A man wearing Apple's new AirPods Max while using an Apple laptop.
Apple
  • Apple unveiled its first Apple-branded, over-ear headphones on Tuesday: The Apple AirPods Max. 
  • Despite carrying the same AirPods branding as the earbud-style headphones, the AirPods Max are intended as premium headphones.
  • We don't yet know when they will be available in SA, or exactly what they will cost, but it will almost certainly be more than R11,000.
  • Here's everything we know so far.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Apple unveiled the AirPods Max on Tuesday: its first-ever set of over-the-ear headphones, and the highest-end model in the popular AirPods line.

Apple's swanky new headphones have a sleek, stylish design, high-quality internals. The price is equally high: $549 in the US. South African pricing, and availability, has not been announced, the the dollar price implies a cost of more than R10,000 once the usual Apple premium is factored in.

With a scheduled launch in the Unite States just days away, here's everything we know about Apple's newest device:

1. The look.

A look from the side, left, and from above, right.
Apple

AirPods Max are a major design departure from Apple's earbud-style wireless AirPods.

Most obviously, they're over-the-ear headphones rather than earbud-style headphones. But even among comparable products from other companies, Apple's new AirPods Max stand out.

Perhaps most notably, from a visuals perspective, is the "breathable knit mesh canopy" that makes up the band. Unlike the solid bands on most over-the-ear headphones, Apple's AirPods Max has a kind of Aeron office chair-style fabric held taut between two thinner posts. 

Moving to the earphones themselves, Apple seemingly took design cues directly from its Watch: The "crown," as well as the Tic Tac-shaped button, appear to have been pulled directly from the Apple Watch.

2. The features.

Apple

Think of the AirPods Max as the highest-end version of the AirPods line. They offer much of the same functionality, albeit in a larger, better sounding package.

Apple Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Greg Joswiak said the intention with the new AirPods Max is to evoke "that magical AirPods experience" in an over-the-ear headset. 

They feature a lot of the same functionality that AirPods users already enjoy. Apple detailed as much in the announcement on Tuesday morning

  1. AirPods Max pair most easily with Apple devices, which automatically recognise their presence when logged in through iCloud. This includes "iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV," Apple said.
  2. Like how AirPods know they're in your ear, AirPods Max "automatically detect when they are on a user's head." You can set them to automatically pause if you remove the headphones, or even "when the user simply lifts one ear cup."
  3. Beyond using the headphones for listening to audio, they can also be used with Siri and as a means of making/receiving phone calls (when paired with compatible Apple devices).

Beyond those features, Apple says that its new headphones are "the highest quality listening experience possible" in an Apple product. 

The AirPods Max last for up to 20 hours of "high-fidelity audio, talk time, or movie playback," the company said. That battery time includes the use of two key features: Active Noise Cancellation and spatial audio.

Of note: Though Apple AirPods Max are intended for use with Apple devices, they are Bluetooth headphones capable of connecting via Bluetooth to non-Apple devices as well.

3. The Specs.

The inside of the AirPods Max, exploded.
Apple

The AirPods Max have nine microphones, the vast majority of which are dedicated to noise cancellation. It's got a gaggle of motion sensors, so it knows to pause when you lift an ear cup (among other things), and two physical inputs: a "crown," which operates similarly to the crown on the Apple Watch, and a rounded rectangular button.

The button has one function: turning noise cancellation on and off.

The crown serves several purposes, according to Apple: It can be turned to control volume, pushed in to pause/play or answer the phone, double tapped to skip forward, triple tapped to skip back, and pushed and held for Siri.

At the heart of the headphones is Apple's H1 chip, which the AirPod Max has embedded in each ear cup (one per ear). 

Check out the full spec list right here.

4. The colours.

Apple

The initial debut of the AirPods Max is a five-colour run: space grey, sky blue, green, pink, and silver.

5. The "Smart Case."

Apple

Alongside the headphones themselves, Apple includes a charging cable (Lightning to USB-C) and a carrying case. The latter, Apple says, is a "soft, slim Smart Case" that puts the headphones into an "ultralow power state" intended to preserve your battery as long as possible.

6. Not yet: the price and release date in SA.

Apple

In the US pre-orders, via, Apple's online store, went live earlier this week, at a cost $549, and Apple will engrave something on them at no additional cost. The headphones are scheduled to launch on December 15.

Price and availability in South Africa have not yet been announced, but once the usual Apple premium is applied, the price is very unlikely to be under R10,000 until a new version is released.

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