Image: Apple

Move over, AirPods Pro, Apple’s introducing a new audio option. Apple made an unexpected announcement today unveiling AirPods Max, which are wireless headphones with an over-ear design and a $549 price tag.

AirPods Max are available for pre-order starting today in the US and more than 25 other countries and regions, and will begin shipping on Dec. 15. The headphones feature Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode and spatial audio and come in space gray, silver, sky blue, green and pink.

There had been rumors of Apple headphones earlier this year, and they were expected to be announced in October at the Hi Speed event, but that didn’t come to fruition. And Apple’s November One More Thing event focused on new Macs and the M1 chip. But now Apple has revealed AirPods Max and the design is sleek and polished, and is sure to appeal to Apple fans.

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AirPods Max design details

The headphones feature a knit mesh canopy on the headband to reduce on-head pressure and have telescoping headband arms. Each ear cup independently pivots and rotates for an individualized fit, and memory foam creates a seal for immersive sound. The Digital Crown, inspired by Apple Watch, is used for volume control, playing and pausing audio, skipping tracks, answering or ending phone calls, and activating Siri.

The Apple-designed H1 chip is in each ear cup, and the headphones use computational audio for what Apple calls, “the highest quality listening experience possible.”

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AirPods Max will automatically pair with all devices signed into a user’s iCloud account, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. They also feature automatic switching to move between iPhone, iPad and Mac, and audio sharing so that an audio stream can be shared between two sets of AirPods on an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Apple TV 4K.

The headphones automatically detect when they are on a user’s head using optical and position sensors. AirPods Max play audio and will pause when removed, or when the user lifts one ear cup.

The battery life will last up to 20 hours, according to Apple. The headphones come with a Smart Case that put them in an ultralow power state to preserve battery charge when not in use.