Sonos, Google, Apple, and Amazon all make small, midsize, and large wireless speakers that work very well for multiroom audio, but size does matter. Small-ish pucks are fine to put in bedrooms and bathrooms, but they’re just not big enough if you really want to jam. And if you go for something larger, it can be tough to find space for them. The Goldilocks zone is the middle, where Google has firmly planted its new Nest Audio.
Midsize speakers like the Nest Audio are great for kitchens, living rooms, and beyond. If you’re a Google user (and you’re not afraid of mics in your living space), you’ll fall in love. It’s affordable, sounds great, and can easily fill up nearly every room in your house with delectable sound. You can even pair two of them together, for one of the best-sounding $200 stereos around.
I’ve waded through generation after generation of Google, Amazon, and Apple smart speakers, and I’m happy to report they are getting smarter. They’re less likely to overhear you randomly, easier to pair and group into various smart-home ecosystems, and they sound better than ever, thanks to steadily improving audio processing and design.
The Nest Audio is no exception. It sounds, looks, and works better than the now ancient Google Home from 2016 it replaces, and it approaches Home Max territory when you pair two together and turn up the volume.
Unlike the old rounded tower design of the Home, the new Nest is a soft pillow-like rectangle, with cloth on the front that conceals four white LEDs (Google’s version of the blue Alexa ring). My review unit is a discreet white, but you can also get it in black, pink, green, or blue.
Microphone-wise, it’s got one more than its predecessor, and generally does a better job of picking up people’s voices amidst the clatter of daily life. If you’re jamming out to music really loud, you might have to shout to get its attention, but that’s true of most smart speakers. It’s also a lot louder with deeper bass than the old Google Home, which is nice.
There are a couple of things that make the Nest Audio a little more compelling for those who might balk at buying a smart speaker. First, it’s easy to make it dumb. A simple physical switch on the back lets you shut off the mics, so you can only control it from a smartphone or tablet.
Alternatively, if you want to smarten up your entire home, third-party support is vast. You can connect it to robot vacuums, light bulbs, smart plugs, and so much more. We also like Google Assistant more than Alexa, as it’s often better at answering any questions you spit at it.