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When google first announced their google home max they said they set out to make the best sounding speaker and that they obsessed over the bass. And that was an understatement. This thing moves air out of the way like its no ones business. The Google Home Max does sound decent but its definitely not for every one.
Google Home’s line up now consists of 3 first party smart speakers and there are a whole bunch of third party speakers being released on what seems a weekly basis. Right now you can get the google home mini for as low as $29, the OG google home for $79 and the max is currently retailing for $399. Concerning whats inside the box when you get the Google home max aside from the speaker it self you also get a magnetic rubber pad, a power cored, and some documentation. Thats it. But for a speaker that doesn't have a built in battery the google home max is pretty freaking dense. The max weighs in at almost 12 pounds which honestly caught me off guard the first time I went to grab it. Inside, the max is rocking dual 4 and half inch woofers and dual .7 inch tweeters. And the fabric that covers all of this on the front is pretty different from the fabrics found on the home mini and OG google home. The fabric on the Max is much thinner and less textured than the latter two. And underneath the fabric there are your google assistant notification lights that change orientation depending on the speaker position and mostly shine white when google is interacting with you. The rest of the body of the max is made out of what I’m assuming is stainless steel, but if you’re going to pick the max up I suggest you do so from the sides and avoid applying any kind of pressure to the front the speaker. the front of the speaker isn’t as sturdy and flexes very easily. On the top of the speaker you’ve got your touch controls to raise or lower the volume of your music, and tapping on the center will play or pause your music. And on the back of the max you’ve got your AC in port, an Aux jack a USB type C port and a mic mute switch. And the google home max has a total of 6 mics built in so it can listen for you or so it can automatically adjust its EQ for the best sound quality depending on where it is in a room. There are 2 microphones on the top, two on the side, and I’m assuming there are two underneath the fabric as well. But i just want to point something out really quick about the magnetic base of the max. Yeah the google home max will tell you if you’ve oriented it incorrectly and the pad automatically aligns itself when you place it on either side, but what I really like about the pad is that it gives the illusion of the Max just levitating in mid air which I really like.
The design of the google home max is very clean and simple just like the mini and they should have no problem fitting in with almost any room’s decor. The OG google home also has a simple design but you can really see google is going in a new design direction with their newer smart speaker models. And it make me wonder what the second generation google home will look like. Obviously all three of these speakers do the same thing, they give you quick access to google assistant so you can ask it questions, give it commands or control your smart home and they all perform the same. They all hear you just as well and they are all just as fast.
But the google home max is all about sound, and obviously it is going to completely out perform the mini and OG google home. But for fun heres a sound test between these three speakers.
The bass is what amazes me the most about the google home max. This is a great speaker for bass heads. Even at fifty percent volume the max still manages to shake everything around it. Theres a lot of emphasis on the low ends and highs, but I feel the mids and vocals are a little pushed back and I feel the sound stage could be a little wider.
The max has no problem filling a large living room, and likes to live in the mid 80’s decibel range and occasionally gets into the low 90’s at max volume. but this speaker sounds it best all the way up to 85% volume. After that the highs will occasionally crash but the real problem is if the bass really gets going then theres going to be a lot of distortion and even a little bit of reverb.
But through the google home app you can adjust the amount of bass and treble the max has. And although I do like having the option of being able to adjust the bass and treble I would have much rather preferred if google gave you more control over the equalizer settings. But maybe through google’s smart sound and machine learning they will over time improve the sound of the Max, but more importantly push the mid a little forward. Cause over all the google home max has a pretty v shaped sound signature. And the google home max gives you 3 options to listen to you music. You can either use the Aux jack on the back, you can stream your music over wifi or you can stream your music over bluetooth straight from your own device. (turn bluetooth on demo) But after testing the max and watching videos with it I did notice there was a significant delay between audio and video. Which I’m finding is a pretty common problem with smart speakers. And since we’re on the topic of sound quality, I just want to point out that the google home mini is not good for listening to music what so ever. Its tinny and everything just falls flat, but thats perfectly fine. The google home mini is just a very affordable way to get started with google assistant. But the OG Google home on the other hand is another story. Right now its selling for $79 cause of the holiday season but it typically retails for $129. And for a $129 speaker the OG google home does not sound good. It gets over powered by it own bass and vocalists sound like they are at the bottom of a well. If you’re looking for a smart speaker in the same price range that sounds good then I highly recommend the JBL link 10 or the JBL Link 20. They sound much better than the OG google home, they have a built in battery and they are very rugged so you can take them outside if you’re having a cook out. Right now in its current state I don’t see a reason to go out an get an OG google home. Its not good for listening to music and if you just want a smart speaker to interact with your assistant and help you control you smart home then you’ll be better off with just getting a google home mini.
And although the google home max is just a super sized google home mini with a very simple design its not without its problems. As mentioned before you can adjust the volume by sliding your finger across the top of the speaker and you can play or pause or silence alarms by tapping in the center. But what I don’t understand is why cant you control your music playback by double tapping or triple tapping the top to skip or go back a track. And I also don’t understand why pressing and holding on the top doesn't activate google assistant like it does on the OG Google home. I get that on the google home mini google had to scrap the feature cause of some hardware issues but I don’t think theres such a problem on the max. I just find it irritating that google limits the Max’s functionality and forces you to use voice commands even when its not the most convenient or if your phone isn’t around. Cause there is no reason google couldn’t add this functionality through a little software. Cause when you’re playing music at a higher volume the max is going to have trouble hearing you when you give it a command. So instead of double tapping to skip a track o pressing and holding to activate google assistant you might have to either tap to pause the music and then give it the voice command or you might have to lower the volume and then give it the voice command. These are needless extra steps. I get that google is trying to in a way make talking to voice assistants second nature for people but I feel smart speakers in general should give the user as many options as possible to interact with them and allow the user to control their hardware how they see fit. Cause if voice assistants are truly as amazing google thinks they are then people will naturally gravitate towards it. And this is coming from somebody who really enjoys using voice commands on a regular basis.
But one small thing I do appreciate about the Google home Max is its power cord and how small the plug is. Theres no external power brick to worry about with the google home max and the small plug means you save some room on your power strip for your other electronics. Cause if you look at the plugs of the mini and OG google home you’ll see how big of a difference the max is. Again, for the second generation google home I would really like to see them slim down the plug in addition to improving over all sound quality.
So whats the verdict on the Google Home Max, if you want a good sounding speaker that sounds bigger than it is with google assistant built in then the MAX is your simplest and cleanest solution. Sure you could get a chrome cast audio and hook it up to any speaker of your choice and get a google home mini to handle all of the voice command stuff but then that means 3 wires you have to keep plugged in and 2 potential network failure points. Cause if potentially either the mini or the chrome cast are having network issues then you’re going to have to trouble shoot them. But like I mentioned earlier, there are more and more google assistant enabled speakers being announced and released on a weekly basis. One that I think is a direct comparison to the Google home max is the recently release JBL Link 500. If you decide to get the google home max you’re not going to be disappointed cause it does sound impressive for its size and it looks pretty good as well.