AirPods Max Active Noise Cancellation Not as Strong as Before?

According to a report from The Verge‘s Umar Shakir, a firmware update Apple started rolling out for AirPods Max in May significantly reduces the strength of the premium headphones’ Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), according to his observations.

Apple’s most expensive AirPods have pretty strong ANC. It is (or at least was) strong enough that some people may feel a bit of pressure in their ears from enabling it, as we noted in our review.

Shakir was originally entirely satisfied with the ANC on his one-week-old AirPods Max. He would put them on while working to help him focus, and the ANC would block everything from his wife’s business calls to construction noise — even without any music playing.

However, he would later find out that his unit was part of older stock sent out in April and so did not have the May firmware update installed. Sometime in the middle of the week, the AirPods automatically updated to firmware version 4E71 overnight.

The ANC feature just hasn’t been as strong since, said Shakir. “Now, the ANC sounds like what I’d describe as a librarian’s transparency mode.”

Since his AirPods Max installed the 4E71 firmware update, Shakir is able to hear all of the sounds they blocked out before, only at a reduced volume. So much so that he had to resort to playing nature sounds in the background in addition to ANC to drown out his surroundings.

The journalist has reached out to Apple about the issue but is yet to hear back.

Some AirPods Max owners don’t think ANC strength has been reduced, while others have been complaining about the change ever since firmware version 4E71 came out. Apple didn’t say much about this particular update when it was released, only that it brought “bug fixes and other improvements.”

AirPods Pro users ran into a similar issue with ANC strength when Apple released the 2C54 firmware update in 2020. The tech giant later recalled the update in question but didn’t provide an explanation.

AirPods Max exhibited another ANC issue shortly after release, where the feature would only be activated in one earcup. While that bug could be fixed by simply resetting or rebooting the headphones, this one can’t.

Have you noticed any changes in ANC strength since updating your AirPods Max to firmware version 4E71? Let us know in the comments below.