AirPods Max teardown reveals secret customization feature

AirPods Max
(Image credit: Future)

An AirPods Max teardown has uncovered a hidden feature on the noise-cancelling headphones that could potentially give users another customization option on top of the magnetic ear cushions.

iFixit discovered that the AirPods Max's headband can be easily removed, simply by pushing a SIM card eject tool or unfolded paperclip into a small hole in each earcup. Accessing this hole only requires that the ear cushions be removed, which means anyone can remove the headband without special tools — in turn suggesting that swappable headbands might have been an intended feature for the AirPods Max all along.

This is backed up by a discovery by 9to5Mac that iOS devices can identify the “headband type” currently fitted to the paired AirPods Max. Again, this would hint that Apple intends or intended for there to be multiple headband designs. AirPods Max owners would be able to swap them in and out to suit their tastes — like the removable straps on an Apple Watch.

AirPods Max

(Image credit: iFixit)

It’s possible such functionality was merely considered, then dropped. But iOS can still detect headband type as of the most recent iOS 14.4 beta 2 version, which could mean Apple hasn’t ditched the concept entirely.

The ability to swap headbands would certainly make the AirPods Max’s $549 price a little easier to swallow, and give owners greater scope to customize their headphones by mixing and matching headbands with ear cushions. Since the latter are $69 for a set, it’s unlikely new headbands would be particularly cheap either.

iFixit’s report comes a month after its first partial AirPods Max teardown, which revealed that the headphones could prove difficult to fix as the drivers and electronics are concealed by a glued-down cover. However, the full teardown is more positive about their repairability, noting that once this tricky first step is complete it’s relatively easy to remove and replace the various components.

That could be reassuring news to anyone who continues to find condensation in their AirPods Max.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.