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October 31, 2018

Google Home Max vs. Sonos Play:5: Which should you buy?

by John_A

I have years of experience with Sonos and other connected speakers — I’ve said Hey Google almost more than my own kids’ names — so I know a thing or two when it comes to in-home audio.

Sonos Play:5

Stellar sound


$499 at Amazon


  • Top-quality sound
  • Stream from over 55 music services
  • Easy multi-room streaming


  • Expensive
  • No Bluetooth
  • No voice control or smart features

The Sonos Play:5 is an amazing speaker with amazing sound that is hard to beat. While it lacks smart features or voice control, it still sounds the best.

Google Home Max

Smart and powerful


$399 at Google


  • Google Assistant & smart home controls built-in
  • Bluetooth support
  • Deep bass


  • Can’t stream from all music services
  • Multi-room audio is limited and tricky
  • Design is uninspired

With its combination of great sound, smart home features, and built-in Google Assistant, there isn’t much to not like about the Google Home Max.

Music To My Ears

The Google Home Max is a full-featured smart speaker that will fit right into nearly any smart home. While it’s hard to knock the Sonos Play:5 for anything with its stellar sound quality, it does lose some ground with its lack of any voice control or smart home features — but not enough to keep it from winning this battle.

Multi-room Audio Yes Yes
Line-in Yes Yes
Bluetooth No Yes
Google Assistant No Yes
Smarthome Control When connected to Alexa device Yes

These two speakers are on an even playing field in many areas. While the Play:5 edges out the Home Max in quality of sound (by quite a bit), both speakers offer multi-room audio, both have a line-in, both be used horizontally or vertically, and both put out great sound.

The glaring difference here is that the Google Home Max is a connected speaker with Google Assistant and smart home control built-in, while the Play:5 isn’t very smart at all. The benefit is that by adding a simple Amazon Echo device (even the inexpensive Echo Dot) to your home, you can easily add smart features to the Play:5.

Play Together


Where the Play:5 easily connects with other Sonos speakers in your home, the Google Home Max works with other Google Home devices like the Home Mini or Home Hub, as well as Chomecast Audio devices. Google’s multiroom setup is a bit finicky, however, giving Sonos the edge here in the ease of setup and use when it comes to using multiple speakers.

Everything you do with Sonos takes place in the Sonos app. From setup to adding more speakers to grouping to adding music services to playing music — it’s all there. Conversely, using the Home Max requires you to first set up the device using the Google Home app, then to stream you’ll have to use the actual music apps — Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, etc. Rather than accessing your services in the app itself and streaming away like Sonos, the Home Max requires you to “cast” from the music apps to the speaker itself.

The Home Max also has Bluetooth support — something you won’t find on any Sonos speaker. This gives you yet another option beyond streaming or using the line-in.

Take it to the Max


Both the Home Max and Play:5 also carry the option to customize their sound as well. The Home Max uses Smart Sound to adjust to its placement in the room, while the Play:5 uses the TrueSound app through your phone to tweak up the EQ and put out the best possible sound.

It’s a super-close battle that comes down to the wire, but in the end — even without voice control or smart home features — the Sonos Play:5 wins the race. When you buy a speaker in this price range you want the best possible sound, and for that reason, the Sonos Play:5 is the winner. If you’re looking for the added bonus of smart features, adding an inexpensive Alexa device to the mix will help get you there.

Sonos Play:5

Stellar Sound


Premium sound at a premium price.

$499 at Amazon

Although it lacks any native voice assistant or smart home controls, the Play:5 is an amazing speaker with stellar sound.

Google Home Max

Smart and powerful


$399 at Google

Smart features can’t save it.

With big sound, Google Assistant and smart home controls, the Home Max is a true powerhouse, but the sound quality just doesn’t match that of the Play:5.

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