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AirPods Max 2 — early rumors and what we want to see

AirPods Max 2 rumors
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Apple AirPods Max 2 could be Apple’s next pair of over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones. Though we haven’t heard many AirPods 2 rumors, 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. Priced at $549, they’re far from the best cheap headphones, but the AirPods Max still managed to amass a fan base and remain a popular (albeit, premium) choice for iPhone users.

In December 2022, the AirPods Max turn two years old. That might make you wonder whether the AirPods Max 2, or second-gen AirPods Max, are on the way. You might also want to know how they’ll compare to the Apple AirPods Pro or Apple AirPods 3, some of the best wireless headphones also sold by Apple.

Here’s all the AirPods Max 2 rumors so far, plus the top upgrades we hope to see in the future of AirPods Max headphones.

AirPods Max 2 release date and price speculation

When could the AirPods Max 2 debut? AirPods don’t follow a regular release schedule as the iPhone, Apple Watch and many other Apple devices. That said, it seems fitting to update the headset in December 2022, two years after the initial version debuted. But whereas products like the iPhone 14, Apple Watch 8 and even Apple AirPods Pro 2 have been tipped to launch this fall, we haven’t heard anything about the AirPods Max 2 joining the release slate.

Instead, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said we could see the existing AirPods Max receive some sort of refresh, perhaps in the form of new colors. More on that below.

As for AirPods Max 2 price rumors, we have no indication yet of whether they’ll cost $549 like the original pair. Even when the best AirPods deals, the headset is considerably more expensive than the best AirPods Max alternatives, like the Sony WH-1000XM5 for example. We’re not getting our hopes up for a price drop.

AirPods Max 2 design 

Most of the AirPods Max 2 rumors we’ve heard so far suggest some design changes could be coming to the headset. 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.

Finally, there’s a reason to suspect that the AirPods Max 2 could get touch controls. A patent application (opens in new tab) 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.

AirPods Max 2 — what 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:

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, are adopting wireless transmission codecs with faster speeds and higher bandwidth. If the AirPods Max ever aim to become the best headphones for audiophiles, at the very least they’ll need to match the high-resolution audio of LDAC.

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 the Sony WH-1000XM5 last 30 hours with active noise cancellation enabled, offering a threshold the next-gen AirPods Max should attempt 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?

If you’re debating whether to get the AirPods Max now or wait for AirPods Max 2, we recommend buying the current AirPods Max now when you see them on sale. Until we hear more AirPods Max 2 rumors, there’s not enough reason to wait. That said, if you can be patient until the fall, we might see an update to the current AirPods Max color options.

Otherwise, check out our guide to the best noise-cancelling headphones or best over-ear headphones you buy now. We also have a roundup of all the best headphone deals, so you can save money on your headset purchase.

Kate Kozuch
Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is an editor at Tom’s Guide covering smartwatches, TVs and everything smart-home related. Kate also appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account (opens in new tab), which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her on an exercise bike, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.