Nest Audio Review: Compact Size, Good Sound, Mixed Feelings on Bass

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Last week at Google’s ‘Launch Night In’ special event, the company unveiled its latest Nest Audio speaker, which it is calling “big sound at an affordable price.” We’ve had the weekend to test the Nest Audio and here is our quick review of this latest speaker from Google.

Google says Nest Audio has sound that is 75% louder and with 50% stronger bass than the original Google Home, thanks to its 19mm tweeter and 75mm mid-woofer “that really brings the bass”. Let’s unbox the Nest Audio and see what we’re dealing with here.

Unboxing the Nest Audio

After opening the box by flipping the front cover up, you get to see the relatively compact Nest Audio covered in fabric (made from recycled plastic bottles) from front to back. Below is the Chalk coloured Nest Audio. Other colours include Charcoal, Sand, Sky and a new colour, Sage.

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You’ll get a quick start guide and an AC adapter that powers the speaker, which is shaped essentially like a ciabatta bun, is the best way we can put it.

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The top view does not show any buttons at all as the Nest Audio has a very minimalistic design. Three capacitive touch control areas adorn the top front area, allowing you to control the volume and play/pause.

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Nest Audio as viewed from the side:

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The back of Nest Audio has a mic mute switch and a “G” logo near the bottom, to go with the DC power port in the bottom right. The bottom of the Nest Audio is rubber which allows Nest Audio to stay planted. The speaker weighs 2.6 pounds (1.1kg) and has good weight for its size.

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Nest Audio has 3 far-field microphones and is powered by a Quad Core A53 1.8GHz chip, plus it has the same high-performance ML hardware engine found in the latest Nest Mini, sitting beside it below:

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Setting up Nest Audio is easy—you just use the Google Home mobile app as you would with any Google or Nest product. Below, you can see the four LED indicator lights at the front lit up during setup, which is very easy and straightforward.

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Testing Nest Audio

I’m no audiophile but I’ve listened to a bunch of smart speakers over the years, so I know what sounds good to me and what I like. Does Nest Audio fit the bill in our case?

According to Google, Nest Audio’s sound is supposed to be full, clear and natural, calling the bass “significant”, while also noting the vocals have depth which makes the speaker “sound great” for all genres such as classical, R&B and pop.

Google told iPhone in Canada during a media briefing the company finished tuning of the Nest Audio at employee homes during COVID-19 lockdowns, with engineers improvising to test the speaker in all different environments.

Nest Audio has a Media EQ to adapt to content you’re listening to and also an Ambient IQ that has it adapt to background noise in your home, so you can hear Assistant, news or podcasts better.

We tested Nest Audio in a bedroom and also a larger rec room. In the bedroom, our first listen of Nest Audio was good, but it didn’t exactly blow our minds. It was just decent audio out of a speaker this size with clear highs and mids, while bass was good but not exactly booming as advertised.

Our second test of Nest Audio in a larger rec room sounded better to us. The speaker was able to fill the room and it can get fairly loud. Punchy bass that you can shake your insides is just not available in a speaker this size, but you can get some decent lows, while instruments such as a bass guitar come through well for the size of this speaker.

Listening to a variety of ‘90s hip hop and R&B sounded good, but we still longed for more bass (like that from a more expensive Sonos One or Sonos Move, or even Amazon Echo Studio or Apple’s HomePod). At this price point of $129 CAD, however, I don’t know if that is possible. We didn’t have a second Nest Audio to test a stereo pair, to see how bass would fare.

Having Nest Audio on our buffet to play a jazz playlist during dinner was more fitting of the speaker, versus bass-heavy hip hop in our opinion.

Nest Audio vs Sonos One

It’s not a fair comparison but with Sonos One able to also support Google Assistant, plus AirPlay 2, and offer more bass and fuller sound, you might want to save up to buy one of these instead. But if you’re fully tied into the Google and Nest ecosystem, Nest Audio just makes sense for improved audio that can also announce who’s at your front door when your Nest Hello doorbell is pressed.

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With this top-down view of Nest Audio vs Sonos One—you can really see the size difference:

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For those wondering, here’s how Nest Audio looks like next to Apple’s HomePod:

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Nest Audio of course supports Google Assistant, while a new Family Bell (English only) feature allows users to set bell reminders throughout the day, for various reminders. Just say “Hey Google, create a Family Bell.”

With Nest Audio, like any other Google smart speaker, you get to control smart over a thousand compatible smart devices with your voice, while it can also seamlessly manage other Nest or Google devices. One of the best reasons for having an army of Nest Minis and other Google speakers is the Broadcast feature, which sends a message to all speakers throughout your home (listen up kids, I said dinner is ready for the tenth time!). Google Assistant is also superior to Alexa and Siri, too.

Nest Audio costs $129 CAD in Canada but right now Google is offering $25 off if you buy two, which brings the price down to $116.50 each. That’s a decent price for what you get from a new Nest smart speaker, and may drop even lower during sales. We enjoyed the capable Nest Audio, but just tamper your bass expectations from the speaker and its size.

If you’re already committed to Nest and Google smart speakers, it’s a natural addition to your home for improved audio beyond a Nest Mini or Nest Hub for example. But if you want more punchier bass, you’ll need to spend more for a Google Home Max that’s more than double the price.

Canadians can purchase the Nest Audio speaker today from Google’s online store and other retailers.

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