Great sound for the money
Fast Google Assistant
Stylish, compact design
Microphones aren't as sensitive as they could be
About the Nest Audio smart speaker
Here are Nest Audio’s specs:
- Price: $99.99
- Colors: Chalk, Charcoal, Sage, Sand, Sky
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi (2.4 GHz and 5GHz)
- Smart assistant support: Google Assistant
- Weight: 2.65 lbs
- Dimensions: 6.9" H x 4.9" W x 3.1” D
The speaker keeps the same fabric-wrapped look of previous Google speakers like the Nest Mini, made from recycled plastic bottles, but it takes on a unique oval-shape and it’s taller than many other smart speakers on the market. It doesn't come with any USB-C or auxiliary input ports, but unlike the Sonos One, it supports both WiFi and Bluetooth connection. As you'd expect in a modern smart speaker, the Nest can be paired with other Nest speakers for multi-room audio.
Other notable design details include the three touch controls on the top of the speaker for play/pause and volume control, and a microphone mute switch on the back of the speaker to help protect your privacy.
What we like
Sweet sound at a nice price
I’m no audiophile but this bad boy puts out some seriously impressive sound that is literally music to my ears. Most speakers sound generally the same to me, your average listener. In the weeks I’ve spent with the Nest Audio, I stand by my original first impression that this speaker really kicks things up a notch with crisp sound—especially considering it costs just under $100.
I've played everything from Lizzo to Metallica (with some Miles Davis sprinkled in here and there) and there's nothing muffled or tinny about the Nest Audio's sound no matter what you're playing. Even when cranked all the way up, the Nest Audio puts out full and clear sound without distortion that will make you want to dance. It's not just music that sounds good on the Nest Audio, podcasts sound sharp, too, and made me feel like I was sitting in the same room as the host.
Awesome listening features
My favorite feature is the new Stereo Pairing option, allowing you to sync two Nest Audio speakers in the same room in stereo. This feature is pretty common on smart speakers these days, but I found it to be a lot like wearing a pair of headphones—not muffled or tinny, but a rich and immersive audio experience.
The new design dazzles
It’s safe to say that smart speakers are getting a serious makeover in 2020. Recently, we saw Amazon announce a slew of new crystal ball-shaped Echo speakers, abandoning the brand’s past designs. Google’s Nest Audio speaker takes on a different look than the brand's other smart speakers, featuring a slender, more cylindrical design.
To be honest, it wasn't love at first sight for me. But once I got the speaker set up I came to appreciate the new slim shape, which fits just right on my bookshelf.
Freaky-fast Google Assistant
The whole point of smart home is convenience, right? We rely on tech to turn off our lights and lock the front door so we don’t have to do it. In a world that expects instant gratification, speed is arguably the most important attribute a smart speaker can offer, and that’s exactly what I’ve found when testing out the Nest Audio.
Google claims that Google Assistant, the voice who lives inside of the speaker, runs two times faster on Nest Audio than what’s offered on the brand’s original smart speaker, Google Home. I don’t have a Google Home to compare, but Google Assistant is noticeably speedy to respond when it hears me, completing tasks like adjusting my smart thermostat, turning off my smart lights, and playing songs to get me through the workday. It uses the same machine learning chip as the Nest Mini, which, in practice, means the speaker doesn't waste any time completing your request.
What we don’t like
The mics aren't as sensitive as they could be
There are three far-field microphones built into the Nest Audio, but they aren’t as responsive as I'd like. On several occasions, I had to repeat my command or question from across my living room. Most of the time, Google heard me just fine on the second try when I got a little closer or spoke louder. There were a few instances when I found myself raising my voice with the Nest Audio out of frustration when it didn't hear me, but don’t we all yell at our smart speakers from time to time?
Bass could be stronger
We’ve all got that one song where the bass just slaps (for me, it’s OutKast’s The Way You Move). However, as much as I love the sound overall, the Nest Audio leaves something to be desired when it comes to achieving that deep rumbling sound that makes your insides shiver with delight. Though it offers both a 19mm tweeter for high-frequency coverage and a 75mm mid-woofer to provide bass-thump, it doesn't get down as low as I'd like.
However, pairing two speakers together enhances the bass a bit. With that, Nest Audio has no problem filling a room with ear-pleasing audio cranked all the way up. The fact that the speaker costs half of competitors like the Sonos One and the Bose 300 makes it all the easier to double down.
No direct integration with Apple Music
After publication, it was announced that Apple Music works with Google speakers.
One thing I don’t love is the lack of integration between Google smart speakers and Apple Music. Other smart speakers like Sonos have direct integration with Apple Music within the Sonos app, and even Alexa-enabled speakers work natively with Apple Music. It’s a popular streaming service, and also my primary music platform of choice, so it's unfortunate that Google and Apple can't work together there.
Luckily, there's an easy fix in that Apple Music can be streamed over Bluetooth. Other popular music streaming services like YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, and SiriusXM are available to play natively on Google’s new smart speaker. It's worth noting that smart speakers from Bose and Sonos offer Apple AirPlay to stream songs from Apple Music at a slightly higher quality. That said, while AirPlay isn't an option on the Nest Audio, the difference in sound quality is minimal for speakers at this level.
Should you buy it?
Yes. With a focus on sound, the Nest Audio offers great value for the money
The Nest Audio's sound is clear and full, Google Assistant responds quickly, and while the new Stereo Pairing feature isn’t revolutionary, it’s a welcomed addition to the new Nest Audio speakers that enhances the overall listening experience. At time of publication, you can even get a pair of Nest Audio speakers for around $180—a real steal. While Bose and Sonos may corner the market on high-quality audio speakers, the Nest Audio’s $99 price tag makes a very strong case.
Whether you’re still rocking a Google Home or just want a more robust smart speaker with great sound that won’t break the bank, upgrading to the Nest Audio won’t disappoint. It’s a solid choice for a smart speaker (and we think it makes a great holiday gift).
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Rachel Murphy covers smart home for Reviewed. She holds a journalism degree from the University of Central Florida. Previously, she worked as a freelance writer for several major outlets and as an associate editorial producer for ABC News' Good Morning America.
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