back to article Screw you, gadget-menders! No really, you'll need loads of screwdrivers to fix Apple's AirPods Max headphones

AirPods are as close as you can get to a swearword in the repair world, known for being almost impossible to service thanks to their densely packed circuitry and closed design. Mercifully, that isn't the case when it comes to Apple's hugely expensive AirPods Max headphones. The buds proved surprisingly modular when subjected …

  1. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

    Extensive toolkit

    Hammer, solves all DIY evils

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: Extensive toolkit

      From the kitcar world

      Tool 1 hammer

      Tool 1a large hammer

      There is a whole article that a friend of mine wrote but it is far too big to put here and wanders into odd tools later on - when building cars a suitable SWMBO is often required....

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Extensive toolkit

        You missed the other rules though

        If it doesn't move and it should. WD40

        If it moves and it shouldn't. Gaffer tape.

        1. Jay 2

          Re: Extensive toolkit

          Preach!

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Extensive toolkit

      I like to refer to it as "percussive maintenance"

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Extensive toolkit

        Irish screwdriver

  2. Lee D Silver badge

    Honestly, if you're in the Apple repair game, find another business.

    They don't care about repairability at all.

    And I thought there was supposed to be Apple "Geniuses" (like Sheldon, I refuse to contribute to the devaluation of that word) and AppleCare etc. to take care of all that for you?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge
      Stop

      And yet, plenty of people buying them, and at least some people are making good money in the Apple repair business. It's not a place for "I can unscrew a bit and put another bit back in to see if it works" type folks, but if you're handy with a board schematic, a multimeter and a (hot air) soldering station, there's a lot that can be done.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        I managed several hundred Apple tablet/phone devices.

        Repairs were so expensive, and so temporary and shite, that we stopped bothering and just binned the lot.

        It costs £30 to replace an entire huge Chromebook screen panel, using a small screwdriver.

        It was costing us £75 per iPad screen, with specialist repairers, using specialist equipment, which - if the casing was even slightly dented - they could never guarantee and it would fail in time. The record was a device with three repairs, beyond which all the repairers said it wasn't worth their time touching it and it would just fail again.

        For iPads: Home buttons, under-screen sensors, power buttons and the corners of the metal cases. Once they were done, forget it.

        Yet with the same amount of Android phones, Android tablets, Chromebook Tabs, etc. we've had a tiny handful of repairs, and with MULTIPLE TIMES the amount of Chromebooks, our repairs are all done in-house in about 10 minutes and with a minimal charge for parts only.

        Apple devices are just inherently unrepairable. Before COVID, all three of our repairers went bust one after another (and hence we needed to find new repairers) and all told us that there was almost no margin on Apple repairs, even if they used recon or third-party replacements. And we did not deal with fly-by-nights or the guys in the market or anything like that. We're talking established companies specialising - and advertising such - in repairs of (usually) Samsung and Apple devices primarily, with premises, permanent technicians, websites, guarantees, collection/delivery services, contracts, etc.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Applecare

    Is an oxymoron except where income is concerned.

    Building any product that is either impossible or deliberately difficult to maintain and/or repair immediately tells you the manufacturer is not interested in the purchaser beyond their money.

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Applecare

      Next you'll tell me the Genius Bars aren't staffed by actual geniuses.

    2. FIA Silver badge

      Re: Applecare

      Building any product that is either impossible or deliberately difficult to maintain and/or repair immediately tells you the manufacturer is not interested in the purchaser beyond their money.

      Are there any that are?

      Serious question, which manufacturers do things for their customers altruistically? Do they remain in business? (There's a difference between this and engendering good will to ensure future business).

      I woud love to know what percentage of Apple customers would repair their stuff if it was more repairable. If the answer is small then it's probably better not to make things repairable; as that's just extra crap for landfill. (Repairability requires more connectors and sockets than not repairable).

      1. LovesTha

        Re: Applecare

        only when everyone is forced to.

        Think car safety laws.

      2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Applecare

        My Dualit toaster can be completely dismantled with a couple of screwdrivers. Elements and such are available.

        I expect to hand it down.

      3. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: Applecare

        Dell latitudes are super repair friendly. Loads of spare parts, hinges, palmrests, frames etc not just keyboards. The cables are chunky so you dont need bamboo sticks (sony vaio were seriously small inside). Batteries are easy tk come by as are panels.

  4. Peter2 Silver badge

    Five hundred and fifty bloody quid?!

    You can buy real high grade audiophile headphones from Sennheiser for less than that will sound several times better, will last orders of magnitude longer without needing maintenance, can be fixed usually without needing so much as a screwdriver after a decade in use with OEM parts willing supplied from the manufacturer without requiring extortion, blackmail or legal coercion, you can trust the device and parts won't be EOL'd and therefore unavailable in 5 (or 15) years time, and crucially it will work with any audio device ever invented, and not just a iPhone! And you'll still have enough spare change left over to take a weekend trip somewhere with the cost of a hotel room and eating out at restaurants covered by the savings!

    Surely only an utter idiot (or an Apple fanboi) would buy this at this sort of price.

    1. 45RPM Silver badge

      Sennheiser FTW! I dropped a few hundred quid on really nice Sennheiser cans and they do sound brilliant. Better than AirPod Max? Well, having read the reviews I’m not certain that I’d go that far - AirPod Max sound, apparently, really really good. That said, I’m not sure that they sound twice as good as my Sennheisers - and that’s the point, isn’t it? Bang per buck. And my cheaper (but still costly) Sennheisers have the following points in their favour…

      * They’re cheaper

      * They’re lighter

      * They look nicer (to my eyes, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder)

      * They connect easily and automatically to my iPhone, and I can connect using a good old fashioned cable too - for devices that support it (which is a massive advantage in my view).

      * The noise cancellation works well - although, again, perhaps not quite as well as AirPods Max from what I’ve read.

      Overall, I think that the AirPods Max do look impressive. Would I want a pair? No - I’d rather have my Sennheisers, and pocket the change. Would I dismiss them out of hand? No - I wouldn’t do that either.

      1. nijam

        > AirPod Max sound, apparently, really really good...

        ... but they're only bought by fanbois.

        Isn't there somebody or other's law that says "the more a consumer spends on a product, the less likely they are to admit to being dissatisfied with it"?

        1. FIA Silver badge

          ... but they're only bought by fanbois.

          Isn't there somebody or other's law that says "the more a consumer spends on a product, the less likely they are to admit to being dissatisfied with it"?

          Okay, we're talking audio products here..... In this snake oil game Apple are but inexperienced fools.

          You can (or could) buy a wooden volume knob for nearly 500 dollars.

          You can buy speaker cable for 12,000 a meter if you so desire.

          You can buy audio grade (directional) ethernet cables for listening to your MP3s in higher quality if you really want.

          To be fair, a friend, who will spend good money on headphones and DACs because he cares about that kind of thing, tells me he's very suprised how good the air pods are, so I can imagine the sound quality in these is fine.

        2. mevets Bronze badge

          "the more a consumer spends..."

          I think you are scratching at an intersection of numerous biases with that one. Egocentricity is obvious -- I am smart and I bought X, thus X is what smart people buy. Without this, Silicon Valley house prices would collapse. Conformity is certainly second, although it is layered upon the association fallacy - I perceive that the group of people I want to be like ( and liked by ) would respect people who buy X; therefore I buy X.

          But the underlying psychological trauma is that of adopting the role of a consumer, and thus having to choose amongst things you don't need, or even truly desire, to fulfill your role. Welcome to Delta, whilst being stroked as Beta [brave new world ref].

          One SV company, almost 5 years ago, published a $300 picture book of products they had made. Gen X and before would recognize this roughly as a catalogue, the sort of thing you would throw away without looking at. But the self-aggrandizing brilliance of this was to encourage those afflicted with consumerism that they had, indeed, made very wise choices; while extracting 1/2 the price of the trinkets described in this article; or a months groceries for a family of 3.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        I am sooooo happy with my AKG studio (600 ohms) cans, you wouldn't believe it.

        Made for repairability, too. 25+ yrs ago.

        Nice long cable fixed to it.

        Plug designed to be replacable.

        Spare parts still available.

        Yeah.....................

    2. Dave K Silver badge

      Indeed, I have a pair of Sony WH-1000X M3 headphones. They were considerably cheaper than this, yet sound great and have superb noise cancelling as well. I also particularly like that you can connect a standard jack to them and run them passively as well. Hence even if the battery dies completely and you don't replace it, they can still be used (albeit not wirelessly nor with noise cancellation).

      1. Rob Daglish

        I have some Sennys like this. Oh, and the battery swaps in and out, so you can keep a few spares in your pocket and keep going as long as you feel like

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Are you using Bluetooth to stream to this expensive headgear? Only ask because that (or rather the various codecs it employs) is going to be your major source of quality loss, not so much the mechanical bits which are so mature as to be much of a muchness.

      For really high fidelity, try some Grado Labs open back cans. Actually impossible to tell you're not in the same room with your eyes shut.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        For every day use to provide a bit of background noise BT streaming is just fine. I doubt most MP3s provide enough bitrate to provide good enough sound anyway.

        If you're after the true Hi-Fi experience only a wire will do probably.

    4. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >Surely only an utter idiot (or an Apple fanboi) would buy this at this sort of price

      The wireless Sennheisers with ANC are around the £300 mark - much like the Sonys or Bose. Much as I value sound quality, I can't justify spending that much on headphones that leave the house (thus liable to be lost). However, for someone who has no money worries, the decision to spend £300 or £600 really has little to do with their intelligence (maybe they have no money worries because they used their brains, or were just born lucky, or combo of above)

    5. katrinab Silver badge
      Flame

      "Surely only an utter idiot (or an Apple fanboi) would buy this at this sort of price."

      No. Not even close.

      Philippe Tournaire charge €120,000 for their most expensive set of headphones, and there are people out there who pay $40,000 for a cable. This is not a mis-type, and the , is not a decimal point. Forty Thousand United States Dollars for a cable

      Compared to the prices that some audiophiles pay for gold-plated snake oil, AirPods Max are really cheap.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        In the grand scheme of discretional spending, £600 is nothing compared to a leather seat option or B&W speaker option in a German sedan. It's naff-all to someone who chooses to fly business class instead of premium economy. £600 is far less than the difference in price between an OLED TV and a normal LCD TV of equivalent size.

        Perhaps a more enlightening way of looking at the question is 'What is the buyer giving up in order to afford these headphones?' - and the answer for many buyers is 'they are giving up nothing'.

        Traditionally Noise Cancelling earphones were marketed at airline passengers (as was the very first Walkman, which cost around the equivalent of £600, the first gen iPod ditto), but with less travel and possibly more family members staying in a single house at any one time, the domestic use of ANC headphones seems appealing.

        Sidenote: when Concorde was retired, lots of BA-branded Sennheiser HD on-ear headphones were auctioned off... I'm just wondering if the mothballing of passenger aircraft due to Covid will result in their noise cancelling headphones being sold off?

  5. oiseau Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Surely only an utter idiot (or an Apple fanboi) would buy this at this sort of price.

    Hmmm ...

    Methinks you may be exaggerating and giving the poor idiots a bad rep.

    Let's leave it at Apple fanboi.

    O.

  6. PiltdownMan

    I read somewhere that these head sets (sets for your head) excel in all design areas,

    EXCEPT sound quality!!!!!!!

    $550!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      > I read somewhere...

      Then it *must* be true. /s

      https://www.whathifi.com/reviews/apple-airpods-max

      https://www.techradar.com/uk/reviews/airpods-max

  7. Mike 137 Silver badge

    £550 headphones

    As an audio professional, the very best headphones I've ever found are the Beyer DT150 (a slight improvement on the classic DT100). They're so good that they're the most widely used by broadcasters, are a fifth of the price of this Apple offering and are supported by an extensive range of spare part that you can fit yourself with basic tools.

    BTW my opinion of their quality is backed up by objective lab tests, not just based on subjective 'listening'.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: £550 headphones

      I'm not entirely sure where my DT 880 Studio are, but I still use my DT550 very frequently and I've yet to come across anything (at least for a reasonable price) that would come anywhere near the sound quality (purely in my humble opinion that is).

    2. mevets Bronze badge

      Re: £550 headphones

      As not an audio profession, but somebody who likes sounds a lot, I wonder if you could expand on this. I have Seinheiser {spell?} monitor-style headphones, and it took me a good bit to find something I liked. Most seemed to colour the world in a way I didn't like.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: £550 headphones

        Go to a good pro-audio shop and just compare the offerings (=not on-line). If you like sound a lot, you must go by your own taste (everybody's ears and listening experience are different), not on any spceific recommendations.

        Posted as a ceritfied pro-audio engineer.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: £550 headphones

          The job of an audio engineer is to mix audio to bring about an emotional response in other people who are listening using a whole range of speakers and earphones. Often they are doing this job sat down in a noise-insulated room, where open-backed headphones are suitable. They require headphones with a 'neutral response' which convey faithfully what the mixing desk is outputting. A cable between them and the desk is no inconvenience.

          (Note: recording studios in the 1950s had listening rooms with cheap speakers of the type found in domestic radio sets... since the radio is how most people would hear new music, it made commercial sense to mix music to sound at its best on low quality speakers. I daresay some music produced today is also tested on, for example, bass-heavy headphones)

          However, the end listener when listening to music might be jogging, dancing, sat in a quiet room or in a subway. They require headphones that work in those contexts. Additionally, the listener may have their own tastes, both in musical genre and in EQ. Furthermore, the sound is changed by the fit and seal of the headphones over their ears. Open-backed headphones are not suited to noisier environments or where other people might hear the sound that leaks from them.

          1. In total, your posts have been upvoted 1337 times

            Re: £550 headphones

            Yamaha NS-10's were the more up to date equivalent until a few years back. Specifically preferred by sound engineers as they're a bit pap. If you can make something sound good on them, it should sound good anywhere!

  8. Danny 2 Silver badge

    I remember having a bulging toolkit

    Full set of Torx drivers, security drivers, every sort of driver. Could dismantle any device and break into any girls heart.

    1985 to 1998 - It was a very good year.

  9. Avatar of They

    Question

    How many types of screwdriver though? I have no intention of ever buying Apple so won't be repairing it, just genuinely curious to how many types?

    1. CuChulainn

      Re: Question

      I'd be more concerned about 'the one they couldn't immediately identify'.

      Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, Apple moves quietly into inventing screwdrivers.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Question

        They've been using oddball screw types for years. Nothing new under the sun.

        1. Macs1000

          Re: Question

          Sorry, are we talking fasteners or personnel here?

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Question

        > the one they couldn't immediately identify

        Yeah, for me to say that, it doesn't mean much.

        For iFixit to go "we don't know that 'un" is impressive.

  10. Steve Kerr

    Repairs to headphones

    I've got a pair of Sennheiser HD25 headphones for normal use, sold as DJ headphones but generally just good and sturdy.

    Everything in them is replacable and spares available direct from Sennheiser, in fact, enough that you could just buy all the bits from spares and put together a complete pair.

    Have replaced, cans, wires & the earpads when worn out.

    Released in 1988 and can still get all the spares now!

    Was going to replace them when had issues until I discovered that could buy all the bits I needed to make as good as new for fraction of the price of new ones.

    1. CuChulainn

      Re: Repairs to headphones

      Yep. Sennheiser for me, too. Got the 599SE open-back ones now, a spare cheap HD205 set hanging around somewhere, and previously had two pairs of the neckband PMX60 that they stopped making unfortunately.

      What I like about the 599SE is that the cable is removable at both ends. Only minor niggle is you can't (or couldn't when I asked EDIT: nope, still can't) get a long cable (it comes with long and short) with a 3.5mm jack on it.

  11. PhilipN Silver badge

    Part of a wider problem

    Those who in their student days customarily stuck their heads under the bonnet with plugs-and-points kit in hand needn't bother. A car self-diagnoses now. Except that it doesn't. The so-called mechanic (snort!) plugs in his box of tricks but still has no idea what to repair. The onboard system tells him which PCB to rip out, toss, and replace. When it doesn't the mechanic (snigger!) in pristine overalls and with well-manicured fingernails hasn't a clue.

    Long gone are the days when the bloke down the garage could sit in your car, start it up (or at least try to turn it over) and tell you within 15 seconds what the problem is. I had much more confidence in him than the youth with the diagnostic device in hand. But then I have a natural suspicion of any kid who hasn't started shaving - male or female.

    1. CuChulainn

      A car self-diagnoses now

      In the sense that instead of you KNOWING there's a problem somewhere because it won't start, the car now tells you that there's problem somewhere just in case you didn't REALISE it wouldn't start?

      When I got my new Ford Focus there was an intermittent problem from day one with the radio and navigation system (including the clock) locking up. The only way to reset it was to leave the car and lock it for a few minutes for it to reboot, or hold several buttons for about 30 seconds to do a factory reset (which lost all the settings, and was dangerous while you were driving).

      The dealer said they'd need it in for a day (lost income straightaway), and with it being intermittent there was little or no chance they'd experience it. And based on other problems with other cars I've taken to them, they'd probably insist on a brake bleed that had sod all to do with the problem at hand (like the time my clutch pedal was sticking), meaning it'd have to go in again. Then they said it 'might need a software update' - and I knew full well there wasn't one, because I'd been checking against my VIN with Ford.

      Then, a few weeks later, a software update WAS posted by Ford and - after the nightmare of installing it (no screens anything like what Ford's instructions said appeared) - it fixed everything.

      It was simply borked from new, and the only fix was the software update. The dealers bloody knew, too, because I eventually learned from them that Ford will only allow repairs on warranty if absolutely EVERYTHING has been tried first - even if the problem is affecting numerous vehicles. And from my own experiences of being told never to tell the customer their brand new PC has got a factory-installed BIOS fault out of the box that prevents it getting past POST, it doesn't surprise me.

      1. PhilipN Silver badge

        Re: A car self-diagnoses now

        Software! (Wicked chuckle.)

        Mate of mine is importing a brand spanking new Land Rover Defender into Australia. Took months to arrive but that is another story.

        The local dealer when prepping the vehicle for delivery and attempting to download the latest software "rendered the vehicle inoperable". Seems this means it is unsalvageable. As my mate reported : "What the actual ...k???" and the car was designed in the UK, the software in India, and it is assembled in Slovakia so - "What was I thinking???"

        I have not dared to ask him the latest.

  12. low_resolution_foxxes Bronze badge

    Gone are the days I would look enviously at a pair of £550 headphones.

    Now I just wonder how many hours you'd have to work, to buy headphones only notionally better than a £50 pair.

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