Bose SoundLink Max Review: How Does It Compare to the Cheaper SoundLink Flex?
Bose SoundLink Max Review: How Does It Compare to the Cheaper SoundLink Flex?
10:50

Bose SoundLink Max Review: How Does It Compare to the Cheaper SoundLink Flex?

Tech
Speaker 1: Hey there folks. This is the SoundLink Max B'S new flagship portable Bluetooth speaker. Not surprisingly, it sounds excellent for its size, but here's the thing, it costs $399. That ain't cheap. So let's dive right in the review to help you figure out whether it's worth its high price tag or not, and stick around for a fun little sound test I did with a few of my CNET colleagues here in our New York office. Okay, so truth be told, when I first heard [00:00:30] about the SoundLink Max, I was a little surprised to hear that Bose was putting out a $399 Bluetooth speaker after it had done so well with its earlier SoundLink Flex. The reason the flex was so successful was that because it not only sounded great for its compact size, but it didn't cost that much, at least not for Bose product. The flex list for 1 49 but regularly goes on sale for 20 to $30 less. Speaker 1: Now at first glance, you might think the max is only about twice as big as the flex, but it's actually more like three to four times [00:01:00] its size. The max weighs in at 4.89 pounds or 2.2 kilograms. By comparison, the SoundLink flex weighs 1.3 pounds or 0.59 kilograms, so the SoundLink max is considerably bigger and heftier. Yeah, it's definitely easy enough to carry around, but it's certainly got some heft to it does feel like it's close to five pounds. Nice powder finish. Got some grip to the finish here and the handle has some nice grip to it. [00:01:30] Definitely has some heft to it. Like the flex, the max does have a premium look and feel with a powder coated silicone wrapped steel body. It's got a little bit of a purse vibe to it, or at least that's what some of my colleagues in this office thought. Speaker 1: And it's designed to withstand bumps and drops. I think it would survive a drop of three to four feet and maybe higher just fine, but I'd avoid dropping it on pavement because it looks so nice. You wouldn't want it to get dinged up. Beau says its finish won't peel or flake, and the speaker [00:02:00] is resistant to corrosion and UV light. Max has an IP 67 rating, which makes it dustproof and fully waterproof. That's it. If the speaker does get too wet, the battery light will blink amber and white and you're supposed to dry the speaker off and make sure there's no water in the USBC for it before charging it. And it does come with a 15 watt power adapter, at least in most countries, the US it does, and it takes about five hours to fully charge the speaker with that adapter. And battery life [00:02:30] is rated up to 20 hours. It's 65% volume, which is good, but the number drops to only three hours. If you crank the volume up to max levels, Speaker 1: The USBC port is both charge in and charge out, so you can use the speaker to charge your smartphone or another device, however, you can't plug in a device and listen to audio through the USBC connector that you have to do via the auxiliary import. If you want to connect an audio device like a CD [00:03:00] player or an MP three player with a 3.5 millimeter audio cable, remember those things. Overall, this is a very well-designed portable speaker that's essentially a mini boombox thanks to its rope handle. What's kind of cool is that if you're willing to shell out another $25, you can swap in one of four optional color handle accessories. A rope shoulder strap is also available for $45. The speaker isn't exactly loaded with features. For instance, there's no built-in microphone, so you can't use it as a speakerphone, [00:03:30] which would've been good. Speaker 1: Also at launch, you can't wirelessly link two of these speakers together to make a stereo pair or party up with a flex speaker. However, Bose reps did tell me the linking feature is coming later this year with a firmware upgrade. Some people didn't like that the flex was equipped with the older Bluetooth 4.2, but Bose has avoided any controversy here by going with Bluetooth 5.3 for the max, like Bose's latest headphones and earbuds. The speaker supports the SBC and a C audio codex along with Qualcomm's [00:04:00] Appdex adaptive Codec that works with some Android devices. So onto the sound quality, which is ultimately what makes the speaker special. I didn't crack open the speaker, but Bose says it has an articulated array with three transducers across. They're from the speaker that delivers a spacious stereo experience. There are also two passive radiators to enhance base performance and some fancy digital processing to reduce distortion. Speaker 1: I can't say it totally eliminates distortion, particularly [00:04:30] at high volumes with less well-recorded tracks, but the speaker mostly holds up together quite well. There are some equalizer settings in the app to tweak the base mid-range and trouble, but I'm mostly stuck with a default setting. Like I said, the speaker sounds quite impressive for its size. It's always tricky to get any sort of decent stereo separation from a very compact Bluetooth speaker because the drivers are so close together, but Bose has done a good job creating a wider sound stage than you'd expect with the max. Giving [00:05:00] the sound more depth and openness, it does offer more of a stereo experience than many Bluetooth speakers that claim to be stereo speakers. However, it's still not quite the same as listening to a pair of its separate speakers. As far as how it sound compares to the flexes sound, the max is in another league, both in terms of volume and base performance. Speaker 1: I dunno if it sounds three to four times as good as the Flex, but it certainly sounds twice as good and probably a bit more than that the max would make for a good beach or pool speaker, but [00:05:30] it would also fill a small to medium sized room with sound while taking up very little space. I imagine it'll find a spot in a lot of dorm rooms. I compared the max to a few other speakers, including the UE Epic boom, which retails for 2 99 and the Sound Core by Anchor boom two, which cost around $130. I like both those speakers, but the max did sound superior compared to the UI Epic boom. The max sounded a little clearer and more natural with better base definition. The Max's sound stage was also [00:06:00] wider than that of the much cheaper sound core boom two and the max was also more accurate and natural sounding. Speaker 1: That said, the Boom two sound quality is very impressive for the price. The base may not be quite as well defined as the bs, but it's got similar kick to it and the boom two is clearly the better value, even if the speaker itself isn't as sleek looking as the bows and it does have some lighting effects for those who appreciate that sort of thing. I've talked about how a speaker like this and even the smaller SoundLink Flex sound a lot bigger [00:06:30] than their size would indicate. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to see if some of my colleagues could guess how big the speaker was in a blind sound test, and I also wanted to ask them about the price. Speaker 2: Is this all one speaker? Speaker 3: Yeah. [00:07:00] So did you get a sense of, what Speaker 1: Were you feeling on how big a speaker this would be? Speaker 4: I wouldn't say it's like surround sound, but it sounded really, really loud. So maybe this big. Speaker 5: I feel like the speaker that I just heard is kind of maybe in that sort of size, it just feels like it had too much base to be just a simple [00:07:30] portable speaker. Speaker 6: I think the size of a cantaloupe, like a nine inch cube thing, Speaker 2: It sounded like a big speaker, but then I don't know how close it was to me. So maybe something about this size, maybe something like a EY mega boom size. Speaker 7: It's got to be smallish. Maybe this feels like the type of speaker you bring to the beach, right? So it's probably, [00:08:00] I don't know, ball sized is what I would say. Speaker 4: Oh, that's a lot smaller than I was expecting Speaker 5: That. Holy crap. Yeah, no, I thought it was much bigger. No, and it doesn't surprise me that that's the brand that sounds like that, so that's fine. Cute. Speaker 6: Alright, that's the speaker. That's the cantaloupe sized speaker? Yeah. Speaker 7: [00:08:30] Oh, okay. Not round a Bose. Speaker 2: It's a Bose. Okay. And if it's Bose, it's definitely like 300. Speaker 3: It does cost $399 based on what you heard and what you now see, does that seem overpriced? Speaker 4: If I did listen to music a lot on the beach or something, I might invest in that, [00:09:00] but that would have to be a part of my regular Speaker 5: Life. I can already tell the $200 is way off and I can't wait for you to tell me how much it actually is. 3 9 9, of course it is. Speaker 6: How much is it? Three nine. Nine. Ah, I'll wait for it to go on sale. Yes, Speaker 7: It's 3 99. Oh, wow. Okay. Well, I don't know if I would spend that much on this. Speaker 1: So there you have it. Not all, but most of my colleagues thought [00:09:30] they were listening to a significantly larger speaker. They did think it was a little expensive at 3 99, however, they weren't so shocked by the price when they saw it was a Bose speaker in the final analysis. Aside from its high price, there isn't too much to complain about. Yeah, I'd like it to have speakerphone functionality. I also wish that at launch you could stereo pair it with another max or link it to a flex in party mode. Bigger speakers like Sony's Alt Field seven and JBLs Boombox three that cost [00:10:00] four to $500 can produce bigger sound with bigger bass, but they're much larger speakers that can't fit into a backpack. If you can't afford the SoundLink Max, the slightly larger sound core by anchor boom two is a good option for a lot less money, and the Flex is still an excellent little speaker that many people will prefer simply because it's smaller and lighter and still managed to produce good sound. Alternatively, you could wait for the max to go on sale like the flex. I do think we'll see it discounted [00:10:30] later in the year by 15 to 20% bring its price down to maybe 3 49 or even 3 29. But let me know what you think about the SoundLink Max in the comment section below. And if you found this video in informative at all, hit the button and subscribe to this channel if you haven't already. I'm David Carne for cnet.com. Thanks for watching.

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