Apple just released a new pair of AirPods – although “pods” is a misnomer.
New AirPods Max are on-ear headphones, in the style of headphones from Beats, the audio company Apple acquired in 2014. They include features that position them directly against high-end equipment from Bose and Sony. And some people are already reading between the lines of the press release to speculate that Apple’s inclusion of space audio – and an odd, glasses-shaped carrying case – suggests these headphones are part of a strategy to long term around AR content.
They also cost $ 549, a price that makes millions of customers wince who’ve gotten used to spending a few hundred dollars for a tiny blank. AirPods. Not to mention that Bose and Sony offer in-ear headphones with similar features at a significantly lower price. Ben Arnold, an analyst at the NPD Group who tracks headphone sales in the United States, says the “big box” segment of the headphone market has actually declined this year and the average price for these types of headphones is now of about $ 150.
Yet Apple is by far the dominant player in wireless headphones, “and they have the ability to reset the price momentum in a category like this,” says Arnold. “The question is whether consumers are somehow following this and seeing this experience as a valuable experience.”
Sound and vision
These new headphones have what Apple calls a “custom acoustic design,” with an Apple-designed 40-millimeter dynamic driver and the company’s custom chips (one in each earbud). The company, unsurprisingly, puts great emphasis on sound quality with these, bringing many of the current AirPods features to the larger AirPods Max: adaptive sound equalization, active noise cancellation, transparency mode, and spatial audio. There are nine microphones in total, which is one of the things that sets AirPods Max apart from regular AirPods; eight of them are noise-canceling microphones and one is dedicated to phone calls and Siri commands.
And as with the AirPods Pro, there are built-in position sensors that track the wearer’s head and remap spatial audio based on the wearer’s movement. Optical sensors are used to determine when the headphones are on your head; If you listen to music and lift an earbud, the music will stop, just as the music will stop if you remove a small AirPod from your ear.
The cups are aluminum, with a single button on each ear to toggle between ANC and “transparency mode”, which lets in outside noise. Instead of touch controls, there is a digital crown for adjusting the volume, which looks like a larger version of the digital crown found on Apple Watch. (The digital crown can also be used to activate Siri.) A particularly nifty feature of the construction are the removable memory foam cushions in the cups; Apple says they are “acoustically designed” to seal around the ear. The headband has a stainless steel frame with a soft touch coating and a knitted mesh canopy for the top of the head, which is said to “reduce pressure on the head”. The headphones weigh 0.85 pounds. They are available in five colors: silver, space gray, pink, sky blue and green.