Will Apple really string out the second-gen AirPods Max launch date until 2024?
Apple is rumored to be readying the AirPods Max 2. The second-gen noise-canceling headphones are tipped for new colors and lossless audio support, as well as minor design upgrades.
We were hoping to see the headphones break cover at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference Event (WWDC) 2023, the annual keynote which showcases everything that the most valuable company on the planet has in store for the coming months. But we didn't. Though all is not lost – WWDC did give us a rather big hint about one technology the AirPods Max could feature when they finally launch...
We really did love the AirPods Max when they launched in December 2020, but they're now getting on for three years old – which is an age in terms of headphones. So what might a new pair of premium noise-canceling Apple over-ears bring to the party? Here's everything we know so far about the rumored AirPods Max 2's price, release date, design, and specifications.
AirPods Max 2: Release Date Rumors
Apple kept us waiting for the AirPods Max; they were expected to debut alongside the iPhone 12, which launched on October 12, 2020, but "complications" in the design and manufacturing process put paid to that. Instead, the AirPods Max were finally unveiled on Tuesday, December 8, before going on sale on Tuesday, December 15, 2020.
Given that Apple replaced the AirPods 2 wireless earbuds with the AirPods 3 buds after just a couple of years, there was talk of an AirPods Max update in 2022. We wondered whether we'd see the rumored AirPods Max 2 debut alongside the iPhone 14 and AirPods Pro 2 in September. Alas, that did not happen.
Leaks were few and far between last year, though Mark Gurman's Power On newsletter last May claimed that an AirPods Max update could be imminent: "Look out for an AirPods Max refresh with new colors (and, we hope, a price drop - $550 is absurd for those headphones)."
It certainly raised our hopes that we could see them break cover over Christmas, though our expectations have been muted by remarks by respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who says the next-gen AirPods Max could arrive alongside cheaper AirPods (AirPods Lite?) in the second half of 2024. Or even 2025!
That would be an uncharacteristically long wait between generations of products for Apple, though perhaps the upgrade would be more significant for that gap. The likelihood is that we'll see an update to the original AirPods Max model first, refreshing appetites for the model before a sequel comes along shortly after, similar to games companies throwing out a quick remaster ahead of a brand new title.
Stay tuned, and we'll bring you all the latest AirPods Max 2 release date rumors as they slip out.
AirPods Max 2: Price Predictions
The first-generation AirPods Max hit shelves at $549. That was more expensive than we'd hoped, but it didn't seem to matter – the AirPods Max sold out almost instantly. At one point, the waiting list ballooned to 12-14 weeks – that's Apple customers for you.
Amazon and other Apple sellers have plenty in stock right now, but Apple's high-end headphones remain in high demand. After a bargain? We've listed today's best AirPods Max deals below.
There are no credible AirPods Max 2 price leaks just yet, but with Apple positioning its over-ears above the best AirPods Max alternatives such as the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, we'd expect the AirPods Max 2 to come with a similarly steep price tag. Especially now that the AirPods Max are by no means the priciest wireless headphones out there anymore.
There have been rumors, however, suggesting that the new AirPods Max could be cheaper than the original model thanks to concerns that the first generation was priced too highly. Some have speculated Apple could drop the cost for the second generation to $449, but considering that the AirPods Max sold so well even with that hefty price tag, this could be borne more out of hope than genuine expectation.
Apple AirPods Max 2: Design
Apple is renowned for its sleek designs, but Cupertino really pulled out all the stops for its first pair of over-ears. From pristine anodized aluminum ear cups to a perfectly-weighted steel headband, the AirPods Max make some of the best wireless headphones feel cheap by comparison.
Since their launch, the AirPods Max have been available in five finishes: Silver, Blue, Space Gray, Pink, and Green (similar to the 2021 iMac Pro lineup). Mark Gurman, who has a strong record when it comes to Apple leaks, reckons an "AirPods Max refresh with new colors" could be on the way as soon as this fall/autumn. That would certainly pave the way for a brand-new model hot off the back of a refresh to the 2020 originals.
There's no word on which colors Apple will pick, but we've heard whispers that the tech giant could opt to use the remaining three colors in the 2021 iMac Pro lineup (Yellow, Orange, and Purple). There are even rumors of an AirPods Max 2 Product (RED) edition.
Elsewhere, there's talk of Apple tweaking the control mechanism. According to Patently Apple, Cupertino is attempting to perfect a set of gesture-based touch controls to replace the Digital Crown (we found the Crown to be a neat solution, but it's a little too easy to knock when adjusting the headphones).
Lastly, there is strong speculation that Apple plans to rejig the Apple AirPods Max case, which has been rather humorously compared to a bra or a gun holster. Not only does it look strange, we think it does a poor job of protecting the headphones from knocks, scratches, and dirt. Ramping up the protection for what is a £500 piece of tech should be a priority next time around.
Thankfully, an Apple patent uncovered in July 2022 seems to suggest that Apple is working on a far more substantial case that snaps shut using a series of "magnetic clasps." Sounds like a no-brainer to us. Let's just hope it looks a bit cooler than its predecessor...
Apple AirPods Max 2: Specs
With an asking price of $549, the 1st Gen Apple AirPods Max needed to deliver a lot. Thankfully, they did. Features include active noise cancellation (ANC), two Apple H1 chips capable of adjusting their processing up to 200 times a second, Adaptive EQ to tune playback, plus support for spatial audio with dynamic head-tracking.
Impressive. But when Apple added lossless audio quality tracks to Apple Music in mid-2021, it emerged that none of the company's AirPods, including the rather pricey AirPods Max, had the ability to deliver lossless audio wirelessly. It's not guaranteed, but you'd like to think the AirPods Max 2 could rectify the issue. Indeed, Patently Apple suggests that Apple could be working on new optical audio transmission technology that would enable lossless audio transmission.
Touch controls could soon be revamped, too, with Patently Apple reporting that Apple has filed a patent for touch controls for upcoming models, although whether this will be implemented for the new Max 2 model is not yet clear. A touch-responsive surface would certainly be something we'd welcome to the party, though, so fingers crossed.
Apple is also said to be sprucing up its noise-canceling tech. In February, the folks at Patently Apple outed an interesting AirPods Max patent that covers the detection of "audio howl" (unwanted feedback created by noise-canceling microphones). Apparently, Apple is working on a better way to detect and mitigate this interference, which could result in a more natural sound profile.
Apple announced a new Adaptive Audio mode at WWDC – this is a hybrid listening experience that gives you a mix of transparency mode and ANC to provide the best of both listening technologies in one place. But surprisingly, it's only coming to the AirPods Pro 2, not the AirPods Max. Could Apple be keeping it back for the AirPods Max 2? It's a distinct possibility.
There's also talk of a new "Find My" feature, which, like you already have built into most recent iPhone models, knows where your cans are, allowing you to pinpoint their exact location when they go walkabout and you're fretting you've just left £550 worth of headphones in the gym's locker room.
Speaking of the gym, getting hot and sweaty shouldn't damage your Max 2 cans too badly, with rumors indicating a likely IPX4 rating is incoming. That should be more than enough for dealing with drizzly conditions, splashes, and your own sweat. Nice.
That's about it on the rumors front, but here are three other features we'd like to see on the AirPods Max 2:
Better battery life AirPods Max battery life is "up to 20 hours" with noise cancellation and spatial audio enabled. That's plenty for a commute or five, but significantly less than you get from the Sony WH-1000XM5, which offers 30 hours, and the class-leading Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, which manage a staggering 60 hours.
3.5mm audio port If you want to use the AirPods Max in a wired capacity, the only way to do so is with the optional $35 Lightning-to-3.5mm cable. Even then, the AirPods Max won’t work in passive mode: if the battery’s dead, the headphones are useless. Not ideal if you're stuck on a plane at 30,000 feet. Let's hope the AirPods Max 2 fix that.
Improved Android support Unsurprisingly, you need an iPhone or iPad in order to get the most out of the AirPods Max. Sure, they'll work with non-Apple products using standard Bluetooth 5.0, but you’ll miss out on almost all of the unique features. Don't hold your breath on this one, but better Android support would certainly widen the appeal of the AirPods Max 2.
Apple AirPods Max 2: Early Thoughts
If you're a keen Apple user, the AirPods Max are arguably the very best noise-canceling headphones you can buy. Build quality is second-to-none, sonics are superb, and comfort is exceptional.
If the AirPods Max 2 can address a few of our (fairly minor) gripes – like the near-pointless case and the lack of a 3.5mm audio port – Apple's second-generation over-ears could cement their place in headphone history.
It'll definitely be interesting to see which chip the new model incorporates when it finally arrives. The original Max utilizes the H1 chip, whereas the AirPods Pro 2 is equipped with the upgraded H2. According to Forbes, there's a chance of a switch to H2 for the second generation of the AirPods Max, even if this becomes less likely when you consider the design upheaval involved in integrating a new chip.
With any luck, the AirPods Max 2 will surface sooner than the latest rumors of next year suggest. Keep it locked; we'll update this page as more rumors emerge.