Did Hans Zimmer really own the first-ever pair of AirPods Max headphones?

AirPods Max
(Image credit: Apple)

Film composer Hans Zimmer is one of the most revered names working in Hollywood today, so it’s no surprise to learn that he’s often sent very important packages from very important people. 

One of those packages may have been a little cooler than others, though – it sounds like Zimmer might have unwittingly received the first-ever pair of Apple AirPods Max headphones in the post.

In a recent interview with Apple Music, the Oscar-winning composer revealed that former Apple design chief, Jony Ive, gifted him a mysterious pair of headphones alongside a note saying, “I made this.”

Zimmer claims he experienced Spatial Audio for the first time with the unnamed wireless cans, and so reached out to a friend at Dolby who told him: “Well, they don't actually exist. I think you have the only pair.”

To us, that sounds a lot like Zimmer was one of the first people outside of Apple to get his Hans (sorry…) on the company’s inaugural over-ear headphones.

He was clearly a fan of the audio technology they introduced, too. "These headphones arrive and I put them on and they're amazing,” he told Apple Music, “and I suddenly realized, 'Oh, we can do immersive. We can do Dolby Atmos. We can do all this.”

“I phone my friends at Dolby and I say, 'We have to do this. I want to go and do the whole soundtrack again and I certainly want to do the CDs again. I want to do all this immersive experience,'” he added.

Incidentally, Apple’s high-end wireless headphones were released in December 2020, but their Spatial Audio functionality didn’t roll out to iOS devices until June this year. Android users had to wait even longer, but now Apple Music users on both operating systems can enjoy hi-res audio

Still pulling the strings 

Another interesting revelation to come from Zimmer’s anecdote is the fact that former Apple exec Jony Ive – the design chief with the famously calming British accent – seems to have played a leading role in the development of the AirPods Max even after leaving the company in 2019. 

When he did depart in June of that year (to form his own creative design firm, LoveFrom), Ive maintained that he would remain “very involved with Apple,” though the company has never publicly named-dropped his involvement in any subsequent Apple projects.

Still, there’s an outside chance that Ive’s private influence may continue to be felt inside the company for years to come. Ferrari has hired the designer to assist with its push towards electric motoring, meaning Apple may attempt to poach Ive’s expertise on its own Apple Car project as the brand struggles to establish a foothold in the automotive industry. 

Ferrari is now a rival to Apple, of course, but given that Ive pledged to remain “very involved with Apple” even after leaving, there’s no reason to believe he couldn't impart the occasional nugget of advice to his former employers.

Axel Metz
Phones Editor

Axel is TechRadar's UK-based Phones Editor, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest AI breakthroughs as part of the site's Mobile Computing vertical. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion.  Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.