Google Home Max review: This is the best-sounding smart speaker you can buy

    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 checks

    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.

    Michael Brown / IDG

    The Sonos Play:5 is only a bit bigger than the Google House Max and it sounds barely higher, but it surely additionally prices $100 greater than Google’s speaker.

    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 home max status leds Michael Brown / IDG

    This row of LEDs beneath the Google House Max’s fabric grille present a visible cue that the speaker is listening in your command.

    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 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.

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