Bose SoundLink Max review: a punchy Bluetooth speaker to make your party pop

Bose turns its SoundLink concept up to the absolute Max

Bose Soundlink Max on a table, in the sun
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The bold and assertive sound from this robust, go-anywhere wireless speaker is almost enough to make you overlook its (few, and minor) shortcomings. If you want your portable party to go with a bang, don’t look any further.


  • +

    Big, punchy and quite deft sound

  • +

    Hardy, robust construction and finish

  • +

    Useful two-way USB-C socket


  • -

    Could sound more detailed

  • -

    Takes forever to charge

  • -

    Finish attracts marks

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Bose SoundLink Max: Two-minute review

The Bose SoundLink Max has delivered the biggest, burliest model in the company's already well-stocked and well-reviewed SoundLink concept that has served it pretty well lately. The Bose SoundLink Max has a rugged, go-anywhere design with the stamina to keep you entertained right around the clock. Well, very nearly…

It’s robust, as the IP67 rating indicates, and the liberal use of silicone means it’s happy to withstand the odd knock or bump. The carry-handle can be swapped out for a shoulder-strap (it’s a cost option, mind you), and overall the Bose SoundLink Max is as outdoors-y as they come.

And when you’re out and about, the Bose SoundLink Max is a very enjoyable companion. The sound it makes is as big and heavy as the speaker it comes from, but it’s by no means a blunt instrument. It’s quite a deft and agile listen for something with as much out-and-out punch as this, and can gesture, albeit only slightly, towards a truly stereo presentation, too. 

In fact, if it were able to retrieve and reveal a little more of the fine detail in a recording, it would be approaching ‘ideal’ and one of the best Bluetooth speakers out there. 

Bose Soundlink Max review: Price and release date

  • Released June 4, 2024
  • Officially priced at $399 / £399 / AU$599

The Bose SoundLink Max was released in early June, 2024, and sells for $399 / £399 / AU$599.

That’s proper money for a wireless speaker with no smarts and no Wi-Fi connectivity, no two ways about it. But, as will become apparent, the Bose SoundLink Max has compensations for its relative lack of functionality… 

Bose SoundLink Max Bluetooth speaker on wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Simon Lucas)

Bose SoundLink Max review: Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Dimensions: 120mm (H) x 265 (W) x 105mm (D)
Battery life (quoted):20 hours
Connectivity:Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codec
Drivers:2 x 89mm transducers, 1 x 23mm transducer, 2 x 104x79mm ‘racetrack’ passive radiators
Charger port:USB-C
Waterproof rating:IP67

Bose SoundLink Max Bluetooth speaker displaying carry handle

(Image credit: Future / Simon Lucas)

Bose SoundLink Max review: Features

  • 2 x 89mm transducers, 1 x 23mm transducer, 2 x 104x79mm ‘racetrack’ passive radiators
  • Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codec compatibility
  • Class D amplification

It’s possible, of course, to use the 3.5mm analogue input to get audio information on board the Bose SoundLink Max – but obviously this is first-and-foremost a Bluetooth speaker. It uses Bluetooth 5.3 for wireless connectivity, and is compatible with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs.

No matter how you get it there, though, once the audio information is on board it’s amplified by Class D power – Bose, as per usual, is not saying how much. Then it’s served to a speaker driver array that consists of a couple of 89mm transducers and a 23mm partner arranged across the front of the chassis, supported by a couple of 104 x 79mm ‘racetrack’ passive balanced mode radiators – there’s one at either end, behind the perforated aluminium grilles.

Thanks to Bose’s ‘SimpleSync’ technology, the SoundLink Max can quickly and easily become part of a rudimentary multiroom system, provided you’re using other compatible Bose speakers, naturally. Got a Bose soundbar or smart speaker? It’ll connect to the SoundLink Max without fuss.

There’s a USB-C on the rear of the speaker. It’s used for charging the battery, obviously, but if you’ve plenty of power on board your speaker and your phone is running low, it can also be used as a power output. 

  • Features score: 5/5

Bose SoundLink Max Bluetooth speaker showing AUX and USB-C ports

(Image credit: Future / Simon Lucas)

Bose SoundLink Max review: Design

  • IP67 rating against dust and moisture
  • 20 hours of battery life
  • Available in two finishes

At 120 x 265 x 105mm (HxWxD) and 2.13kg, the SoundLink Max is relatively big and heavy by prevailing ‘portable wireless speaker’ standards. But thanks to a particularly judicious combination of materials – mostly aluminium and silicone and an extremely tactile, and easily swapped, rope-and-silicone carry-handle – the Bose is easy to shift from place to place. Differently coloured versions of the ‘twist-to-fit’ handle are available (for £25, roughly $31/ AU$47), and an over-the-shoulder alternative can be yours (for £45, about $58 / AU$85).

The silicone element of the design is certainly tactile, and it helps the Bose absorb bumps and shocks. But it’s very willing to collect dust and greasy fingerprints, and an absolute bugger to keep clean.

The quoted 20 hours of battery life is eminently achievable (unless you’re absolutely caning the volume), which is just as well, because to go from ‘flat’ to ‘full’ takes a leisurely five hours via the USB-C socket on the rear. On the plus side, you can be pretty sure those 20 hours can be spent in any realistic environment, thanks to a chunky IP67 rating against moisture and dust.

There are some nicely positive controls on the top of the speaker – power on/off, Bluetooth pairing, play/pause and volume up/down are all available, and there’s also a ‘shortcut’ button. In the (exemplary) Bose control app you’re able to choose between two functions for this control – either switch to the 3.5mm analogue input that’s positioned next to the USB-C, or resume Spotify playback (provided your Spotify app is up-to-date).

The app also includes some EQ adjustment along with a few presets, a volume control, connection management (the SoundLink Max can connect to two sources at a time) and a volume control. Plus, of course, access to software and firmware upgrades, voice-prompt adjustments and what have you.

  • Design score: 4.5/5

Bose SoundLink Max Bluetooth speaker top panel controls on wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Simon Lucas)

Bose SoundLink Max review: Sound quality

  • Punchy, full-scale sound
  • Agile rather than musclebound, though
  • Could conceivably sound more detailed

Bose, it seems fairly safe to say, has given low-frequency grunt and presence a proper think where the SoundLink Max is concerned. ‘It’s going to be used outdoors,’ is how I imagine the thinking going, ‘and so it needs as much punch as it’s possible to extract.’ And there’s no two ways about it, this speaker is about as robustly assertive with low-end stuff as seems possible. 

It’s far from being a blunt instrument, though. Given a reasonably big file of Aphex Twin’s Isoprophlex (Slow) to deal with, the Bose hits good and hard, without question, but it controls the low end well, attacking with straight-edged positivity and ensuring bass sounds stay strictly in their lane rather than bleeding all over the midrange. This speaker hits with determination, but with accuracy, and as a consequence there’s far more to its presentation than simple muscle. 

It offers quite an open, distinct midrange that’s more than capable of holding its own against all the ructions beneath it. At the top of the frequency range there’s authentic bite and shine, and just as much attack as the speaker exhibits at the opposite end – but, again, control is such that even if you listen at considerable volume (and be in no doubt, the Bose SoundLink Max is capable of considerable volume) treble sounds are never hard or in-your-face.  

The Bose is tonally consistent from the top of the frequency range to the bottom, and it unites the entire range smoothly. Focus is good, too, and the SoundLink Max creates a reasonably convincing soundstage – although the notion that it’s capable of creating anything other than the tiniest hint of stereo separation is fanciful. It’s quite dynamic where the broad quiet/LOUD aspects of recordings are concerned, too, although the distance it puts between the two states could be wider. That’s almost certainly a consequence of the fact that the Bose gives every impression of playing quite loudly even when it’s playing quietly.

The most significant area where the Bose might conceivably up its game concerns detail retrieval. The SoundLink Max has no problem retaining and revealing the most significant details in a recording, but when it’s playing something like The Spark That Bled by The Flaming Lips it lets a lot of the finer details (of which this recording has plenty) go astray. It doesn’t impact on the enjoyably forceful nature of the overall presentation, of course – and if you’re listening to content for the first time it seems likely you wouldn’t even twig that anything is missing. But when you listen to stuff you’re properly familiar with, there’s no denying the Bose struggles to extract the finer detail that you know is there.

  • Sound quality: 4/5

Bose SoundLink Max review: Value

Yes, pennies short of £400 / $400 / AU$600 is a lot of money for a wireless Bluetooth speaker without a hint of smart functionality. But the Bose SoundLink Max makes a very strong case for itself if you take it on its own terms – it’s properly built and finished, from materials that look good, feel good and suggest longevity. 

It’s specified to perform in pretty much any realistic environment. It’s capable of big, burly and convincing sound – and can churn it out for hour after hour. So, as long as you accept its restricted functionality, the SoundLink MAx represents very good value indeed. 

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Bose SoundLink Max Bluetooth speaker on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Simon Lucas)

Should I buy the Bose SoundLink Max?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Bose SoundLink Max
FeaturesIt's a Bluetooth speaker with Aux-in, USB-C charging and Class D amplification – brilliant5/5
DesignDifferent strap colorways (at a cost), sturdy build, positive top controls4.5/5
Sound qualityPunchy, full-scale sound, but agile instead of muscly4/5
ValueCostly, but the myriad features and good build are worth it 4.5/5

Buy it if…

You fancy big sound no matter where you are…
The Bose SoundLink Max is capable of filling a very large space with sound – so even the great outdoors isn’t too much of a challenge.

… and you might be in dusty and/or damp conditions
An IP67 rating means the Bose is happy to travel wherever you fancy.

You own one or two other Bose speakers
The ‘SimpleSync’ technology makes it, er, simple to sync with other Bose speakers, soundbars and what have you.

Don’t buy it if…

You know ‘quick-charging’ when you see it
Five hours isn’t an eternity, but when you’re waiting for your speaker to charge it can feel like it.

You’ve definite ideas about what ‘portable’ means
The handle is very useful, sure, but the Bose starts to feel its 2.13kg weight sooner rather than later.

You think ‘wireless’ should mean ‘smart’
This is quite a lot of money to spend on a Bluetooth speaker with neither Wi-Fi ability nor smarts, no two ways about it.

Bose SoundLink Max review: Also consider

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Bose SoundLink MaxUE EpicboomJBL Xtreme 4
Dimensions:120mm (H) x 265 (W) x 105mm (D) 162 x 119 x 241mm297 x 149 x 141mm
Weight: 2.13kg2kg2.1kg
Battery life (quoted):20 hours17 hours24 hours (plus up to 6 hours more with Playtime Boost)
Connectivity:Bluetooth 5.3 with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecBluetooth 5.3Bluetooth 5.3
Drivers:2 x 89mm transducers, 1 x 23mm transducer, 2 x 104x79mm ‘racetrack’ passive radiators2 x 45mm active mid-high frequency transducers; 1 x 120mm woofer2 x 30W woofers, 2 x 20W tweeters
Charger port:USB-CUSB-CUSB-C
Waterproof rating:IP67IP67IP67

Ultimate Ears Epicboom
It's big and we think it looks the absolute business. It's also marginally cheaper than the Bose (by about $50 / £50 / AU$100) and if you just want a solo speaker, it might be a better bet. Our main issue with this 2023-issue speaker is that its PartyUp daisy-chaining feature is not compatible with any Wonderboom, Blast or Megablast UE speaker. So you're limited to BoomBoom 2Boom 3Megaboom multi-speaker partying – and the newest speaker in that list was released in February 2020.
Read more in our UE Epicboom review.


JBL Xtreme 4
Again, it's big, and again there's a strap involved (as there is with the Bose SoundLink Max). Also, there's another price-tag that starts with a '3' – and this time there's very little in it (OK, about $20, since it retails for $379.95 / £329.99 / AU$499.95 and it only arrived in March 2024). The battery life is the best of the bunch, at four hours better than the Bose, but it's not exactly a looker. We liked the sound overall but felt the lower end lacked just a touch of impact – although you can tweak the EQ in the app… 
Read all about it in our JBL Xtreme 4 review

How I tested the Bose SoundLink Max

  • Tested for about a week, mainly indoors but also in a back garden
  • Played a variety of music types
  • Listened the TIDAL app on iPhone and Android smartphones

I listened to the Bose SoundLink Max indoors and out. I listened to it via an iPhone and an Android smartphone, each running the TIDAL app. I listened to it at discreet volumes (while indoors) and thoroughly indiscreet volumes (while in my garden, before I became concerned about upsetting my neighbours). 

And I listened to it with a variety of music types and a variety of digital audio file sizes. This all went on for about a week – mostly indoors because, the weather was bloody awful in the U.K., and while the Bose is happy to work outdoors in the rain, I am not. Not sorry.  

Read more about how we test

  • First reviewed: June 2024
Simon Lucas

Simon Lucas is a senior editorial professional with deep experience of print/digital publishing and the consumer electronics landscape. Based in Brighton, Simon worked at TechRadar's sister site What HiFi? for a number of years, as both a features editor and a digital editor, before embarking on a career in freelance consultancy, content creation, and journalism for some of the biggest brands and publications in the world. 

With enormous expertise in all things home entertainment, Simon reviews everything from turntables to soundbars for TechRadar, and also likes to dip his toes into longform features and buying guides. His bylines include GQ, The Guardian, Hi-Fi+, Metro, The Observer, Pocket Lint, Shortlist, Stuff T3, Tom's Guide, Trusted Reviews, and more.