Sweat can cause Apple’s $550 AirPods Max to malfunction or fail

Apple released its premium over-ear headphones, the AirPods Max, in 2020. Since their release, the headphones have received glowing reviews for their high-fidelity audio and sleek design. However, user reports suggest a persistent problem with the headphones: condensation accumulation leading to malfunctions or complete failure. The issue, which results from users’ sweat and humidity, has triggered countless complaints on Reddit, YouTube, Twitter, and Apple’s own forums.

AirPods Max

The troubling condensation issue plaguing AirPods Max

Reports of condensation troubles first began circulating after the AirPods Max were released in December 2020. However, the issue, dubbed “Condensation Death”, seems to worsen as the product ages, coinciding with record-breaking summer temperatures. A class-action lawsuit, spanning two years in California courts, alleges a significant defect that allows moisture to gather within the ear cups, causing water damage even with minimal use.

Apple’s legal representation stated that the AirPods Max are not waterproof or water-resistant, warning users against moisture exposure. Interestingly, Apple’s defense does not deny the presence of condensation; instead, it argues that the design of their magnetic and removable ear cups makes the issue more noticeable when cups are removed.

As of right now, the tech giant has not released a public statement addressing the issue. 

AirPods Max condensation issue

The lawsuit plaintiffs and customers continue to demand accountability. Contrary to Apple’s lawyers’ assertions that the issue arises primarily from prolonged usage during exercise or outdoor activities, users complain about facing these problems under regular conditions as well.

The AirPods Max subreddit is flooded with posts discussing the condensation problem, with users sharing experiences, potential fixes, and speculations about the cause. Some attribute the issue to the material of the ear cups, which blocks airflow, leading to humidity buildup. While the exact reason remains uncertain, it’s clear that a wide range of customers are grappling with this inconvenience.

One user revealed that they began experiencing condensation issues with the AirPods Max shortly after purchasing them:

They’re mostly used inside but I have notice condensation forms if I wear them for over an hour. Plus, I notice water in the actual driver too?! Does anyone else have this issue? It seems crazy to me that this is even an issue and could potentially damage the headphones.

In response to this, one Reddit user referenced Apple’s infamous butterfly keyboard issue:

yeah its a serious problem and a design flaw, this is similar to Apple’s infamous butterfly keyboards which kept breaking. Unfortunately Apple has not recognized how messed up the Max’s get and has not issues a free repair service (they did free repairs/replacements to the butterfly keyboard bc of the notoriety)

In the comments of a different post, one user shared a way to get the moisture out of the AirPods Max: silica packets. While it’s a cheap solution, it begs the question, should consumers have to find creative ways to avoid condensation in $550 headphones?

I got silica packets (food safe grade) and have been putting them in my ear cups when I’m not using them and it seems to get all of the moisture out.

Similar reports can be found on Twitter:

Repair industry consultant Justin Ashford suggests that while condensation-related problems are common in over-the-ear headphones, the current scale and scope of AirPods Max complaints are unusual. Normally, widespread issues like this would create a market for third-party repairs, which hasn’t emerged yet for the AirPods Max. This could be due to a lack of available replacement parts for the product.

Despite the lack of concrete evidence, it’s clear that the condensation issue is a significant concern for AirPods Max users and Apple should address it as soon as possible. The lawsuit’s plaintiffs have been engaged in settlement negotiations, indicating an acknowledgment of the issue at some level.

About the Author

Asma is an editor at iThinkDifferent with a strong focus on social media, Apple news, streaming services, guides, mobile gaming, app reviews, and more. When not blogging, Asma loves to play with her cat, draw, and binge on Netflix shows.