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Google’s Home Max brings premium audio to its Assistant speaker

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Google Home is getting bigger, in more ways than one: Google announced a few updates for its smart home speaker line, and one is the Home Max, a larger version that packs in stereo speakers and more premium looks and materials.

The new, larger Home speaker is clearly intended to be an answer to critics who suggested the original Home lacked good audio quality (myself included) by providing something for users who care more about sound. It’s also likely a move that will help address forthcoming competition for Home from Apple, which is set to launch its own Siri-enabled premium speaker, the HomePod, by the end of this year.

It can tune its audio to its own space, analyzing the sound coming from the speaker using its built in microphones to determine the best equalizer settings. This is called Smart Sound, and it evolves over time and based on where you move the speaker, using built-in machine learning. It has Cast functionality, as well as input via stereo 3.5 mm jack.

Home Max can output sound that’s up to 20 times more powerful than the standard version of Home, Google says, and it has two 4.5 inch woofers on board with two 0.7 inch custom-built tuners. It can sit in either vertical or horizontal orientation, and it comes in both ‘chalk’ and ‘charcoal.’

Of course, this bigger speaker also includes a noise isolating array that makes it work even in open rooms with background noise, and it’s Assistant-enabled, so you can use it to control your music playback via voice, or manage your smart home devices, set yourself reminders, alarms, and timers and much more.

Home Max is shipping in December in the U.S., with a retail price of $399, and a release in more markets coming next year. It’s bundled with a 1-year subscription to YouTube Red, too.

Developing…

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Google has sold 55M Chromecasts, and provided 100M+ answers via Assistant

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Google announced on stage a few numbers to update its progress on its hardware program – the company said that it’s sold over 55 million Chromecast devices, including Chromecasts and hardware with Chromecast built-in and that it has built up a database of over 100 million answers for users via Google Assistant, its voice-powered AI software.

The other success metric that Google noted was that its Google WiFi mesh networking router is the top-seller in that category in both the U.S. and Canada. It’s still a relatively young category, but there are lots of entrants now, so that’s impressive.

Google didn’t share any specific numbers on WiFi sales, however, nor did it reveal numbers for Pixel sales, though it said that the smartphone is selling well – despite Google not being able to make enough.

Analyst estimates suggest that Pixel sales weren’t huge (not by a long shot) but it’s a start, and apparently Google is still eager to continue the program.

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Sonos announces the Sonos One, a self-contained, Alexa-connected speaker

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THe Sonos One is a new speaker designed from the ground-up for voice interaction via Alexa. The speaker is similar to the current home speakers Sonos sells but six internal microphones allow you to speak to the spaker without extra voice control hardware.

The system uses echo-cancellation tech to hear you over the music and the six internal microphones will be able to hear you anywhere in the room.

The Sonos One will support AirPlay 2 when it launches next year.

The speaker will allow you to say things like “Pause music,” “Play track in living room,” and “Play playlist Harcdore” and Sonos will react.

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