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AirPods Max 2: 6 upgrades to make Apple's headphones irresistible at any price

When it comes to sheer sound quality, there's no doubt that the best AirPods you can buy today are AirPods Max. They're absolutely stunning when it comes to audio quality, although they're naturally far from perfect.

I love my AirPods Max, but I’m very aware I paid the Apple Tax: if I’d gone for the  Sony WH-1000XM4s (which were the top of the line at the time) instead I’d have got even better noise cancelation for considerably less cash. 

With the second generation of AirPods Max surely being worked on in Apple's labs (the originals were released in 2020) it’s unlikely Apple’s planning a massive price cut – but if it offered these improvements then the AirPods Max 2 would be worth paying Apple’s elevated price. 

Here are six things that we think would make AirPods Max 2 up there with the best headphones, not just the best Apple headphones

1. A proper carrying case

If you asked me to describe the current AirPods Max case in a single phrase, it would be “stupid stupid headphone bra”. That’s not exactly poetic, but it is accurate. The AirPods Max carrying case is hopeless, horrible and whenever I take it out in public I feel I have to apologize: I didn’t choose it! It came with the headphones, honest! 

But my main beef with it isn’t its form, but its function. There’s no protection for the headband, which means this is quite literally a case of style over substance.

I could pay lots more for a nice hard case, but I already paid quite a lot for the actual headphones. Other brands manage to include a real case – surely Apple can too.

apple airpods max case

Look at this. It's protection against some scratches, on some sides of the aluminum. That's it! (Image credit: TechRadar)

2. Lossless audio

AirPods Max are more expensive than many audiophile headphones but they don’t support lossless audio: they only use Apple’s compressed AAC codec over Bluetooth. 

When you’re paying this much for a pair of headphones, no matter how nice, there really needs to be the option to step it up so you can listen to Apple's Music's Lossless or Hi-Res tiers in all their glory.

We've written about how lossless AirPods might be possible using current Bluetooth tech (we wrote it about a potential AirPods Pro 2, but it all applies here too) – regardless of whether Apple uses these exact tricks or not, I want the highest-quality headphones to play the highest-quality music.

Of course, even if it can't be done wireless, there's always the wired option. Speaking of…

3. A standard cable connection that's included

Yes, really: like everybody else’s, my AirPods Max didn’t include an audio cable for wired listening. Instead, you have to give Apple an extra $35 / £35 / AU$35 for its Lightning to 3.5mm cable. And this doesn't even enable lossless audio, because it's a digital cable! The worst of both worlds.

For headphones this pricey, not including the cable was a cut corner too far. And then the connector wasn't even a plain old 3.5mm headphone port, which would have added utility and been a less cash-grabby option.

So let's have a cable included please, even if you insist on it being a non-standard one. But while we’re on the subject of Lightning connectors…

apple airpods max Lightning connector

Less of this, please. (Image credit: TechRadar)

4. USB-C

MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros have it. iPad Airs have it. Pretty much every other manufacturers’ devices have it. USB-C is the future, and may even arrive in iPhones as soon as the iPhone 14.

It may have made some sense at the time as Apple's standard charger for AirPods, but these days, Apple’s use of Lightning in the OG AirPods Max is incredibly annoying: it won’t be long before they’re the only Apple kit in my home that doesn’t have a USB-C socket. So let's make sure that the replacement is geared for the future.

5. L/R ear detection

If I had a penny for every time I’ve put my AirPods Max on the wrong way round I’d have enough money to buy the AirPods Max 2. I can never remember which side the controls are supposed to be on, and while I understand why Apple wanted to go with an Apple Watch-style Digital Crown I think it should also have implemented the Apple Watch’s reversibility: every Apple Watch can be used on the right or left side and its controls reversed accordingly.

However, the same doesn’t apply to the AirPods Max: you can have the controls on the right, or you can have them on the right. But the earpads are very uniform, so the ability to put them on either way round and for the headphones to automatically adjust would be perfect.

apple airpods max earpads

Swappable earpads for funky color mixing? We'd love it. (Image credit: TechRadar)

6. Swappable components

The AirPods Max were long rumored to be modular, with interchangeable headbands and ear cups so you could make yours truly personal (and Apple could sell you more stuff) in the same way you can change the bands on your Apple Watch. 

Apparently Apple couldn’t make that work, at least with the headband (the earpads can technically be swapped pretty easily), so it binned the whole idea. But AirPods Max are actually quite easy to dismantle, especially if you just want to take the ear cups off, so it’s not far-fetched to imagine swappable ear cups in a range of funky colors and design at the very least.

If I'm gonna pay lots for one of the best wireless headphones, it'd be great if I can make it feel totally like my own.

Source: TechRadar

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