AirPods Max condensation makes some owners sweat

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AirPods Max users complain of condensation inside headphones: Water collected inside one user’s AirPods Max ear cups after really extended wearing.
Water collected inside these AirPods Max ear cups after extended use.
Photo: Donald Filimon

Apple’s AirPods Max headphones are drawing complaints from some users after drops of water formed inside the earpads after extended use. Condensation is not an uncommon problem with over-the-ear headphones, though the metal ear cups and tight fit of the Apple version might increase the amount.

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Donald Filimon from Tampa, Florida, raised his concerns on Twitter. “AirPods Max form condensation after extended use,” warned Filimon. “Warm ears and roughly 12 hours of consistent use mostly. Literally just sitting at my desk listening to music. Cold room as well which added to this.”

AirPods Max offers top-quality sound and unwanted water

AirPods Max, the high-end headphones Apple launched earlier this month, retail for $549. Reviewers across the board applauded the AirPods Max’s luxe metal design, and most seemed impressed with the headphones’ audio quality as well. (We certainly were.)

Still, that premium design could potentially exacerbate the condensation problem. The metal ear cups definitely feel cool to the touch. They are heavy, and very different from the lightweight plastic designs most headphone-makers use.

The replaceable ear pads, which cradle the ears like a comfy foam mattress, aid the headphones’ active noise cancellation by forming an effective seal.

Apparently, it can trap moisture, too, under certain circumstances.

A user’s experience

Filimon, who mentioned the problem on Reddit as well, said it’s worrisome because “the water gets inside the drivers and has caused ear detection problems.”

“Been using them inside at my desk, a little cold in the room but besides that pretty casual,” he said on Reddit. “Honestly have kept them so far away from any moisture because of their lack of water resistance. Absolutely love them, but this is a very concerning thing for me. Not sure how widespread this is, but I just noticed this yesterday because of the ear detection not functioning properly. The headphones seem to restore back to normal functionality when dry, but the fact that they condensate is interesting.”

Filimon took pictures showing visible drops of water in his AirPods Max. And he’s just one of several people noting moisture inside their Apple headphones, usually after lengthy use or exercising with them on.

“Have experienced this too,” replied Reddit user koocachoo. “Not to this extent, but have seen some condensation when I take the ear cup off.”

Water condensation not unique to AirPods Max

While it’s understandable that people who paid $550 for a product expect a flawless experience, condensation inside of earphones after lengthy use is not unusual. Gamers who wear headphones for long periods of time are familiar with the phenomenon.

Much has been written about this, but general consensus is that this moisture is, well, ear sweat. Ear cushions trap air in a small space — and they trap heat, too. The skin that makes up the external ear sweats, and that is also trapped. It’s such a common problem that a company called EarHugz makes sweat-resistant headphone covers.

While there’s nothing Apple can do about ear sweat, many users will surely expect the company’s expensive headphones to be able to handle a small amount of moisture. It is a common situation.

In the meantime, when wearing AirPods Max for extended lengths of time or when exercising, consider periodically wiping out the ear cups. Just pop out the cushions and wipe down the metal interiors with a “soft, dry, lint-free cloth,” according to Apple.

Lewis Wallace contributed to this article.