Skip to main content

Introduction

The name “AirPods” can now refer to either tiny little e-waste disasters or cavernous, over-ear Max headphones. With a name like AirPods, we had to know: will the AirPods Max be serviceable to any degree? Or did Apple spend a good chunk of the $550 price on over-engineering them into knots?

We wanted to do more than just strip these Pods down to their Digital Crown, truly odd Lightning Port, and micron-scale screws. With time to really explore the space, we enlisted the help of Creative Electron to work them over with X-rays. Not only that, but we also took apart some semi-comparable Sony and Bose headsets, to see just how different Apple’s (non-Beats) entry into the premium headphone market would be.

For reference (eh?), check out our previous AirPods teardowns. To keep up on what’s happening around gadgets and repair, check out our YouTube channel, our Instagram, and our Twitter. And to always hear first about our latest gadget investigations, subscribe to our newsletter.

This teardown is not a repair guide. To repair your AirPods Max, use our service manual.

  1. AirPods Max will set you back a whopping 550 US dollars. What do you get for all that hard-earned cash?
    • AirPods Max will set you back a whopping 550 US dollars. What do you get for all that hard-earned cash?

    • Two 40 mm Apple-designed dynamic drivers

    • Two color-matched magnetic ear cushions

    • Two Apple H1 chips

    • Eight microphones for active noise cancellation

    • Bluetooth 5.0 with support for the Apple-friendly AAC codec

    • A soft-touch Smart Case and a Lightning-to-USB-C cable for charging

    • Notably absent from this list: any sort of auxiliary cable. You'll have to buy a Lightning-to-3.5 mm audio cable at additional cost if you want to do any wired listening.

  2. First order of business: unwrap our present. The Smart Case comes with its own little protective paper wrapper, so it arrives nice and fresh. The wrapper is a single-piece, precision-cut affair that looks like it probably cost millions to design and manufacture all by itself. Into the recycling bin it goes.
    • First order of business: unwrap our present.

    • The Smart Case comes with its own little protective paper wrapper, so it arrives nice and fresh.

    • The wrapper is a single-piece, precision-cut affair that looks like it probably cost millions to design and manufacture all by itself. Into the recycling bin it goes.

    • The Smart Case doesn't cover up as much as you might think. It's more like Smart Shorts, if you will.

  3. Before we go any further, it's time to blast these things with some X-rays (or, more accurately, it's time for our friends at Creative Electron to blast them with said X-rays). Even more than most X-rays, this image is rich with see-through detail! We spot: Two battery cells, both in the same ear cup.
    • Before we go any further, it's time to blast these things with some X-rays (or, more accurately, it's time for our friends at Creative Electron to blast them with said X-rays).

    • Even more than most X-rays, this image is rich with see-through detail! We spot:

    • Two battery cells, both in the same ear cup.

    • Worryingly, there are some solder joints and wires near the batteries, but no obvious connectors. We're sill holding out hope for an easy battery swap procedure, though—the connectors aren't always easy to spot from here.

    • You'll notice in the X-ray that the ear cup opposite the batteries doesn't seem to have any sort of counter-weight, just empty space. Maybe it's tucked away somewhere else? We'll be on the lookout.

    • Huge dual-ring speaker driver magnets, and speaker units that appear to be secured with screws—a great sign!

    • Lots of little alignment magnets, brackets for the various microphones, and some more friendly screws.

    Would love to see an x-ray of the Smart Case too - I’d like to see if there are any magnets within that trigger the Low Power Mode when the ear cups are placed within (similar to how the iPad Smart Covers use magnets to trigger screen sleep/wake). Thanks!

    lucio - Reply

    • If you want to not only look through but look around, Creative Electron has you covered there, too. Take this brief video orbit around the AirPods Max.

    • In the movie version it's easier to catch all those screws (yay!), and get a feel for the depth and layers of each ear cup.

  4. Hold up a minute: is this an Apple Watch teardown or an AirPods teardown? Like the Grinch's heart on Christmas, the Digital Crown has grown to three times its original size. Unlike the Grinch's heart, this Digital Crown handles the volume and playback controls for AirPods Max. Along the bottom edge of the AirPods you'll find a few holes, but none of them are the friendly round 3.5 mm kind.
    • Hold up a minute: is this an Apple Watch teardown or an AirPods teardown?

    • Like the Grinch's heart on Christmas, the Digital Crown has grown to three times its original size. Unlike the Grinch's heart, this Digital Crown handles the volume and playback controls for AirPods Max.

    • Along the bottom edge of the AirPods you'll find a few holes, but none of them are the friendly round 3.5 mm kind.

    • Instead, wired listening is handled by the Lightning port, pulling double duty for listening and charging. Oh, but you'll need to buy an extra cable for the listening part. That's real ... courageous, Apple.

    • The first step in disassembly is removing these magnetic ear cushions. An openly user-replaceable part on an AirPods product? We must have made the Nice List this year.

    • In case you were looking for the Apple logo on this pair of head speakers: it's here, just tucked away.

    The cutest Apple logo ever to be seen!

    kylej.nakamura - Reply

    • Underneath the ear cushions: holes! And wait a sec, are those screws? Computer, enhance!

    • Well, the good news is that we aren't fighting glue yet. These are already looking like a promising departure from the the rest of the AirPods we've previously scalpel-ed into submission.

    • The less-than-good news is, they're Pentalobe screws. Luckily we're used to that, and came prepared for just about any kind of screw (15 kinds, to be exact) thanks to our Marlin Screwdriver Set.

    • This is where the fun stops and the work begins.

    • Those screws got our hopes up, but they behave... strangely. They turn a little ways in each direction, and then stop.

    • If you forcibly remove them like we did, you'll be rewarded with the sound of loose pieces rattling around inside the earcups... which remain sealed shut. Huh?

    • It turns out, you're not supposed to remove the screws—just rotate them each a quarter turn or so, to release a locking wedge on the other side. Our pal Quinn over at Snazzy Labs has a lovely video of what that looks like, along with his review of the AirPods Max sound quality—check it out!

    • The next round of frustration: adhesive. That's right, releasing the locks and/or removing the screws isn't enough. Out comes the heat gun, which must be wielded very carefully to avoid melting all this plastic.

    • There's really no clearance at all for prying these things out by the edges—if you try, you're gonna do some damage. Since we've already removed the screws, we use a handy dental pick to hook under the screw holes and pull. Finally... we're in!

    Was it really adhesive? It sort of looks like there are 4 neo magnets around the perimeter of the ear cup that may have been holding it in… The silvery arc things in the corners?

    Matt Skogmo - Reply

    The silvery arcs are magnets as you noted, but they are there to hold the magnetic ear cushions. There is definitely adhesive holding the plastic ear cup grilles in place. Since there are four nifty twist-lock tabs already holding the grilles, maybe the adhesive helps dampen vibrations or buzzing?

    Arthur Shi -

    • Ear cup grilles away! Each one has a single microphone stowaway, here to hear what the wearer is listening to, probably to then report back to the H1 chip for EQ adjustments. Or go directly to Tim Cook's earpiece.

    • Each 40 mm driver is held down by a few screws, one of them a gigantic standoff. We're momentarily stumped, and reach for our kitted-out Mahi driver kit. A torq-set #6 bit is ... not a perfect fit, but gets the job done.

    The mic is likely (also) used for active noise cancelling as the chip needs to know what noise it has to cancel. The more mics it has for that the better.

    douira - Reply

    Super intrigued by those pogo pin contacts near the bottom on the right hand cup. Any idea what they are for?

    Theron - Reply

  5. With the screws removed, the drivers flip right out, revealing a pair of repair-friendly spring contacts directly underneath. Neat! That provides enough clearance to remove our next target: the battery. As shown in the X-ray, both battery cells live in the right ear cup, tethered together by a single cable. To our relief, both cells are fastened with screws, not adhesive.  Even better, they provide power via a single, iPhone-style pop connector—no solder here.
    • With the screws removed, the drivers flip right out, revealing a pair of repair-friendly spring contacts directly underneath. Neat!

    • That provides enough clearance to remove our next target: the battery. As shown in the X-ray, both battery cells live in the right ear cup, tethered together by a single cable.

    • To our relief, both cells are fastened with screws, not adhesive. Even better, they provide power via a single, iPhone-style pop connector—no solder here.

    • That was surprisingly painless, particularly for an AirPods product. Were it not for the glue-y opening procedure, you could almost say it was easy. Imagine that—easily replacing a consumable component, instead of throwing the whole device away.

    • Made by Sunwoda, the two cells are wired in parallel, with a total capacity of 664 mAh and 2.53 Wh total energy at 4.35 V. Each cell measures approximately 5.7 x 20 x 28 mm.

    • This is right in line with the 2.39 Wh cell in the Bose NC 700 wireless headphones, which also promise around 20 hours of listening time. Sony WH-1000XM4s offer a longer, 30 hour listening time, with a correspondingly larger 4.1 Wh battery driving them.

  6. Next target: the logic board. There's a unique board in each side—we extracted both, and called on our amazing community of fixers to help ID all the silicon. Spoiler alert: They did an amazing job. For maximum resolution, you can find the original image files here and here.
    • Next target: the logic board. There's a unique board in each side—we extracted both, and called on our amazing community of fixers to help ID all the silicon. Spoiler alert: They did an amazing job.

    • For maximum resolution, you can find the original image files here and here.

  7. Here are the chip ID submissions we've received to date. What else can you find?
    • Here are the chip ID submissions we've received to date. What else can you find?

    • STMicroelectronics STM32L496QG 32-bit Arm microcontroller

    • Apple 343S00404, likely a Bluetooth SoC

    • This is probably the H1 chip rumored to be on each side of the headset.

    • Winbond W25Q256JW 256 Mb serial flash memory

    • Cirrus Logic CS46L10A0, likely an audio codec

    • Cirrus Logic CS44L22, likely a 1-Ch. audio amplifier

    • Texas Instruments SN2501, likely a battery charger IC

    Huh, only a 32MB Flash chip? I suppose for wireless headphone firmware, that’s all you really need.

    Robbie Ginder - Reply

  8. Side A of IC ID, continued:
    • Side A of IC ID, continued:

    • Bosch Sensortec, likely an inertial measurement unit

    • Bosch Sensortec BMA456 3-Axis accelerometer

    • NXP Semiconductor CBTL610A38, likely a display port multiplexer

    • Lattice Semiconductor LCMXO2-2000ZE MachX02 field programmable gate array

    • Diodes Incorporated PI3USB102E 480 Mbps USB 2.0 switch

    • Texas Instruments TMUX136 2-Ch. 2:1 analog switch

    • Texas Instruments SN74AVC4T774 4-bit dual-supply bus transceiver

    Wait, what? Display Port Multiplexer? What is that doing here?

    Suchir Kavi - Reply

    That NXP chip is not a 610A38, it is a 610A3B. It’s for USB charging. Same chip was used in iPhones for a while.

    Zimmie - Reply

  9. Boards, side B. What do you see?
    • Boards, side B. What do you see?

    • Apple 338S00517, likely a power management IC

    • NXP Semiconductor CBTL610A38, likely a display port multiplexer

    • Texas Instruments TLV341 operational amplifier

    • Texas Instruments TLV3691 comparator

    • Texas Instruments TPS62743 300 mA step down DC-DC converter

    • Diodes Incorporated PI3USB102E 480 Mbps USB 2.0 switch

    • Maxim Integrated MAXM17552 100 mA step-down power module

    What would be the purpose of a Displayport Multiplexer on a device that has no display output? Are they using it strictly for audio purposes?

    Jason Carraway - Reply

  10. Standing between us and the Lightning port are four Torx screws. Two of them are so hard to reach we have to daisy-chain a T2 Torx bit into a 4 mm nut driver—nothing else fits in this little space. While challenging to remove, this port's modularity is critical for repairs—without it, your AirPods will never charge again. Next up: Behind the two exterior slits on the lower corner of each can is this plastic air channel, which passes straight through to the cavity directly behind the driver. You might call it an air port.
    • Standing between us and the Lightning port are four Torx screws. Two of them are so hard to reach we have to daisy-chain a T2 Torx bit into a 4 mm nut driver—nothing else fits in this little space.

    • While challenging to remove, this port's modularity is critical for repairs—without it, your AirPods will never charge again.

    • Next up: Behind the two exterior slits on the lower corner of each can is this plastic air channel, which passes straight through to the cavity directly behind the driver. You might call it an air port.

    • Presumably this is the ventilation system that gives those drivers their distortion-free oomph at higher volumes.

  11. Hiding beneath that antenna line on the left ear cup is... a big antenna. We had a thought this might be some sort of counterweight, to offset the batteries in the opposite ear cup—but it weighs next to nothing. Here's an X-ray if you'd like a deeper look. The upper microphones are secured with little metal brackets, screwed and  plastic-riveted into place. Every turn of this teardown is just riveting.
    • Hiding beneath that antenna line on the left ear cup is... a big antenna. We had a thought this might be some sort of counterweight, to offset the batteries in the opposite ear cup—but it weighs next to nothing.

    • Here's an X-ray if you'd like a deeper look.

    • The upper microphones are secured with little metal brackets, screwed and plastic-riveted into place. Every turn of this teardown is just riveting.

    • A soldering iron makes quick work of these rivets by melting the top off. But this is not a very repair-friendly way to go.

    • Right next door, we find some mechanical button hardware. The button and ribbon cable come free easily enough, but the rest is secured with two tiny hex nuts that are smaller than anything in our toolkit.

    • That's thrice now we've had to reach beyond even our expansive toolkits for this one pair of headphones. Who says Apple can't innovate?

    • You're now looking at perhaps the most elaborate part of the AirPods Max.

    • Does this look scary to take apart?

    • Nah.

  12. Any capable headphone headband has to tilt, spin, and connect the ear cups together, but no other headphone does it quite like this. Apple's electromechanical hinge hardware is both intricate and overbuilt, and might make the AirPods Max's price tag a little easier to swallow. This hinge needs to provide a sturdy but comfortable connection for the headband, while also reliably passing a power connection through from the battery.
    • Any capable headphone headband has to tilt, spin, and connect the ear cups together, but no other headphone does it quite like this.

    • Apple's electromechanical hinge hardware is both intricate and overbuilt, and might make the AirPods Max's price tag a little easier to swallow.

    • This hinge needs to provide a sturdy but comfortable connection for the headband, while also reliably passing a power connection through from the battery.

    • Apple uses a wraparound flex cable in the rotating portion of the joint, with some clever routing and built-in strain relief—then switches over to spring contacts for the connection to the headband. What a flex.

    • Hopefully, all that adds up to fewer failures from cable wear. Durability is hard to predict at times, but it's clear that a lot of thought went into this setup.

    • With a bunch of Torx screws out of the way, the joint is ready for its closeup.

    That little connector on the headband looks kind of like a tiny 2-pin (or 4-pin rather) lightning plug.. adorable!

    MrUNIMOG - Reply

  13. Not merely T4, not only T3, not just T2, but even a few teeny-tiny T1 Torx  screws later, the joint comes apart and shows its springs, miniscule bearings, and precision-machined micro-housings. The two large springs provide that gentle clamping pressure on your skull, while the two smaller springs perform a neat trick that we'll reveal in a minute.
    • Not merely T4, not only T3, not just T2, but even a few teeny-tiny T1 Torx screws later, the joint comes apart and shows its springs, miniscule bearings, and precision-machined micro-housings.

    • The two large springs provide that gentle clamping pressure on your skull, while the two smaller springs perform a neat trick that we'll reveal in a minute.

    • Why did Apple go to such lengths to over-engineer these parts? Here are a few factors:

    • The two points in any headphone where the headband meets the ear cup are paramount for comfort. The joint needs to move with multiple degrees of freedom to sit comfortably on the wearer's head, and be sturdy enough to be yanked around a bit during the putting-on and resizing process.

    • Additionally, headphones are little pockets of pure vibration. Inside both ear cups, the drivers vibrate rapidly for extended periods of time to create sound for your ear holes. So any joint hardware inside the ear cup needs to be pretty robust.

    • It was rumored that Apple wanted to design the AirPods Max headband to be easily-swappable like its magnetic ear cups. That feature was thought to be missing from the final design, but this joint is so complex it just might have one more thing up its sleeve...

    Hey do you know what material that little U shaped guy is made of? It looks kinda like aluminum but my gut tells me that would be too weak!

    Lyle Cheatham - Reply

    Hey, I know I’m late to the party, but those parts are clearly Metal Injection Molded not “precision machined”. The marks are not the uniform round sweeps you’d expect from a CNC.

    Jesse Beard - Reply

  14. Here's the trick, and the best part: despite the joint's complexity, you can detach the entire headband from AirPods Max with just a SIM card removal tool or paperclip, without even opening the ear cup. When fully assembled, a little poke in just the right place compresses two tiny springs inside the joint, freeing the clamp that secures the headband. We were as shocked as you are. Did Apple put this tiny hole here with repair in mind? Portability? Both? Is $550 starting to seem ... reasonable?
    • Here's the trick, and the best part: despite the joint's complexity, you can detach the entire headband from AirPods Max with just a SIM card removal tool or paperclip, without even opening the ear cup.

    • When fully assembled, a little poke in just the right place compresses two tiny springs inside the joint, freeing the clamp that secures the headband.

    • We were as shocked as you are. Did Apple put this tiny hole here with repair in mind? Portability? Both? Is $550 starting to seem ... reasonable?

    Incredible! Apple engineering and thoughtfulness aren’t given enough credit!

    Sklep Kneblewski - Reply

    They are given credit when it’s truly innovative — such as this headband. But other times, they aren’t as impressive.

    But wow, toolless removal of headbands (without tangling wires!) is very very impressive.

    ___

    Look like it had some inspiration from the knob of a watch.

    Xavier Jiang -

    Ok, I removed the magnetic cups and detached both sides from the headband, and the release was fluid.

    Re-attaching the headphone to the headband is proving to be not nearly as simple as removing them…

    jason warren - Reply

    The engagement mechanism to re-attach each unit to the headband is simple. Almost no force is required, as I learned before breaking mine.

    ~

    ~

    - Insert the connector at the end of the headband into the cylinder in the headphone casing

    - Push it in until it hits the bottom of the cylinder in the casing

    - rotate the headphone casing L/R by 50 or 60 or 90 degrees around the axis of the metal arm, until the connector engages further - you’ll feel the engagement

    - it will click into place pretty much by itself, no need to grip hard and push

    ~

    ~

    As soon as you reconnect both sides, can fire it up and listen normally. I’m listening with NC on as I write this. No warnings or notifications etc popped up.

    ~

    ~

    NB:

    You do not need to use a SIM slot pin tool during re-attachment, do not need to use this to push in and actuate the lever like you did to remove them. I wasted time trying this, so don’t break your set by pinning it to death.

    You do not need to rotate about the other (gimballed) axis during re-attachment.

    jason warren -

  15. That's a wrap on AirPods Max! What a delightfully perplexing pair of headphones. Despite the slightly confusing and over-complicated (read: sticky) opening process, these things are actually fairly serviceable. Not fun to service, but serviceable. As always, we have a love/hate relationship with Apple's use of screws: love the use of screws, but hate the screws they choose.
    • That's a wrap on AirPods Max! What a delightfully perplexing pair of headphones.

    • Despite the slightly confusing and over-complicated (read: sticky) opening process, these things are actually fairly serviceable. Not fun to service, but serviceable.

    • As always, we have a love/hate relationship with Apple's use of screws: love the use of screws, but hate the screws they choose.

    • Before we sign off and assign these headphones a score though, there's just one more thing... or two...

    Great teardown, thanks! But, not complete! What about the headband? I’d love a look at how Apple achieved that silky smooth yet secure headband adjustment. I’d also love a look at their attachment and spring or damping geometry for the headband support that rests on your head.

    simonkwan.facebook - Reply

    • To better gauge Apple's approach to big, pricey headphones, we also took apart a couple other pairs of cans—the kinds without Digital Crowns or Lightning ports.

    • We'll start with Sony's ever-popular $350 WH-1000XM4s.

    • This headset is plastic-clad, so the casing is significantly more transparent in Creative Electron's X-rays.

  16. Sony's ear cushions clip into (and out of) place—no fancy magnets here. We rather liked the magnets; clips can get brittle and break. Underneath, we find a free-floating foam liner. Under the foam liner, the drivers sit encased in plastic cages. The drivers will have to wait though. Four (marked and visually distinct!) screws inside each ear cup hold down the exterior panels. So instead of digging deeper, we flip to side B.
    • Sony's ear cushions clip into (and out of) place—no fancy magnets here. We rather liked the magnets; clips can get brittle and break.

    • Underneath, we find a free-floating foam liner. Under the foam liner, the drivers sit encased in plastic cages.

    • The drivers will have to wait though. Four (marked and visually distinct!) screws inside each ear cup hold down the exterior panels. So instead of digging deeper, we flip to side B.

    Could you make a full teardown of this?

    Adrian Cadavieco Arias - Reply

    Could you make a full teardown of this ones?

    Adrian Cadavieco Arias - Reply

    It’s ugly inside!

    marcela infante - Reply

    Who would really look inside these headsets anyways, certainly not an organization like iFixit.

    SGpro -

  17. On the back of the left ear cup, this square circuit board   is home to Sony's QN1 processor and a Mediatek bluetooth SoC, among some other ICs. Here are full-sized images of both sides, for the curious. On the back of the right ear cup: the battery! The connector is easy to access, but the 4.1 Wh cell rests on a tenacious adhesive pad. We used a little isopropyl alcohol to free it. In both ear cups, all wires that pass through the plastic housing are hot glued in their holes. Because of this, moving components around on either side is tricky, and accessing the USB-C port or 3.5 mm jack underneath the driver housing is a pain.
    • On the back of the left ear cup, this square circuit board is home to Sony's QN1 processor and a Mediatek bluetooth SoC, among some other ICs. Here are full-sized images of both sides, for the curious.

    • On the back of the right ear cup: the battery! The connector is easy to access, but the 4.1 Wh cell rests on a tenacious adhesive pad. We used a little isopropyl alcohol to free it.

    • In both ear cups, all wires that pass through the plastic housing are hot glued in their holes. Because of this, moving components around on either side is tricky, and accessing the USB-C port or 3.5 mm jack underneath the driver housing is a pain.

    • Overall, not too bad. A couple misses, but refreshingly simple after that very long and winding AirPods slog:

    • All screws are Phillips 00; ear cushions, headband, buttons, and ports are all modular and replaceable.

    • The battery is a gluey mess and the disassembly path is slightly wonky.

    • Lots of hot glue and no friendly connectors for the 3.5 mm aux jack or drivers.

    • Annnnnnd one more—Bose's $380 NC 700 have a little more metal in them, particularly in that shiny headband.

  18. Like on the Sonys, these ear cushions clip to their cup housing. With a little spudger persuasion, they are free—effective, if not as elegant as the AirPods. Unlike the Sonys and the AirPods, the cloth liner over each speaker grille doesn't come up with the ear cushion. The L and R marked liners are slightly glued down, making them annoying to peel off without ripping. Under the liner, Torx security screws guard the entrance to each ear cup.
    • Like on the Sonys, these ear cushions clip to their cup housing. With a little spudger persuasion, they are free—effective, if not as elegant as the AirPods.

    • Unlike the Sonys and the AirPods, the cloth liner over each speaker grille doesn't come up with the ear cushion. The L and R marked liners are slightly glued down, making them annoying to peel off without ripping.

    • Under the liner, Torx security screws guard the entrance to each ear cup.

    • Both cups hold a mess of wires—but the right one, home to the main circuit board, is truly tangled.

    • On that circuit board lives a Qualcomm CSRA68105 Bluetooth audio SoC. Here are some full-res images of that board, if you want to do more sleuthing: front, back.

    It’s almost a tradition for overhead headphones to feature clip-on cushions and (optional) stick-on liners.

    Usually if one end up in need of removing it they will likely need to replace it in the first place.

    Again, not as elegant as some magnetic snap-on, but this make them less complicated.

    Xavier Jiang - Reply

    What size are the security screws here on the Bose NC 700?

    Michael Yang - Reply

  19. The 2.39 Wh battery lives next to the driver on the backside. Long wires connect to a control board—but the connection is soldered. Mixed news: The headband has screws for removal, but doesn't fully detach without desoldering. Better news: the 2.5 mm aux jack is modular, held down with screws. Bad news: the microphones are embalmed in glue. Other bad news: the USB-C control board is modular, but held down with plastic rivets for some reason?
    • The 2.39 Wh battery lives next to the driver on the backside. Long wires connect to a control board—but the connection is soldered.

    • Mixed news: The headband has screws for removal, but doesn't fully detach without desoldering. Better news: the 2.5 mm aux jack is modular, held down with screws.

    • Bad news: the microphones are embalmed in glue. Other bad news: the USB-C control board is modular, but held down with plastic rivets for some reason?

    • To sum it all up:

    • Ear cushions, drivers, 2.5 mm aux jack, and buttons are accessible and replaceable.

    • The battery is easily accessible, but gluey—and its connection to the circuit board in the left ear cup is soldered.

    • Lots o' hot glue prevents microphones and some peripheral circuitry from being removed; the USB-C port is held down with single-use fasteners; the headband is a little confusing to disconnect and can't be fully removed without (extensive) soldering.

  20. With all their intricate, precision-engineered parts, AirPods Max remind us more of a mechanical watch than of any pair of headphones.
    • With all their intricate, precision-engineered parts, AirPods Max remind us more of a mechanical watch than of any pair of headphones.

    • Despite their complexity, and an earcup-opening procedure fraught with strange screws and adhesive, Apple's first over-ear headphones are actually quite serviceable—if you have all the tools and are willing to put in some work.

    • We're thrilled to see DIY-friendly highlights like the easily-removable ear cushions and headband in an Apple product.

    • And after tearing down some of the competition, we're more understanding of that $550 price tag. Sony and Bose both charge less, but internally, the AirPods Max’s obsessive craftsmanship makes those other extremely capable devices look like toys by comparison.

    • All that said, we're excited to award the first-ever non-zero repair score to an AirPods device...

  21. Final Thoughts
    • The ear cushions attach (and detach) magnetically—no tools required.
    • The headband detaches from both earcups with a simple poke from a paperclip or SIM card tool—no wires and no fuss.
    • Drivers and battery are secured with screws and use repair-friendly board connections.
    • While screws are almost always preferable to glue, the sheer number of screw types here is baffling—you'll need an extensive toolkit, even by our standards.
    • Pentalobe screws and adhesives guard the earcups, complicating internal repairs.
    Repairability Score
    6
    Repairability 6 out of 10
    (10 is easiest to repair)

38 Comments

Perhaps less aluminum is removed from the headphone that doesn’t have the batteries. That would offset the weight.

Colin Stalter - Reply

I have to say that is some gorgeous construction for a consume headphone. I realize these headphones are in the upper end of consumer head phone prices. But they do remind me of what the original iphone felt like compared to all the plastic phones of the day. I’m really curious if all those chips and mics really do create “better” sound. I really think apple should have included 32gb of flash for onboard music storage. Especially at this price point. It would allow even lossless music to be enjoyed on these.

Paul Soares - Reply

I agree, on board storage is a brilliant idea. Unless these have a very balanced frequency response and not a hyped consumer sound then that kinda defeats the purpose of lossless.

DMN -

The frequency response has been tested (search Crinacle). It’s definitely a consumer oriented frequency response with some bass and treble boost, but they do the bass boost better than the other 350 dollar noise cancelling twins with a ramp up that only starts below 100Hz. Of course, these aren’t studio monitors, and most consumers will prefer this FR. If that’s worth over double the price of the frequently on sale Sony’s is another question.

tipoo -

Crinacle’s review is really flawed imo, he completely ignores the fact that the headphones should be measured against a harmon curve, and not whatever hybrid he’s using there with completely flat bass (wtf). Measured against a harmon curve the APMs do amazing.

Nate -

But crinacle did plot his measurements against the Harman target in his review.

9458 -

Not sure what you’re saying Nate, he did base it off the Harman curve.

tipoo -

I came to this article to see if there were any hidden internal storage (& wifi?) with the hopes that these could secretly support Apple’s new lossless offerings with a software update - use bluetooth / (missing) wifi to transfer the entire file to the headphones rather than stream over bluetooth, which doesn’t have sufficient bandwidth for lossless audio (IINM).

I’m not even sure these can resolve lossless audio compared to AAC, but for 550 USD, they should. I’m disappointed they only have one driver per can, should at least be bi-polar.

The tear-down reveals 256 memory… is that enough? Maybe it’s only enough for its OS/FW & maybe store a compressed song or podcast… I could have sworn I read somewhere that AirPods transferred the file rather than just stream via Bluetooth… IDK.

Honestly, at this price point, 83% more than the OG HomePod which has an A8 & 16GB, they should at least have AirPlay & a few GB built in to support higher fidelity audio.

They are super comfortable & don’t creak like my plastic Sony’s.

Thomas Durfee -

I believe you can part the headband from each earcup by using a paper clip or sim card ejection tool, punch the tiny hole on each side

Ying Chen - Reply

I would love to see a clear case instead of the aluminum.

Man. V. - Reply

This would be cool if it were clear colored plastic, but it would change the sound profile a bit as well as making then FEEL considerably cheaper, which isn’t something you want at this price point.

Robbie Ginder -

I guess people is ok with an Apple brand $549 headphones.

Reynaldo - Reply

I would bet the weight is in the boards; the heavier boards are on the side without the batteries.

Richard B. - Reply

Would you mind doing some sort of cross-section of the top of the headband? I’m curious as to how the mesh is held inside of the two rails, like is it clamped down on the mesh, or…?

Eric Jacobsen - Reply

I hope you can switch the control side to the other side by switching the cups so I can use my left hand to control vs the right.

Dan - Reply

My Beats headphones were like these. I just used my other hand to control them.

TheAnimaster -

Not sure what you mean by “Cups”, but if it is the removable padding - no. They are made for one side only. The controls are on the right.

Frank Nicholas -

is there really only one Bosch IMU sensor for the whole unit? That would be a shame that there isnt one per ear…

Dylan Marcus - Reply

kindly get closer to the hinge mechanism with this brush contraction. thanks

mahdy fouad - Reply

Why does iFixit call double sided sticky tape glue? Isn’t glue generally a liquid? Technically speaking for example, the iPad battery and logic board are held together with some industrial strength adhesive tape. They don’t take a bottle of glue and squirt it around to secure the battery or logic board. The battery in an iPhone is held in place with the same double stick adhesive, but it has a pull release tab. The battery cells on a MacBook Pro top case aren’t “glued” in place, but rather they are secured with the adhesive strips. These AirPods Max appear (from the photos) to use the same black gasketing adhesive tape that is used to secure iPhone displays. (Adhesive tape securing the plastic ear cup part to the aluminum housing)

Nicholas Ouimet - Reply

glue is not necessarily a liquid. a glue stick is not liquid, and adhesive tape is also commonly called glue tape. glue simply means to adhere and so can be used interchangeably with adhesive.

chrizzled -

I love these tear-downs, but is there any chance you could make them more color-blind friendly? Add numbers to the colored rectangles, or highlight the description when you hover over one. About 10% of men are color blind, so this is as important as supporting Firefox users.

David Leppik - Reply

I really hope these headphones will have aftermarket parts to make them 3/8” longer on both sides!!! My ear lobes stick out like 1/4” when I wear a baseball cap. Also in a mirror, it seems my ear is off center at the lower 1/3 mark of the driver. My ear lobes are resting right on the cushions. I need a longer sliding rod thingy!!!

Kevin - Reply

Did you guys abandon this tear down project? It’s been a while…

Nicholas Ouimet - Reply

What happened to the tear-down? It seems they just stopped and everyone moved on.

Raymond Ocampo - Reply

Hey folks, thanks for your patience—We expanded the scope of the teardown and have some nice surprises in store. Steps have been updated and more teaser content has been added—check back on Monday or Tuesday for the full teardown treatment. It’s coming!

Jeff Suovanen - Reply

Finally! It’s been a while…

KillerLab 233 -

Wow, the Airpods Max may be priced on the high side compared to their competition, but the teardowns of the others sure make them look downright cheap in build.

tipoo - Reply

I’m impressed with the design…I wish I knew if would be impressed with the sound?

jazz110 - Reply

One thing could be mentioned here: after extense use of the Max, you encounter some condensed water in the inside of the ear cups. It looks like that is normal, since the head and the ears of the user are sweating. As far as I noticed, no problem seems to be caused by this. I leave it as it is and it vaporizes relatively quickly.

kummer - Reply

How is the power distributed from the lightning port side of the cup to the other cup?

chrisfoh - Reply

Look closely at the X-ray—you’ll see an internal power cable running the entire length, with little coils for strain relief. Pretty cool!

Jeff Suovanen -

That’s IS very cool, thanks! I can’t see the power cables when the headband is disconnected, wondering how they are concealing it.

chrisfoh -

Hey there. What do you think…..?

To lift the inner bezel, after using a heatgun, possible to use the little hole, normally to eject the headband??

mkoslowski - Reply

I had to send mine back to Apple for a repair as they wouldn’t connect to my iPhone or any other Bluetooth device. I also couldn’t reset them. Received and email from Apple saying they’d been repaired however no information provided on what was wrong with them. I called Apple to try and find out but the call handler checked and 5 minutes later said there was no information available. Worrying they’ve broke after 3 weeks.

Michael S - Reply

Exquisite exquisite craftsmanship! The difference between Airpods and Sony and the Bose’s of this world is STARK!

Lavkesh Arora - Reply

I’ve read a few articles about condensation buildup on the earcups. In your expert opinion, do you feel it’s unlikely the condensation will cause an early demise to the headphones under normal use?

Chris Haugh - Reply

I salute to the man craft of this AirPods Max. It is over engineered as Mercedes Benz W140 in the decade of 1980’ era. I love it even I am an audiophile. Good job of Apple even I am not a fan to the brand.

chalat1 - Reply

Add Comment

View Statistics:

Past 24 Hours: 93

Past 7 Days: 557

Past 30 Days: 2,382

All Time: 178,055