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Google Nest Audio: Everything you need to know about the smart speaker
Google officially unveiled the Nest Audio smart speaker at its hardware event in September 2020. As with previous smart speakers from the company, this product exists as a way to bring Google Assistant access into your home whenever you need it.
Compared to 2019’s Google Nest Mini, this speaker is much bigger and delivers a much more capable sound. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the Google Nest Audio!
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Google Nest Audio: At a glance
Way back in 2016, Google unveiled its very first smart speaker, the Google Home. In essence, Google Nest Audio is the unofficial follow-up to that device — think of it as a Google Home 2, in some respects.
Like the Google Home, Google Nest Audio offers a wireless audio experience, whether through Bluetooth, Google Cast, or Wi-Fi. It has Google Assistant on board and responds to the “Hey Google” hotword. It integrates with your smart home, features the four-dot Google Assistant light design scheme, and has a hardware switch on the back that shuts off the microphone.
Also like the Google Home, the Nest Audio is designed to play music, podcasts, and other audio media. The Nest Mini (and its predecessor, the Google Home Mini) is primarily a cheap entryway into the smart home space, not a high-quality audio system. As such, the Nest Audio should appeal to folks who want a smart speaker and a good-quality wireless audio speaker all-in-one.
It should be mentioned, though, that the Nest Audio isn’t as good when it comes to audio quality as the older Google Home Max. That product is more expensive, larger, and more appealing to those looking for the highest-quality sound they can get from Google.
Is the Nest Audio worth buying?
It really depends on what you’re after. But overall, the Nest Audio is a great smart speaker for average users. The sound quality is good, the bass response is great based on the size of the device, and the price is just right. We have no problem recommending the Nest Audio to most people.
If you're looking for a party speaker, the Nest Audio isn't for you.
However, some may be better off steering clear of the device. If you’re looking for a party speaker, you’ll have to go for something larger, like Google’s own Home Max. This speaker offers better sound quality and punchier bass that will get the party started. But you’ll have to pay more for it, obviously.
If you’re very budget conscious and don’t really care about sound quality that much, something like the Nest Mini will be more up your alley. It’s a great device that lets you use all of Assistant’s smarts, works great for playing podcasts and audiobooks, and is decent when it comes to playing music. Just don’t expect the bass to get your blood pumping, since the device is very small.
What experts think of the Google Nest Audio
Our very own Lily Katz took the Nest Audio for a spin and had plenty of good things to say about it. She called it a great jack-of-all-trades and was impressed with the audio quality, price, and overall design.
She tested out the microphones of the device by making a call, and although the call quality isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it’s still okay. The closer you stand to the speaker the better it is. You can check out the audio recording below to hear how the microphones perform in action.
Lily also liked that the Nest Audio supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 and that Chromecast is integrated. However, she didn’t like the touch controls that much, since they are too sensitive for her taste. Overall, Lily thinks the Nest Audio is a great product for general consumers, but those looking for something that will get the party started will have to go for a bigger and more expensive option.
What other reviewers from around the web think
To give you the best overview of the Google Nest Audio, we looked at what reviewers from other publications had to say about the smart speaker.
- The Verge’s Dan Seifert said that the Nest Audio was a big improvement over the Google Home. It’s bigger, sounds better, and is faster to respond to voice commands. It also has an attractive price and can be paired with an additional speaker for a stereo audio experience. But despite being larger than the Google Home, it’s still relatively compact, which limits the volume output as well as the bass. So if you have a larger-than-average room, a bigger and more powerful speaker may be more suited for you.
- The folks over at What Hi-Fi? reviewed the Nest Audio and were impressed with it in many ways. They thought it was well made and both easy to set up and use. It also works great as a smart speaker, as it heard all the commands clearly and responded accordingly. However, the staff at What Hi-Fi? wasn’t impressed with the overall sound quality of the device. It’s not bad, but there are better options at this price point. One of them includes the JBL Flip 5, but keep in mind that this device doesn’t support Google Assistant.
- TechRadar’s Truls Steinung thinks the Nest Audio is better than its predecessor. The audio quality is better, although not quite as good as Google wants you to believe. The Nest Audio works brilliantly as a smart speaker, though, mainly thanks to its great microphones and a clear voice output. It’s good for listening to background music, but true audiophiles, as well as party animals, may want to look somewhere else.
Google Nest Audio: Design
Now, just because the Google Nest Audio is extremely similar to the Google Home doesn’t mean there aren’t differences between the two products.
The first thing you’ll notice about Google’s 2020 smart speaker is that it looks like it morphed from a Google Nest Mini. You’ll find the same fabric covering all around it, and the same oblong curves. It’s almost like someone grabbed a Nest Mini and stretched it out like it was made of putty.
However, unlike the Nest Mini, you don’t have two options for how this speaker gets placed in your home. With the Nest Mini, you can lay it flat on a table or mount it vertically on the wall with the built-in mounting hole.
If you want to measure out where it will go in your house, it’s 6.89 inches tall, 4.8 inches wide, and 3.07 inches thick. It also weighs just over 1kg, making it heavier than the 180g Nest Mini, but lighter than the 4kg Google Home Max.
Google Nest Audio: Sound quality and features
According to Google, this Nest speaker is 75% louder and has a 50% stronger bass response than the original Google Home. We think the average user will be happy with the sound quality of the device, especially since it features a sound signature that handles all genres of music and spoken word content well.
The bass response is impressive for the speaker’s size, although the Nest Audio isn’t a suitable option for parties. If you want something with a bit more kick, you’ll have to spend a bit more and get something like the Google Home Max.
The Nest Audio features Media EQ and Ambient IQ.
The smart speaker also has a couple of new features that improve the listening experience. The first one is called Media EQ, which automatically tunes the speaker depending on what you’re listening to (music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.). Simply put, the EQ will sound markedly different when you’re listening to your favorite album compared to when Google Assistant is voicing a reply.
The second feature is called Ambient IQ and it works by auto-adjusting the volume based on how noisy your home is at the moment. So, for example, the volume will increase when you use a hairdryer near the speaker and then decrease back to its original setting once you power the dryer off. We tested this out and it worked like a charm.
If you want to learn about the sound quality of the Nest Audio, check out our review at the link that includes a few other bits of info.
Google Nest Audio: Competition and alternatives
The smart speaker space is highly competitive. Google’s primary competitor is Amazon, which offers several smart speakers powered by its own Alexa digital assistant. The spherical Amazon Echo costs the same as the Nest Audio and delivers many similar features, making it likely the best Google Nest Audio alternative.
However, for many buyers, the number one factor in their smart speaker choice is the digital assistant. As such, the Echo might not even be on their radar. As far as Google-only devices go, the JBL Link ticks off a lot of the same boxes as the Nest Audio and even comes in at a similar price point.
Ultimately, though, Google’s biggest competition is its own offerings. Although the Google Home is no longer in production, it’s still really easy to get from many retailers. And although the Nest Audio sounds better, it doesn’t offer too many new features to make it superior to the Home.
Also, the Google Home Max — while much more expensive — is still around and might be better for buyers who want to get the best audio quality they can. There are plenty of other Assistant-powered smart speakers to choose from, the best of which you can check out here.
Pricing and availability
The Google Nest Audio comes in at $99.99, putting it very comfortably between the prices of the Nest Mini and the Home Max. It’s available in a few different colors including Charcoal, Chalk, Sage, Sand, and Sky.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Does the Google Nest Audio get power through Micro-USB or USB-C?
A: Neither. As with the Google Nest Mini, the Nest Audio speaker uses a proprietary power cable. It comes with the speaker when you buy it.
Q: Can I link multiple Google Nest Audio speakers together to create multi-room audio?
A: Yes! If you own multiple Google speakers (doesn’t matter which kind), you can link them together within the Google Home app. You can have one stream of audio playing all throughout your house, allowing for uninterrupted listening as you make your way from room to room.
Q: Can I link two speakers together to create a stereo audio experience?
A: You sure can. For this, you will need two speakers that are the same exact model and for them to be in the same room. As with multi-room audio, you’ll set up the pairing within the Google Home app.
Q: Can I turn off the microphone on the Nest Audio permanently?
A: Yes. On the back of the speaker is a hardware toggle that shuts off the mic. If you want, you could leave it that way forever and only use the speaker for wireless audio.
Q: Is there an Aux input on the speaker, or an Ethernet port?
A: No. Other than the power connector, there are no I/O ports on the Nest Audio. It will only be good for wireless audio.
Q: Does the Nest Audio stream over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth?
A: Yes, you can stream content over both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.