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Big Audio Dynamite: The Google Home Max Review

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

One of the more interesting segments in consumer electronics is the smart speaker market. Smart speakers are exciting because they are a culmination of various intersecting technologies. You have cloud computing, A.I., voice assistants and you also have audio technology.

Watching the smart speaker segment progress is like watching an intense chess game with each speaker release quickly countering a rival's previous move. One opponent releases an Amazon Echo, Google counters with Google Home. Amazon introduces the Echo Dot, Google rolls out the Google Home mini. Sonos unveils Sonos One, Apple drops the HomePod. What's more surprising is that none of these products were available three years ago.

Google's Home Max is a two-move checkmate, it follows the small and affordable Google Home mini and the original Google Home with a large format, hifi-focused smart speaker. I have been using the Google Home Max for close to four weeks as the main music source in my bedroom. Here's my review.

Google Home Max is 20 per cent more powerful than Google Home in a form factor that can still fit on most tables.

Out of the box, the Google Home Max is an imposing and impressive speaker. It has all the now familiar Google design which is elegant and understated with a white plastic case and light grey mesh fabric. 

While big and beefy at 11 pounds, this speaker is also plenty smart with a quad-core ARM processor. 

It is fluent in Canadian English as well as Canadian French (it helps that the software and the app were developed in Canada by Canadian engineers, n’est-ce pas?

Maximum Versatility

Unlike other smart speaker which can only be mounted one way, the Google Home Max can be oriented vertically or horizontally to maximize placement. My review unit came with a rubber mat that could be used to isolate the surface of the Google Home Max from whatever surface you put it on to avoid the discoloration issue reported from some other speakers.

Google Home Max has the appeal of a World War II tank or a Howitzer. It's designed to play music loudly and in one general direction.

The Google Home Max doesn't boast a 360' range or promise to emulate stereo sound in a single speaker. Instead, Google Home Max offers staggering audio power and calibrated definition.

Maximum Machine Learning

Even better, Google Home Max uses machine learning to determine the best way to automatically measure sound based on its placement. Other speakers already do this, but you need to spend time to tweak and sometimes use a smartphone's microphones to determine proper placement.

Google Home Max already has microphones and it has Google smarts to figure out the best sound for the location. While it is great that Google takes care of this, more particular users might want to tweak the settings on their own.

The Music Engine

The hardware here is impressive. We have 4.5-inch aluminum cone, high-excursion woofers with dual voice coils bolstered with two 0.7-inch polyester dome tweeters. These are powered by six Class D amplifiers: Each woofer gets two amplifiers, and the tweeters get one apiece. The amps have onboard DACs capable of supporting up to 24-bit/192kHz bit streams.

I am an amateur audiophile who has collected hundreds of CDs, some vinyl and thousands of digital music files. My musical taste runs wide and encompasses post-punk, synth-pop, reggae, 40's to 60's jazz, Motown, classical composers and movie soundtracks. As a former DJ and music critic, I take music, and the enjoyment of it, very seriously.

Testing the Max

Testing the Google Home Max, I didn’t just rely on how great it was at streaming music from Spotify or Google Play Music. I made good use of the input port to connect my Discman as well as a turntable to listen to CDs and LPs that I was very familiar with and which I had listened to hundreds of times in the past three decades.

Google Home Max performed admirably. It found the nuances of many songs, exposed the layers, and created a credible sound stage for a mono speaker. More generic and bass-heavy pop and hip-hop songs do boom and sizzle, making this a great party speaker that you can Max out without fear that it will distort.

The Google Home Max also works great for more defined, less bass heavy music. Place a smooth jazz playlist or bust out some Miles Davis and close your eyes, the music you'll hear is full, defined and alive. I rediscovered the joy of The Beatles' Abbey Road, the Rolling Stones' Exile on Mainstreet and Steely Dan's Aja. 

Most Evolved Smart Assistant

As a smart speaker, Google Home Max has all the tricks its smaller siblings offer. Most impressive is Google Assistant's ability to recognize your voice, and up to five others in your home, so that you can all get access to your music services and personal playlists. Just set up Voice Match, and when you ask the Assistant to play your workout playlist, you get your favourite songs, not your partner’s. 

Google Home has also gotten smarter and can now multitask. That is, it can perform three queries at the same time. There's also support for routines which trigger various smart things when you say a pre-defined word like "I'm home," which can adjust lights, play music and change thermostat settings while starting to boil water.


At CAD $499, the Google Home Max is one of the more expensive smart speakers in the market today, but it is also quite likely the most powerful and arguably the smartest. 

No other smart speaker maker has a device in this size and with this output. Sonos has smart soundbars which suit a space in the house (near a TV), Apple's HomePod is cheaper by $50 but it is tied mostly to Apple Music and can only handle the musical preferences of one user in the house, not to mention that Apple HomeKit's range of devices and functionality pales in comparison to the competition.


  • Powerful and smart Google Home speaker
  • Can be oriented horizontally or vertically, can be used as a stereo pair and in multi-room audio situations
  • Has extensive access to music and cloud streaming services
  • Has English and French language capability
  • 3.55 mm Input for external CD players or turntables
  • Smart Sound functionality works well to fill any area with audio


  • Premium pricing at $499
  • No user serviceable parts
  • Not ideal for outdoor use

Final Word

The Google Home Max is the best bet for anyone seeking a powerful yet refined smart speaker that's also a smart home hub and digital assistant. This is a super powerful, fastidiously designed and eloquent smart speaker that sits on top of the throne.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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