There are various reasons why the AirPods Max are rated some of the best headphones around. But there are also several areas in which we think Apple’s cans may improve for the AirPods Max 2, or next-gen attempt at an over-ear headphone.
We’ve been trying AirPods Max since the headphones originally launched in December 2020. Both at the time of our initial Apple AirPods Max review and now, well over a year after using them, there are things we’d prefer in the future of the AirPods Max.
Although little speculations have surfaced regarding the AirPods Max 2, it’s safe to assume that a new version of one of the greatest noise-cancelling headphones we’ve ever used is on the way. AirPods don’t follow the same release calendar as the iPhone, but it seems natural to update the headset in December 2022, two years after the initial version appeared. That’s simply supposition, though.
For now, we’ve come up with a list of what we expect the AirPods Max 2 will offer compared to the original AirPods Max:
A new case
Aside from its obvious shortcoming, the cover for Apple’s AirPods Max is one of our favorite features of the new headset. Despite its name, the “Smart Case” does not provide much protection for the expensive headphones, leaving the headband completely unprotected. And since AirPods Max aren’t waterproof, either, the provided case leaves ports at risk if water bottle leaks or damp conditions permeate your bag.
For the time being, the best option is to get an AirPods Max case or cover. If you want to keep your AirPods Max in a low-power state when not in use, there are several cheap cases using the Smart Case’s magnets.
The lack of a power button on AirPods Max is perplexing, and it’s something we ponder almost every time we use them.Apple should give a means to shut down the AirPods Max completely, even if they go into low-power mode after a few minutes of being immobile or in the magnetic smart case. There’s no reason the Digital Crown button can’t also be a power button.
Better battery life
The AirPods Max 20-hour battery life is nothing to scoff at. A commute, a workday, or a flight on an airplane can be completed in no more than 20 hours. And for what it’s worth, the low power mode does a fair job at keeping AirPods Max juiced up, even when they’re not in use.
But some of the best wireless headphones have a longer lasting battery than the AirPods Max. For example, the Sony WH-1000XM5 may last up to 30 hours with ANC activated, making battery life a crucial difference between the Sony WH-1000XM5 vs. AirPods Max. We’d want to see the next-gen AirPods Max last as long as the 1000XM5.
Greater audio format support
In terms of clarity and detail, the AirPods Max feel like they’re attaining virtually the apex of what’s possible with Apple’s existing wireless codec, AAC. In the face of competition from the likes of Sony and others, Apple could benefit from putting on its technical hat and introducing a new wireless transmission codec with increased speed and bandwidth.
Therefore, a new codec that meets or exceeds LDAC’s 990 kbps maximum bitrate and 24-bit depth will be most beneficial for the AirPods Max 2. AAC’s bit depth and sample rate are currently limited to 16 bits and 96 kHz for a bitrate of 264 kbps. In other words, this isn’t really high-resolution audio.
If Apple really wants to promote these as the be-all, end-all wireless headphones, it’s going to need to demonstrate audiophiles that it’s tripling its efforts for the most pure audio performance imaginable.
The pricing point is another area where some wiggle flexibility is desired. At launch, the Apple AirPods Max priced $549, making them a seriously costly pair of wireless headphones.
For instance, the Bose Noise-Cancelling 700 (the company’s flagship wireless headphones) only cost $379 while the Sony WH-1000XM4, the best noise-cancelling headphones of the year, only cost $349. Apple’s over-ear headphones are $200 pricier.
We clearly recognize that Apple’s goods have a premium look and style, but spending $200 more for a pair of wireless headphones sounded unfair to many. No sub-$300 headphones are on our radar, but a launch discount of even $100 could help make the headphones’ higher price more bearable.
Are you looking for the best noise-cancelling headphones? Take a look at the Sony WH-1000XM5, Bose Noise-Canceling 700, and the original AirPods Max, to name a few of the most recent additions.