Having once upended the market with its AirPods, Apple looks likely to again change the course of the $35 billion advanced headphones arena with its $549 AirPods Max and inflict pain on incumbents from Bose Corp. to Bang & Olufsen A/S, Vlad Savov reports for Bloomberg News.
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.
Once a mainstay of audiophiles, headphones have become increasingly essential and sophisticated — particularly since the pandemic — as people rely on them for everything from online teaching and gaming to video conferencing. A mix of better tech and new entrants like China’s Xiaomi Corp. driving down prices helped smartphone makers like Apple, Samsung Electronics Co. and Huawei Technologies Co. secure 32% of global headphone shipments in 2020, according to Futuresource analyst Rasika D’Souza. That share was even higher in terms of revenue, she added. “Apple successfully created a niche for itself in this space by complementing its on-the-go ecosystem with a pair of truly wireless headphones” with the AirPods, D’Souza said.
For Apple, which first got into the market after acquiring Beats for $3 billion in 2014, the new hardware is also about enhancing content. The AirPods Max, which went on sale in December, have the processing power to adjust sound on the fly and support Apple’s nascent Spatial Audio feature, a Dolby Atmos rival that the company says improves movies and games by precisely positioning sound sources.
Spatial Audio works only in combination with an iPhone or iPad and a small selection of services so far, but could be a differentiator and has been lauded by reviewers including Harman’s Sean Olive, an audio industry veteran. The AirPods Max are a chance for Apple to twin its hardware with subscription services like Apple TV+ and offer a unique experience.
MacDailyNews Take: The reviews are in. And they rave. AirPods Max are serious cans. Apple has yet another hit on their hands!
[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]