Back in the early 2000s, music systems were a big deal in Indian households. As a kid, I remember the Philips audio system being the pride of my house during my birthday party, with its dual speakers, two cassette slots, and a dozen of those airplane-style slider controls for bass, treble, balance, volume, and more. While I danced to any Shah Rukh Khan number my mother played on it, the system caught my attention with its size. After all, a mini duffle bag-sized audio system could fill my big house with party-vibes! Wonderful days were those. Also Read – Gmail full? How to quickly delete large size emails, free up space
As I now sit working on my home desk with the Google Nest Audio playing those same audio tracks in the other room, I can’t help buy vibe along with good-old 90s SRK songs that Google suggested I should listen to, based on my music preferences. How weird is it, right? A toy-box-shaped speaker can fill my entire house with arguably better audio than the vintage Philips system my mother used to brandish in front of her guests. Also Read – Google Pixel 4a review: Muah muah
Sadly, I don’t have those cool audio slider controls to play with anymore. But that’s okay, as Google knows what’s best for me and lets me tune it to my taste from an app on my phone. Do you catch the drift of all this explaining I did? The Google Nest Audio captures the very essence of music systems from the late 90s and I can pride myself on hosting a party with it dishing out the tunes. At Rs 7,999, it is quite a good investment for a music enthusiast. Also Read – Google Travel Insights tool unveiled to help travel industry recover from COVID-19 loss
Big sound doesn’t need big size anymore
Over the last two decades, sound engineering has reached new heights and the Nest Audio is a shining example of that. You can now have a small chocolate-box-sized speaker outdo a conventional home audio system from years ago. Just visit a nearby showroom and listen to the Nest Audio. It is unbelievable how a speaker of its size can sound like a big audio system we used to have in our houses.
Design is something Google takes seriously and instead of trying to look all posh, it tries to go for the trendy and cutesy design of the times. The Nest Audio draws inspiration from the Nest Mini speaker and multiplies its appeal by 100 times. I haven’t ever seen a speaker shaped like this ever in my life and yet, it catches my fancy every time I look at it. It is a simple design but those simple curves on a vertically standing rectangular design gel well with modern households.
I dig the fabric mesh on the Nest Audio mainly for its chic look but I think it also works best in masking the usual dust an appliance in an Indian household has to encounter. My Charcoal unit isn’t the best color choice for oily hands but I can’t deny it enhances the appeal of the speaker by multiple folds. The four hiding notification LED lights (borrowed from the Nest Mini) look way better to my eyes over the light ring of an Amazon Echo speaker. The whole design is a perfect example of minimalism.
Turn it around and you will notice the mute slider switch as well as the Google logo towards the bottom. Isn’t that just nice? No vulgar company logo on the face of the speaker. May I also add that the manual volume controls, as well as play-pause controls, are now touch patches on the top and they make for a good design choice over marked controls that big smart speakers usually flaunt. Yeah, you need to get used to these invisible controls but the whole idea behind these is to make you use Google Assistant for everything. I think it works in that case.
Google bundles a proprietary power adapter to power the Nest Audio and I am glad to see that the cable length is long enough to help you in your room decoration endeavors. I still wish Google included a battery inside to provide at least an hour’s wireless audio but I wish that’s only exclusive to the Sony SRS-XB402M speaker.
Sounds just amazing
The Nest Audio relies on a 75mm medium-sized woofer as well as a 19mm secondary driver acting as a tweeter. This sounds adequate on paper and in the real world, the setup is more than enough to satisfy just about everyone. Just because it is a house speaker, it does not necessarily focus too much on a bassy output. In fact, the Nest Audio sounded fairly balanced to my ears and that woofer is used to pronounce the low-end as well as the drums just in the right amount.
This is the reason that whether you listen to the old Bollywood numbers from Kishor Kumar or the new-age romantic songs, or the jazzy pop music from across the waters, the songs sound the way they are supposed to. The soundstage in general equally caters to the mids, lows and highs. The vocals stay sharp even at full volume while the mids never start sounding muddy. The low end in itself is fine putting out the instruments but uses the woofer to pronounce it for an overall pleasing effect.
Everyone who visited my house in the last month enjoyed the Nest Audio’s audio. The kids enjoyed the rock music on it while the elderly appreciated the classical Bengali tracks with all their instruments as well as the vocals. The volume levels are adequately loud for a decently-big bedroom and even a large drawing-room. I was mostly keeping Nest Audio at 70 percent for a pleasant experience.
Of course, if you seek to tune the audio profile towards more bass or treble, there’s a slider option in the Google Home app to do so. While this slider may be enough for most people, I still feel a 5-level equalizer would have sealed the deal for many. Google could consider something like that with a software update, right Google?
Google Assistant is still…err…Google
While the Nest Audio sounds like a home audio system, it goes no further with its smart side. After, it runs on the same Google Assistant that you find on your Android phone available a swipe away. Hence, don’t expect a different experience right out of the box with the Google Assistant here.
I still consider Google Assistant as the best one of its kind but I won’t ignore the fact that it lacks the human touch which Alexa has. It will still return those stale jokes and often resort to the same set of motivational quotes. It is Google after all, and hence, all your voice-based queries will be answered in the best of ways (Google knows more about you than yourself). You request news and it will be ready with the stations of your choice, delivering the latest updates.
Since audio is the key experience here, I judged Google on the basis of how accurate the results it threw up for my song requests. Frankly, the Assistant is great as long as you are listening to international tracks on YouTube Music. It works as advertised and doesn’t discriminate against the classic Indian accent (picture Raj Koothrapalli from the Big Bang Theory) like it used to do some years ago.
When you are not using Google services, it falls apart. I have premium subscriptions to Gaana and JioSaavn, and when I asked it to play Bollywood songs, its search accuracy went down almost 50 percent. It couldn’t look for the recently released tracks, even on YouTube music. You will be able to look for recent Indian music only if you ask it play the “latest Hindi songs” and it fires a radio station of the same name, with the desired songs on top.
For all the times Google Assistant failed, I relied on the Chromecast feature to stream my music to the Nest Audio. This partly defeats the purpose of a smart speaker but it doesn’t become useless at least. And on those occasions when the Wi-Fi network was down, I could go on with my playlist via Bluetooth connectivity.
By the way, the Wi-Fi connectivity worked like a charm and despite having the router in a different room, it didn’t cause any signal drops or performance issues. This solid performance gave me more confidence to control my smart appliances (TV, lights, air purifier, and more). Additionally, adding a new smart appliance to your Google-connected ecosystem is an easy process with the Home app.
The triple microphone setup on the speaker works well in picking up the voice from all the corners of the room and even with a party-like ambiance, it seldom fails to listen. By the way, the “Hey Google” call sign is inferior to “Ok Google” any given day when it comes to picking up the commands.
At Rs 7,999, the Google Nest Audio is not a product you would want to simply embed voice automation in your house – the Nest Mini and the Xiaomi Mi Smart Speaker are available at much cheaper prices for that purpose. The Nest Audio is for those if you love listening to music without many compromises in the audio performance. It is that very nice desk speaker you had always dreamt of, or the one that rests in the corner of your drawing room, entertaining everyone without any fuss. Surely, you can have a better sounding system with a cheaper 2.1 channel speaker system and your smartphone these days. But such a system won’t offer the simplicity and ease of use the Nest Audio offers.
Compared to the first-gen Google Home, the audio performance is superior and it unarguably looks better, especially with the cutesy rounded fabric mesh design. I expected Google to bake-in some Nest Audio-exclusive features for Google Assistant but it’s the same lame AI that’s answering you everytime with questionable results accuracy. The only extra you get is a free subscription to YouTube Music as well as Premium for two weeks.
Is all of this worth the extra over the pretty impressive Mi Smart Speaker? Logic dictates that unless you listen to both next-to-each-other, the Xiaomi speaker is the one offering better value. You need to dig Google’s design language and a premium sound experience in order to justify investing in the Nest Audio as your breakfast table speaker or your drawing room speaker. The Google Nest Audio is more about being a really good speaker rather than a smarter one.