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AirPods Max connectivity issues? Try cleaning them

Your AirPods Max issues could be fixed in a quick cleaning.

airpods max on purple background
Image: KnowTechie

The Apple AirPods Max headphones are not cheap, even with the significant discounts they’ve received in recent months.

With an MSRP of $549.99 (before tax), they cost more than a Chromebook, mid-range Android phone, and Fitbit fitness tracker combined. 

Expensive? Sure. But they’re also really good. They’re just as good at canceling noise as similar high-end headphones from Bose and Sennheiser. Battery life is excellent. They’re perfect for Apple ecosystem loyalists. 

But they’re not without their flaws. Over time, I’ve encountered a weird glitch. If I adjusted the headband, the connection would abruptly drop. Unless I sat perfectly still, listening to a podcast uninterrupted was a near impossibility.

airpods max on table
Image: Unsplash

To be clear: there are a lot of reasons why this might happen. Consumer electronics are remarkably complicated devices.

If one of the thousands of components fails, everything fails. Some issues are only solved by returning the device to its manufacturer under warranty. But others can be handled with a bit of elbow grease. 

As I found out, my AirPods Max connectivity issue fell into the latter category. This article will explain my solution and will be pretty straightforward.

While I don’t guarantee it’ll work for your device, it’s nonetheless something worth trying before shipping your expensive headphones back to Apple. 

Clean your headphones to fix AirPods Max connectivity issues

Unlike other over-ear headphones, you don’t need to manually turn on the AirPods Max whenever you use them.

Instead, the headphones automatically sense that you’re wearing them and immediately connect to whatever device you’re using. 

This feature was the root of my connectivity issues. Put simply: the ear-detecting sensors were smeared with dust, sweat, and dead skin. But, there’s an easy solution for this.

airpods max headphones on table
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie

The AirPods Max has an ear-detecting sensor within each headphone. To clean them, first place your headphones against a flat surface. Then remove the ear cushions by lifting them with your finger.

You’ll want to remove any built-up grime. You can use a simple lens-cleaning alcohol wipe for this.

apple airpods max with headphone off
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie

For better results, use a Q-Tip soaked in isopropyl alcohol. This will allow you to remove the debris that survives a simple wipe. Repeat this step for each earpiece.

As a side note: I’m a bit of an evangelist for isopropyl alcohol. Weird, but true. It’s something every technology user should have lying around.

This clear liquid evaporates quickly, leaves no residue behind, and is amazing at removing built-in dirt. Because it evaporates quickly, you don’t run the risk of corrosion damage, as with normal water.

And it’s cheap, too. You can get a large bottle from eBay or Amazon for a few dollars. If you’re curious, iFixit explains its virtues here. It’s the best read I’ve found on the subject.

airpods cup
Image: Matthew Hughes / KnowTechie

When you replace the AirPods Max ear cups, ensure they’re lined up correctly. Each cup has a hole that should align with the ear sensor. 

Other troubleshooting tips 

I hope this works for you, as it did for me. It’s worth noting that many AirPods Max owners have complained about excessive condensation within the ear cups. 

Apple currently faces a class action lawsuit over the condensation issue. Unlike the fault-prone Butterfly keyboard, it has not acknowledged the existence of a fundamental design defect.

Despite the flashy marketing, Apple failed to inform consumers that cleaning their headphones is a routine part of maintaining the AirPods Max.

Whether or not the headphones are fundamentally flawed remains to be seen, but this is an obvious oversight.

head detection setting
Image: KnowTechie

If connection issues remain, you should try turning off automatic head detection in the AirPods Max settings. Do this by going to Settings > Bluetooth > Tapping the i icon beside your headphones.

This won’t solve the problem in the long term, but it will rule out other potential causes. And, thankfully, it’s another easy option to try if you are having issues.

Others report having success after performing a hard reset and re-pairing their headphones to their device. If all else fails, you may have to book a slot at the Genius Bar

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Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Past work can be found on The Register, Reason, The Next Web, and Wired.

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