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Bose SoundLink Max

The ‘SoundLink’ concept has served Bose pretty well - so it’s no surprise the company has decided the range has room for a bigger, more expensive model. Called, with admirable straightforwardness, ‘SoundLink Max’, it’s a rugged and robust device with the sort of weather-resistance rating (IP67, in fact, so it can withstand all types of dust and survive in water for 30 minutes at a depth of one metre) that strongly suggests it’s capable of surviving as much of the Great Outdoors as you fancy subjecting it too.

It’s strictly a wireless Bluetooth speaker - there's none of your fancy-pants wi-fi capability or smart-speaker interaction here. It uses Bluetooth 5.3 for connectivity, and is compatible with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs. There’s a USB-C socket on the rear for charging the battery - it’s good for 20 hours or so of playback, and charges from ‘flat’ to ‘full’ in five hours (which feels like ‘an eternity' when you’re in a hurry). The USB-C slot can also be used as an output, though, so if your smartphone is threatening to go flat in the middle of the party, the SoundLink Max can come to your rescue. 

There’s also a 3.5mm analogue input next to the USB-C, so an auxiliary source of music can be plugged in if you so desire.

Getting the sound out is the responsibility of three transducers (two of 89mm and one of 23mm) arranged across the front of the speaker, supported by a couple of 104x79mm ‘racetrack’ balanced mode radiators - they fire out from either end of the speaker from behind the perforated aluminium grille. The driver array is powered by Class D amplification. Bose does not supply details of available power or a frequency response figure - so I’m going to go ahead and assume the specification is adequate in each of these respects.

As well as providing stand-alone sound, the SoundLink Max features Bose’s ‘SimpleSync’ technology. So, if you own other, appropriately specified, Bose speakers or soundbars, theSoundLink Max can easily and reliably connect to them to form a rudimentary-but-effective multiroom system.  

Sound quality

Bose isn’t the first company to have prioritised low-frequency punch and presence when designing a wireless speaker. Unlike a lot of brands, though, it hasn’t lost sight of the fact that the speaker in question needs to be able to handle other areas of the frequency range, too. 

So yes, the SoundLink Max is punchy to an almost unlikely degree, able to crank out the low-frequency stuff as if its life depended on it. But it’s no mindless thumper - the bass information is properly controlled, steers well clear of the midrange and has plenty of variation - both tonal and textural. The leading edge of low-end sounds is described with straight-edged alacrity, and then does the decent thing rather than hanging around and dragging at rhythms and tempos.

The midrange, meanwhile, is left unmolested to get on with doing its thing. And ‘its thing’ turns out to be a spacious, informative and quite deft rendition, especially where vocalists are concerned. There’s plenty of flavour and character to the way the SoundLink Max presents a vocalist, and plenty of space on the well-defined and fairly open soundstage for it to do so.

At the top of the frequency range the Bose summons some properly supervised bite and shine to treble sounds, but with enough substance to prevent them becoming edgy or splashy. And that’s the case even if you decide to listen at high volume - and rest assured, if there’s one thing the SoundLink Max is capable of, it’s high volume.

Integration of the frequency range is pretty smooth, and the tonal balance is nicely consistent. There’s reasonable dynamic headroom available too, should it be required - although it’s worth noting that even when it’s playing at very modest levels, the Bose somehow contrives to sound loud. So, the shift from ‘actually quiet’ to ‘authentically loud’ isn’t, perhaps, as pronounced as it might be.

The same can be said for stereo separation - there isn’t a great deal of it. Perhaps it’s self-evident that a relatively small box, the front face of which is filled with speaker drivers, can’t deliver much by way of two-channel separation - yet Bose seems to think it can. I guess we will have to agree to differ on that point.

The only other area in which the SoundLink Max might be considered lacking is detail retrieval. To put it bluntly, it’s not great at it - the broad strokes, the more obvious details in a recording are all present and correct, but quite often the minor, more fleeting details can go astray. The Bose is far from alone where products of this type are concerned in being unable to grasp the most transient aspects of a recording - but it’s worth bearing in mind. Having said that, though, in the context of everything the SoundLink Max gets right, it’s far less of an issue than it otherwise might be.

Living with

At 2.13kg and 120x265x105mm (HxWxD), the SoundLink Max is certainly ‘max’ by portable speaker standards. The rope-and-silicone carry-handle takes a fair amount of the strain, though, so it doesn’t feel that heavy in the hand - and the handle can be easily detached, if you fancy swapping it for the shoulder-strap alternative (and if you have the £45 needed to acquire one). Both the speaker and the shoulder-strap are available in either ‘black’ or ‘blue dusk’ finishes.

The carry-handle, for some reason, can also be had in ‘hyper citron’ (yellow-y green), ‘apricot’ (apricot), ‘chilled lilac’ (lilac) or ‘carbon blue’ (darker blue than ‘blue dusk’) if you fancy jazzing things up a little, and have the spare £25 necessary to buy one.

All control options are well implemented. On the top of the casework are ‘power on/off’, ‘Bluetooth pairing’, ‘volume up/down’ and ‘play/pause’ long-travel buttons that are nice and positive in their action, along with a ‘shortcut’ button.

It’s in the Bose control app (free for iOS and Android) that you can decide what you’d like your ‘shortcut’ to be - choose between ‘aux in’ and ‘resume Spotify’. The app also has some EQ adjustment and a few presets to choose from, volume control, connection management (there’s multipoint connectivity available here), voice-prompt adjustment, access to updates and what-have-you. It’s a clean, stable app that hasn’t had any meaningful updates in quite a while now - because it demonstrably doesn’t need any.   


If you want big, bold and upfront sound in every circumstance, and you want it for hours at a time from a speaker that isn’t going to fall to pieces even if you treat it carelessly every now and then, Bose has a (relatively pricey) solution for you. 

Listening notes

Eric Bibb Where the Green Grass Grows
In which the Bose demonstrates lovely tonal balance, a degree of stereo separation and a knack for midrange communication that’s by no means a given in products of this type. It gets closer to ‘hi-fi’ sound than the majority of price-comparable rivals - and quite a few more expensive alternatives too.

Squarepusher Come On My Selector 

Proof that the SoundLink Max is not only a profoundly bass-y listen but is capable of controlling its low-frequency activity really well comes courtesy of this madly hectic slice of late-90s drum’n’bass’n’nosebleed. This could well be what a migraine sounds like, and the Bose puts you right in the centre of it.

Sparks I Can’t Believe That You Would Fall for All the Crap in This Song

A rolling rhythm like this one requires control and positivity - and the Bose has plenty. It’s also poised and convincing where the squelching analogue production is concerned, and handles the numerous changes in tempo and tone with real confidence.    

What the press say

Why you should buy it

You buy a Bose SoundLink Max because you want a speaker with sound that’s as burly as its build quality, and that can accompany you pretty much anywhere and keep you entertained for hours on end while you’re there. And, perhaps, because you don’t trust yourself to not drop your wireless speaker every now and then… 

Video review

Pair it with

Alternatives to consider

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