Report: AirPods Max’s Active Noise Cancellation Less Effective After Firmware Update

BY Dave Johnson

Published 25 Oct 2022

Active Noise Cancellation

A recent report suggests that the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) feature on Apple’s AirPods Max became less effective after a software update. 

AirPods Max does an excellent job of blocking our background noises. Indeed, the active noise cancellation feature on the Apple headphone ranks among the industry’s best. These include the Sony WH-1000XM series, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, and Sennheiser Momentum 4. 

But that hasn’t been the case recently. 

Following the release of the 4E71 firmware update, a few users reported a decrease in the effectiveness of the AirPod Max’s noise isolation. “Now the ANC sounds like what I’d describe as a librarian’s transparency mode,” noted Umar Shakir of The Verge in a September post. 

The team at Rtings have confirmed Shakir and other users’ sentiment with a test. As it turns out, the AirPods Max now blocks less noise between the mid-bass and high-bass ranges. 

The report reads: 

“When it comes to the mid and treble ranges, this firmware update has slightly changed the level of isolation, but it’s a relatively minor difference.”

Active Noise Cancellation Performance on the AirPods Max Still Decent

We have yet to determine why Apple tweaked the AirPod Max’s ANC performance. It could be an attempt to reduce the cabin pressure-like sensation of using active noise-cancellation headphones. 

Meanwhile, developers have been using beta versions of AirPods firmware since WWDC in June. Although Apple released the latest beta version earlier this month, there’s no proof of improved noise isolation between the mid-bass and high-bass ranges. 

But not to worry. Rtings pointed out that the AirPods Max still is excellent at blocking sounds such as high-pitched whirl of ANC and ambient chatter. Besides, the headphone still does a reasonably decent job of reducing mid-range sounds, such as the rumble of engines. 

So you may not notice or miss the reduced noise isolation.