AirPods Max teardown reveals some bad news

Apple AirPods Max teardown
(Image credit: iFixit)

Repairability advocates iFixit have performed the first partial AirPods Max teardown, and it’s bad news for anyone who might want to poke around inside Apple's premium noise-cancelling headphones.

The main issue seems to be that the speaker cover is secured with glue, meaning iFixit could only access the 40mm drivers by heating up the AirPods Max to a glue-melting point. That’s despite the presence elsewhere of relatively easy-to-remove screws, so repairing or replacing individual components is likely to be a pain.

The teardown made some other interesting discoveries, like how the AirPods Max use two separate battery cells located in the same earcup. However, there might be trouble repairing these as well, as an X-ray revealed that the battery connectors could be soldered in, which would make swapping out the cells trickier still.

“We're still holding out hope for an easy battery swap procedure, though”, reads the report. “The connectors aren't always easy to spot from here.”

While it’s disappointing that the AirPods Max are harder to repair than other noise-cancelling headphones – the Bose QC35 II can be dismantled with just a couple of screwdrivers – it’s not surprising. Apple hardware isn’t always hard to disassemble but making repairs can be a dicey business: iFixit previously found that the iPhone 12 camera would repeatedly fail if replaced by a third party instead of Apple’s own technicians.

It looks like if you do buy the AirPods Max, you’ll need to face using Apple’s premium-priced, first-party services if you ever want them repaired. Something to consider when you’ll have already spent $549 on Apple’s new headphones.

If the idea of spending over $500 on a pair of headphones leaves you feeling a little queasy, then check out our best headphones list, as that has a lot of excellent cans for more reasonable prices. Our current top pic is the Sony WH-1000xM4, which are well worth a look.

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.