Apple's best AirPods were left in the cold at WWDC, surely it's time for a refresh?

AirPods Max in different colors
(Image credit: Floating Pixels)

The AirPods Max are, or were, the best AirPods you could buy. In terms of how they sound and how they fit, they still are. But while those things were once the only metrics to consider, those days are long gone.

In 2023, we're also interested in the advanced audio features that headphones have, like Adaptive Audio. It's a feature that Apple says "dynamically blends Transparency and Active Noise Cancellation to tailor the noise control experience as you move between changing environments and interactions throughout the day." Sounds good, doesn't it?

The problem? That feature was announced by Apple during the WWDC 2023 event on June 5, and it's coming to the second-generation AirPods Pro later this year. But AirPods Max owners? We're missing out and that sucks. So, Apple. Isn't it time that we got an update?

A reasoned argument

There are presumably valid reasons for the fact that the AirPods Max won't get support for Adaptive Audio. It all boils down to silicon, with Apple's headphones sporting the H1 chip (two of them, in fact). But the AirPods Pro now have an upgraded model of that chip, dubbed the H2, and that's where all of this new audio magic happens.

Which, you know. Is fine. It sucks, but we can't expect Apple to be able to bring brand-new features to old silicon forever. Time marches on, and sometimes you just need to upgrade to get the new stuff. As Apple device and accessory buyers, we're used to that. I buy a new iPhone every year, just for a new camera. I'm no stranger to throwing money at Apple.

The problem is that I can't this time. Because Apple won't let me.

A little long in the tooth

The current AirPods Max were first released in December of 2020, which means that they aren't yet three years old. We'll ignore the fact that a pair of $550 headphones should perhaps still be getting new features at this stage in their life cycle — traditional headphones costing more than that don't get software updates, after all.

And while I wouldn't normally be screaming for a chance to spend more money, if the AirPods Max have been forced into a corner in terms of silicon and its capabilities, I'm willing to admit that it's time for a new pair. Make them in new colors, change some of the materials, and if at all possible find a way to make them lighter without making them feel cheap. Do all of that, and give me a H2 chip, and I'd be there, Apple Pay at the ready. And I doubt I'd be the only one.

But, as is the case with Apple products so often, we've almost no indication if Apple even has plans to launch upgraded AirPods Max in the future. AirPods Max 2 rumors are few and far between at this point, and that's not great. As good as Apple can be at keeping things in-house, it's rare that the rumor mill is blindsided. And no rumors means there's probably no product.

And that's just sad. 

Oliver Haslam

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.

  • Annie_M
    Perhaps in September or October? wouldn’t be surprised if something was announced in time for Christmas.
  • Just_Me_D
    Maybe it’s me, but I believe some items don’t warrant an annual refresh.
  • Ledsteplin
    Just_Me_D said:
    Maybe it’s me, but I believe some items don’t warrant an annual refresh.

    My thought as well. From what I hear, they seem to work and function quite well.
  • Just_Me_D
    Ledsteplin said:
    My thought as well. From what I hear, they seem to work and function quite well.

    No doubt about it. I remember when Bose introduced their 700 Series headphones. I considered purchasing them, but couldn’t bring myself to do so because the Bose QC-35 headphones I still have still sound great AND the ANC is still sufficient.