The wireless speaker market has changed dramatically since Google initially released the Google Home and Google Home Mini. No longer separate categories, the smart speaker and the premium music speaker are very much one combined item now. Though Google’s initial offerings were capable of playing music, they weren’t designed to be the main music speaker in a house. The new Google Home Max is designed to do exactly that, aiming to pair exceptional audio quality with their brilliant virtual assistant software.
Picking up the heavy box for the first time instantly alludes to the room-filling capability of the Home Max. Compared to other speakers in the same category it’s a big unit measuring 13 inches wide, 7 inches tall and 6 inches deep, and weighing nearly 5kgs. Available in Chalk or Charcoal, the Home Max shares the same two-tone design found in Google’s other Home speakers and the Pixel smartphone. The soft, rounded edges of the front mesh grill blend into a matte finished chassis, while on the back there are only three ports: power, USB-C and a 3.5mm auxiliary jack.
The only physical button on the Home Max is the mute switch to disable the always-on microphones, with touch controls and your voice being the main ways to interact with the speaker. Four white LEDs glow beneath the fabric and mesh grill when you talk to the speaker to let you know it’s listening. Finally, it ships with a magnetic rubber stand so you can orientate the speaker either vertically or horizontally, while keeping the exterior completely flush and free of any protruding feet.
Rather than simply taking their existing speakers and making them bigger and louder, Google built the Home Max from the ground up to ensure it delivered the premium sound they intended. The bulk of the weight comes from the four custom-designed drivers inside, two 4.5″ woofers and two 0.7″ tweeters all powered by six Class-D amplifiers. To keep the audio as clear of distortion as possible, Google has re-enforced the outer shell with a steel band to keep it rigid. The rubber stand also raises the speaker up slightly to prevent it from vibrating on the surface it’s placed on. These are well thought out design touches as the Google Home Max gets louder than a lot of other smart speakers on the market.
The Google Home Max is right up there with the best premium smart speakers we’ve tried. Even at its highest volume, the Home Max retains its rich, detailed sound signature. The bass is particularly excellent. It’s deep and pronounced without being overpowering. Highs and mids cut through amongst the rumble of the bass, but never strayed into sounding too shrill or harsh. When placed vertically and paired in a set the sound is dramatically enhanced again, shifting to stereo output and noticeably increasing the soundstage. If you have a set of Home Max speakers set up as a stereo pair, you only need to plug your source into one unit, which will then relay the signal onto the other and play perfectly in sync.
Google has implemented their Smart Sound algorithm, so the speaker sounds great no matter where you set it up or what orientation you place it in. Similar to the tuning system used in the HomePod, the Google Home Max uses its six built-in microphones to continuously analyse the room it’s in and calibrate the sound accordingly. Because these adjustments are being made continuously there was no way for us to do a before and after comparison. However, wherever we moved the speaker, it still sounded excellent, so we’re sure it’s working in the background. Smart Sound won’t account for noise complaints from your neighbours, but within the Google Home app you can adjust the EQ settings manually so you can keep disturbance to a minimum.
Google Assistant remains the most well-rounded virtual assistant out there, and controlling the Home Max with your voice is a breeze. Even with the music playing at full volume it often heard us calling out to adjust the volume or change a song. The Home Max is also compatible with any other smart speaker with Google Assistant built-in, allowing you to build a multi-room audio system with a range of different speaker brands, such as Sony, Bang and Olufsen and Bose. Just like the rest of the Google Home lineup, the Home Max features Voice Match for up to six different profiles. It works brilliantly at discerning who is giving the voice commands and promptly connects to that person’s account and services. You can also integrate the Home Max to an existing Google Home set-up and use it to control your smart home appliances.
Google Home Max Review | The Wrap-Up
Where it really separates itself from its closest rivals the Apple HomePod and Sonos Play:5 is its versatility. The Home Max offers a wider range of services to stream from than the HomePod, and has a 3.5mm audio input to increase the number of sources you can play music from. While the Play:5 features an auxiliary jack and an extensive list of streaming services, it doesn’t offer Bluetooth streaming. Whatever service or method you want to play your music through, the Google Home Max has you covered, and it sounds great doing it too.