The AirPods Max 2 were a no-show at the iPhone 15 launch – and that's a massive shame

Apple AirPods Max headband
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Sometimes, the more you wish for something, the harder it is to attain. That's how it feels with regard to the arrival (or lack of) of the second generation of Apple's AirPods Max over-ear headphones, the still-hypothetical AirPods Max 2

Apple's September showcase saw the unveiling of some exciting new products straight from the Californian tech oven, including the Phone 15, a host of new Apple smartwatches and, most excitingly of all, the prospect of playing Resident Evil 4 on your phone. Another Apple showcase has been and gone, and while we were treated to the host of delights above, what we didn't catch even a glimpse of, sadly, were the Airpods Max 2. 

This is a great shame. To our collective mind, the AirPods Max, while expensive, are arguably the very best wireless noise-cancelling headphones you can buy right now, wowing us with their sublime build quality, exceedingly comfortable profile and, best of all, exceptional sonic abilities during testing. 

What's more frustrating is the fact that the second-gen AirPods Max, were they to arrive, could have addressed the gripes and grumbles that spoiled the near-perfection of the original model. That stupid, bra-like carry case, for example, the lack of a 3.5mm audio port and some rather middling battery life, all issues that could have been addressed with the hotly anticipated second coming of Apple's superb over-ears.

Irritatingly, Apple also ended up making us wait for the original Max, halting a potential debut with the iPhone 12 (launched 12th October 2020) but instead delaying things until Tuesday 15th December of the same year.

Apple AirPods Max

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The market, clearly, is crying out for a sequel. The original Max were a big hit, and while they may have been expensive, that price tag was entirely justified. A newer model even teased the same price for the second bite at the cherry, a prospect that almost seemed too good to be true. New Max at the same price as the first iteration? We would have been in dreamland. 

It would also have made a degree of sense with regard to the overall thrust and tenure of Apple's eco-focused September showcase. With all of its boasting and bravado regarding environmentally sound new models, this would have been a chance to bring that Mother Earth-friendly attitude to the world of high-end audio. Ditching that horrific carry case would have been a start...

At this point, improvement to the Max could have seen Apple really make waves in the audio realm by challenging Sony, particularly the WH-1000XM5, for the ultimate accolade of boasting the best wireless over-ears in the market. As it is, the XM5 are still the ones to beat. 

Still, we live in hope. Judging by Apple's current pattern of releases, and the fact that the first model dropped in late 2020, we're within our rights to at least be hopeful of a new pair to land relatively soon. Mark Gurman's of Bloomberg claimed earlier this year that an AirPods Max update was potentially coming in 2023, even if Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo tempered expectations by claiming that the next-gen AirPods Max may arrive alongside the potential AirPods Lite in the second half of 2024 or even 2025.

With the Max not arriving at the September showcase, it does now seem likely that next year will herald the arrival of Max 2, even if we have our fingers crossed that they hover into view a lot sooner than that. Now that the September Showcase saw the Max missing the metaphorical boat, waiting until 2024 will feel like an eternity...  


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Read our original AirPods Max review

Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. During his time at the publication, he has written countless news stories alongside features, advice and reviews of products ranging from floorstanding speakers and music streamers to over-ear headphones, wireless earbuds and portable DACs. He has covered launches from hi-fi and consumer tech brands, and major industry events including IFA, High End Munich and, of course, the Bristol Hi-Fi Show. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or trying to pet strangers' dogs.