Getting a assessment unit late, as is the case with the Google House Max, provides me the advantage of studying lots of people’s opinions of a product earlier than I formulate my very own. And reviewing a whole lot of comparable audio system earlier than I consider the one at hand provides me a broad base of expertise upon which to formulate mine. Based mostly on these two fronts, the Google House Max has been praised only a wee bit overenthusiastically.
That mentioned, the Google House Max is the perfect good speaker I’ve heard. Amazon definitely has nothing near it by way of audio efficiency, and neither do any of the producers constructing Echo clones. Expectations for Apple’s upcoming HomePod are definitely excessive, however in comparison with many different comparably sized, self-powered multi-room audio system—the second-generation Sonos Play:5 being the right instance—the Google House Max isn’t as exceptional. I’ll go over my listening checks first, after which dive deeper into the speaker’s specs and options.
Listening to Steely Dan’s “Babylon Sisters” from the group’s Gaucho launch, streamed by way of Tidal Hello-Fi in my residence theater, I used to be impressed with the Max’s musicality. The laconic bass line that opens the monitor sounded satisfyingly fats, and the drummer’s rimshots lower by means of with authority. The vocals—particularly the tight harmonies of the feminine backup singers—exhibited a totally fulfilling presence, too.
However after I carried out an A/B comparability to the aforementioned Sonos Play:5, the Max was outclassed at each ends of the frequency spectrum. Bass performed by means of the Play:5 resonated in my chest in a manner the Max couldn’t match. And after I switched to Tower of Energy’s decidedly extra upbeat “What’s Hip?” from the band’s eponymous self-titled album from 1973, the Max once more couldn’t match the Play:5’s bass efficiency, failing to deliver Stephen “Doc” Kupka’s bari sax to the fore, and delivering Mic Gillette’s and Greg Adams’ exhilarating trumpet work with only a wee bit much less vitality.
You may manually increase or lower the Max’s bass and treble ranges plus or minus 6dB, however Google says the House Max’s audio efficiency will routinely enhance over time. The speaker makes use of its onboard microphones to judge the setting it’s enjoying in and can tune itself accordingly.
Sonos audio system have the same function, known as TruePlay, but it surely’s dependent upon your having an iOS machine and a willingness to spend a couple of minutes strolling across the room with it whereas the speaker performs check tones. Sonos says its iOS machine requirement is as a result of wild range of microphones within the Android world—there’s not one commonplace element that the corporate can rely on (and most of its audio system don’t have on-board mics). TruePlay is extraordinarily efficient, however I can’t consider Google’s tech as a result of there’s no approach to carry out a before-and-after check when the tuning is occurring on a regular basis.
In comparison with the Sonos One—the one true good speaker in Sonos’ secure—or any different good speaker, for that matter, the Max is a sonic celebrity. If I didn’t have the Play:5 to check it to, I’d have little or no criticism of the Max’s musical efficiency—particularly for the value tag, which is $100 decrease than that of Sonos’ flagship speaker. We’ll have to attend just a few weeks to see if Apple’s HomePod can knock the Google House Max off its sonic perch, however we already know that that speaker gained’t help multi-room audio—not less than not proper out of the field.
Google House Max’s function set
The Google House Max is a beefcake of a speaker, with an enclosure measuring 13.2 inches large, 7.four inches excessive, and 6.zero inches deep. It suggestions the scales at a hefty 11.6 kilos. Google supplies a beneficiant 6.5-foot energy cable with a diminutive two-prong plug on the finish (loss of life to wall warts!), which makes the speaker simple to put. You may orient the cupboard both horizontally or vertically, shifting a magnetic silicone furnishings pad to both the broad aspect or the narrower right-hand aspect (the place the facility wire attaches) that can develop into the speaker’s backside. Two of the Max’s far-field microphones are on the left aspect, so that you wouldn’t need that to develop into the underside.
There’s a touch-sensitive quantity slider on the highest of the speaker (the right-hand aspect when vertically oriented), together with touch-sensitive play/pause. There aren’t any bodily controls for monitor ahead/monitor again, however you possibly can, after all, accomplish that with voice instructions. The speaker is remarkably adept at listening to the “Hey Google” wake phrase even when it’s enjoying music loudly.
Contained in the Max’s sealed polycarbonate cupboard you’ll discover a pair of four.5-inch aluminum cone, high-excursion woofers with twin voice coils, together with two zero.7-inch polyester dome tweeters. These are powered by six Class D amplifiers: Every woofer will get two amplifiers, and the tweeters get one apiece. The amps have onboard DACs able to supporting as much as 24-bit/192kHz bit streams, though Google says it’s solely examined sampling charges as much as 48kHz (that’s the place Sonos audio system max out, too). The speaker helps the FLAC, HE-AAC, LC-AAC+, MP3, Opus, Vorbis, and WAV (LPCM) codecs, however not aptX or aptX HD.
You may hyperlink two Max’s to create a stereo pair, however Google despatched just one, so I wasn’t capable of check that function (you are able to do the identical with a Play:5, and I haven’t examined that both). I did check a multi-room (properly, two-room) state of affairs, grouping the Max with a first-generation Google House. Taking part in the identical tune on each audio system—with the Google House in my residence workplace and the Google House Max in my residence theater about 35 toes away, separated by a number of partitions—I observed an nearly imperceptible delay that I don’t suppose would trouble anybody. That mentioned, I haven’t examined any multi-room speaker system that performs in sync higher than Sonos does. As I discussed earlier, Apple’s HomePod gained’t help multi-room audio till Apple totally releases its AirPlay 2 protocol.
The Google House Max connects to your Wi-Fi community by way of a dual-band (2.4GHz/5GHz) 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter. That’s a very good function, as a result of the two.4GHz spectrum is exceedingly crowded and topic to interference from residence home equipment resembling microwave ovens. Alternatively, you possibly can plug in a USB-C-to-ethernet adapter if you wish to hardwire it to your community. You should utilize this similar port to cost a cellular machine (not on the similar time, after all). Each Sonos speaker has an ethernet port, however none can cost a cellular machine. None of Amazon’s Echo fashions could be hardwired to a community, and none has a USB charging port.
Supported music providers on Google House Max
As with Amazon’s Echo audio system, the Google House collection places far more emphasis on music providers than on private collections saved on your property community. You should utilize Google Play Music, YouTube Music, or Spotify with it, in addition to Pandora, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio. Should you want to use different providers, resembling Tidal, you’ll must “solid” music to the speaker from that service’s app. I arrange the speaker to default to my Spotify Premium account, however I used Tidal Hello-Fi for my music analysis as a result of it streams music at a lot greater decision (FLAC). The Google House Max doesn’t help Tidal’s even higher-resolution MQA streams. Apple’s HomePod will reportedly help solely Apple Music.
If you wish to stream music you personal—tracks saved on an area NAS field, for instance—you’ll want to make use of an app, which you’ll launch from throughout the House app for those who select. I added a button that launches Plex on my Android telephone and “solid” music saved on a WD My Cloud Mirror to the Google House Max utilizing Plex Media Server. Sonos has the gold-standard app for managing and streaming music to its audio system, even when the corporate appears intent on de-emphasizing it in favor of permitting its customers to stream immediately from providers resembling Spotify and Tidal.
Google House Max as a wise residence controller
As with each Echo besides the Echo Plus (which has a ZigBee radio onboard), you’ll want a wise residence hub along with the Google House Max to regulate most good residence gadgets (i.e., something that doesn’t function over Wi-Fi). However I don’t see that as a shortcoming, and my opinion of Google House for good residence management advanced—significantly—after my good residence service supplier (Vivint Sensible House) modified the way in which it really works with Google House on January Eight of this yr.
Underneath the earlier mannequin, controlling my good residence gadgets by way of Google House required me to say “Okay Google, ask Vivint to…” activate a lightweight, lock the entrance door, or what have you ever. Google House would reply “Certain, right here’s Vivint.” A second voice would then say “Okay, turning in your gentle.” Awkward, proper?
Vivint’s new Google House integration is far nearer to the way in which it really works with Amazon’s Alexa. I now want solely say “Hey Google, flip the kitchen gentle on,” and it activates. I nonetheless discover the Google Assistant to be unnecessarily verbose because it performs its duties, although. The place Alexa says merely “OK” because it fulfills my request, Google Assistant says “Certain, turning the kitchen gentle on” or “You bought it, dimming the theater sconces,” and so forth. I don’t want a play-by-play, Google. Simply do as I ask.
Is the Google House Max worthy?
You’ll solely wish to spend money on one good speaker ecosystem. That leaves Google at a little bit of a drawback as a result of it doesn’t have something with a show in its arsenal that may compete immediately with Amazon’s Echo Show or Echo Spot. The corporate shocked everybody, nevertheless, with CES bulletins of third-party Google Home speakers with built-in shows. Lenovo mentioned it could ship its Lenovo Smart Display in July, and JBL introduced its Link View could have an Eight-inch touchscreen and a front-facing digicam when it ships later this yr. Sony and LG made comparable bulletins. Nonetheless, providing one thing later this yr can’t compete with a product you should purchase in the present day.
In case your family consists of heavy Chromecast customers, alternatively, the Google House Max will likely be a pure match. Google has achieved an amazing job of integrating its good audio system with its media-streaming ecosystem. Should you’re a Sonos family, you’ll ultimately have the ability to management your Sonos audio system utilizing Google Assistant in the identical manner you need to use Amazon’s Alexa in the present day. However just like the third-party Google Assistant audio system with shows, that’s a function that may’t be evaluated in the present day.
Based mostly on what can be evaluated in the present day, the Google House Max is the best-sounding good speaker in the marketplace. Whereas Google Assistant stumbled out of the gate by way of some good residence integrations, latest growth has put it a lot nearer to being on a par with Amazon’s Alexa. You’ll discover loads of different “dumb” powered audio system that sound higher, and Sonos stays my mainstream high decide for multi-room audio, however the Google House Max is certainly an up-and-comer.