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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.jpg

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.

Article Link: AirPods Max Project Makes Rumored Upgrade for Next-Gen Model a Reality
 
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CheesePuff

macrumors 65816
Sep 3, 2008
1,445
1,553
Southwest Florida, USA
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
 

nt5672

macrumors 68040
Jun 30, 2007
3,321
6,987
Midwest USA
Jobs saw consistency as a key component for the brand and future sales. With Cook it is just $$$$$ and who cares about brand and future sales. Cook has taken a fantastic company and made it mediocre, but just tad better than the competition.
 
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Jus711

macrumors regular
Jul 12, 2011
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First of all they're great headphones (I love my pair) and you can always find them for significantly less than $550. I'll never understand why people freak out over using or carrying one extra cable you probably already have lying around anyway. The iPhone just went to usb-c so nearly everyone with an iPhone gas a lightning cable and uses it daily. I prefer the APM had usb-c but its not that big of a deal.
 

Steve121178

macrumors 603
Apr 13, 2010
6,399
6,949
Bedfordshire, UK
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.
 

mnsportsgeek

macrumors 601
Feb 24, 2009
4,375
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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.
 

Blackstick

macrumors 65816
Aug 11, 2014
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OH
That's a buy-day-one for me. I use my AirPod Maxes 8 hours a day at work -- more than any other Apple product besides my iPhone.
 
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sunapple

macrumors 68030
Jul 16, 2013
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The Netherlands
That's a buy-day-one for me. I use my AirPod Maxes 8 hours a day at work -- more than any other Apple product besides my iPhone.
I use them about much as well, but why would you switch on day one just for USB-C? I don’t see a good reason to upgrade until they break.
 

ignatius345

macrumors 604
Aug 20, 2015
6,821
11,148
Without belittling the fun hack job presented here, switching from Lightning to USB-C is not an "upgrade", just a change of connector.
Agreed. It's a total non-issue. I just bought one of these and threw it into my kit bag. "Problem" solved. I'm using one cable to charge my iPhone 15, MacBook, AirPods Pro and Max and I didn't have to rip up my headphones. :rolleyes:

24935_gr-3817702483.jpg
 
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ignatius345

macrumors 604
Aug 20, 2015
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That's a buy-day-one for me. I use my AirPod Maxes 8 hours a day at work -- more than any other Apple product besides my iPhone.
I use mine that much too, and have since they came out. They're fantastic. But also I would not buy a new version if the only change was a different charge connector. I'm still holding out hope they'll get a proper chip upgrade and we'll see Adaptive Audio, which is the only feature from my Pros I miss on the Max.
 
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Terrinb

macrumors regular
Sep 24, 2015
135
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Jobs saw consistency as a key component for the brand and future sales. With Cook it is just $$$$$ and who cares about brand and future sales. Cook has taken a fantastic company and made it mediocre, but just tad better than the competition.
Perhaps, but Apple under Jobs killed technology all of the time and it generally took time for the changes to make it to all of Apple's products. The AirPod Max is in its first generation. Apple isn't going to change connectors until it offers a second generation of the product. In some ways lightening is superior so it isn't just a matter of swapping one connector for another.
 

Terrinb

macrumors regular
Sep 24, 2015
135
144
I generally own (at least) 1 of everything Apple in my household. Mac, MacBook, iPad, Watch, iPone, TV, keyboards, trackpads.

You name it. We enjoy them.

AirPods Max have been the exception to that rule. $550 for what?

Maybe a great sounding, well designed, not made of cheap materials pair of head phones? No worries, not all products are made for everyone.
 
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MNWildFan

macrumors regular
Jun 26, 2013
192
161
Minnesota, USA
110% agree with the other comments here

It's gotta have way more than just a port change to wow everyone given how long it's been since these have been out
 

VisceralRealist

macrumors 6502
Sep 4, 2023
307
853
Long Beach, California
Wow, what an innovative project from Apple. Changing a port and nothing else after four years. Truly revolutionary stuff. :rolleyes:

Not only is this not an upgrade, it's not even a "next gen". It's a joke.

Which is part of why I don't think these rumors are true, but we've been seeing them so frequently, I wouldn't put it past Apple. Not updating the chip and providing the new software features that the Pro gets would tell me these are slated for discontinuation in the near future.
 

mogga71

macrumors member
Apr 7, 2017
39
57
London
At least it is using an M3.

The $550 headphones Apple sells are currently objectively worse in feature offering than the $250 ear buds they sell, and nobody at Apple seems to care.
Maybe but the Max's sound better than the Pros (even V2). Yes they sound different but the Max's sound are superior IMHO. I have both and if I had to keep only one it would be the Max's.
 
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