Google Home Max Review
Google's 'Home' family continues to grow - we've already had the standard Google Assistant powered Home, then the Home Mini gave us everything in a smaller, slightly less punchy sounding package. The Home Hub brought with it a display and now the Google Home Max is the answer to music lovers dreams pairing the all powerful assistant with a huge, powerful speaker that can fill a large room with beautiful sound. But, is this latest powerhouse worth the £399 asking price?
First impressions are good - the Google Home Max looks awesome. Far bigger than we thought it would be and with a weight that suggests its a quality piece of kit. Visually, it's clearly part of the Home range - with the light grey grille and ivory chassis - kind of like a Home Mini balanced on its edge and stretched in every direction. Set up is simple - plug in, turn on and then connect via the Home app on your phone to link the speaker into your network. If you've set up a Home or Chromecast device before it's exactly the same.
Once online the speaker updates to the latest OS while you wait and within ten minutes you're ready to give it a go. From this point on it behaves like any other Google Home smart speaker and can do everything it's smaller siblings can. The obvious difference is that this one is tailored to playing music, and playing it well.
The Google Home Max can be placed by itself, either horizontally or vertically (but don't turn it upside down or the speaker itself will give you a telling off) - or if you have two you can pair them as an awesome set of stereo speakers and make them the centrepiece of your living room. This isn't a cheap option though given the retail price!
Our review is based on the single unit setup - but pairing them is as easy as a couple of taps in the app.
To give the Google Home Max a chance to impress we kicked off with Rae Morris' excellent track 'Reborn' which would give the speaker a chance to show us what it could do with the full audio range. It's a track that beautifully combines both high pitch percussion with a rich deep bass. The Home Max devoured it revealing more depth than we ever imagined. Punching bass kicked through Morris' powerful vocals - even on the default equaliser settings and at 75% volume the speaker stopped us in our tracks.
Further testing across a variety of tracks (the Home Max made Freddie's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' vocals come alive and the gospel backing on the Choir version of Natalie McCool's 'Fortress' felt like it really opened what was already a stunning song) revealed a warmth to the sound that the Apple Homepod lacks. Despite the mono nature of the standalone speaker, the stage it delivers also impresses and while the mid range Google Home neatly fills an average living room you could see the Home Max coming into its own in a decent sized village hall. Even at maximum volume the audio delivered is tight with no sign of flab around the bass notes or any vibrational distortion.
It's hard to imagine a single speaker doing a better job than the Home Max and the integration with most online music services (excepting, the obvious lack of Apple Music) means instant access to most music. Uploading your library to Google Play Music means you can cover off anything you can't find via a streaming service.
Obviously limitations come in the form of the actual media - streaming will never offer the full depth that physical media, even CDs, can bring and it would have been nice for the Google Home Max offer some way of bringing it's audio smarts to your existing music setup. Having the ability to swap in a pair of these in place of your previous dumb speakers would be the ultimate pairing of smart technology with existing audiophile desires.
Despite this, the Google Home Max is the best smart speaker on the market in pure performance stakes and while the Amazon Echo range may still have wider adoption, Google is making huge strides and providing a convincing argument to switch.