Apple AirPods Max 2: Everything we know so far

AirPods Max 2 rumors
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Apple's AirPods Max turned three-years-old in December 2023. So, as we head in a new year, it's reasonable to wonder whether news of a so-called AirPods Max 2 could arrive in 2024.

Although we haven’t heard many rumors on updates to Apple premium-priced over-ear headphones, there’s enough reason to believe a follow-up to the original Apple AirPods Max is in the works.

As some of the best headphones on the market, the AirPods Max strike the ultimate balance of sound quality and style, with mind-blowing spatial audio. Priced at $549, they’re far from the best cheap headphones, but the AirPods Max have still managed to amass a fan base and remain a popular (albeit, premium) choice for iPhone users.

You might also want to know how they’ll compare to the best AirPods models sold by Apple, and don't forget to take a look at our AirPods Max vs. Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones face-off to see how the two of the best-known noise-canceling headphone designs compare.

Here are all the AirPods Max 2 rumors we've uncovered so far, plus the top upgrades we hope to see in the future of AirPods Max headphones.

Apple AirPods Max 2: Latest news (January 15) 

Apple AirPods Max 2: Potential release date and price speculation

When will the AirPods Max 2 arrive?

The AirPods Max launched in December 15, 2020. Unlike the more predictable release schedules for the iPhone and Apple Watch, the AirPods don’t follow a regular release schedule, so it's difficult to say when the AirPods Max 2 might arrive. That said, it seems likely that there will be an update soon as they're looking increasingly outdated given that Apple has moved its premium AirPods Pro 2 wireless earbuds to the H2 chipset with access to Apple's Adaptive Audio suite of features. 

How much will the AirPods Max 2 cost?

As for AirPods Max 2 price rumors, we have no indication yet on whether they’ll cost $549 like the original pair. Even though they can regularly be found discounted in the best headphone deals, the AirPods Max are considerably more expensive than many of the best AirPods Max alternatives, like the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the new Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. So, we’re not getting our hopes up for a price drop.

Apple AirPods Max 2: Potential design changes

AirPods Max in silver

(Image credit: Future)

Currently, the AirPods Max earn plenty of style points thanks to sleek aluminum cups, extendable arm bands and a mesh headband. They’re a bit hefty compared to the Sony WH-1000XM5 vs. AirPods Max, but we like how substantial they feel.

We’re also a fan of the color options, which include space gray, silver, sky blue, green and pink. There’s a rumor that before Apple releases the second-gen AirPods Max, we’ll get refreshed colors for the current-gen model. We could eventually see these rumored colors come to the AirPods Max 2.

That's confirmed by Bloomberg tech writer Mark Gurman who said in the latest installment of his Power On newsletter that next AirPods Max will come with USB-C, in place of Lighting, along with some new colors. But much like the USB-C AirPods Pro 2, those will apparently be the only things Apple is actually going to change.

This is disappointing, to say the least. AirPods Max currently cost $550, and they’re already missing out on features on account of their aging hardware. The AirPods Pro 2 now offer Adaptive Audio, which includes Adaptive Noise Control, Personalized Volume, and Conversation Awareness. Unfortunately, these features are powered by the H2 chip, which the AirPods Max lacks.

Finally, there’s a reason to suspect that the AirPods Max 2 could get touch controls. A patent application suggests Apple is working on a way to process gestures on a touch-sensitive surface. Many headphones and wireless earbuds have intuitive touch controls, so it would make sense that they could come on the next version of AirPods Max.

Apple AirPods Max 2: Features we want to see

Until we learn more about the AirPods Max 2, we’ve made a list of the features we hope the AirPods Max 2 will offer compared to the original AirPods Max:

H2 Chip: Apple not including its latest headphone chip in the next generation of AirPods Max would be a mistake. The custom silicon comes with improved computational audio over the H1.

This allows for enhanced sound quality and better battery life as it manages the energy use more efficiently. The H2 chip also makes personalized volume, adaptive audio, and better noise cancellation possible.

Precision finding: One of the more useful features of the iPhone 15 series and the latest generation of Apple Watch is the U2 Ultra Wideband chip. This allows for precision finding in the Find My App.  

While you can track your AirPods Max with Find My, it doesn't have the finer location tracking only available in the U2. So this is something I'd like to see included in the AirPods Max 2. After all, who hasn't misplaced headphones from time to time?

Wired listening: This sounds like a simple idea but the ability to continue using the AirPods Max with a cable even when the battery is dead would be invaluable. It is currently possible with the addition of a $35 Lightning-to-3.5mm cable but even that won't work if there is no life in the battery at all.

New case: The existing AirPods Max “Smart Case” offers very little protection for the headphones, leaving the headband entirely exposed and susceptible to damage. And since AirPods Max aren’t waterproof, the included case leaves ports at risk if water bottle leaks or wet weather permeate your bag. We’d like a new case for the AirPods Max 2, but for now, the solution is buying one of the best AirPods Max cases and covers.

Power button: While the AirPods Max have a low-power mode for when they’re paused for several minutes or stowed away in the magnetic smart case, we wish there was a way to completely power down the AirPods Max. For the AirPods Max 2, we’d like a real power button. But who knows? Maybe Apple can make the change to the existing AirPods Max with a software update.

More supported audio formats: In terms of sound resolution and detail, the AirPods Max best output is Apple's current wireless codec, AAC. Rival companies like Sony, though, have implemented wireless transmission codecs for higher sound quality, and then of course there's the new aptX Lossless Audio codec already supported by some mobile devices. 

We know that Apple's new USB-C AirPods Pro 2 version will have support for a new Lossless Audio protocol that will arrive with the $3,500 Vision Pro mixed reality headset in 2024. If the AirPods Max ever aim to become the best headphones for audiophiles, any new version will need to support lossless audio.

Better battery life: There’s nothing wrong with the AirPods Max 20-hour battery life — 20 hours is plenty for a commute, work day or flight on an airplane. But there are plenty of models that offer stronger playback time with longer listening times with fewer recharges. The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless give an incredible 60-hour playback time with ANC enabled, while the Sony WH-1000XM5 last 30 hours with active noise cancellation enabled and is the bare minimum any next-gen AirPods Max should be able to reach. 

Lower price: The current Apple AirPods Max cost $549, making them a seriously expensive pair of wireless headphones. Sometimes deals bring the cost down by about $100, but we think a starting price somewhere in the $350-$450 range would make the AirPods Max 2 a stronger sell. 

Should you buy AirPods Max now or wait for AirPods Max 2?

Comfort being tested on the AirPods Max

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you’re debating whether to get the AirPods Max now, check out how the perform in out AirPods Max vs. Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones face-off. We recommend buying the current AirPods Max when you see them on sale, so bookmark our best headphone deals to keep track of the latest price drops.

Until we hear more AirPods Max 2 rumors, there’s not enough reason to wait. That said, we may see an interim update to the current AirPods Max color options in March 2024. Otherwise, check out our guide to the best noise-cancelling headphones or best over-ear headphones you can buy right now. 

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Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef. 


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