The AirPods Max are Apple's most expensive pair of headphones in the AirPods line, and also the only over-head option. In fact, at $549 they're some of the most expensive wireless noise-canceling headphones period, although they manage to get away with their asking price because they're just really, really good.
As one of the best ways of watching surround sound movies on Apple TV Plus without disturbing your sleeping partner or the neighbors, the AirPods Max also happen to be pretty great at listening to music — but they can always be better.
AirPods Max 2 have long been the talk of the future. A far away one, by all accounts, with dates continuously pushed forward by experts and analysts. What, however, will the next version of Apple's snazziest headphones bring to the table?
What will they look like, how will they plug in? Will the noise canceling be better? Will they sound better? Will they work with Apple Vision Pro for the heaviest headset experience beyond sticking a space helmet on to watch movies? Where there are questions about Apple's next pair of headphones, there are rumors — and we've collated all of them to give us some idea of what AirPods Max 2 are going to be.
AirPods Max 2: Release date
There's one massive question on every AirPods Max fan's minds — when will the AirPods Max even come out? All the way back in January 2023, well-known supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that he reckons Apple would launch the AirPods Max 2 towards the end of 2024 — or the end of this year.
Since then we've not heard much about the launch date of the AirPods Max 2, apart from Mark Gurman of Bloomberg who wrote that they where still expected for a 2024 launch as a part of his November 2023 'Power On' newsletter. The first gen AirPods Max where released in December 2020, so a Decemeber 2024 release date would make sense — although since we've not got anything crystal clear as yet, this potential pattern cannot be taken as a certainty.
(4/5)The next-generation AirPods will likely begin mass shipments in 2H24 or 1H25, including more affordable AirPods (with Apple targeting a price of $99) and new AirPods Max, which will be assembled by Luxshare ICT and Hon Teng.January 12, 2023
AirPods Max 2 colors
The current lineup of AirPods Max consists of Silver, Space Gray, Sky Blue, Pink, and Green. They're the most colorful of the entire AirPods lineup, the rest of which only come in white.
As with other Apple devices like MacBooks, iPhones, and iPads, Apple has a habit of changing color lineups with each new product launch — and the AirPods Max 2 might not be any different.
Space Gray is a prime candidate for change because Apple often tweaks what that color actually is. Then we could maybe see the other colors change to better complement Apple's other products at the time. The likelihood is the colors will match the iPhone 16, however, given that it will be closer to the launch of those rather than the 15.
AirPods Max and USB-C
The AirPods Max 2 may have a hard time in terms of changes. That's because the original headphones are so popular that improvements are going to have to be huge to be noticeable.
The main change that we've heard of so far is a predictable one -- a move to a USB-C port.
The iPhone 15 was the first phone to receive the USB-C port, and the AirPods pro 2 where quick to follow. Now it seems like any upcoming AirPods will also feature the socket — including the AirPods Max 2.
AirPods Max 2: New features
How the AirPods Max 2 may differ from the AirPods Max could stem from features missing from the original. The OG AirPods Max were rumored to have interchangeable headbands but the feature didn't emerge. A teardown of the headphones hinted that custom headbands were planned, but didn't make the cut. Could Apple try again?
Beyond that it's looking like there won't be much new on board the AirPods Max — at least according to Mark Gurman they won't be. They'll still have the magic pairing and stellar noise canceling, however — those are unlikely to be going anywhere.
AirPods Max 2: Audio improvements
It seems incredibly likely we'll see Apple's latest and greatest audio chip — the H2.
With the H2 in use, we should see an improved Transparency mode including the Adaptive Transparency mode that the AirPods Pro 2 offers. It protects a wearer's hearing when a loud sound happens around them, thereby stopping them from being defeated.
Conversation awareness would also make its way over from the AirPods Pro 2, as well as faster pairing and the potential for Hi-Res streaming — perhaps the most impressive part of the AirPods Pro 2 in general.
When you connect the AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C to a Vision Pro headset you get Hi-Res spatial audio, thanks to an updated connection method between the two. What's to stop AirPods Max from having that same connection method between your headphones and your MacBook or iPhone?
That would mean better sound for Audiophiles, and that's something that Apple Music, particularly with its focus on Hi-Res audio.
AirPods Max 2: Battery life
Battery life is a contentious issue with pretty much all devices. The AirPods Max 2 could see its battery life improved, along with sweat and water resistance that we already see on other AirPods models.
Currently, AirPods Max run for up to 20 hours on a single charge, with a five minute charge providing 1.5 hours of listening time. Some competitors have superior battery life so any increase would be welcome, although not strictly necessary for many people.
We could also see MagSafe charging although it's trickier to see how that could work unless Apple decides to revamp the case that comes with the headphones.
AirPods Max 2: Price
Apple has increased the price of many of its products over time, especially internationally, so we can't see there being a price cut with the AirPods Max 2.
Instead, we're hopeful for the current $549 price to remain so it can be competitive against other headphones in the same price range. However, improved features and materials could see a small price increase.
In 2020, there were rumors of a budget "sport" AirPods Max option, but that hasn't come about. Since then, there's been no new information so we're assuming there'll continue to be just one AirPods Max model.
AirPods Max 2 — what we want
While it looks like, in general, that the next version of the AirPods Max are only going to get a lighter update, there are some big features that we'd love to see the AirPods Max get. The first is the aforementioned support for Hi-Res audio through the fancy new Bluetooth connection that links the AirPods Pro 2 to the AirPods Max.
That would allow wireless Hi-Res listening to the AirPods Max 2 — the holy grail of the audiophile. Beyond that, however, it would also be nice to be able to bypass the internal DAC (or digital to analog converter) so that I can hook them up to my own for some wicked wired top quality listening. As it stands the AirPods Max first generation can't do this — and while their hardware is excellent, it sometimes feels like you can't use it to the best of its ability.
A weight reduction would be nice as well. At the moment, the AirPods Max are 13.6oz, and you can feel every ounce of them while wearing. They're not uncomfortable, but they are heavy — and that means they slide down my face while I wear them. The AirPods Max 2 could keep the same stunning build quality of the AirPods Max first gen, but lighten them to make them a little less weighty on your head.
Finally, the headband needs to be looked at — when new, it's lovely and taut, tight and soft. As the headphones age, however, it softens too much and then you can feel the two aluminum arms start to touch the top of your head. Perhaps a different style of headband might work better for the second generation of AirPods Max.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.
- Tammy RogersSenior Staff Writer