Is AirPods Max 'Condensation Death' a Widespread Issue? Report Offers Conflicting Evidence
When Apple launched AirPods Max in December 2020, many users almost immediately flagged concerns about a build-up of condensation when the wireless headphones were worn for a prolonged period of time. Two years and eight months later, the issue may have become so entrenched that some users believe it is causing units to fail.
Tech news outlet 404 Media has published a report highlighting several complaints from AirPods Max users across Reddit, YouTube, Twitter (now X), and Apple's Support Community where water droplets have formed inside the over-ear headphones due to humidity. In some cases, users claim that the droplets have migrated inside the speaker holes, causing water damage to the drivers.
For example, a pinned post on the AirPods Max subreddit claims that "most hardware issues originate from condensation issues," which can lead to "AirPods turning off randomly, refusing to connect, refusing to play audio, needing restarts and factory resets to work, losing audio quality,” and other problems.
The report alleges that after one of the hottest summers on record, the problem is so frequently resulting in malfunction or complete failure that some afflicted users have come to refer to it as "condensation death." To mitigate the problem, some users have reportedly gone so far as to tape up the pin hole to prevent water ingress, or regularly clean the connections, which are arguably things a consumer should not have to do to keep the headphones in working order.
Interestingly, 404 Media highlights a class-action lawsuit in California that was brought against Apple two years ago by plaintiffs arguing that "a latent and material defect causes condensation to accumulate inside the ear cups of the AirPods Max, often after only an hour or several hours of normal use."
The plaintiffs have been reportedly negotiating a settlement with Apple over the last few months. While Apple has not disputed that condensation can accumulate inside the cups, its lawyers have argued that this is "simply more noticeable" than it is in other brands of over-ear headphones, since AirPods Max ear cups are magnetic and removable.
Regardless, the lawyers stated that "Apple repeatedly tells customers that its new high-end, studio quality AirPods Max headphones 'aren't waterproof or water resistant' and 'not to get moisture in any openings.'"
Apple's lawyers also dispute what "normal use" of AirPods Max are, according to the report, and have argued that the plaintiff has omitted details about when the condensation issue occurs, implying that their self-described "walk" may have constituted strenuous exercise more akin to "an arduous hike up the hills of San Francisco to Twin Peaks." Apple's lawyers have also taken issue with excerpts cited from online forum comments, which they say "show that users who claim to have experienced water damage often were exercising with or wearing their headphones for prolonged periods."
Day 2 of testing out the condensation issue with my AirPods Max. Used them for my 7 hour stream session and the condensation is actually really bad. The liquid is all over the internal drivers. pic.twitter.com/mUMbiJrWtH — 🦍Mez 💎🙌🏻 (@Mezxxii) January 4, 2021
Despite these reports, there are still many AirPods Max users who have noticed condensation build-up who have not experienced performance issues as a result. In addition, as 404 Media notes, there are no eBay listings for water-damaged AirPods Max. Meanwhile, inquiries with aftermarket repair businesses have not found evidence of an influx of AirPods Max repairs, although that could well be because faulty units have simply been repaired by Apple. Either way, the full picture is far from clear.
Are you an owner of AirPods Max? Have you had issues with the headphones that you believe occurred as a direct result of a manufacturing defect related to condensation build-up? Let us know in the comments.