55 'AirPods Max' stories
December 2020 - November 2022
AirPods Max is Apple’s over-ear headphones with high-fidelity audio paired with tricks found on the AirPods lineup. As the company says, this product brings “the ultimate personal listening experience.”
Table of contents
- AirPods Max Features and Specs
- Tips and tricks
- AirPods Max Pricing
- AirPods Max firmware update
- AirPods Max Review
- AirPods Max’s Gucci Smart Case
- Rumors about AirPods Max 2
AirPods Max was introduced five years after the announcement of the first-generation AirPods. Back in the day, Apple said it needed “courage” to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone. Half a decade later, not only did the industry follow Apple’s pattern, but the company also created one of its most well-succeeded products.
The AirPods line is composed of the third-generation AirPods, second-generation AirPods, the first-generation AirPods Pro, and now the first-generation AirPods Max. These headphones are quite different from the others since they are over-ear headphones, don’t have wireless charging, and come in five different colors.
The over-ear headphones were announced on December 8, 2020, and started being sold the following week, on December 15. It was the last product Apple announced in the 2010’s decade.
AirPods Max Features and Specs
The AirPods Max are over-ear headphones that are different from most of the others. They use stainless steel and aluminum materials for the build, making them a bit heavier than some of their biggest competitors from Sony and Bose. They also use removable ear cups with mesh material.
Available in Silver, Space Gray, Sky Blue, Green, and Pink, these headphones have a Digital Crown for controlling the audio, a Lightning port, and a Smart Case to put them in low-power mode since they don’t have an on/off button.
These are the AirPods Max features:
- Apple H1 headphone chip
- Active Noise Cancellation
- Transparency mode
- Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking
- Nine microphones
- Gyroscope, accelerometer, optical sensor, position sensor, and case-detect sensor.
The AirPods Max has up to 20 hours of listening time on a single charge with Active Noise Cancellation or Transparency mode enabled. Five minutes of charge time provides around 1.5 hours of listening time.
After some users reported that the headphone battery was draining even in the Smart Case, Apple released a firmware update to fix it.
Compatibility with Apple products
The AirPods Max is compatible with the products listed below:
- iPhone SE (1st generation), iPhone 6s, or newer;
- iPad mini (4th generation), iPad (5th generation), iPad Air 2, iPad Pro (1st generation), or newer;
- All Apple Watch models;
- Apple TV HD, Apple TV 4K, or newer;
- iPod touch (7th generation) or newer;
- MacBook (Early 2012), MacBook Air (Mid 2012), MacBook Pro (Mid 2012), iMac (Late 2012), iMac Pro (2017), Mac mini (Late 2012), Mac Pro (Late 2013), Mac Studio (2022) or newer.
Apple Music and Lossless audio controversy
Apple promotes high-fidelity audio on the AirPods Max, although it doesn’t support Lossless quality even if wired with the Apple-exclusive Lightning to 3.5 mm Audio Cable. As an Apple spokesperson told 9to5Mac “AirPods Max currently does not support digital audio formats in wired mode.”
To the Verge, Apple elaborated a little bit more about what happens when you try to listen to songs in better quality on your wired AirPods:
Apple tells the Verge that when you play a 24-bit / 48 kHz Apple Music lossless track from an iPhone into the AirPods Max using both the cable and Lightning dongle, the audio is converted to analog and then re-digitized to 24-bit / 48 kHz. That re-digitization step is the reason that Apple can’t say you’re hearing pure lossless audio; it’s not an identical match to the source.”
Although it’s not an identical match to the source, that’s the only way to listen to an improved version of tracks using an Apple headphone.
AirPods Max users can take advantage of Dolby Atmos technology, which is an immersive audio format that enables musicians to mix music so it sounds like the instruments are all around you in space.
Apart from the Apple Music Lossless controversy, the company offers its Apple Digital Masters label, with the company’s AAC format over MP3 in most of the songs. But it’s not up to Apple since the artists must master the songs for the company’s platform.
Tips and tricks
How to power on AirPods Max: put the AirPods next to your iPhone, then tap Connect. You must be running iOS 14.3 or newer.
How to reset it: Press and hold the noise control button and the Digital Crown until you see the LED flash amber.
Using Audio Share feature: It’s possible to share one audio dream from an Apple device between two sets of AirPods, just move the second pair close to the device you’re using.
How to use Spatial Audio: Open the Control Center, tap and press the AirPods icon then select Spatial Audio. You can also test this feature in Settings > Bluetooth > then click the “I” icon, then click on the little demo to see how it works.
Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking: With iOS 15, listeners with AirPods Max can now get an even more immersive experience of Dolby Atmos music with Apple’s dynamic head tracking.
How to check battery life: Remove the AirPods from their case then put them near the iPhone. You’ll get a pop-up notification showing how much charge is remaining. You can also add a battery widget to your device. Also, when there’s 20% battery life left, you’ll get a notification. The same will happen when it hits 10% and 5% battery life.
AirPods Max Pricing
The AirPods Max is available from Apple for $549. You can also buy new ear cups or lightening to 3.5 mm Audio Cable for the over-ear headphone:
- Ear Cushions: $69 (each)
- Lightning to 3.5 mm Audio Cable: $35
Apple doesn’t sell separately the Smart Case, and it does not say how much a replacement case costs.
Lower prices of the over-ear headphones may be available from Apple’s official Amazon store.
AirPods Max firmware update
AirPods Max currently is in version 4C165 of its firmware. This is the fourth firmware update to come to its users since March. In March of 2021, Apple released version 3C39 for AirPods Max users to address concerns related to battery life and battery drain. As we reported at the time, this update made a change to how long it takes for the headphones to enter the “ultra-low-power mode” when in the Smart Case.
Apple is testing a new firmware for the AirPods Max. It will support the LC3 codec, which will help improve audio call quality, as you can learn more about it here.
How to update your AirPods Max firmware
Apple does not make it easy to manually update your AirPods to new firmware versions. Instead, the company says new firmware versions will install when the AirPods are connected via Bluetooth to your iPhone.
To check your AirPods firmware version:
- Open the Settings app on your iPhone
- Navigate to the “Bluetooth” menu
- Find your AirPods Max in the list of devices
- Tap the “i” next to them
- Look at the “Firmware Version” number
Again, the newest AirPods Max firmware version is 3E756. If this is what you see in the Settings app, then it means your headphone is fully updated. If not, the update should install when connected to your iPhone via Bluetooth.
AirPods Max Review
In our video review of the AirPods Max, we praised the noise-canceling and transparency modes feature:
These headphones are priced like headphones made for audiophiles, but they’re far from it. From my experience, these have best-in-class noise-canceling and transparency modes. But other than that, AirPods Max isn’t necessarily the best at anything specifically. But when you combine all of the features these headphones have to offer: from the amazing transparency mode to spatial audio, you’ve got a very compelling package for Apple users overall.
9to5Mac Zac Hall also reviewed the AirPods Max saying that these headphones “have become as important for music to me now as the iPod in the 2000s:”
“AirPods Max feel as important to me right now as the iPod did in the 2000s. AirPods Pro earbuds are my go-to solution in plenty of situations where wearing headphones wouldn’t be appropriate or possible, but AirPods Max raises the ceiling for me of how audio should sound. Factor in the Apple sauce to create a convenient user experience (wireless, solid connection, new features through software), and I’m totally sold these days.”
AirPods Max’s Gucci Smart Case
AirPods Max Smart Case brought a lot of controversy regarding its design. Now, Gucci launched an option for AirPods users for almost $1,000.
Gucci says its “Ophidia” case for AirPods Max protects Apple’s headphones with vintage and contemporary design aspects. While the Apple-made AirPods Max Smart Case has no textures or branding whatsoever, the Gucci case makes it clear that you have super expensive headphones with a super expensive case.
The beige case is lined in neoprene and viscose, which Gucci says have “low environmental impact” – something important when it comes to matching an Apple product. There are brown leather details, a “Snap” button closure with a gold “GG” logo, and even an adjustable shoulder strap so you can carry your AirPods Max as if they were a small luxury handbag.
Lifestyle objects view the everyday through the Gucci lens. This case for AirPods Max brings vintage and contemporary together through its archive-inspired design elements. Playing with the contrast between past and present, the inside of the accessory is printed with ‘Hodiernum’—a Latin word that means ‘belonging to the present day.’ An adjustable shoulder strap adds a versatile note with multiple ways to wear.
Rumors about AirPods Max 2
In a report by Bloomberg in May of 2021, Apple is planning new AirPods for 2022 but not a second-generation AirPods Max yet.
In 2021, Bloomberg said the company planned to launch new AirPods Max colors, but it didn’t happen. Then, in May 2022, the journalist doubled down on new colors coming to the product in the near future with a possible price drop:
(…) also look out for an AirPods Max refresh with new colors (and, we hope, a price drop—$550 is absurd for those headphones).
A second-generation, although not rumored, would come in handy since it’s not possible to enjoy Lossless quality with current headphones.
For instance, if Apple brought a 3.5mm headphone jack to these headphones, users would be able to enjoy Lossless songs.
According to Patently Apple, the Cupertino company got another patent application from the US Patent & Trademark Office about processing gestures on a touch-sensitive surface. The publication says this is not the first time Apple has been granted a patent regarding touch controls on AirPods Max, as it has at least three other documents about this technology, but it could be an alternative for AirPods Max 2.
Touch controls could make it easier to jump songs, invoke Siri, turn the volume up or down, and more. As of now, having the Digital Crown is still a pretty clever and unique feature of Apple’s premium headphones.
- Concept: Meet iPod Max with Apple Music Lossless and AirPods Max focus
- Roundup: Here are the latest rumors on when to expect new AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max
- This iPhone app uses AirPods to help you improve your posture
- AirPods Max beta confirms higher quality Bluetooth codec, here’s what that means for AirPods Pro 2