Google Home Max Review: high quality, smart home audio

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Erin Lawrence

The chief complaint people seem to have about smart home speakers that are also digital assistants is that the sound quality hasn’t been as great as some dedicated speakers, like Sonos or Bose. But Google is working to turn that idea on its head by introducing the Google Home Max.

Google Home max smart home speaker digital assistant review how toWhat is Google Home Max?

The Google Home Max is a large and heavyweight home speaker and smart digital assistant. It’s much larger than the Google Home (read my review of Home here) It appears to be designed to compete against the mid-level Sonos PLAY:5 and has some similar characteristics. The Home Max has touch controls, a dual orientation base, meaning you can set it flat or on its end, and of course it has the power of the Google Assistant built in.

The speaker is pretty nice looking. With a white plastic case, and soft grey fabric wrap on the front (also comes in black), it also hides a simple light-up display. Also included is a small silicone mat that’s magnetic (nice touch, Google!) that makes it skid free. Plus it helps reduce reverberations and bleed.

While it’s quite large, its simplified modernist design blends into my decor very easily.

Google Home Max specs: Measurements, weight, sound specs

This speaker is big. Measuring 7.4 inches by 13.2 inches by 6 inches deep, the speaker weighs in at 11.68 pounds. Inside you’ll find 4 speakers and 2 Woofers (4.5 inches) plus 2 Tweeters (0.7 inches).

What can Google Home Max do?Google Home max smart home speaker digital assistant review how to

Google Home Max has two key purposes: to play high quality music and to act as a smart home hub and digital assistant, allowing you to control home gadgets or ask for help just using your voice. See below for more.

There’s inputs on the back for USB-C so you can charge devices. It would also work with an Ethernet adapter if you have low quality Wi-Fi.

How to place Google Home Max

Ideally you should use Google Home Max horizontally, since this orientation will deliver stereo sound. You can sit it on its end if you need it to take up less space, but it will automatically switch to mono sound when placed this way.

If you place Max horizontally, it outputs stereo sound. Most music is produced in stereo. Use this placement if you want a wider soundstage.
If you place Max vertically, it outputs mono sound. Use this placement if you need your device to occupy less space.

Google Home max – Stereo pair?

I wanted to know if Home Max would also work as a stereo pair if you got two, so I reached out to the Google folks for online support and was told that using two Home Max speakers and placing each one vertically, you’ll get stereo sound. As I only had the one speaker for review, I couldn’t test this out, but in theory; YAY!Google Home max smart home speaker digital assistant review how to

Setting up Google Home Max

Set up is pretty straight forward; unbox the device and plug it in. You’ll get a little welcome audio message which will prompt you to download the Google Home app.

From there you’ll use the app to continue, by connecting to Wi-Fi, selecting your location and getting voice recognition set up (you can teach Assistant to recognize different family members’ voices). In less than 5 minutes you should be ready to go.

Smart Digital Assistant functions & Smart home

By now you likely know smart home speakers let you get answers to questions, and control gadgets just by asking.

Powered by the Google Assistant, you can control compatible smart home devices with your voice and do things like turn lights on or off, check traffic, get your daily schedule, the weather forecast, set reminders, or even make phone calls, all hands-free.Google Home max smart home speaker digital assistant review how to

Here’s what else it can do:

  • Get the latest news
  • Listen to popular podcasts; just ask for the one you want
  • Listen to radio stations
  • Control TVs and speakers
  • Ask for traffic and travel times
  • Ask for current weather or forecasts
  • Get your schedule for the day from Google Calendar
  • Get status updates on your upcoming flight
  • Set, pause, check, resume, and cancel timers and alarms
  • Add items to your Shopping list and check what’s already on it
  • Ask about current individual stock prices or current points of an index, like NASDAQ
  • Ask for sorts scores, live updates, or next game date, location, and time
  • Perform complicated calculations
  • Get translations for words or phrases in supported languages
  • Get unit & measurement conversions
  • Get nutrition information for ingredients or food
  • Get definitions and spellings for words
  • Control your thermostats — Control the temperature with supported smart thermostats
  • Control your lights — Turn on/off, dim, and check if lights are on with supported smart bulbs
  • Control your plugs — Turn on/off devices around your home with supported smart plugs
  • IFTTT – If this, then that — Control countless online services and third-party smart devices that aren’t directly integrated

Want to dig in on how to use Google Home to control your smart lights and home gadgets? Click here.

Who is Google home Max for?

Google Home Max is, in my opinion, made for folks who are looking for a high quality home speaker, and also want voice control. Those who aren’t so concerned with sound or music quality, would so well to pick up the regular Google Home, since it has the same functions, but costs a whole lot less.

Audio quality of Google Home Max

Google Home max smart home speaker digital assistant review how to

This shows the area of the touchpad control. You’ll remove this sticker once you unbox it.

I was blown away by the high quality sound from the Google Home Max. The bass thrumms beautifully and sounds true with no distortion. The high end is clear with no hiss, distortion or tinniness. I listened to everything from ska to symphony to rock and it all sounded great.

Google Home Max Volume levels

The sound power of this speaker is similarly impressive. Even at very low volume it’s powerful, and as I gradually took the volume levels us, the sound stayed true. At about 75% volume it was unbearably loud and I couldn’t stand it any louder, but it still sounded excellent with no distortion.

Spotify and streaming?

You can use streaming music services to play music, or you can cast music from your smartphone or device. You can access Google Play Music or Spotify, just by logging into your account, then say, “OK Google, play my playlist on Spotify.”Google Home max smart home speaker digital assistant review how to

How to use Google Home Max as a sound bar for your TV

I’ve had some folks ask if the Home Max could be used as a TV sound bar. The answer is; yes! If your TV has a mini Aux jack you could plug the TV into the Google Home Max then presto—a high quality speaker for your video. I tried it out with the 4K Roku Ultra which has an audio jack in the remote. I plugged it into the speaker and it worked great, though using this set up I did have to set the audio levels higher.

Recently there were complaints about latency or sync issues in the US, but Google seems to have delivered a fix, because I noticed absolutely no delay issues.

Also worth noting, that while this would be an improvement over most built-in TV speakers, the Home Max doesn’t have the ability to process higher quality audio or systems like Dolby. It’s also a bit big to sit in front of the TV… so it’s probably not an ideal sound bar, but it would work in a pinch.

Overall review of Google Home Max

Overall I’m pretty excited about the Google Home Max. It was easy to set up, the Google Assistant is responsive and helpful, and I love being able to use it to control all my smart home devices. I love the design too; particularly when compared to some of the home speakers Bose is making.

The sound quality is outstanding, and the fact you can hook it up to your TV is a nice plus.

I think this speaker will definitely give Sonos and Bose a run for their money.  The Google Home Max sells for  $499CAD and you can get it from Google or places like Best Buy.

1 Comment

  1. Jody Ireland on June 12, 2018 at 7:26 am

    Good morning Erin! Please consider this my entry to the contest on CTV. Your blog is very informative and helps me make decisions and you did a great job on CTV this morning.
    Jodyireland3@gmail

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