The AirPods Max are certainly due an update. Apple’s first generation premium headphones first launched in 2020, with not much more said since, but the firm has launched lossless Apple Music streaming in the meantime – something its most expensive headphones don’t support.
We were expecting AirPods Max 2 late in 2022, complete with a refreshed design and improved specs. Instead, Apple released AirPods Pro (2nd generation) in September which came with improved active noise cancellation and some new features we’d like to see added to the AirPods Max 2 eventually.
The AirPods Pro 2nd gen came with a H2 chip that offered fatter bass and a wider range of frequencies. They also offered Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity, improved noise cancellation and a conversation boost feature that allows those with hearing challenges listen to conversations more clearly. These are all things we’d love to see on the Airpods Max 2.0. However, there was no support for lossless, which we expect to arrive with the AirPods Max 2.
We gave the existing headphones 4/5 in our AirPods Max review thanks to the impressive sound, but the case and some other more practical aspects disappointed us. We’d expect a step up from this in AirPods Max 2. But what else do you need to know about Apple’s next-gen headphones? Let’s find out.
AirPods Max 2: potential release date and price
We were once quietly confident that the AirPods Max 2 release date would be some times in early 2023. Earlier this year, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicted an Autumn 2022 launch. Gurman has one of the strongest track records for Apple leaks, but obviously, this prediction didn’t work out.
According to TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo in a series of tweets, Apple is looking to ship its next batch of AirPods products in the second half of 2024 or the beginning of 2025. That includes the AirPods Max 2 and, interestingly, a cheaper set of AirPods. Apple, says Ming-Chi Kuo, are targeting a price of $99 for these new buds, or around £100 in the UK. They’re still not cheap, but they’re not £500+ either.
We think this is quite late for AirPods Max 2 and we’re quite convinced that the reality is somewhere in between, which still could mean early 2023.
As for the price, there’s not too much to go on. In Gurman’s report, he mentioned he hoped for a price drop, but offered no information on whether there would be one. AirPods 2 debuted at the same price as the original AirPods, so we might get the same luxury with the Max successor. AirPods Max currently retail for $549/£549, so expect a figure in the same ballpark.
AirPods Max 2 design
Here’s where things get a little more interesting. Gurman’s report outlined that we should expect new colours on the updated AirPods Max. The original device debuted in Space Grey, Silver, Green, Pink and Sky Blue, so the product isn’t shy to a splash of colour.
While Gurman didn’t expand on what to expect, we can look to the 2021 iMac for inspiration. Expect brighter colours, in the same pastel shade. Yellow? We see you. Red? Yes, please. Purple? Come here. iPhone 12 and subsequent iPad models have featured a purple option, so we’d hedge our bets on this one.
According to a patent Apple holds, the company is working on touch controls rather than the Digital Crown. Apparently, this feature was intended for AirPods Max the first time around, but Apple couldn’t get it quite right. Assuming Apple is working on this again, expect the loss of the Digital Crown to be a big design differentiator.
Finally, who could talk about AirPods Max without mentioning the controversial case? While designed for convenience, the bra/purse-like design has received much criticism. Admittedly, the case does look a little silly and doesn’t offer much in the way of protection.
A recently-granted patent discovered by Patently Apple suggests changes are on the way, with a fully-enclosed case held together by magnets. It would certainly do a better job of keeping the headband safe from scuffs or scrapes than the current case.
AirPods Max 2 features and specs
As mentioned above, Apple is working on touch controls for AirPods Max 2, which would be a brand new feature to the headphones. Should Apple decide to tweak the case too, we could be looking at a way to turn the headphones off, without the daft magnets in the case and a “low power” mode.
Other new features could include improved active noise-cancelling. Thanks to another patent, we can see Apple is working on tweaking its ANC to better avoid audio howls and feedback. While we haven’t seen any complaints of these issues, we welcome any improvements to the already impressive noise-cancelling feature.
Yet another patent (spotting a trend?) explains that Apple is working on new optical audio transmission technology. It’s a fancy new alternative to Bluetooth, which would allow Apple to deliver lossless audio wirelessly. We’d expect this on Apple’s highest-end headphones, especially since Apple Music supports lossless audio. Other alternatives for lossless audio support include an AirPlay-esque feature.
Naturally, Apple might not pursue any of these patents. But if we’re to see them anywhere, we’d expect AirPods Max 2, thanks to the premium offering. Since this update is set to be a minor refresh, we wouldn’t expect too many more new features. Expect a spec bump in the drivers behind the headphone, improving the already stellar audio quality. And be prepared for a cheeky extra feature hidden up Apple’s sleeve.