Apple AirPods Max: noise cancelling, over-ear, headphones inspired by the Apple Watch

Digital Crown on board the new AirPods to control your tunes
Apple AirPods Max go live
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Finally, six years after buying big-cans specialist Beats, Apple has a pair of its own over-ear headphones. The Apple AirPods Max are the long rumored AirPods Studio - and they are on sale right now.

Costing an eye-watering (ear-watering?) $549, the latest member of the AirPods family is a much bigger and more powerful proposition than its in-ear predecessors, with a pair of breathable knit mesh canopy cans (3.28 x 4 inches) each packing its own H1 chip for a computational audio experience.

That basically means that each individual earpiece has its own processor on board to determine that best audio performance; whether that be spatial audio when watching a movie or a TV show on your iPad, iPhone or Mac; or Adaptive EQ to adjust your music by measuring the sound signal delivered to each ear.

Apple says that the AirPods Max are capable of 9 billion operations per second and will adjust the low and mid-frequencies in real time.

The AirPods Max are active noise cancelling headphones and, as with the AirPods and AirPods Pro, you can choose to hear the natural sounds around you with Transparency mode, which can be enabled with a single press of the noise control button.

Apple AirPods Max digital crown button

On one of the cans there is a Digital Crown controller, just like the one on your Apple Watch. This allows for precise volume control, and lets you do stuff like playing or pausing audio, skipping tracks, answering calls and activating Siri.

Obviously, Apple being Apple, the new headphones work best if you pair them with something else you bought at the Apple Store; an Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac and the like, but they are also Bluetooth headphones so you could use them - without a bulk of key functionality - with any Bluetooth playback device.

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Within the Apple walled garden you'll easily be able to switch sound and share streams between your devices. For example, you could be streaming a podcast on your Mac when your iPhone begins to ring and the AirPods Max would automatically switch over when you answer the call.

As mentioned, the Apple AirPods Max are on sale now - priced at $549 and shipping starts on 15 December. They come in five colors: space grey, silver, sky blue, green, and pink.

Battery life is touted at 20 hours - we'll give you the real number when we've finished testing for our AirPods Max review, so stay tuned for that.