There’s been an influx of complaints around the AirPods Max breaking due to water condensation around the inner drivers — it’s an issue some users have complained about since launch and one of the reasons an editor here at Tom’s Guide doesn’t wear his AirPods Max to the gym.
According to some users, the issue starts when excessive heat causes water droplets to form on the inside of the earcups near where the drivers are housed. Over time, water seeps into the speaker holes and ruins the headphones.
A pinned Reddit post about the topic, cited by MacRumors, says the condensation can lead to “AirPods turning off randomly, refusing to connect, refusing to play audio, needing restarts and factory resets to work, losing audio quality,” and other problems.
Apple has yet to address the potential issue — but users on Reddit and Twitter say that Apple was willing to replace their headphones due to the water damage.
The importance of IPX ratings
Why do some headphones have issues with water while others don't? It all comes down to their construction and their IPX rating.
The IP in IPX stands for Ingress Protection — i.e. their ability to prevent water and dust from entering the space where the electronics are housed. The most common of these ratings in headphones is an IPX4 that prevents damage from sweat, though some of the best waterproof earbuds will go all the way up to IPX8.
The problem with the AirPods Max is that they don't have any water or dust resistance, which means it's incredibly easy for condensation to slip in and damage the internal components.
This isn't the first time the issue has been brought up — in fact, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Apple in 2021 for the very same reason, though the results of that lawsuit have yet to seen.