The war for your active allowance is on. But I’m not talking about the one advancing for your eyeballs, I’m apropos to the one jockeying for your aerial and your voice.
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The apple of smart, connected, wireless audio for your home has exploded over the accomplished few years, acknowledgment to companies such as Sonos and Amazon. Not to be larboard out, Microsoft and Google accept both appear their own takes on acute speakers, and Apple’s adaptation is on the way. Best of the acute speakers so far accept been low-end and bargain – they are abundant for accidental music alert and accessing a basic abettor with your voice, but they won’t alter a high-end audio system. Sonos, on the added hand, has congenital its cast on wireless apostle systems that accommodate high-quality sound.
This is the abode area Google’s new $399 Home Max apostle comes in. It’s the bigger (seriously, it’s huge) and best big-ticket acute apostle to date, and admitting it has all of the aforementioned acute appearance as the abate Home and Home Mini, its absolute angle is complete quality. This is the acute apostle that’s declared to alter your home stereo and accord Sonos a run for its money.
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Weighing in at about 12 pounds, the Home Max dwarfs the Home, Home Mini, and annihilation in Amazon’s Echo lineup. It’s a austere apostle – afterpiece in admeasurement to Sonos’ flagship Play:5 than any acute apostle afore it.
It is substantial. How substantial? Able-bodied I (stupidly) put it in a somewhat ambiguous atom on a mantle, and it managed to blooper off while arena music and fell about four anxiety to the bean landing below. (The apostle itself is in bigger appearance than my fireplace, as it aloof has a few tears in the bolt cover, but still works altogether fine. The fireplace, on the added hand, needs a new bean landing.) In retrospect, the crimson was not the best abode to put the speaker, as it isn’t altogether akin and has aloof abundant amplitude to awning the abject of the apostle and no more. But it goes to appearance that you should amusement this big ass apostle like a big ass speaker, and abode it accordingly. One affair that the Max is missing is any array of ascent credibility for attic stands or bank mounts, which are frequently begin on speakers of this class. Basically, you accept to put it on a collapsed shelf or appliance that has affluence of allowance for it, as there’s no way to affix the apostle to a surface.
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Contributing to its admeasurement and weight are four drivers – two 4.5-inch long-throw woofers and two 0.7-inch tweeters – and six Class-D amplifiers. In addition, there are six far-field microphones for acrimonious up articulation commands, a about-face to attenuate the microphones, a USB Type-C anchorage that can be acclimated with an Ethernet adapter for active networking, and a 3.5mm ascribe jack to angle up a turntable or added audio source. All of that is encased in a annealed artificial carapace with centralized animating to abbreviate angle and distortion. The Home Max doesn’t aback the aforementioned feel or aesthetics of a wood-encased bookshelf speaker, but it’s absolutely solid and doesn’t feel cheap.
The apostle is accessible in two colors, “Chalk” or “Charcoal”, which construe to white or atramentous in non-marketing speak. Neither blush is decidedly arresting and it’s not accessible to adapt the bolt barbecue on the advanced of the device. The Home Max echoes the architecture cues of Google’s added speakers, with angled corners and bendable lines, but at this admeasurement and price, it looks a bit banausic to me. While a Home Mini can calmly adumbrate abroad in a corner, never to be seen, the Home Max is abundant harder to disguise. It’s an calm design, but for article this abundant I ambition it had a little added character.
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One nice blow included with the Home Max is a elastic pad that sits beneath the apostle to advice abstract its accordance from whatever apparent you put it on. The pad attaches to the Home Max via magnets and works whether you accept the apostle in accumbent or vertical orientation. (The pad is not abundant to accomplish up for brash placement, as my acquaintance aloft shows. It’s aloof advised to abbreviate accordance and rattling.)
In accumbent mode, the Max provides stereo sound, but if you about-face it to vertical, it will about-face to a address output. An centralized acclimatization sensor handles this about-face automatically, and it will alike acquaint you if the apostle is placed upside down. Two Home Max speakers can be commutual in a stereo configuration, as well, and both accumbent and vertical orientations assignment in this mode.
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The alone ascendancy on the apostle itself is a blow band on top (or the appropriate ancillary aback vertical) that’s acclimated to acclimatize the aggregate and abeyance playback. The aggregate ascendancy is rather choosy and not automated – a distinct bash beyond it does not acclimatize the aggregate from 0 to 100 and you accept to bash assorted times to do so. Fortunately, you can ascendancy the aggregate with articulation commands or your adaptable accessory instead.
So how does the Home Max sound? In short, it sounds actual good, and outperforms any added acute apostle I’ve tested. It gets loud abundant to be the capital antecedent of music for a party, but does not alter at alike the accomplished volumes. The Max doesn’t accept the aforementioned floor-rattling bass as a subwoofer or continuing speaker, but it does accept bass that you can apprehend and sometimes feel, depending on the song actuality played.
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The Max is not a advertence apostle and it’s not advised to carbon a collapsed sound. It colors the complete with its own character, giving best music an EQ ambit that boosts both the highs and the lows, while hardly deprioritizing the mids. It’s not so advancing that bass becomes baggy or highs are too sharp, and it after-effects in a pleasing, absorbing complete that best bodies will adore alert to. In my tests, the Max articulate acceptable for all kinds of music, from bendable acoustic ballads, to active acceleration metal, to assault hip hop tracks. It alike sounds acceptable for podcasts and added articulate ascendant tracks.
In a dual-speaker stereo configuration, the Max is alike louder and added impressive, and it gets far louder than I can calmly accept to. Google recommends agreement the speakers about ten anxiety afar for the best stereo separation, so this is absolutely not the ideal set up for a baby allowance or apartment. But if you accept the space, two Max speakers are bigger than one.
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With the Google Home app, the Max can additionally be aggregate calm with added Cast-enabled speakers for multi-room and accomplished home audio. You can additionally acclimatize the bass and acute acknowledgment to your preferences from aural the app.
Though the Max can affect on its own, it doesn’t book able-bodied in absolute comparisons. In side-by-side tests with Sonos’ actual agnate Play:5, the Max is not as bright or brittle aural and doesn’t accept the aforementioned bass response. It’s about as if the Max has a abatement clarify over the sound, which takes abroad some of the accuracy and punch. The Play:5 does amount $100 added and doesn’t accept any chip acute apostle appearance (you charge an Echo accessory about in your home if you appetite to ascendancy a Play:5 with your voice), but there’s no abstinent that it is the bigger aural speaker. My activity is that if you never analyze the Max to accession high-end speaker, you’ll be thrilled, but if you do, you adeptness be aloof with the Max’s sound.
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In accession to its chip acute assistant, accession ambush the Max has over the Play:5 is the adeptness to automatically tune itself to the allowance it’s placed in and the music actuality currently played application its on-board microphones (Google calls this “Smart Sound”). It’s adamantine to say how abundant this affection affects the complete quality, aback it is consistently active and there’s no way to about-face “off” the enhancements. Sonos offers a agnate affection (called “TruePlay”), but it requires bouncing an iOS accessory about the allowance to set it up and doesn’t assignment with Android accessories at all. Google’s band-aid is absolutely automated and cellophane – you aloof bung the apostle in, about-face it on, and alpha alert to music and it will tune itself accordingly. Should you move the apostle from one abode in the allowance to another, it will afresh retune itself. Sonos requires reconfiguring the audio affability anniversary time you move a apostle to a altered atom of the allowance and in my acquaintance there is a apparent aberration amid a acquainted Sonos apostle and an untuned one.
For audio sources, the Max is a accepted Cast speaker, so any account that supports Google’s Cast agreement will assignment with it. That includes Google Comedy Music, Spotify, Pandora, and abounding others, but not Apple Music. It’s additionally accessible to beck music to the apostle over Bluetooth or bung in a turntable or iPod to it through the 3.5mm jack on the back.
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Given its ample admeasurement and adeptness to be commutual in a stereo configuration, you adeptness be absorbed to use the Max in abode of a soundbar or beleaguer complete arrangement for your TV. As it stands appropriate now, the artefact isn’t advised able-bodied for it. To accomplish it work, your TV needs an analog audio achievement and the adeptness to set a accompany delay, and alike again you adeptness accept issues accepting both speakers in a stereo agreement to assignment properly. There’s a achievability that Google could add bigger abutment for TV audio to the Max in the approaching (much like how it added Bluetooth alive to the aboriginal Google Home months afterwards its release), but as it stands appropriate now, the Max is best ill-fitted for music, not amphitheater audio.
Since the Max is a acute speaker, it has Google Abettor congenital into it, aloof like the Home and Home Mini. The six far-field microphones can aces up articulation commands from beyond a allowance and let you appeal music, skip tracks, acclimatize volume, ascendancy acute home gadgets, ask questions, and all of the added being that the Abettor can do. The Max is acceptable at audition my articulation while it’s arena music, but at college volumes, I accept to about bark at the apostle afore it will respond. That’s not absolutely hasty (and its adeptness to apprehend me is alike worse aback two Max speakers are arena in stereo), but it can accomplish simple aggregate adjustments and clue changes difficult to do with your voice.
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One note: aback two Max speakers are commutual in stereo, alone the larboard apostle will acknowledge to articulation commands. Both speakers are activated for music playback, but responses will alone appear from the larboard ancillary of the setup.
Overall, the Home Max is a abundant sounding, absolutely chip acute apostle if aggregate and audio affection are your priority. It’s too expensive, too big, and too loud to fit in best rooms, so it’s best ill-fitted for a active allowance or beyond space. It’s the best advantage for subscribers of Google Comedy Music or YouTube Music, neither of which are accurate by Amazon’s Alexa platform.
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However, if complete affection is your ultimate antecedence and you’re not affiliated to Google’s music services, you’ll apparently be happier with a Sonos Play:5. It’s added big-ticket and doesn’t accept the chip smarts, but the Sonos app supports added audio sources and aloof sounds bigger than the Home Max. The Sonos affiliation with Alexa through an Echo accessory additionally offers articulation ascendancy for Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, and others.
And of course, we’re still cat-and-mouse for Apple to absolution its delayed HomePod, which is promised to accept absurd complete affection and agnate audio affability capabilities to the Home Max. But the HomePod will acceptable alone abutment Apple Music natively, and will await on AirPlay and other, beneath acceptable methods to comedy music from added services.
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The war for your active allowance is aloof heating up, and it’s activity to get a lot added interesting, and loud, afore it’s over.
Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge
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7.5 Verge Score
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