WIf you want to upgrade your home with a networked loudspeaker, want to control the music playback via smartphone or tablet and want to fill all rooms of the home with a single system, you are spoiled for choice between different systems and manufacturers. Sonos used to be way ahead in this area, but now a number of competitors score points above all with better software and voice assistants. For die-hard friends of Apple, the Homepod Mini has been replenished since last week: You can test the small ball here.
And now it’s turn to Nest Audio from Google. For more than three years, Google has presented a new speaker every fall. The loudspeakers are a vehicle that the company needs for its assistant. As Apple listens to Siri and Amazon Echo to Alexa, the speech recognition software and the underlying algorithm wake up with access to powerful databases when “Hey Google” is called into the room. Compared to the closed Apple cosmos, the assistant is already in many headphones, speakers and smartphones and thus binds users to Google’s services without having to do a lot in Mountain View.
Nevertheless, Google insists on consistently offering its own smart loudspeaker. The new one is called Nest Audio and follows the Nest Mini from last year. Why the name “Nest”? Six years ago, Google bought the manufacturer of the same name for 3.2 billion dollars. He specializes in the smart versions of thermostats, smoke detectors and video doorbells. The new loudspeaker for just under 100 euros should also network these devices with one another with the help of the Google Assistant as a command receiver and thus simplify their operation for the user.
The devices are managed via the Google Home app. The installation of a loudspeaker like Nest Audio is simple: supply the device with power, open the app, give it a name and assign a room. Now it can start. Nest Audio receives commands in two ways. On the one hand, you wake up the loudspeaker with the words “Hey Google”, followed by the words “Play Jump by Van Halen”. Then Google plays the song from a preset streaming service like Spotify or Youtube Music. On the other hand, the loudspeaker can be operated via the Google Home app. Then you tap on “play music”. If several loudspeakers are distributed in the apartment, you can control each one individually or form groups. A playback device can also be a TV connected to Google Chromecast. Then one command is enough for a group to play music in the kitchen and living room at the same time.
Nest Audio is not only multi-room capable, but two copies can be linked to form a stereo pair. Even if Google has placed a 75-millimeter mid-woofer and a 19-millimeter tweeter in the small housing, which are well coordinated thanks to the control software, the sound in the stereo system has more power and stage. Nevertheless, it is astonishing how clear and with what bass foundation, respectable for its size, the music comes from a single Google speaker. Nest Audio is just 17.5 inches high, 12.4 wide and 7.8 deep.
With its product, Google took the opposite path to Apple in terms of size. In October 2019, Google launched the Nest Mini for just under 60 euros in order to have the smallest possible speaker on offer. This is about the size of Apple’s Homepod Mini, looks more like a puck, has no battery and is supposed to hide in the room to wait for voice commands unobtrusively. With the bigger Nest Audio, it’s more about the sound again. The new loudspeaker is suitable as a serious sound source, not only for background sound, which the Mini cannot go beyond.
Its design is still made in such a way that the device can be placed anywhere in the apartment without disturbing. The homogeneous, net-like surface is only interrupted by four LEDs that light up as soon as the assistant wakes up. The volume and the playback mode can be regulated by laying on your hands, sensors below the plastic react to this. A slider can mute the microphones if necessary so that Google cannot accidentally overhear. Google has had a function like Apple’s intercom for a long time. Here, too, voice messages can be sent home from the smartphone via the assistant, which all loudspeakers announce.