AirPods Max Project Makes Rumored Upgrade for Next-Gen Model a Reality

Hardware prototyping consultant Ken Pillonel's latest project switches the AirPods Max's Lightning port for USB-C as part of his ongoing efforts to highlight repairability and sustainability issues in consumer electronics.

airpods max usb c ken pillonel
The project comes as a response to discontent among some users regarding the premium headphones' continued reliance on the Lightning port for charging while most other Apple devices have made the switch to USB-C, as well as rumors that the second-generation version of the device will finally make the transition. It also serves as a viable fix for damaged ‌AirPods Max‌ Lightning ports, which are costly to replace.

Pillonel created a custom replacement part to allow any technically proficient ‌AirPods Max‌ users to upgrade their headphones to USB-C themselves. The endeavor involved intricate design and manufacturing processes, including the development of an open-source USB-C conversion circuit and a custom printed circuit board that fits perfectly without the need to drill or damaging any of the original components.

The replacement part is designed to sit atop the existing board, meticulously avoiding contact with any other components. The design also addresses potential durability concerns with a flexible section that mitigates stress on the connector, enhancing the kit's longevity.

Pillonel explored the possibility of enabling audio pass-through via the USB-C port but ultimately decided against it due to the prohibitive cost and complexity of integrating Apple's proprietary technology. The conversion kit, along with detailed instructions, is available for purchase via Pillonel's online shop.

The second-generation ‌AirPods Max‌ are rumored to launch in late 2024, with the main upgrade being a USB-C port in place of Lightning. No other significant changes are expected, meaning that the headphones will likely miss out on features including the H2 chip and Adaptive Audio, but there might be some new color options.

Related Roundup: AirPods Max
Buyer's Guide: AirPods Max (Caution)
Related Forum: AirPods

Top Rated Comments

mnsportsgeek Avatar
8 weeks ago
We’ve reached the point of the lifecycle where it has been so long that hobbyists are releasing and selling mod kits for an Apple product. What a time to be alive.

This product is currently the red headed step child of the Apple ecosystem.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mnsportsgeek Avatar
8 weeks ago
You have to understand that in the headphone world, some models are still for sale 15+ years after their introduction. The highly popular HD 600 came out in 1997 and still sold today for example.

The problem with the AirPods Max was that for 'modern' headphones' they were fairly outdated when they launched with various shortcomings from day 1. They were over engineered.

Headphones don't need to be refreshed every 2-3 years if they were any good in the first place.
You are talking about a completely different market imo. The HD600 is focused on one thing. Wired audio quality. Once you achieve it, there is nothing else for you to do.

Modern wireless headsets have technology that is changing and warrants a refresh every 2-3 years. As evidenced by the fact that Apple’s 2nd most expensive headphones are better than their most expensive.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
crsh1976 Avatar
8 weeks ago
Without belittling the fun hack job presented here, switching from Lightning to USB-C is not an "upgrade", just a change of connector.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CheesePuff Avatar
8 weeks ago

We’ve reached the point of the lifecycle where it has been so long that hobbyists are releasing and selling mod kits for an Apple product. What a time to be alive.

This product is currently the red headed step child of the Apple ecosystem.
the M3 iMac came out months ago and still uses Lightning for the Magic Mouse and Keyboard
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Eldaerenth Faexidor Avatar
8 weeks ago
The AirPods Max is the black sheep of the Apple family. Poor thing.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Steve121178 Avatar
8 weeks ago

We’ve reached the point of the lifecycle where it has been so long that hobbyists are releasing and selling mod kits for an Apple product. What a time to be alive.

This product is currently the red headed step child of the Apple ecosystem.
You have to understand that in the headphone world, some models are still for sale 15+ years after their introduction. The highly popular HD 600 came out in 1997 and still sold today for example.

The problem with the AirPods Max was that for 'modern' headphones they were fairly outdated when they launched with various shortcomings from day 1, no USB-C being a prime example. They were over engineered.

Headphones don't need to be refreshed every 2-3 years if they were any good in the first place.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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