Bose SoundLink Max review: A sleek Bluetooth speaker with plenty of boom and 20-hour playback

Bose's SoundLink Max speaker looks and sounds great, but it's not cheap

Bose SoundLink Max hero image
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

A great addition to Bose's Bluetooth speaker line up, the SoundLink Max delivers expansive stereo sound, a 20-hour battery life and is one of the most practical portable speakers for life on the move.

Pros

  • +

    Big sound with a wide soundstage

  • +

    Good midrange clarity with vocals

  • +

    Portable with sturdy carry handle

  • +

    20-hour battery life

Cons

  • -

    Sound hardens up at higher volumes

  • -

    Full battery top-ups take up to 5 hours

  • -

    Price feels high compared to rivals

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Bose SoundLink Max: Specs

Price: $399 / £399 / AU$599
Colors: Black, blue dusk
Size: 4.7 x 10.4 x 4.1 inches (HxWxD)
Weight: 4.9 pounds
Battery life (rated): 20 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.4 with SBC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive
Durability: IP67

With a wide range of models to satisfy all kinds of activities and budgets, Bose is one of the go-to names when considering the best Bluetooth speakers. The Bose SoundLink Max is the audio specialist's newest design in its portable speaker lineup and, as its name suggests, is a larger version of the Bose SoundLink Flex speaker. 

Like its biggest rival, the Ultimate Ears Epicboom from last year, the Bose SoundLink Max aims to shake up the category with powerful stereo sound in a rugged, portable design with long battery life. For its $399 price, you might expect similar features like Wi-Fi connectivity smarts and Auto Trueplay tuning of the go-anywhere Sonos Move 2 ($449). That's not the case though, and the Bose SoundLink Max majors on practical portable stereo sound with big bass. 

The other thing it has going for it is an IP67 rating for durability, which means it's suitable for outdoor activities to match the Ultimate Ears Epicboom. Battery life runs up to 20 hours and it has an integrated rope handle that makes its carry-anywhere credentials more practical than either the Sonos or the Ultimate Ears speaker designs. What's more, the carry handle is removable and can be swapped for alternative color options (at extra cost) to allow owners to customize the speaker's look to individual tastes. 

Could the Bose SoundLink Max be a top contender for the best outdoor speakers? Keep scrolling to find out in my full review.

Recent updates

Update June 6, 2024: Added information about pairing SoundLink Max speaker in stereo and Party modes, and additional information about battery recharges on the U.K. version.

Bose SoundLink Max on a kitchen table

(Image credit: Future)

Bose SoundLink Max review: Cheat sheet

  • Stereo sound via three speaker array with two passive bass radiators    
  • Bluetooth 5.4 with SBC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive
  • IP67 rated for protection against water, dust, corrosion, and shocks 
  • Google Fast pair support
  • Aux input and Spotify Tap compatible

Bose SoundLink Max review: Price & availability

Bose SoundLink Max packaging

(Image credit: Future)
  • Priced at $399 / £399 / AU$599 
  • On sale from June 2
  • Available in black and dusk blue color options  

The Bose SoundLink Max is priced at $399 / £399 / AU$599. It's on sale now in the U.S. through the Bose website and online retailers including Amazon and Best Buy. The Bose SoundLink Max goes on sale in the U.K. and Australia from June 2.  

At the price, the Bose SoundLink Max is more expensive than the Ultimate Ears Epicboom ($349), and costs $50 less than the Sonos Move 2 ($449).

Unlike the company's smaller SoundLink Flex sibling that comes in five color options, the Max version is only available in black and dusk blue.  

Bose SoundLink Max review: Design & features

Bose SoundLink Max being held by carry handle above kitchen table

(Image credit: Future)
  • Strong durability rating with useful moisture detection system
  • Useful physical controls on speaker and robust Bose control app

The SoundLink Max measures 4.7 x 10.4 x 4.1 inches (HxWxD) and weighs just under five pounds. Its powder-coated, silicone-wrapped steel cabinet protects from everyday bumps and scuffs and claims to be resistant to corrosion and UV light. Of the two available color options, I like the dusk blue version, but the black model provided for this review also looks stylish but in a more understated way. 

The SoundLink Max has an integrated, removable rope handle so it’s easy to carry around. Optional rope handles and shoulder straps are also available to personalize the speaker to your style and travel needs.

The speaker's IP67 durability is one of the strongest around, meaning it's protected from moisture and dirt ingress, as well as shocks. What's more, is that the speaker has a moisture detect indicator that Bose says will blink to let you know that it's too wet to connect to power. That's pretty neat, and although I didn't test this facility out, Bose says that the battery light will blink amber and white when too much moisture is detected. Users should wait for the speaker to dry out and the light to stop blinking before connecting it to a power outlet.

On top of the speaker, physical controls run to Bluetooth connectivity with support for multipoint connections (you need to activate this on the Bose app), an assignable shortcut button that switches the source input to either aux mode or Spotify, as well as volume up/down controls, and a play button. All controls worked well and had good tactile feedback.    

Bose has dropped the Bose Music naming for its control app, and the latest app simply called Bose runs at version 10.0.1 for iOS and 10.0.0 for Android playback devices. The Bose app is nicely laid out and enables users to control playback and volume, adjust EQ, as well as see the remaining battery capacity. It provided reliable pairing to both my iOS iPhone 12 Pro and Sony Xperia 1 IV via Google Fast Pair for Android devices and gave robust control of the SoundLink Max during my testing.

Two SoundLink Max speakers can be paired in stereo, where one speaker becomes the left channel and the other is the right channel. Or users can simultaneously play from two compatible speakers by using Party mode to play both speakers in unison. Bose isn't clear about how many SoundLink speakers can be linked together over Bluetooth in Party mode.

Bose SoundLink Max review: Sound quality

Bose SoundLink Max side profile showing speaker grille

(Image credit: Future)
  • Balanced sound with strong midrange clarity that works well with vocals
  • No outdoor boost mode to improve sound performance in open space

In terms of its audio capabilities, Bose doesn't mention the power output of the SoundLink Max, but the three speaker, forward-firing array with passive bass radiators projects sound forwards with gusto. It delivers a wider soundstage than the Sonos Move 2 and has an expansive sound that delivers an immersive stereo experience.

Bass levels are well judged straight from the box but I found I preferred the bass frequencies set to level 5 during my testing. This higher level helped to increase low-frequency power with "Si Te Porta Bonito" by Sofia Kourtesis — one of the my favorite Dolby Atmos tracks streamed via Tidal. Its Ibiza sunset vibe was beefed up in scale on the Bose SoundLink Max, and created a soundscape that stretched beyond the confines of the compact speaker cabinet, and the Bose's bass output didn't miss a beat.

Bose SoundLink Max held by carry handle outside

(Image credit: Future)

Similarly, old-school classics like "The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis & The News had a performance that sounded better than I remember it, with the Bose seeming to upscaling the vocal and guitar solo with greater clarity.

Mid-frequencies certainly feel boosted and more forward sounding than I am used to, and some musical elements could occasionally sound hard and a bit forced when compared to the more relaxed and laidback-sounding Sonos Move 2. On the whole though I love the extra clarity the Bose SoundLink Max managed to bring, and has a remarkably engaging sound that many will love.

Although it performed well on my travels trying the speaker out in different locations outside, there's no outdoor boost mode to improve the SoundLink Max's audio performance in open space where there are no boundary walls to reflect sound and augment low frequencies. The volume level reached a reasonable level before hardening up though, and went well beyond sociably acceptable levels for any nearby neighbors. 

Bose SoundLink Max review: Battery life

Bose SoundLink Max show connectivity on rear panel

(Image credit: Future)
  • Up to 20 hours of battery life
  • Recharges take up to 5 hours via USB-C

Battery life for the Bose SoundLink Max runs to 20 hours. That's 3 hours more than the Ultimate Ears Epicboom and 4 hours less the the Sonos Move 2. Although I haven't managed to deplete the battery in the short time I've had my review sample, the battery has maintained a full charge for the several hours I've been testing it. When the time does come for a top-up though, complete recharges are said to take around 5 hours via USB-C port using the original charging cable and a 3A/15W charger. It's important to mention that a charger isn't supplied with U.K. models. That feels like a long time, and it's important to ensure you using the  Mobile phones can be topped up via the USB-C port. Battery life is displayed as a percentage on the Bose app.

Bose SoundLink Max review: Verdict

The Bose SoundLink Max is the latest addition to the growing outdoor speaker market designed with strong in-the-house and out-of-the-house functionality. The Bose isn't as versatile as the Sonos Move 2, but I'd argue that it's a more practical portable speaker for life on the move, while the smart build and immersive stereo sound help justify the high cost.

Moving the speaker around by the carry handle felt entirely practical. Although it's not exactly light enough to throw into a day sack like the new Sony ULT Field 1 or Sonos Roam 2, the Bose's more compact size than near price rivals makes it a more practical option for trip to the yard or longer travels away from home. 

Ultimately, this is a great addition to the Bose portable speaker family and comes highly recommended. 

Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.