Apple today announced AirPods Max, innovative wireless headphones that bring the magic of AirPods to an over-ear design with high-fidelity sound. AirPods Max combine a custom acoustic design, H1 chips, and advanced software to power computational audio for a breakthrough listening experience with Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio. AirPods Max come in five gorgeous colors, including space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink, and are available to order starting today, with availability beginning Tuesday, December 15.

It finally happened. Apple has entered the over-the-ear headphone market with an original non-Beats product, and they’re calling it AirPods Max. They come in five colors with a $549 price tag. As with nearly every single new Apple product over the years, the Internet’s initial reaction is, “What! That’s so expensive!”. Objectively, $549 is most definitely not pocket change, but I also don’t think it’s an unreasonable price point for AirPods Max for a few reasons.

  • AirPods Max are a first-generation product (wireless over-the-ear headphones). There will always be early adopters, especially when it comes to Apple products, and Apple knows this. So, why not price the product for those early adopters who will buy it no matter what?
  • Making statements like “I can buy X number of other headphones for the price of a pair of AirPods Max” is, quite frankly, a terrible take because it’s not a valid comparison. That’s sort of the same as saying, “I can buy 50 bicycles for the price of a BMW X3.” AirPods Max are not normal headphones. They are computational audio devices with “programmable drivers” that happen to resemble headphones as we know them.
  • Even if AirPods Max were just normal headphones, $549 is not astronomical. Bose has various models in the $250-380 range, and based on my personal experience, Bose is nowhere near Apple in terms of computational audio, software integration, and industrial design. In other words, if Bose can sell their 700-series noise-cancelling headphones for $380, AirPods Max (based on the quality and functionality standard set by AirPods Pro at $249) makes sense at $549.
  • If we’re talking about audiophile-level equipment, which I seriously think AirPods Max will be competitive against thanks to the advantages of computational audio, $549 is nothing. The popular Sennheiser HD800S headphones go for $1,500, and that’s not even “expensive” in the world of premium audio. Is it wrong to compare AirPods Max to traditional audiophile headphones? I don’t think so. It’s similar how people compare iPhone cameras that leverage computational photography with $5,000 high-end DSLR setups – because there is truly a comparison to be made.

Simply put, AirPods Max are definitely not cheap, but it’s also difficult to make the case that they’re expensive. I think they’re priced correctly as a first-generation premium product designed by Apple. I decided to order AirPods Max in Sky Blue, and I’m looking forward to comparing them with the rest of my headphone collection – Focal Utopia, Shure KSE1200, Sennheiser HD600, and more! I won’t be surprised if AirPods Max ends up providing a better listening experience.

Too bad I have to wait until February to find out!

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