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Beats Pill vs. Bose SoundLink Max: It’s a numbers game

A pair of Beats Pill speakers with the Bose SoundLink Max. Dog for scale.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Ever since our Beats Pill review came out, we’ve been hit with one question over and over. And it’s a good one, given that it’s been a bit of a banner year for Bluetooth speakers. That question: whether the Beats Pill is better than the Bose SoundLink Max.

I wasn’t crazy about that question at first. I’ve had the Bose SoundLink Max for a while now, and the Beats Pill for about a week before it became available. Or to be more precise, I’ve had two Beats Pills. That’s important context in this case.

So with the table set, let’s get into it. Beats Pill? Or Bose SoundLink Max?

Price

One reason I was hesitant at first to put the Beats Pill up against the SoundLink Max was simply because of the price disparity. They’re in completely different ballparks. A single Beats Pill costs $150. A single Bose SoundLink Max weighs in at a whopping $400.

That’s pretty tough to reconcile. But we can attempt to do it a couple ways.

There’s a $250 difference between a single Beats Pill and the Bose SoundLink Max. That’s kind of a no-brainer, if price is your main consideration.

And you can get two Beats Pills and still come out ahead — or at least not so far in the hole — for around $380 or so after taxes. You’ll spend less, is the point. Hold onto that thought for a second.

Phil Nickinson carrying the Bose SoundLink Max and two Beats Pill speakers.
The Beats Pil uses a free-dangling lanyard, while the Bose SoundLink Max has a carrying handle. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Size and sound quality

This is where things get a little subjective. And I recommend closing your eyes if you’re trying flipping back and forth between the two, because the sheer size of the Bose SoundLink Max may well try to influence your thinking. It’s a little more than twice the size of a new Beats Pill.

That larger size allows for more speakers — five in the SoundLink Max, versus the two speakers in the Beats Pill. That definitely allows for a larger sound.

The two speakers are tuned a little differently, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. Both are good. And I wouldn’t kick either of them out of bed. But on their own, I’d say the Bose SoundLink Max wins out. Not by a ton, but enough so that it’s noticeable.

Note that neither Bose nor Beats gives specifics about total power output, but I kept the volume at about 50%.

A Beats Pill speaker alongside a Bose SoundLink Max.
A single Beats Pill doesn’t sound quite as good as the Bose SoundLink Max. But it also costs less than half as much. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Two vs. one

The long and the short of the new Beats Pill is this: One speaker is pretty darn good, especially at that price. But pair a second one, and it’s that much better — and more flexible in how you listen.

I’ve already written about how if I were spending my own money midway through 2024, I’d opt for a pair of Beats Pills instead of rigging up the same stereo Sonos system I have on my back porch. (It bears repeating that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison because the Sonos Play:1 is so old, but it’s what I’ve got.)

A pair of Beats Pills can work in Amplify Mode — which is just two mono speakers playing the same thing at the same time — or in Stereo Mode. It’s the latter in which the Beats Pills shine, and absolutely move ahead of the audio you get out of the Bose SoundLink Max.

And at the risk of repeating myself, you get that for less than the cost of a single SoundLink Max.

Other considerations

Sound and price are the biggest concerns here. Everything else after that is gravy. But I’d also consider:

  • Both are rated IP67 against water.
  • The Bose SoundLink Max has a detachable carrying handle. The Beats Pill has a detachable rope lanyard.
  • A single Beats Pill weighs about 1.5 pounds. A single Bose SoundLink Max weighs nearly 5 pounds.
  • You get EQ support in the Bose app. No such thing for Beats.
  • Beats Pill can serve as a speakerphone. The Bose SoundLink Max cannot.
  • On paper, a single Beats Pill gets 24 hours of battery life. Bose SoundLink Max claims 20 hours. (Both should be plenty.)
  • Bose SoundLink max has proper Multipoint; Beats Pill relies on Google Fast Pair and Apple’s pairing magic via your Apple Account.
The gold and black Beats Pill speakers in front of the Bose SoundLink Max.
If I’m budgeting $400 for Bluetooth speakers, I’d get two Beats Pills, and still have money left over for lunch. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Which one wins?

If I’m spending my money — and I’m assuming you’re looking in the $300-plus range here — I’d go ahead and get two Beats Pills. It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong or bad with the Bose SoundLink Max. But given that it costs more than a pair of Beats Pills and lacks their flexibility, it’s the smarter purchase.

And for what it’s worth, that flexibility also includes not using a pair of Beats Pills in tandem. There are times when grabbing one will do.

But for now, there’s simply no beating a pair of Pills, at least when you’re putting them up against the SoundLink Max.

Topics
Phil Nickinson
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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