Apple’s new AirPods Max are the awkwardly-named, extremely expensive, designated Apple headphones for audiophiles. And like pretty much every Apple product, it’s received an exhaustive teardown from the team at iFixit. They found quite a lot of predictable Apple design elements inside, along with a couple of surprises.
Like most premium, over-the-ear headphones, the Max features replicable ear cushions. Unlike most of the designs on the market at the moment, they’re magnetic, allowing the user to remove them quickly and easily for washing or replacing. What’s even more shocking is that the headband—the entire headband, including both the steel brace and the cushion—can be removed from the earcups with just a SIM ejection tool. You don’t have to do any further disassembly of the device.
Notably, you need to turn the headband to the side in order to fit the tool into the rotating mechanism. It works fine with the SIM tool included with an iPhone. Some software investigation has turned up flags for “headband type” in iOS, but it’s not clear if that will ever lead to any user-facing features.
Rumors before release indicated that Apple wanted to make the headband’s cushion user-replaceable—which makes sense, since it’s the same color-matched mesh fabric material as the earcups. This would open up a world of customization options, akin to phone cases. Users could mix-and-match the color of the ear cups, aluminum frame, and headband, since there are five options for each.
At the time of writing, Apple’s official ear cushions are marked as “coming soon” on the Apple Store, available for $69 in all five color choices. According to everything we’ve seen thus far, it shouldn’t matter if you want to mix and match the color of the cups and your AirPods Max body. But there’s no matching listing for the headband, and no indication that one is incoming. It’s possible that Apple had considered this option, but dropped it, perhaps keeping the easily-replaceable mechanism to make its own repairs easy. That would be especially helpful if only one side of the AirPods Max is damaged.
Elsewhere in the teardown, iFixit found much more frustrating construction, necessitating the use of eight different driver bits (including Apple’s proprietary “pentalobe” screws, and two so small they’re not in iFixit’s standard kits), a heat gun, a soldering iron, and several other tools. The process is long and difficult, but far from impossible, especially if you’re used to repairing Apple’s portable hardware. Notably, each side of the AirPods Max has its own dedicated logic boards, each with what looks like a dedicated H1 Bluetooth wireless connection. Apple apparently finds a practical use for individual left and right wireless channels, even on a device that doesn’t technically need them.
So if you’re wondering if you can repair $550 AirPods Max, the answer is “probably yes,” assuming that you’re already pretty familiar with mobile electronics and you have an extensive collection of tools. We’d recommend starting with iFixit’s own Mako driver kit, which does indeed include that tricky Apple pentalobe bit.