It’s all in the name. Our Google Nest Audio review.

Google’s recent hardware event introduced a bunch of new products ranging from two new Pixel phones to a new Chromecast. But (sadly) none of those devices are launching in Singapore for now; what is launching though, is the new Nest Audio.

The Nest Audio is an interesting device that seems to be a hybrid between the original Google Home and Google Home Max. With it, Google promises 75% louder audio and 50% stronger bass response compared to the Home. As the name suggests, the main aim here is to deliver great sounding audio in a smart speaker at a reasonable price.

So how does it hold up? Let’s start with the specs.

Google Nest Audio Specifications

  • 175 x 124 x 78 mm, 1.2kg
  • 75 mm woofer, 19 mm tweeter
  • 3 far-field microphones
  • Hardware mute switch
  • Colours: Chalk, Charcoal
  • S$139

You’ll need a home WiFi network, a nearby electrical socket, and an Android 5.0 or later phone (Android 6.0 or later tablet) or iOS 12 or later iPhone/iPad.

  • Nest Audio cover
  • Nest Audio logo
  • Nest Audio mute switch
  • Nest Audio and Home Mini

Design & build

The Nest Audio is made from 70% recycled plastic and is enclosed in Google’s familiar fabric weave. It comes in five colours, but only two at launch: Charcoal (dark grey) and Chalk (light grey). The loan unit I had was the latter.

Aesthetically, it’s a rounded-off vertical rectangle. The design is minimal enough that it will fit into most home setups.

In terms of size, it’s 17.5 cm tall, 12.4 cm wide, and 7.8 cm in depth. That’s about the same height as a water bottle or the Sonos One. It’s taller than the original Google Home, but is also more slender.

There’s three touch-sensitive areas at the top for raising/lowering the volume, and playing/pausing music. Round the back, there’s a physical switch to mute the device’s microphones for privacy purposes.

Audio

So how good is the audio on the Nest Audio? Actually pretty good for the price. You won’t get thumping bass like with the more expensive Google Home Max, but that costs three times what the Audio does. The 75 mm woofer still does a far better job at reproducing clean-sounding bass than the single speaker in say, the Nest Mini.

More impressive to me was the clarity of mids and vocals from the 19 mm tweeter. Even without a stereo pairing there is decently good separation of instruments and vocals, producing a pleasant sound that does not at all feel muddy even at loud volumes.

Speaking of volume, the Audio gets loud. I found that it was enough to fill a small living room without reaching max volume.

Compared to something like my S$199 Creative iRoar GO Bluetooth speaker, the Nest Audio affords greater clarity, though at the expense of less powerful bass. I found myself rather impressed at how well the Nest Audio held its own.

If you have two Nest Audio’s, you’ll be able to set up stereo pairing for even fuller sound. Google seems to be encouraging this, given that there’s a 15% off your order if you pre-order two of them from their online store (till 15 Oct). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test this since Google only loaned me a single unit for review. The Verge, however, was able to test this, and reported richer sound but an audio delay between the two speakers such that voice from podcasts sound off. You also apparently cannot pair two Nest Audio speakers with a Chromecast for home theatre audio, like you can do with a couple of Amazon Echo speakers and a Fire TV.

Pricing & conclusion

Pros

  • Great audio at a good price
  • Google Assistant
  • Compact form factor, classy design

Cons

  • Stereo pairing does not work with Chromecast

The conclusion for this review is simple: if you primarily use your smart speaker for listening to music and podcasts, the Nest Audio will give you much fuller and richer sound than a Home or a Home Mini.

Personally, I would never listen to music on the first generation Home Mini; I find the audio to be muddy and hollow. But with the Nest Audio, I would. And for just S$60 more than the S$79 Nest Mini, I think it’s well worth the price.

Of course, if you just use your smart speaker for smart home stuff like turning on the lights or asking Google Assistant for the weather, you’ll be happy with the Home Mini that you most probably got for free.

But if you want the smart speaker stuff and decently good audio, I would thoroughly recommend the Nest Audio.

You can pre-order the Nest Audio from the Google store right now for S$139. Google is currently running a promotion till 15 Oct where you get a 15% discount if you pre-order two Audio’s.


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