AirPods Max 2 and AirPods 4 on track for later this year — but it's not all good news

AirPods Max in silver
(Image credit: Future)

Rumors around the AirPods 4 and AirPods Max 2 have been swirling since the end of last year, but a slew of new rumors — corroborated by multiple sources — point to a definitive 2024 release date. 

The rumors come via both Bloomberg's Mark Gurman and a consistent leaker on Weibo named "Instant Digital" (thanks, MacRumors). Both sources say that the over-ear and in-ear headphones are still on track for the end of this year, but the latter claims that the changes to the AirPods Max 2 will be minimal at best. 

Both sources agree that both the AirPods 4 and AirPods Max 2 will switch from a Lightning-based connector to USB-C, a change Apple is being forced into by new compliance laws enforced by the European Union, but Instant Digital also claims that the AirPods Max 2 will still use the older H1 wireless chip instead of the H2 chip we saw in the AirPods Pro 2

Why does that matter? Well, without the H2 chip, the AirPods Max 2 will miss out on features like Adaptive Audio that offers personalized volume controls, conversation awareness and adaptive noise control, which was one of the biggest additions to the AirPods Pro 2 in 2023. Without the chip, the AirPods Max 2 will not only lack Adapative Audio, but they could miss out on future firmware updates as well.

Don't worry, nothing's set in stone yet

While the leak from Instant Digital sounds a bit worrying, we're not giving up on the AirPods Max 2. The original AirPods Max remains on our list of the best headphones for good reason and given how successful they've been with users it seems unlikely that Apple would make a serious faux pas with their successors. 

However, if Gurman files a report in a few weeks to the same effect, then our tune might change. For now, though, we're trying to stay optimistic. 

In truth, Apple has every reason to spec-out its over-ear wireless headphones. They're pricey, but that price feels more justifiable given their feature set. Any change there could make folks a little more skeptical about shelling out the big bucks for the AirPods Max 2.

The good news is that, according to Gurman's previous reports, the AirPods 4 are in for some major improvements, including a new design for an improved fit as well as improved sound quality. The fourth generation AirPods might also include active noise cancellation and, of course, the new charging case.

So when will we get official confirmation from Apple on these rumors? We're expecting to see them in September around the launch of the iPhone 16. Apple has until the end of the year to comply with the EU's universal charging standards law, so Apple will have to make the switch from Lightning to USB-C before then. 

Looking for a pair of great USB-C wireless earbuds before then? Check out our guide to the best earbuds in 2024.

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Nick Pino
Managing Editor, TV and AV

Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.