Amazon Echo Studio vs. Google Home Max: Battle of the high-end smart speakers

So, you’ve narrowed your smart speaker choices down to the top two high-end models: the Google Home Max that came to market in late 2017, and the Amazon Echo Studio that came two years later. You have good taste, my friend. These are both very fine speakers even if they don’t compete with high-fidelity dumb loudspeakers from the likes of Bowers & Wilkins, Naim, or Bang & Olufsen.

Comparing the Google Home Max and Amazon Echo Studio on seven counts reveals some important differences, and one important similarity, that should help you make up your mind.

Round 1: Audio performance

Even if your sole reason for buying a smart speaker is to control your smart home, you’re still buying a speaker. You’ll still care what your digital assistant of choice sounds like when it responds to your commands and queries even if you never intend to play music on that speaker. That might matter less with an entry-level smart speaker, but when you’re shopping at this level, a smart speaker’s musicality is its most important attribute.

google home max exploded view Google

The Google Home Max features a more traditional speaker design than the Amazon Echo Studio.

And on this score, the Google Home Max is better than any smart speaker on the market. While I wouldn’t classify it as an audiophile product, its dual 4.5-inch high-excursion woofers and two 0.7-inch dome tweeters driven by six Class D amplifiers deliver exciting audio performances with all types of music.

The Amazon Echo Studio comes in a very close second on this score, however, and that’s saying a lot. While its single 5.25-inch woofer is smaller, it delivers only very slightly less bass response. The construction of its enclosure, on the other hand, does little to prevent vibrations from the speaker from being transferred to whatever surface the speaker is resting on, coloring its sound in the process.

amazon echo studio cutawayAmazon

This cutaway illustration shows how the Amazon Echo Studio’s drivers are configured to deliver 3D audio from tracks encoded with Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio.

Amazon is also unique in its support for 3D audio, via Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos. But you’ll need to pony up for a subscription to Amazon Music HD to get it. TechHive contributor and home audio expert Scott Wilkinson has great things to say about Sony’s new format played on headphones, but I was less impressed with it as rendered on the Echo Studio.

Both smart speakers can be paired with a matching second speaker for stereo performance, and both can be nodes in a multi-room audio system. But only Amazon offers the option of adding a wireless subwoofer for deep bass reproduction.

But fidelity is more important than thump and sonic tomfoolery in my book, so the Google Home Max wins this round.