All we know and what we want to see
14 mins read

All we know and what we want to see

Apple has been vying for our ears for years, and the AirPods Max made quite the splash in 2020. Over three years later, these expensive headphones still have some of the best noise canceling around. There is no official word on the AirPods Max 2, but Apple has been awarded a few patents over the last three years that suggest the next AirPods over-ear headphones will have a few new tricks.

Here’s everything we know about the AirPods Max (2nd generation).

Will there be an Apple AirPods Max 2 series?

The AirPods Max (2nd generation) are a certainty. However, with no official announcement to date, we are left clinging to the details of industry insiders. For example, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported in January 2023 that there will be a new AirPods Max. In October 2023, respected Apple analyst Mark Gurman remarked on Bloomberg that the AirPods Max 2 will come to fruition soon. These headphones are to coincide with an overhaul of the whole AirPods lineup. In particular, it appears the company plans to phase out the AirPods (2nd Generation) and AirPods (3rd Generation) in favor of two different AirPods (4th Generation) earbuds. The company’s next-gen headphones appear to be on the sideline of a wider shake-up of the AirPods brand.

What is the most likely Apple AirPods Max 2 release date?

Ming-Chi Kuo's tweets regarding the AirPods Max 2 and more affordable AirPods.

Ming-Chi Kuo reports that the AirPods Max may not reach our ears until mid-2024 or early 2025. Mark Gurman takes this further, sharing that Apple’s flagship headphones will come to market at the tail-end of 2024. Given Apple usually debuts its new headphones alongside its latest smartphones, we could see the AirPods Max launch with the iPhone 16 in September this year. Regardless, it looks likely that we will see the AirPods Max 2 come to shelves in late 2024.

Kuo shared that the AirPods assembly may change hands from GoerTek to Hong Teng. This change of manufacturing partner could be responsible for the delayed release of the AirPods Max 2. For reference, Apple announced the original AirPods Max on December 8, 2020. The AirPods Max were available for purchase a week later, on December 15, 2020.

What features and specs could the Apple AirPods Max (2nd generation) have?

A man wears the Apple AirPods Max and adjusting volume via the digital crown.

The AirPods Max 2 may ditch the Digital Crown for some one-of-a-kind touch controls.

The AirPods Max 2 will have many of the same features as the AirPods Max, including noise canceling and a similar build. Here’s what we surmise will change with the next-gen AirPods Max.


Apple’s debut over-ear headphones use premium materials that stand out from other flagships’ plastic housings. We can expect distinctive materials and a set of new colorways to choose from when the AirPods Max 2 comes to fruition.

The AirPods Max 2 may come with a fully enclosed Smart Case.

Apple is shifting its products from Lightning to USB-C for charging. According to Gurman, Apple is planning for the AirPods Max 2 to host a USB-C charging port. This switch would make the AirPods Max 2 a little friendlier to Android phone owners.

A schematic of what the AirPods Max 2 case could look like.Let’s hope the AirPods Max 2 come with a fully enclosed case.The schematics for Apple's US patent around possible AirPods Max 2 featuresThe AirPods Max 2 may have touch controls that account for the headphones’ orientation.

According to Apple’s patent US-11381892-B1, we could see an upgraded Smart Case. Frankly, anything would be an improvement, and the patent shows a traditional style, all-encompassing case with a flexible magnetic clasp to keep it shut. It will likely have the same functionality as the original Smart Case — forcing the AirPods Max 2 into low-power mode.

The AirPods Max 2 may ditch the Digital Crown on the AirPods Max in favor of some unique touch controls. Patent US-10721550-B2 from Apple covers a gesture-based touch system that’s supposed to work in conjunction with the headphones’ orientation. If the AirPods Max 2 rest against the user’s neck, they may interpret a swipe gesture differently than if worn upright. Controls like this would take some getting used to.

Software features

The spatial audio pop-up on an iPad Pro.

Like the AirPods Pro, these are compatible with Apple’s Spatial Audio.

Like the AirPods Max before them, the AirPods Max 2 will likely have many Apple-exclusive features. For example, listeners should enjoy one-step pairing and auto-switching between Apple devices. Users should also receive advanced location services through Apple’s Find My app. This is likely given the company’s next high-end AirPods charging case looks set to include speakers for Find My alerts.

The AirPods Max house an H1 chip in each ear cup, and the AirPods Max 2 will likely replace the H1 chips with H2 chips for improved noise canceling and greater processing power. However, Mark Gurman made no mention of this in his recent leak. Instead, only the company’s flagship AirPods Pro look set to host an updated chip. Nevertheless, we expect the AirPods Max 2 to host Adaptive EQ, personalized Apple Spatial Audio, and head tracking.

H2 chips should allow the AirPods Max 2 to support the latest features Apple announced at WWDC for the AirPods Pro 2: Adaptive Audio, Conversational Awareness, and Personalized Volume. Adaptive Audio processes your environmental sounds and enables a hybrid mix of ANC and Transparency pass-through. This mode will tailor the listening experience as you move from one environment to another.

The AirPods Max 2 will likely use even more machine learning to automatically tune the listening experience to your habits and surroundings.

With Conversational Awareness, the AirPods Max 2 may sense when you speak. The headphones should then immediately decrease the volume of your audio content, reduce background noise, and enhance the voices of people directly in front of you. We’re eager to see Conversation Awareness on the AirPods Max 2, but it’s nothing new. Sony’s Speak-to-Chat has been doing something similar for years.

Personalized Volume would learn the volume levels you prefer in certain environmental conditions and automatically apply those levels when you enter those spaces. This would reduce the number of times you interact with the headphones or your phone to change the volume.

Noise canceling and audio quality.

A chart showing the active noise cancellation performance of the Apple AirPods Max.The AirPods Max consistently cancel low and midrange frequencies, making for a quiet commute or plane ride.Apple AirPods Max frequency response chart.Apple’s Adaptive EQ makes adjustments to the headphone output to keep things consistent even when the fit isn’t perfect.

As we’ve come to expect with iterative upgrades, the AirPods Max 2 should boast better noise canceling than the AirPods Max, but we don’t yet know to what degree. In 2022, the US Patent and Trademark Office approved another of Apple’s patents (US-11250833-B1) to reduce feedback (“audio howl”). This would improve the user experience by eliminating any perceptible feedback when using ANC or transparency mode with the AirPods Max 2.

The frequency response probably won’t change significantly with the AirPods Max 2, but we may see improved data rates with the ability to receive 24-bit or lossless Bluetooth audio. In an interview with What Hi-Fi, Apple’s VP of Acoustics, Gary Geaves, shared that the company has been working around Bluetooth’s limitations but wants more bandwidth. Like Samsung, Apple may have its own 24-bit Bluetooth audio solution.

How much might the Apple AirPods Max 2 cost?

Man holding the Apple AirPods Max over a desk.

The mesh of the ear pads reminds us of a Herman Miller Aeron Chair.

The AirPods Max originally retailed for $549; we expect the same for the AirPods Max 2. Apple has kept the price the same for its first and second-generation AirPods Pro, so it would make sense for the first and second-gen AirPods Max to share the same price too. Admittedly, $549 is expensive for headphones, and the lowest promotional price we have seen for the AirPods Max is $429. The AirPods Max 2 should follow a similar promo-price pattern as the AirPods Max.

Apple AirPods Max 2: What we want to see

The AirPods Max are premium headphones, but some basic improvements would take them to the next level — starting with a headphone jack (the analog type.)

A headphone jack and a USB-C port

Close-up of the Lightning connector for the Apple AirPods Max as they lay next to a newspaper.

The Apple AirPods Max require a Lightning cable and dongle for wired playback.

Apple was one of the first key players to remove the headphone jack from its phones, and it released the AirPods Max with no headphone jack. You must purchase a Lightning-to-3.5mm (male) cable for $35. On top of that, you’ll need a (female) 3.5mm-to-Lightning dongle to plug into your iPhone. This chain converts the digital audio output signal from your iPhone to an analog one, back to a digital one, and then back to analog inside the headphones. These conversions add latency and can introduce distortion, noise, and loss of detail. You cannot use the AirPods Max for wired digital audio with a USB-C device like Apple’s iPad Pro series.

A headphone jack would make wired listening so much easier.

At the very least, we would like the anticipated USB-C port to allow USB digital audio passthrough. Upcoming iPhones will likely have USB-C charging ports, and the headphones should be compatible with other devices. This would mean you should only need a USB-C to USB-C cable to enjoy wired, lossless digital audio with the AirPods Max 2.

Longer battery life

The Apple AirPods Max and its smart case on a white desk.

The Smart Case puts the AirPods Max into low-power mode, but the headphones have no power button.

Officially, the AirPods Max have a 20-hour battery life with ANC active. Our standardized battery test subjected the headphones to constant music playback peaking at 75dB(SPL). Under these conditions, the AirPods Max exceeded this by almost an hour, which is impressive, but less so by today’s standards. For reference, the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless lasted more than 31 hours and 56 hours, respectively, in our testing.

Improved microphone quality

The AirPods Max have good microphone quality when speaking in ideal conditions. However, the noise suppression isn’t as good as modern flagships like the Sony WH-1000XM5. Improving microphone performance on the AirPods Max 2 could attract more remote workers and those stuck in regular Zoom calls.

Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Street conditions):

Apple AirPods Max microphone demo (Windy conditions):

Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Windy conditions):

Adaptive Transparency mode

The Apple AirPods Max and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) together on a wooden slab.

The AirPods Pro 2 have Adaptive Transparency, which is more advanced than the AirPods Max’s Transparency mode.

The AirPods Max have Transparency mode, allowing environmental sounds to pass into the headphones. When you enable Transparency mode on the AirPods Max, you can simultaneously hear your music and the environment. This lets you tune into traffic and train platform announcements without removing the headphones.

Transparency mode is a great safety feature, but the AirPods Max will be that much better with Apple’s Adaptive Transparency mode. This mode is more advanced and can reduce the loudness of sounds greater than 85dB (e.g., a construction drill.) Adaptive Transparency mode on the AirPods Pro 2 promotes more comfortable pass-through listening than the more pedestrian Transparency mode.

Improved durability

The AirPods Max are sturdy, beautifully constructed headphones. However, they lack an IP rating. While few over-ear headphones have water-resistant ratings, adding something as minor as an IPX2 rating would further differentiate the AirPods Max 2 from other flagship cans. Additionally, unexpected rainstorms and drizzles happen. Knowing that the AirPods Max 2 will be okay after light rain exposure before you can sheath them in the case would be a huge relief. After all, we don’t want a few raindrops to take out your $549 investment!

Frequently asked questions

Are Apple AirPods Max 2 coming out?

Based on information gathered from reliable Apple analysts and the fact that AirPods are a key part of the company’s $40 billion Wearables, Home and Accessories arm, it looks likely that we will see the AirPods Max 2 launch sometime in late 2024.

Is it worth it to buy Apple AirPods Max in 2024?

With no official release date set for the updated AirPods Max 2, eager Apple fans may avoid the wait and purchase the current model instead. That is no bad thing — the AirPods Max remain some of the best over-ear headphones on the market. For example, users receive up to 47dB of noise canceling, pleasing build quality, superior comfort, and a list of high-end Apple-exclusive features. The headphones mostly show their age from using Apple’s older H1 chip and the absence of features such as Adaptive Transparency Mode.

Do AirPods Max sound better than AirPods Pro 2?

Generally speaking, over-ear headphones have a wider soundstage and larger drivers than earbuds. This usually results in a more pleasing, detailed, and immersive listening experience. The AirPods Max have excellent sound quality with no distortion, albeit with a small underemphasis in the mid-range. The AirPods Pro 2 also sound excellent, with a slight underemphasis above 8kHz. Either way, most users will be pleased with the sound quality of both headphones.

Is Apple discontinuing the AirPods 2?

While there has been no official announcement yet, trust industry analyst Mark Gurman reports that Apple plans to phase out the AirPods 2 and AirPods 3 in favor of two differently-priced AirPods (4th generation) earbuds. We will likely have to wait until later this year for more detailed information.