Bose SoundLink Max Review: Impressive Sound and Design, but It's Pricey (2024)


  • Excellent sound for a relatively compact speaker
  • Premium design with replaceable rope handle
  • Fully waterproof, dust-proof and shock-resistant
  • Up to 20 hours of battery life
  • USB-C port also charges out


  • Pricey
  • No speakerphone capabilities

When I first heard about the SoundLink Max, I was a little surprised Bose would put out a $399 Bluetooth speaker after the $149SoundLink Flex speaker did so well. The Flex was so successful because it not only sounds good for its compact size but it doesn't cost that much -- at least not for a Bose product. Not surprisingly, the Max also sounds impressive for its size and has a premium design. But its high price tag will cause some people to shy away from it.

Read more:Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2024

Bose SoundLink Max design

At first glance, you might think the Max, available in blue dusk or black, is only about twice as big as the Flex. But in terms of overall volume, it's actually three to four times its size.

The Max weighs 4.9 pounds (2.2 kilograms). By comparison, the SoundLink Flex weighs a scant 1.3 pounds (0.6 kilograms), so the SoundLink Max is considerably bigger and heftier.

Bose SoundLink Max Review: Impressive Sound and Design, but It's Pricey (2)

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

Like the Flex, the Max has a premium look and feel with a powder-coated, silicone-wrapped steel body (the silicone finish attracts some dust, which will likely show more on the black version of the speaker). It's got a bit of a purse vibe -- or at least that's what some of my colleagues in the office thought -- and it's designed to withstand bumps and drops.

It should survive a drop of 3 to 4 feet and maybe higher. And while Bose sent me a video showing the speaker falling on some concrete blocks, I'd still avoid dropping it on pavement because it looks so nice you wouldn't want it to get dinged up. Bose says its finish won't peel or flake and the speaker is resistant to corrosion and UV light.

Bose SoundLink Max Review: Impressive Sound and Design, but It's Pricey (3)

The Max has an IP67 rating, which makes it dust-proof and fully waterproof (I had it out in the rain for a while and fully submerged it in a sink). If the speaker gets 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 USB-C port on the back before charging the speaker with the included 15-watt power adapter.

It takes about 5 hours to fully charge the speaker with that power adapter, and battery life is rated up to 20 hours at 65% volume, which is good. But that number drops to only 3 hours if you crank the volume up to max levels, so you'll probably want to plug it in if you're having a dance party.

Overall, this is an exceedingly well-designed portable speaker that's essentially a mini boom box 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 offour optional color handle accessories. A ropeshoulder strap is also available for $45.

Bose SoundLink Max features

The speaker isn't exactly loaded with features. There's no built-in microphone, so you can't use it as a speakerphone, which would have been a good extra at its price. And at launch, you can't wirelessly link two of these speakers together to make a stereo pair or party up with a Flex. However, Bose reps told me the linking feature is coming later this year with a firmware upgrade.

On the plus side, the USB-C port is both charge-in and charge-out, so you can use the speaker to top off the battery on your phone or another device. There's also an auxiliary-in port if you want to connect an audio device like a turntable or MP3 player with a 3.5 audio cable.

Bose SoundLink Max Review: Impressive Sound and Design, but It's Pricey (4)

The Flex is equipped with the older Bluetooth 4.2, which is disappointing. But Bose avoids that controversy here by using Bluetooth 5.3 for the Max. Like Bose's latest headphones and earbuds, the speaker supports the SBC and ACC audio codecs and Qualcomm's aptX Adaptive codec, which works with some Android devices.

The Bose companion app for iOS and Android (formerly called Bose Music) has some equalizer settings you can play around with to adjust the bass, midrange and treble (I mainly stuck with the default sound profile). You can also program the shortcut button on the top speaker, choosing from two options: Spotify Tap, which allows you to jump right into a Spotify playlist, or "audio line-in," which switches the audio source to the aux-in port.

You can also set the speaker to turn off after a set amount of time if it's not being used. Options start at as little as 5 minutes and go up to 3 hours (or you can set it to never turn off when not in use).

Bose SoundLink Max sound quality

The sound quality is what makes this speaker special. I didn't crack the speaker open, but Bose says it has an articulated array with three transducers across the front, which delivers a "spacious stereo experience." There are also two passive radiators to enhance bass performance and some fancy digital processing to reduce distortion. I can't say it totally eliminates distortion, particularly at high volumes with less well-recorded tracks, but the speaker holds together well.

The result is an impressive sound for the speaker's size. It's always tricky to get any decent stereo separation from a compact Bluetooth speaker because the drivers are so close together. But Bose has done a good job creating a wider soundstage than you'd expect with the Max, giving the sound more depth and openness.

Bose SoundLink Max Review: Impressive Sound and Design, but It's Pricey (5)

The SoundLink Max offers a more stereo experience than many Bluetooth speakers that claim to be stereo speakers, but it's still not quite the same as listening to a pair of separate speakers.

How does that sound compare to the Flex? The Max is another league -- both in terms of volume and bass performance. I don't know if it sounds three to four times as good as the Flex, but it certainly sounds well beyond twice as good.

The Max would make for a good beach or pool speaker, especially with its added durability. That said, it does sound different when you're out in an open area as the sound -- and bass in particular -- has nothing to reflect off. (If I were going to boost the bass in the equalizer, I'd be more likely to do it when using the speaker outdoors.) But the Max will also fill a small- to medium-sized room with sound while taking up very little space. I imagine it'll find a spot in many dorm rooms and even small apartment living rooms.

I compared the Max to a few other speakers, including the UE EpicBoom, which retails for $299, and the Soundcore by Anker Boom 2, priced around $130. I like the sound from both of those speakers, but the Max is superior. Compared to the UE Epic Boom, the Max sounded clearer and more natural, with better bass definition and a slightly wider soundstage.

Bose SoundLink Max Review: Impressive Sound and Design, but It's Pricey (6)

The Max's soundstage was also wider than the much cheaper Soundcore Boom 2's. The Max was also more accurate and natural sounding. Still, the Boom 2's sound quality is very impressive for the price if you can stretch your budget. The bass may not be quite as well defined as the Bose's, but it's got a similar kick to it. The Boom 2 is clearly the better value, even if the speaker itself isn't as sleek or compact as the Bose. And it does have some lighting effects for those who appreciate that sort of thing.

Bose SoundLink Max final thoughts

Aside from its high price, there really isn't much to complain about here. Yeah, I wish the Max had speakerphone functionality. And it would be nice if, at launch, you could stereo pair it with another Max or wirelessly link it to a Flex (or multiple Max speakers) in party mode.

Bigger speakers like Sony's ULT Field 7 and JBL's Boombox 3, both of which list for $500, can produce a 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 Soundcore by Anker Boom 2 is a good option for much less money. The Flex is an excellent little speaker that many people will prefer: It's much smaller and lighter but still manages to produce good sound.

Or, you could wait for the Max to go on sale. Like the Flex, I expect we'll see it discounted later in the year by 15 to 20%, bringing its price down to $349 or less. It's an excellent portable Bluetooth speaker, maybe the best-sounding for its size, but the Flex's affordable price has spoiled me.

Bose SoundLink Max Review: Impressive Sound and Design, but It's Pricey (2024)


Is Bose more expensive than JBL? ›

The Bose speaker costs $63 more then the JBL Charge2+ which is 45% more. So please take this in mind.

How do I make my Bose Soundlink sound better? ›

Adjusting the tone controls on your product
  1. In the Bose app, select Settings.
  2. Under SOUND, select Equalizer.
  3. Use the + or – buttons to adjust the bass, mids or treble levels in increments of 1 (from -10 to 10)
  4. You can also tap the number to scroll to a selection.

Why do my Bose speakers sound muffled? ›

Check the equalizer settings in the Bose app. Be sure the bass and treble adjustments are not set too high or too low for your preferences. For more info, see Using the Equalizer settings . Reset your product.

Is Bose the best sound system? ›

Bose makes well-built and neutral-sounding soundbars. They tend to be very straightforward, and some setups are easily upgradable. However, due to their simple design, they don't have as many sound enhancement features as other brands and lack HDMI-in ports.

Why is Bose speaker so expensive? ›

For all of the speakers they manufacture, they use custom drivers they've designed in-house. They're always heavily customized and unique. At the same time, I've also broken open dozens of JBL speaker systems only to find generic speaker drivers from Chinese suppliers.

What's better, Bose SoundLink or JBL? ›

The Bose SoundLink Flex is more versatile than the JBL Flip 6. The Bose supports voice assistants through your smartphone and is excellent at hearing your commands from far and in noisier settings. It can also produce a more extended low-bass than the JBL.

Why is Bose SoundLink so quiet? ›

Check the EQ settings on your Bluetooth® device.

On the device, try setting the EQ to "off" or "flat" and disabling any other sound playback adjustments (i.e. loudness, compression, reverb, etc.). These settings are commonly found in the device's audio settings or in the settings of the app being used to play audio.

How long should a Bose SoundLink last? ›

When fully charged, the battery typically provides about 10 hours of playing time at a moderate volume levels.

How do I increase the bass on my Bose SoundLink? ›

To increase or decrease the amount of bass or treble produced by your soundbar:
  1. In the Bose app, tap the Audio button. If a different product is shown, tap the My Bose icon. ...
  2. Under the Soundbar section, tap the + or – buttons to adjust the bass or treble levels in increments of 10 (from -100 to 100).

How can I improve my Bose sound quality? ›

Poor sound quality from product
  1. Determine if the problem is specifically related to bass performance. ...
  2. Check to see if Dialogue Mode is on or off. ...
  3. Turn up the volume of the connected device. ...
  4. Reset your product. ...
  5. Reboot the Bluetooth® device. ...
  6. Try connecting a different audio device. ...
  7. Check for sources of interference.

Why does my Bose speaker sound tinny? ›

Check for sources of interference.

Try disconnecting the power cord from any such nearby electronics (i.e. laptop/phone charger, TV, cable box, seasonal lights, microwave, etc.). If the issue is resolved, try connecting the device or your product to a different power circuit or farther away.

How do I make my Bose louder? ›

To resolve this, press the Volume + button on the headphones to increase the volume. Note: If the headphones are powered off or the battery is depleted, the headphone's volume control is disabled. Use the connected device's volume instead.

Why did Bose go out of business? ›

The company announced the decision earlier today and pointed to the fact that its headphones, speakers, and other products “are increasingly purchased through e-commerce” as the reasoning. Hundreds of employees will be laid off as a result.

Is Bose high end audio? ›

In some non-audio related publications, Bose has been cited as a producer of "high-end audio" products.

Who is Bose biggest competitor? ›

Top 10 Bose competitors
  • Marshall Group.
  • Silentium.
  • Sonos.
  • Vinci.
  • Harman International Industries.
  • Vigo.
  • Dolby Laboratories.
  • Logitech.

Is JBL a high end brand? ›

Five prestigious brands – JBL Synthesis, Mark Levinson, Revel, Lexicon and Arcam - come together to offer the most advanced high-performance audio systems available.

Why is JBL more expensive? ›

More expensive JBL models have a few more features than their cheaper siblings. and, generally speaking, the more you pay, the bigger the longer the battery life and the better the sound.

Which is more expensive Bose or Sonos? ›

However, Bose offers plenty of other products in addition to soundbars and home speakers, so Bose gives you more options. Both brands deliver when it comes to audio quality. Sonos products are a little pricier, but many customers love them for their durability and functionality.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Geoffrey Lueilwitz

Last Updated:

Views: 6105

Rating: 5 / 5 (80 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Geoffrey Lueilwitz

Birthday: 1997-03-23

Address: 74183 Thomas Course, Port Micheal, OK 55446-1529

Phone: +13408645881558

Job: Global Representative

Hobby: Sailing, Vehicle restoration, Rowing, Ghost hunting, Scrapbooking, Rugby, Board sports

Introduction: My name is Geoffrey Lueilwitz, I am a zealous, encouraging, sparkling, enchanting, graceful, faithful, nice person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.