create a seal around people’s ears.
“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 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.”
Like the other AirPods, the headphones are able to detect when they are on a person’s head and turn themselves on accordingly. They also come with a “Smart Case”, that switches them into a low-power state and helps preserve battery, Apple said.
As well as sitting alongside the existing AirPods, the headphones will also be a rival to Apple’s own Beats products, some of which include many of the same features though at a lower price. While rumours have suggested that Beats could be subsumed by its own hardware, Apple has repeatedly reiterated its commitment to the brand.