JBL Link 500 Review - Better Than The Google Home Max?

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When the google home max was released, JBL quietly released their JBL Link 500 smart speaker. And basically the Link 500 does the same thing as the google home Max, its a smart speaker thats all about sound. So if you’re thinking about getting a powerful smart speaker for your home are you better off with Google’s offering or something from a third party? Lets find out. 

JBL’s link series line up now consists of 4 different speakers. Theres the Link 10 and Link 20 which are kind of like voice assistant enabled JBL Flip 4’s which also have built in batteries, and theres the link 300 and link 500 which don’t have built in batteries. And just like the Google home Max, the Link 500 currently costs $400. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes on a sale here and there. 

Design wise, the JBL link 500 is slightly larger than the google home max. It also has the same fabric outer shell thats pretty synonymous with other JBL speakers and it comes in two colors, black or white. Unlike the Google Home Max which has a touch sensitive touch bar on the top which only allows you to adjust your volume and play and pause your music, the Link 500 has a few more buttons on the top and allow you to do a little more than the max. More importantly,  it has a dedicated button so you can activate google assistant, something that I don’t understand why the max dosnt have. And if you double press the play pause button you can skip a track directly from the speaker. Something that again the max cant do, even though its pretty simple. The Link 500 also has a dedicated bluetooth pairing button which does come in handy if the Link 500 isn’t connected to wifi and if you want to use a bluetooth connection instead. And finally theres a mic mute button. On the front of the speaker you will also find the white led notification lights that light up when google is listening to you just like the Max. And on the bottom you will also find a wifi indicator light, and like I mentioned in my link 10 and link 20 video, I feel this light is completely unnecessary… unless theres a problem with the wifi connection theres no need to constantly keep this light on. Even the google home max doesn’t have this useless and annoying light. Another thing I also don’t like about the Link 500 is the lack of ports. Theres no Aux jack and theres no USB type c port like the max. For me it would have been a no brainer to include these ports on the Link 500. And something I really want to point out is the weight differences. The Link 500 weighs in at 7.7 ponds while the Google Home Max weighs in at 12 pounds. 

But aside that, google assistant performance on the Link 500 is just as accurate and as fast as any other google home speaker. The Link 500 picks up your voice up from various distances just as well and inquiries are processed just as fast. 

Ok, now lets talk about what really matters, sound. You may know by know that the google home max is rocking dual 4.5 inch woofers and dual .7 inch tweeters. Where as the JBL Link 500 has dual 3.5 inch woofers, dual .8 inch tweeters and it has an exposed passive radiator on the back that really moves when the bass really gets going. 

First off, the google home max gets slightly louder than the jbl link 500 at max volume. But only by a few decibels. At max volume both of these speakers live in the low 80’s decibel range and they both suffer relatively the same amount of distortion. So if loudness is your main priority then both of these speakers perform relatively the same. 

When it come to sound quality, like I’ve said in past videos… the max has a V shaped sound signature. Theres a lot of emphasis on the bass and the highs but the vocals and mids are a little pushed back. Where as the link 500 has an even sound signature but with an emphasis on the vocals. It also has a good amount of bass, but the bass is not as punchy as the max and lows don’t resonate as much as the max either. 

Although both of these speakers do sound really good, the sound on the max is much fuller. You can literally feel the music with the max and as a result its more fun to listen to. But the google home max is definitely geared towards people how listen to pop, hip hop, dance, R&B, or rap with its strong emphasis on the bass. If you’re somebody that loves bass then the max is great, but if you’re someone who likes a flatter sound signature then you’ll be better off with the Link 500.

But if you’re building out a smart home with google assistant in mind it is a great thing to have options when it comes to hardware. But keep in mind, 3rd party hardware might mean delays when it comes to the newest features. First off, with JBL smart speakers you cant make phone calls like you would with either of the google home smart speakers. You also cant use the broadcast feature. And the JBL link 500 also doesn’t allow you to adjust the EQ like you can on the Max. Hopefully JBL smart speakers and all other 3rd party google assistant smart speakers  will add new google home features shortly after google releases them, because I would hate to see the same type of fragmentation android suffered when it was first released. 

Although I do like the JBL link 10 and Link 20 because they sound much better than the google home, if you’re trying to decided between the Google Home Max and JBL Link 500 it think youre much better off with the Google Home Max unless you’re not a fan of the v shaped sound signature it has to offer. I Personally think it looks better than the JBL link 500 and using Google’s own hardware means you’ll have access to the newest features as soon as they drop. But like I said in my initial review, I would like to see google add some extra tap functionally to the max so you can control your music playback and tap to activate google assistant. Is that so much to ask for?