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Google’s big bad Home Max speaker is now on­sale in Aus­tralia (Har­vey’s JB, Of ce­works, Good Guys etc – ba­si­cally every­where). It builds upon the now quite re ned Google As­sis­tant and Google Home tech and lumps in some se­ri­ous au­dio en­gi­neer­ing. It’s the largest, most son­i­cally pow­er­ful

(and most ex­pen­sive) Google Home speaker. The aim – to make it the com­plete home music ma­chine that also ex­ists as the cen­ter­piece of your home AI net­work.

It’s a ma­chine of two parts. There is its job as a speaker, and how good that sounds at that, and also its func­tion­al­ity as a Google Home de­vice. Be­cause Google Home is a tech­nol­ogy you get in this box, but is in ac­tu­al­ity is some­thing that um­brel­las across many prod­ucts – in­clud­ing your An­droid phone and the many third-party AI speak­ers – that as­pect is re­ally an in­de­pen­dent ad­junct to this prod­uct. How­ever, it’s a crit­i­cal part of it and there’s rel­e­vance to how Google has im­proved its en­gi­neer­ing of the hard­ware to work well with the lit­tle talk­ing ro­bot voice.

For the Home Max, Google has a new SoundSense tech­nol­ogy. In re­spect to Google Home it’s able to clev­erly iden­tify your voice com­mands even when there’s very loud music play­ing, even if you al­most whis­per, and do that from an­other room. It’s quite mag­i­cal to mum­ble “Hey Google, play some Cat Stevens” from the kitchen right when Led Zepp is blast­ing. It can’t do this trick when the vol­ume is com­ing from a source Google didn’t ini­ti­ate, like a loud TV, but that just un­der­lines how so­phis­ti­cated SoundSense is, in be­ing able to iso­late your voice so ef­fec­tively when it knows what’s go­ing on.

The other SoundSense trick­ery is that is tai­lors the au­dio out­put to op­ti­mize for the room and its par­tic­u­lar acous­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics. It does this when­ever it’s pow­ered on just in case some­thing has changed. Other de­vices can do this so it’s not unique, but this was once au­dio­phile ter­ri­tory that re­quires time con­sum­ing semi-man­ual cal­i­bra­tion.

In­side are two 114mm woofers and a pair of 18mm tweet­ers, all in a very sturdy and weighty shell, free of brand­ing. Across the top are quick ac­cess touch con­trols, with a long area run­ning across the top that you brush your ngers across to raise or lower the vol­ume. Very nice.

Its clos­est com­peti­tors are the Sonos Play:5, which is pricier at $749, yet has six speaker driv­ers com­pared to the Home Max’s four and is an Ama­zon Alexa ecosys­tem prod­uct. Or, there’s the Ap­ple HomePod, sim­i­larly priced at $499. The HomePod also tai­lors its sound to the en­vi­ron­ment it’s in. It a sonic face off, though, the Home Max wins. Its au­dio is a slightly more neu­tral and nat­u­ral sound but (per­haps) more im­por­tantly, can hold its qual­ity at higher vol­ume lev­els. There’s more than enough vol­ume at hand than any apart­ment dweller (or their neigh­bours) will ever need. The bass in par­tic­u­lar is very well man­nered. This is no ribthumper, in­stead it’s a tighter more de ned bass that by de­sign won’t blur the rest of the sound stage.

At medium vol­ume lev­els there’s less in it com­pared to the HomePod, but au­dio is far from the whole story. Google Home is sim­ply leg­ging it away from the com­pe­ti­tion for what a voice-con­trolled AI as­sis­tant is ca­pa­ble of.

When teamed up with a Chrome­cast – or any Google Home­com­pat­i­ble speaker for that mat­ter – it can be the new thing you talk at to com­mand your TV to do things. While the smart­phone app is still use­ful for see­ing what’s hap­pen­ing, brows­ing con­tent and con gur­ing things, it’s plainly nicer to be able to give your TV or­ders by voice.

Google’s punched out a most impressive bit of au­dio kit, and one that’s go­ing to trans­form your life it it’s your rst en­try into the world of Google Home. Even if you cur­rently run a smaller Home speaker, the im­pos­ing size and room lling au­dio of the Max make the ex­pe­ri­ence feel more tan­gi­bly sat­is­fy­ing.

“This is no rib-thumper, in­stead it’s a tighter more de­fined bass”

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