Google Home Max

THE HOME SPEAKER WAS A HIT WHEN IT AR­RIVED DOWN UN­DER, BUT DOES GOOGLE’S WIN­NING FOR­MULA WORK WHEN THE VOL­UME’S CRANKED UP TO THE MAX?

TechLife Australia - - WELCOME - [SOUND THAT HITS HOME] [JOEL BURGESS]

AF­TER LAUNCH­ING THE orig­i­nal Home in 2016, Google be­lieved that mu­sic would be the pri­mary use case for its smart speak­ers. One year, 100 mil­lion hours of mu­sic, a ton of Google As­sis­tant an­a­lyt­ics later, and it’s pretty clear that this orig­i­nal as­sump­tion was right.

With this in mind, Google hired an en­tirely new team of au­dio en­gi­neers and hard­ware de­sign­ers to make the Max the best sound­ing speaker it could. This au­dio fo­cus is wo­ven into all as­pects of the Google Home Max, from the phys­i­cal book­shelf-speaker ap­pear­ance to the speck­led chalk or char­coal acous­ti­cally-trans­par­ent fab­ric that it’s wrapped in.

The besser-block look­ing boom­box is rather weighty at 5.3kg, but the sturdy steel and poly­car­bon­ate en­clo­sure works along­side a mag­net­i­cally mounted sil­i­cone base to min­imise un­wanted vi­bra­tion and dis­tor­tion. While the di­men­sions aren’t quite in the 3:2 ra­tio, the 33.7 x 19cm speaker face is an ideal pro­por­tion to be used ei­ther hor­i­zon­tally as a stand­alone de­vice or ver­ti­cally as a stereo pair — pro­vid­ing you have a sec­ond Max speaker.

The Google Home Max is fit­ted with two high-ex­cur­sion 4.5-inch dual-coil woofers and a pair of cus­tom 0.7-inch tweet­ers, which com­bine to cre­ate a stereo sys­tem that can de­liver 20 times the vol­ume of Google Home. This pair­ing cre­ates a pow­er­ful bass sound that mar­ries with warm mid-tones, whilst de­liv­er­ing clean high fre­quen­cies with ex­cel­lent au­dio sep­a­ra­tion. This art­ful blend makes it an ex­cel­lent all-rounder ar­tic­u­lat­ing the pre­ci­sion of per­cus­sion whilst car­ry­ing fuller base­lines and warm string har­monies in uni­son.

This pow­er­ful au­dio is en­hanced by a self-aware Smart Sound sys­tem that uses the six far-field mi­cro­phones to as­sess how much bass re­flec­tion it’s get­ting form its sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment and ad­just the equaliser ac­cord­ingly. This al­lows the Max to pro­duce au­dio that’s as close to the orig­i­nal, in­tended sound as pos­si­ble. But the Smart Sound sys­tem takes it a step fur­ther by de­tect­ing back­ground noise like a TV or kitchen ex­haust-fan and will sub­tly ad­just the equaliser fur­ther to com­pen­sate for am­bi­ent con­di­tions.

While Google Home Max is mainly con­trolled us­ing your voice, the speaker does have swipe vol­ume con­trols and tap to play/ pause on the top of the de­vice. It’s sim­ple, but this fun­da­men­tal play­back in­ter­face is re­spon­sive and in­tu­itive, work­ing be­hind the scenes to do things like flip the vol­ume ori­en­ta­tion when you have the speaker in a ver­ti­cal po­si­tion, to make sure swip­ing up in­creases the vol­ume.

Wi-Fi mu­sic stream­ing through Spo­tify, YouTube et al is likely to be the pri­mary con­nec­tion type. That said, the Google Home Max also of­fers Blue­tooth 4.2 con­nec­tiv­ity and even in­cludes a 3.5mm au­dio jack to play nicely with ‘clas­sic’ high-end au­dio equip­ment. If you do jack in or stream, there’s plenty of com­pat­i­ble hi-fi mu­sic file for­mats on of­fer in­clud­ing FLAC, LPCM, and HE-ACC to give you that ex­tra boost in au­dio qual­ity over the nu­mer­ous other ‘ef­fi­cient’ file for­mats it’s com­pat­i­ble with.

At $549 it’s sur­rounded by com­pe­ti­tion from both the sound­bar and high-fi­delity home au­dio seg­ments, but there’s a lot on of­fer for that price. As it cur­rently stands, Max is a near-per­fect high-fi­delity home au­dio sys­tem for 2018.

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