Joe Maring sent me his Urbanears Pampas that used a similar control knob, and while I get that it's not flawless for everyone, it's harder to mistakenly trigger and with some tweaks and it beats old-school buttons every day of the week. Here's what you need to know about the AirPods Max, and our picks for the top premium headphones you can buy instead.
AirPods Max contain "adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio", which is a bunch of words I don't really understand, but according to people who ARE into headphones, it's apparently a big deal.
Just a few hours after launch, some models already appear to be selling out. The headphones will cost a pretty penny-$549-and will be available starting December 15 (but you can order them today). This is meant to work with content recorded in 5.1, 7.1 and Dolby Atmos formats and uses the gyroscope and accelerometer inside the AirPods Max, as well as a compatible iPhone or iPad as an audio source. Choosing an engraving pushes that date to December 21. Those on the market for a premium pair of over-ear headphones in the United Kingdom and U.S. can head to the Apple Store and get their pre-order in now, with delivery scheduled for Tuesday 15 December - just in time for Christmas.
The headphones, though, will retail at a staggering $550 - which far exceeds high-end offerings from rivals such as Bose and Sony.
Adaptive EQ adjusts the sound in real time to the seal on the earcup, the audio source and the ambient noise conditions.
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On the audio quality front, the AirPods Max have a 40-mm Apple-designed dynamic driver and a "unique" dual neodymium ring magnet motor which, Apple claims, "allows AirPods Max to maintain total harmonic distortion of less than 1pc across the entire audible range, even at maximum volume". Simply lifting one ear cup from your ears pauses audio. Powered by H1 chipset, which is the same that is used in AirPods, the AirPods Max is claimed to feature "advanced software to power computational audio". As for the Digital Crown, which until now was seen in Apple Watch only, the hardware handles volume control and the ability to play or pause audio, skip tracks, answer or end phone calls, and activate Siri.
There's also a separate "noise control" button for switching between noise canceling and transparency modes.
The AirPods Max will be offered in five colours - space grey, silver, sky blue, green, and pink. And a lame-looking wrap-around case of sorts that only covers the headphones.
The headphones headband is made from stainless steel with a telescopic design to fit a variety of head shapes and sizes while Apple says the price is justified by a "revolutionary" mechanism that balances and distributes ear cup pressure, however it doesn't look like they fold, a must for most travellers.