Bose SoundLink Max Review: Sound That Transcends Size Doesn't Come Cheap - Latest Global News

Bose SoundLink Max Review: Sound That Transcends Size Doesn’t Come Cheap

Bose is undoubtedly best known for its noise-canceling headphones. But you know what else the company was damn good at? Portable speakers. I still remember how excited I was with the original SoundLink Mini (and later its successor). Something about Bose’s magical audio processing can make these relatively small speakers sound much bigger and wider than they really are, and that’s also true of the newer SoundLink Flex – which remains one of our favorites.

Now Bose has introduced a larger speaker, the new SoundLink Max, that follows the style of the Flex while offering important improvements. It delivers a much richer sound, now in true stereo. (The Flex, like other small speakers in its class, uses a mono driver.) But here you get two tweets along with passive radiators on either side for a much fuller listening experience.

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In terms of size, especially with the handle, it feels like a lunchbox: a very thick, 4.9 pound lunchbox full of sound, wrapped in silicone and with a metal front panel. Listen, I’m just saying that this thing could very well be a weapon if you ever needed it. The removable handle, which can be exchanged for other colors or a longer shoulder strap, ensures real momentum.

At 4.73 inches high, 10.42 inches wide, and 4.13 inches deep, the Max’s chassis is noticeably larger and beefier than the Flex’s, but it’s far from oversized. When I first started making music, I was quickly impressed by the remarkably wide soundstage it can produce. This is one of those speakers that when you close your eyes, your brain is convinced that sounds are coming from far outside the device’s physical footprint. And the bass has a lot of punch. Some people may find the default EQ a bit bright, but you have full control over that balance in Bose’s mobile app.

The Max performs best indoors, where Bose processing can count on walls and reflected sound waves. Outdoors, in wide open spaces, the audio reproduction feels less “maximum” but is still above average for this size – especially if you boost the bass EQ. In addition to the usual AAC and SBC Bluetooth codes, the Max also supports AptX Adaptive for higher bitrate audio from Android devices. Bose puts the battery life at up to 20 hours, which I found to be accurate based on my previous listening at moderate volumes.

The SoundLink Max is dust and waterproof to IP67, meaning it can easily be submerged under water for short periods of time.

The speaker has an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance. It even floats if you accidentally drop it in a pool. However, since the rear ports are left uncovered and exposed to the elements, you should let the Max dry and sit for a while before plugging it in. The silicone that covers the sides and back is durable, but the downside is that it is a dust and lint magnet. (At least it’s easy to clean.)

The Max’s metallic front grille can pick up scratches more easily than I’d like. My camera lens hit it and suddenly the powder coating left a tiny permanent scar. That blue looks nice enough, but I wish Bose would offer a paint-free silver version that would hide such blemishes in the long run – especially for a speaker that’s otherwise pretty sturdy.

The controls are as simple as they can be.

They love to see an aux input.

Then there’s the $399 price tag. The SoundLink Max is in no man’s land. It’s more expensive than the competition from JBL, Anker/Soundcore and others – and that’s not it much cheaper than far “smarter” options like the Sonos Move 2. Bose’s speaker doesn’t have any significant Wi-Fi connectivity, so you run the risk of notification sounds (or calls) interrupting your music. There is also no hands-free function that the Flex offers does contain. Raise the price a bit and you enter much larger speaker territory, with popular options like JBL’s Boombox 3 and Sony’s new Ult Field 7 performing better outdoors. Even Bose’s esteemed workmanship is no match for the larger drivers and their more powerful sound when you really turn up the volume.

It’s larger and heavier than the SoundLink Flex, but still compact enough to fit in a bike basket.

Bose offers several bonus features to justify the premium price. The Max supports multipoint Bluetooth, allowing two devices to be paired at the same time. There is a 3.5mm aux input for external audio sources and the USB-C port used to charge the speaker can also power mobile devices. Now we’re at the point where I wish the USB-C port could double as an audio input. As it was, every time I plugged in my phone I had to grab a headphone jack adapter from my bag to enable lossless playback. I’m just happy to have any kind of line-in. Later this year, you’ll be able to pair the Max stereo with another device or group it with Bose’s other speakers.

Unlike the Flex, the Max delivers true stereo sound.

At the end of the day, the SoundLink Max will attract the same people who have always bought Bose speakers. If you want to treat yourself to a very simple, stylish and great sounding speaker, this is the one for you. But the Bose tax and $399 price tag will inevitably give others pause – understandably. I’m already planning on carrying this thing around a lot in the coming months, but it’s a luxury purchase through and through.

Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge

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