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.
Google's Nest Audio was all but revealed already when it appeared in a Walmart a week ago, but now it's official. The company just announced its latest Google-powered speaker at its annual Pixel event. As you can tell from the pictures, the Nest Audio is a fabric-clad speaker similar to the Nest Mini. According to Google, the new Nest Audio has a 19mm tweeter, a 75mm mid-woofer, all of which will result in "fuller, clearer, more natural sound." It also apparently has 50 percent more bass and 75 percent more volume than its predecessor.
In a lot of ways, smart speakers are the ideal home stereo for the streaming music generation. Telling an Amazon Echo to play whatever song was on your mind for the first time was a bit of a revelation. And music remains one of the most-used and most crucial features of any smart speaker. The only problem is lots of them sound terrible. Sonos, Google, Apple and Amazon all have smart speakers where music quality is paramount, but a $200 Echo Studio or Sonos one is a tough sell next to a $50 Echo Dot or Nest Mini.
Apple is late to the consumer priced smart speaker market, but it finally joined Amazon and Google with the $99 HomePod Mini. Here's what you need to know: The Mini is way smaller in size than both the new Amazon Echo fourth generation speaker and Google Nest Audio. And while it doesn't sound as great for music as either of them, (it is way smaller, after all) in our unscientific home ears test, it probably doesn't matter. This is a really useful speaker for anyone living in the Apple ecosystem and it makes the Siri personal assistant way more competitive with Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant. The HomePod Mini sounds fantastic as a TV speaker.
If you've been thinking about whether to pick up a Chromecast Audio to make your audio setup a little smarter, you should probably make your mind up quickly. Google has confirmed it's discontinuing the device. "Our product portfolio continues to evolve, and now we have a variety of products for users to enjoy audio," a spokesperson told 9 to 5 Google. "We have therefore stopped manufacturing our Chromecast Audio products. We will continue to offer assistance for Chromecast Audio devices, so users can continue to enjoy their music, podcasts and more."