Apple is rumoured to be readying the AirPods Max 2. The second-gen noise-cancelling headphones, which are tipped for new colours and lossless audio support, could break cover before Christmas.
In our AirPods Max review we rated the originals five stars, praising their "cinematic" spatial audio and "exceptional" build quality, so any upgrades, however small, could be cause for celebration.
So what might a new pair of premium noise-cancelling Apple over-ears bring to the party? Here's everything we know so far about the rumoured AirPods Max 2 price, release date, design and spec...
AirPods Max 2: release date rumours
Apple kept us waiting for the AirPods Max; they were expected to debut alongside the iPhone 12 which launched on 12th October 2020 but "complications" in the design and manufacturing process put paid to that. Instead, the AirPods Max were finally unveiled on Tuesday 8th December, before going on sale on Tuesday 15th December 2020.
Given Apple replaced the AirPods 2 wireless earbuds with the AirPods 3 buds after just a couple of years, there's talk of an AirPods Max update in 2022. We could even see the rumoured AirPods Max 2 debut alongside the iPhone 14 and AirPods Pro 2 which are likely to launch on either Tuesday 6th or Tuesday 13th September 2022.
Leaks are few and far between but in May 2022, Mark Gurman's Power On newsletter claimed that an AirPods Max update could be imminent: "Look out for an AirPods Max refresh with new colors (and, we hope, a price drop - $550 is absurd for those headphones)".
Stay tuned and we'll bring you all the latest AirPods Max 2 release date rumours as they slip out.
AirPods Max 2: price predictions
The first-generation AirPods Max hit shelves at £549 / $549 / AU$899. That was more expensive than we'd hoped, but it didn't seem to matter – the AirPods Max sold out almost instantly. At one point, the waiting list ballooned to 12-14 weeks.
Amazon and other Apple sellers have plenty in stock right now, but Apple's high-end headphones remain in high demand. After a bargain? We've listed today's best AirPods Max deals below.
There are no credible AirPods Max 2 price leaks just yet but, with Apple positioning its over-ears above the best AirPods Max alternatives such as the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless (opens in new tab), we'd expect the AirPods Max 2 to come with a similarly steep price tag.
Apple AirPods Max 2: design
Apple is renowned for its sleek designs, but Cupertino really pulled out all the stops for its first pair of over-ears. From pristine anodised aluminium ear cups to a perfectly-weighted steel headband, the AirPods Max make some of the best wireless headphones feel cheap by comparison.
Since launch, the AirPods Max have been available in five finishes: Silver, Blue, Space Gray, Pink and Green (similar to the 2021 iMac Pro lineup). Mark Gurman, who has a strong record when it comes to Apple leaks, reckons an "AirPods Max refresh with new colors" could be on the way as soon as this fall/autumn.
There's no word on which colours Apple will pick, but we've heard whispers that the tech giant could opt to use the remaining three colours in the 2021 iMac Pro lineup (Yellow, Orange and Purple). There are even rumours of an AirPods Max 2 Product (RED) edition.
Elsewhere, there's talk of Apple tweaking the control mechanism. According to Patently Apple, Cupertino is attempting to perfect a set of gesture-based touch controls to replace the Digital Crown (we found the Crown to be a neat solution, but it's a little too easy to knock when adjusting the headphones).
Lastly, there is strong speculation that Apple plans to rejig the Apple AirPods Max case, which has been rather humorously compared to a bra or a gun holster. Not only does it look strange, we think it does a poor job of protecting the headphones from knocks, scratches and dirt.
Thankfully, an Apple patent uncovered in July 2022 seems to suggest that Apple is working on a far more substantial case that snaps shut using a series of "magnetic clasps". Sounds like a no-brainer to us. Let's just hope it looks a bit cooler than its predecessor...
Apple AirPods Max 2: specs
With an asking price of £549 / $549 / AU$899, the 1st Gen Apple AirPods Max needed to deliver a lot. Thankfully, they did. Features include active noise-cancellation (ANC), two Apple H1 chips capable of adjusting their processing up to 200 times a second, Adaptive EQ to tune playback, plus support for spatial audio with dynamic head-tracking.
Impressive. But when Apple added lossless audio quality tracks to Apple Music in mid 2021, it emerged that none of the company's AirPods, including the rather pricey AirPods Max, had the ability to deliver lossless audio wirelessly.
It's not guaranteed, but you'd like to think the AirPods Max 2 could rectify the issue. Indeed, Patently Apple suggests that Apple could be working on new optical audio transmission technology that would enable lossless audio transmission.
Apple is also said to be sprucing up its noise-cancelling tech. In February, the folks at Patently Apple outed an interesting AirPods Max patent that covers the detection of "audio howl" (unwanted feedback created by noise-cancelling microphones). Apparently, Apple is working on a better way to detect and mitigate this interference, which could result in a more natural sound profile.
That's about it on the rumours front, but here are three other features we'd like to see on the AirPods Max 2:
1. Better battery life
AirPods Max battery life is "up to 20 hours" with noise cancellation and spatial audio enabled. That's plenty for a commute or five, but significantly less than you get from the Sony WH-1000XM5, which offer 30 hours, and the class-leading Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, which manage a staggering 60 hours.
2. 3.5mm audio port
If you want to use the AirPods Max in a wired capacity, the only way to do so is with the optional £35 / $35 / AU$55 Lightning-to-3.5mm cable. Even then, the AirPods Max won’t work in passive mode: if the battery’s dead, the headphones are useless. Not ideal if you're stuck on a plane at 30,000 feet. Let's hope the AirPods Max 2 fix that.
3. Improved Android support
Unsurprisingly, you need an iPhone or iPad in order to get the most out of the AirPods Max. Sure, they'll work with non-Apple products using standard Bluetooth 5.0, but you’ll miss out on almost all of the unique features. Don't hold your breath on this one, but better Android support would certainly widen the appeal of the AirPods Max 2.
Apple AirPods Max 2: early thoughts
If you're a keen Apple user, the AirPods Max are arguably the very best noise-cancelling headphones you can buy. Build quality is second-to-none, sonics are superb, and comfort is exceptional.
If the AirPods Max 2 can address a few of our (fairly minor) gripes – like the near-pointless case and the lack of a 3.5mm audio port – Apple's second-generation over-ears could cement their place in headphone history.
With any luck, the AirPods Max 2 will break cover this fall/autumn. If they do, you can bet your life we'll bring all the news as it breaks.
Read our iPhone 13 review
The best AirPods ranked and rated
And the best AirPods deals