There are several reasons why the AirPods Max are considered some of the best headphones. But there are also plenty of ways we think Apple’s cans could be improved for the AirPods Max 2 or attempting a next-gen over-ear headset.
We’ve been testing AirPods Max since the headset launched in December 2020. Both at the time of our initial review of the Apple AirPods Max and now, well over a year into using them, there are things we wish we could see in the future of AirPods Max.
Very few rumors have surfaced about the AirPods Max 2, but if we had to guess, we’ll eventually see a refreshed pair of one of the best noise-cancelling headphones we’ve ever worn. AirPods don’t follow the same release schedule as the iPhone, but it seems fitting to update the headset in December 2022, two years after the first version debuted. But that’s just speculation.
For now, we’ve compiled a list of what we think the AirPods Max 2 will offer compared to the original AirPods Max:
1. New case
While we like the design of the AirPods Max, particularly the fun color palette that lends itself well to the headset’s retro aesthetic, there’s one glaring flaw – the case. The “smart case” offers very little protection for the expensive headphones, leaving the headband completely exposed and vulnerable to damage. And since the AirPods Max aren’t waterproof either, the included case puts the ports at risk if the water bottle leaks or wet weather penetrates your bag.
Right now, the solution is to buy one of the best AirPods Max cases and cases. Some of the cases we tested are affordable and even feature the Smart Case’s magnets, which force the AirPods Max into a power-saving mode when tucked away.
2. Power button
The AirPods Max have one major quirk: unlike most of our devices, and even other Apple products, there’s no power button. Shutting out a power button is so weird and something we think about almost every time we use AirPods Max.
Even though they go into sleep mode when left still for several minutes or inside the magnetic smart case, we still think Apple should provide a way to turn AirPods Max off completely. There’s no reason why the Digital Crown button can’t also be a power button.
3. Better battery life
The 20-hour battery life of the AirPods Max is not to be scoffed at. 20 hours is enough for a commute to work, a day at work or a flight on an airplane. And for what it’s worth, the battery saver mode does a good job of keeping the AirPods Max going even when they’re not being used.
But some of the best wireless headphones have longer battery life than the AirPods Max. For example, the Sony WH-1000XM5 can last up to 30 hours with ANC on, making battery life a key difference between the Sony WH-1000XM5 and AirPods Max. We’d like to see the next-gen AirPods Max last as long as the 1000XM5.
4. Greater audio format support
In terms of resolution and detail, the AirPods Max feel like they almost hit the pinnacle of what’s possible with Apple’s current wireless codec, AAC. But with other companies like Sony investing in new wireless transmission codecs with faster speeds and higher bandwidth, it wouldn’t hurt for Apple to apply its engineering prowess to bring something new to the scene.
To that end, the AirPods Max 2 most urgently need a new codec that meets or exceeds LDAC’s maximum bitrate of 990 Kbps / 24-bit depth. At the moment, AAC is limited to 264 Kbps with a 16-bit depth and a 96 kHz sample rate. That’s CD quality, but not Hi-Res audio.
If Apple really wants to sell these as wireless headphones of any kind, it needs to show audiophiles that it’s redoubling its efforts for the pristine audio performance possible.
5. Lower price
Another area that would like to see some wiggle room is the price point. At launch, the Apple AirPods Max cost $549, making them a seriously expensive pair of wireless headphones.
For comparison, the Bose Noise-Cancelling 700 (the company’s flagship wireless headphones) is only $379, while the Sony WH-1000XM4, the best noise-cancelling headphones of the year, is only $349. Apple’s over-ears cost $200 more.
We certainly understand that Apple’s products have premium looks and design, but paying $200 more for a pair of wireless headphones seemed unreasonable to many. We’re not expecting anything in the sub-$300 range, but even a $100 price cut at launch could make the headphones’ higher price point more palatable.
Looking for a pair of the best noise canceling headphones? Check out the new Sony WH-1000XM5, Bose Noise-Cancelling 700 and of course the original AirPods Max.