OPINION: The AirPods Max are Apple’s flagship set of wireless headphones, packing extraordinary sound and a classy design that matches the high starting price. But they’re far from perfect.
Internet rumblings have long suggested that a successor to the original (and currently only) AirPods Max could be on the horizon, although there are yet to be many firm details on when that might be.
Recently, reports have appeared that highlight postponed shipping times for the cans in the US, while we’ve also spotted they have become unavailable on sites like Amazon and harder to find on Currys in the UK.
Typically, this could mean a new model is set to be released and retailers are clearing shop to stock the new model – though with some Apple analysts claiming 2024 as a more likely release date for the AirPods Max 2, this seems a little off the mark.
Another reason for the lack of stock could be the introduction of a smaller revision to the current model – with the talk of new colours being one possibility. Apple has often introduced new colours for its products – notably the iPhone – midway through product cycles so this wouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
For me however, the AirPods Max have been out long enough to warrant a full on version two arrival sooner rather than later, and a basic colour revision would be a little bit disappointing.
I reviewed the AirPods Max around their late 2021 release and I rated them very highly. There’s no denying they are a wonderful set of headphones, capable of pumping out stunning audio from relatively modest sources and producing the best form of portable spatial audio I have ever heard.
In the review, I said “the AirPods Max remain an excellent sounding set of headphones that still have some of the best ANC around. Spatial Audio is better than ever thanks to its inclusion in Apple Music and the industrial design has lasted well since launch.”
My qualms haven’t ever been about the sound quality with AirPods Max – even though it would be nice if they supported some higher-res codecs. Instead, I think there are some easy tweaks that could be made in the design and usability areas that would really tempt me into upgrading to a follow-up.
Comfortably my biggest irritant with the AirPods Max is the lack of a proper on/off button. As hard as that might be to believe, it’s far too difficult to actually turn these cans off. The idea is that they go into a standby state when not in use, but I found that even with a few software updates this rarely worked as advertised and on too many occasions I’ve picked up the headphones in the morning ready for my commute and found them completely drained.
This ties into another of my big complaints: the case. Apple’s included Smart Case is again supposed to act as an off button, powering down the headphones when they are placed inside. It’s a shame then that the case is bizarrely designed and offers very little protection to the delicate parts, like the mesh headband. As the AirPods Max can’t be folded up – like the Bose QC 45s or Sony WH-1000XM4s – this makes packing them away in a bag a bit tricky.
Whether we get new colours of the current revision, a bigger update or nothing at all, remains to be seen though it’s clear to me that a few small tweaks to the AirPods Max would make them an even better rival to the best headphones around.