The rumors were true. Apple today announced a new piece of hardware: the Airpods Max, the first over-ear noise-canceling headphones to bear the company's iconic logo.
Unveiled in a stealthy Apple press release, the premium headphones are priced at $549 and are set to go on sale on December 15 with preorders starting today.
Apple AirPods Max's 'stunning over-ear design'
Apple describes the AirPods Max as having "the magic of AirPods in a stunning over-ear design." The headphones come in a sleek, minimalistic design typical of the brand.
Available in five colors — space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink — the headphones feature what Apple calls a "custom acoustic design."
This design seems to focus on providing a more comfortable noise-canceling experience for those who might have been put off the technology by the often overly-tight, sometimes sweat-inducing headphone models.
A breathable knit mesh canopy spans the over-ear headphones' entire headband in order to distribute weight and reduce head pressure for wearers.
Each of the AirPods Max's cups is attached 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," Apple explains.
Each of the ear cushions, meanwhile, uses "acoustically engineered" memory foam to effectively seal the listener's ears and cut out all that pesky outside noise.
Enhanced audio, returning features
As for the audio, a 40mm driver system "provides rich, deep bass, accurate mid-ranges, and crisp, clean high-frequency extension so every note can be heard."
Apple says that a unique dual neodymium ring magnet motor in the headphones allows them to maintain "total harmonic distortion of less than 1 percent across the entire audible range, even at maximum volume."
Several features carry over from Apple's original AirPods line, including spatial audio, adaptive EQ, transparency mode, audio sharing, and hands-free Siri voice commands.
Siri is also controllable via the headphone's Apple Watch-inspired volume control, which has the grandiose moniker of the "Digital Crown."
On this "Crown," a noise control button allows users to easily switch between noise-canceling and transparency modes, and users can also pause audio, skip tracks, and answer or cancel phone calls.
Apple says the AirPods Max feature a battery life of up to 20 hours with Active Noice Cancellation and spatial audio enabled.
The headphones also come with a soft Smart Case that puts the headphones in an ultralow-power state to preserve battery charge when not in use.
Apple's foray into headphone dominance
Back in August 2014, Apple acquired Beats for $3 billion, the largest acquisition in the company's history. The AirPods Max come as a bid from Apple to further consolidate its place in the headphones market, adding to the momentum of their wireless earbuds, the Airpods, and Airpods Pro.
That's not to say that Apple isn't moving into a crowded space with its new premium headphones: the company will be in direct competition with veteran brands like Bose, Sony, AKG, and Band & Olufson.
It's a strange time of the year for Apple to introduce a new piece of hardware — which is very 2020 of them. Today's news was tipped last week by MacRumors, who discovered Apple had sent out a memo to authorized service providers about changes to AppleCare set to be announced on today's date.