Apple is rumored to be bringing out a new version of its flagship AirPods Max headphones sometime next year. It's been three years since the release of the current model and it holds the distinguished title of oldest current-generation AirPod product.
Speculation has started circulating over plans for a second-generation model, with Bloomberg's Mark Gurman suggesting it could come in the year's second half.
The big question is what new features Apple's premium over-ear headphones will include when the second-generation version is released.
What are we likely to see in 2024?
To get an idea of what to expect — from the obvious like USB-C charging to the more speculative like a new design — we've compiled a list of the likely and possible updates over the current generation AirPods Max.
The most obvious change between the current generation and the next will be a move to USB-C from Lightning for the charging port. This is a result of EU directives and is happening across the Apple product lineup. Gurman suggests this may be one of the only changes Apple makes to the normally $550 headphones. You can currently get the AirPod Max for $449 from Amazon in the Black Friday sale.
The other most likely change will be a new set of colors. Currently available in space gray, pink, green, silver, and sky blue - the next generation is likely to follow the path taken with the iPad or Mac and add bolder colors like yellow, purple, and green.
What I'd like to see in 2024
Bolder colors and a USB-C port are great but as three-year-old headphones, the AirPods Max are missing out on some of the impressive new tech featured in Apple's smaller AirPods. This includes the much cheaper second-generation AirPods Pro 2 which are currently down from $249 to $169 at Walmart in the Black Friday sale.
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?
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.
The 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.
A new look smart case
The AirPods Max Smart Case looks odd, doesn't offer as much protection as a hard case and has been largley lampooned since it was unveiled. There is a chance we may see a completely new case with version two. Apple patents have hinted at a more traditional housing for headphones.
Better battery life
This one could be solved through the inclusion of the H2 chip. Some of the high-end headphones are now offering 30 or even 60 hour battery life whereas the AirPods Max still boast up to 20 hours if you want to use noise cancellation and spatial audio. Fine for a commute but what if you want to cover up the office sounds while working.
Black Friday headphone deals
Since you are unlikely to be able to get the new AirPods Max until next year, and for multiple reasons, it might be worth the wait, here are some of the best headphone deals we've found this Black Friday.
This includes Apple's AirPods Pro 2 which are currently down from $249 to $169 at Walmart. If you really want the first-generation AirPod Max you can currently get them for a bargain. AirPod Max is currently down from the usual $549 and is selling for $449 at Amazon.
Best Black Friday headphone deals — Quick links
- Sony LinkBuds S: was $199 now $128 @ Walmart
- Beats Solo 3: was $199 now $99 @ Amazon
- Bose 700: was $379 now $259 @ Amazon
Sony WH-CH720N: was $149 now $94 @ Walmart
As the follow-up to the company's WH-CH710N over-ear headphones that launched in 2020, the WH-CH720N bring improved noise canceling, 35-hour battery life with noise-canceling enabled, and full Sony Headphone Connect app support. These are one of the best wireless noise-canceling headphones I've experienced at $149.
Beats Solo 3: was $199 now $99 @ Amazon
Alongside Beats' signature bass-forward sound, the Solo 3 are best known for offering up to two whole days of battery life on a full charge. These may not offer sound quality to rival the best on-ear headphones, but they sport a premium look that makes a real statement. In the past, we’ve felt they were overpriced, but with this sizable discount, that's no longer an issue.
Bose 700: was $379 now $259 @ Amazon
$130 OFF! The Bose 700 may have been superseded by the new QC Ultra Headphones flagship, but they are still one of the top noise-canceling headphones you can buy. As well as having excellent, rich sound, they're stylish, comfortable to wear and deliver the absolute best noise-cancelling experience of any headphones we've tested.
Price check: $259 @ Best Buy | $279 @ Crutchfield
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Ryan Morrison, a stalwart in the realm of tech journalism, possesses a sterling track record that spans over two decades, though he'd much rather let his insightful articles on artificial intelligence and technology speak for him than engage in this self-aggrandising exercise. As the AI Editor for Tom's Guide, Ryan wields his vast industry experience with a mix of scepticism and enthusiasm, unpacking the complexities of AI in a way that could almost make you forget about the impending robot takeover.
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