Google's $399 Home Max smart speaker focuses on audio quality

It uses AI-powered Smart Sound to tune audio for your environment.

At today's Made by Google event, the company has introduced a buffed up version of its Home assistant device called the Google Home Max. This version of the speaker uses premium materials and improved speakers (dual 4.5-inch high-excursion woofers, two custom tweeters), putting it in position to compete with products like those from Sonos (like the upcoming Sonos One that also has Assistant built-in) or Apple's upcoming HomePod.

Available in December for $399, it uses AI-powered Smart Sound (running on a quad-core CPU) to tune the audio for whatever room it's in. One example Google gave is that if it's positioned near a wall or in a corner, it will adjust to reduce excess bass response -- hopefully those of us who like excess bass can tweak that in the settings -- and says it will continue to get smarter over time. It's also smart enough to recognize the "Ok Google" command even while it's playing music loudly, turns down the volume in the morning, and can get louder when the environment is noisy. If you purchase two, they can pair up with left and right channel separation.

Google Play Music and YouTube (12 months of YouTube Music access is included) support is a given, but others like Spotify, Pandora, Netflix and others are also listed as partners. Beyond Bluetooth, WiFi and USB-C it also has a line-in so you can BYO audio source. We'll need some listening time to see how it measures up to the rest in audio quality, where it appears Google is trying to make up for engineering with its machine learning prowess.

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