- The price of the AirPods Max might seem high by Bose and Sony standards, but we think that Apple is targeting its new headphones at a higher price segment.
- And is actually looking to grab a chunk of the Bowers and Wilkins and Bang and Olufsen pie.
- It is very likely that the Max will come with very good phone calling support – something the luxury premium players tend to ignore.
- For more such resources on Apple and AirPods, check out our Apple hub.
Love it or hate it, you cannot deny that Apple has a knack for coming out with new product categories. From computers to phones to tablets to truly wireless earphones to smartwatches, the Cupertino giant has tended to turn convention on its head with many of its products. With the AirPods Max, however, it seems to have waded into an existing category. Of course, we have not yet used or ever seen the latest headphones from Apple, but on the surface, these do not exactly seem radically different from what is already there in the market.
Indeed, notwithstanding the almost traditional howls of “it’s too expensive” that accompany the launch of an Apple product, the fact is that Apple’s pricing is not as crazy and over the top as some are assuming it is. Yes, at Rs 59,900 in India (USD 549 internationally), they are significantly more expensive than the likes of the Sony WF-1000 XM4 ( Rs 29,990), Bose 700 (Rs 34,500), and the Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless (Rs 34,990), which for many users represent the higher end of the headphone market. But we suspect this is not the segment Apple is throwing punches at.
Looking at the luxury premium segment
No, we have a feeling that the AirPods Max are actually targeting the slightly more expensive Premium Headphone zone, one that is identified with not just high-quality sound (which the likes of Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser provide) but also a certain style quotient. A zone that is defined by premium materials and design as well as very niche sound. We are talking of the “luxury premium” territory occupied by the likes of Bang and Olufsen, Bower and Wilkins, and the high-end wooden range of Grado. And in that zone, take it from us, USD 549 is not as big a deal as it sounds.
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H95 released a few months ago retails at almost USD 950, Bowers and Wilkins P9 Signature range retailed at close to USD 900, while Grado’s wood-infused Statement series starts at US 995. Of course, all these brands have lower-priced offerings as well, but what we are trying to point out here is that these brands command a premium for very high-quality sound and design.
Fighting on style, sound and of course, software smarts
It is this zone rather than the Sony-Bose-Sennheiser troika that we feel Apple is trying to topple with the AirPods Max – it seems that handling that trio is the task of Beats, the brand Apple acquired a few years ago and whose headphones are priced in their range. From what we can see, the forte of the AirPods Max is going to be excellent sound (and it is going to be gently tuned – the word “audiophile” does not appear even once on the release, so no flat and balanced sound here) and some very eye-catching design, innovative materials (that “breathable knit mesh”) as well as a number of colors.
Of course, this being an Apple product, there will be innovation and software touches aplenty – the use of the digital crown for controls (shades of the Control Knob on some of the Marshall headphones), adaptive EQ, spatial audio and so much more. And if our experience of the AirPods and AirPods Pro tells us anything, it is very likely that the Max will come with very good phone calling support – something the luxury premium players tend to ignore.
…and that Apple factor
There will also be special features for all those who use headphones with Apple products! And we will feel that that is going to be a critical feature because, considering the pricing of the iPhones, many of those who invest in them might not be averse to investing in high-end headphones (and not everyone wants TWS). Now, they have an option from Apple itself.
And it is the smarts, sound, and style that will have to combine to take the AirPods Max home because, on paper, the new headphones do not actually seem to bring too much that’s new to the table. “AirPods Pro with Earpads!” was how one of our colleagues described them, referring to the similarity in functionality between the two earphones. The 40 mm drivers although designed by Apple are not the biggest around, and the twenty-hour battery life has been bettered by many.
But then years of experience have taught us to never judge a book by its cover or an Apple product by its specs. Or even its price, for that matter.
We will let you know more when we get a chance to experience them. As of now, and judging by what we have seen and heard, we think the luxury premium players are more likely to be sweating than the likes of Bose and Sony.