The search giant has basic home management and smart-assistant features covered with the Google Home and Google Home Mini. The Google Home Max, however, is a far different beast, built to be the only music speaker you’ll ever need. This is more of an Apple HomePod product than a speaker to compete with Amazon’s expanding range of Echo devices. Strong audio, adaptable design, and connectivity with Google Assistant create the Home Max a force to be reckoned with. However, with a hefty price tag and sub-Sonos multi-room functionality, this one is only for some.
The Google Home Max has a soft-touch plastic shell (Chalk and Charcoal variants are available) and a fine material front, comparable to the Home Mini and Home. The biggest difference is the size: the Home Max measures 337 x 190 x 154mm. It’s also not light, weighing 5.3kg. In this way, the Home Max is more similar to the Sonos Play:5. Because the Home Max requires a lot of space, it is best suited to bigger spaces. Smaller speakers like the HomePod and Sonos One are significantly easier to place.
In the package, Google includes a magnetically connected rubber pad that can be placed on the bottom or side of the Home Max, letting you position the speaker in portrait mode. This will save some space, but it has one huge downside: portrait mode disables stereo mode. Thus, you’ll lose some audio breadth if you use it in stereo mode. Moving the speaker causes it to slide about on the rubber pad, often leaving it behind. If you move the Home Max after you’ve put it, be cautious.
Well, on top is a capacitive touch bar with sliders for volume adjustment and music play/pause. A track-skip button or a double-tap-to-skip capability was nice, but the essentials are there.
If you prefer a connected connection, the Home Max has a USB-C connector on the back that you can use with an Ethernet adapter. There’s also a 3.5mm audio input to connect a record player, such as Bluetooth.
The internals, which include two 4.5in high-excursion woofers and two 0.7in bespoke tweeters, account for most of the Home Max’s size. This combination can provide accurate stereo sound to the Home Max. Google has included six microphones on the Home Max: two on top, two on the side (or top when used in portrait mode), and two buried under the fabric front. The microphones are also used for Smart Sound, in which Google monitors the location of the Home Max and changes the equalization settings to match the acoustics of your room. Google introduced the Home Max first, but Apple’s HomePod uses comparable technologies.
Specifications are important, but real performance is what counts. The Home Max is rather attractive. If you want to go all out, the Home Max is quite loud. It’s bone-crunchingly, room-fillingly loud, which the HomePod isn’t. The Home Max should sit toward the top of your list if you need something to occupy a large space. However, it becomes a bit harsher when the Home Max reaches the top volume. The balance between the mids, bass, and treble needs to be clarified. It’s not terrible, but the Home Max loses some elegance and composure, which isn’t an issue with the Home Pod.
In lesser quantities, the rivalry is more intense. The strong bass of the Home Max shines through, giving tracks that additional push. Listen to a bass-heavy song, like OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass,” and you can sense the bass coursing through your body. There’s also poise and attention to detail. When you listen to a gentler piece like Johnny Cash’s rendition of ‘Hurt,’ you can hear his fingers sliding over the guitar and the strings twanging. The stereo separation could be better with dedicated left and right speakers, but the Home Max does well. The opening guitar swirls from left to right when you play ‘Enough Space’ by the Foo Fighters. Overall, the Home Max remains a very directional device. If you put it in the corner of the room, you’ll know where the sound is coming from. There is a different level of 360-degree sound than HomePod put forth.
Although extremes might push it out, Smart Sound does a good job of balancing the audio. You won’t be overpowered by bass if you go from a huge room to a smaller one. When I carried the Home Max throughout my home, it adapted and dealt well with each room – however, Smart Sound has limits. When the Home Max is placed on an enclosed bookshelf shelf, the high-end audio sounds harsh. The speaker is having difficulty dealing with the echo. That’s not to argue the HomePod is superior; it’s simply different. Some people will like the louder, more powerful sound of the Home Max when placed on a clear surface; for others, the HomePod’s more balanced and poised sound, as well as its smaller proportions, make it a superior option.
Setup & Google Assistant
It is simple to set up. Connect the speaker and launch the Google Home app and your Home Max should be discovered instantly. It will be on your home network in a matter of seconds. Now, your speaker is connected and ready to use. If you own additional Google Home devices, you can access the same features and turn on the same Voice Match options to enable multiple Google accounts. My entire Google Assistant guide has significantly more information on everything Google Assistant offers, but it’s worth repeating how good it is. Unlike Siri and Alexa, you don’t have to be exact when asking Google to play a tune, album, or playlist. Instead, Google figures out what you intended to say. For example, when I spoke to Google, “OK, Google, play my test playlist from Spotify,” it accurately played the playlist I’d named “testing.”
Regarding overall product support, Google Assistant is only second behind Alexa, but the gap is closing. Most major items, from the Nest Thermostat to Philips Hue lighting, are supported. You can now place a Google Home device in a room with other devices and say, “OK, Google, turn on the lights.” Google will then comprehend which lights you’re referring to. The Google Assistant outperforms the competition in answering general queries, providing directions, and searching local companies. You may also make free local calls using it. The main annoyance is that Google Assistant cannot see G Suite calendars. The Google Home Max works well with Google Assistant. It recognized my voice instructions even when I talked quietly with loud music playing and from almost any angle. If you prefer privacy, turn off voice recognition using the switch on the back of the speaker.
Multi-room functionality is possible; however, it is difficult to set up. You’ll need to establish a group in the Google Home app and choose which speakers to include (you may mix and match any Google Chromecast devices on your network). This is more challenging than grouping and ungrouping with Sonos or the Apple HomePod.
The issue with Google’s ecosystem arises when you wish to play several tracks in different rooms, in addition to numerous Google Case speakers working together. Your account can only be used in one place. That’s not an issue with Sonos because a single Spotify account may be used to play various tracks on separate speakers.
The HomePod has a similar limitation when using Spotify; however, when using Apple Music, the restriction is removed. The Google Home Max’s sole option is switching to a Google Play Music membership, which costs £14.99 monthly. This makes it more expensive than Apple Music on HomePod, Spotify, or Apple Music on Sonos. You’re also confined to using Google Play Music for multiple streams, which isn’t as good as its competitors.
If one Google Home Max isn’t enough, why not get two? I have yet to try this combination, but the idea of two Home Maxs functioning together is mind-boggling, not to mention expensive. Finding a place to place two Home Max speakers might be difficult in many homes. Two Home Pods are not only less expensive but also more easier to place and work. In stereo, the HomePod sounds fantastic.
Why Buy It?
Nothing else on the market has the same level of functionality as a smart speaker capable of playing high-quality music. The Apple HomePod sounds fantastic, but Siri is less capable than Google Assistant; the Sonos One lacks some of the features of Echo devices and does not sound as good. However, life isn’t only about the combination of features. Suppose you’re already immersed in the Google ecosystem and usually have few people at home listening to various music simultaneously. In that case, the Home Max will make a strong addition to your house, providing outstanding audio. If multi-room functionality is more essential to you, Sonos is a superior option since it is built to work with numerous people in several rooms.
The Sonos Play:5 has better sound quality than the expensive Home Max, and it interacts with Alexa, allowing you to add voice control via an Echo Dot, for instance – but it’s more expensive. Two Sonos Ones with Alexa integrated in may be a good option, but you’d need to buy the Sonos Sub to hit the bass notes fully. The Apple HomePod is another option. Siri may lag behind Google Assistant, but if your house is filled with Apple products, the calm and balanced sound quality may be enough to persuade you. You may also play various tracks on different players with Apple Music. Furthermore, the HomePod is somewhat less expensive, and its smaller proportions make it easier to place about the home.
The Home Max has a brilliant voice assistant and terrific audio, but it lacks the multi-room magic that would make it ideal.