By all accounts, Google has outdone itself with the Nest Audio. It sounds pretty good, you can pair two of them for a true stereo experience, and of course, having Google Assistant built-in means it's more than a speaker. I used to think Google didn't need to make an original Google Home replacement, but I was wrong.
The Nest Audio is great for almost everyone. Almost.
But one thing Nest Audio doesn't do so well is integrating into any existing audio setup. And a lot of people already have some sort of stereo system they already like. It would be great if it could pass through a quality source to another amp and speakers like the Chromecast Audio did — or still does, if you are holding on to one or more.
That's where I'm at. I love listening to music and have several small bookshelf setups scattered around. One in my office, one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in the workshop. Some have expensive parts and others are pieced together from cheap amps like the ones made by Lepai and some decent but also cheap little speakers. I can make a "dumb" stereo that sounds better than a Nest Audio for about the price of one Nest Audio. And I used to be able to make it a connected stereo with a $25 Chromecast Audio.
The Chromecast Audio was cheap, but the parts inside were great. It has a decent 96KHz / 24bit DAC and a combo 3.5 or optical output. That makes it easy to plug into just about anything; a small amp and passive speakers like my tiny setup or powered PC speakers or even headphones. Yes, I have had one dangling off of my headphones just because I can.
A Nest Audio has no output connector of any kind and I think that's a missed opportunity.
I can't do anything of the sort with a Nest speaker, whether it be big or small. And that makes me sad. Even if I could, I don't think I'd want to spend $100 to connect an $80 stereo setup to the cloud, especially three or four times. That's where the Chromecast Audio shined; it was cheap and made things sound great.
I'm not trying to dump on the Nest Audio. As I mentioned above, I think Google did a great job with it. It's also exactly what most people want: a cheap smart speaker that looks good and sounds good. Google was smart to make it and the price is right based on what it can do. I only miss what it can't do.
For now, I have four Chromecast Audios that I'm holding onto for dear life and a mish-mash of Bluetooth stereo adapters to stream music from my phone. A Bluetooth adapter, like this one, can turn any setup into a streaming system but it's just not the same because it's coming from your phone and not directly connected.
Google isn't afraid to shake everything up and I hope there is something to replace the Chromecast Audio in the near future.
Google is not afraid to kill products and services only to come out with a replacement that it thinks you'll like better. Google Home morphed into Nest Audio. Google Reader was replaced by Google News. Hopefully, that means that Google is working on something that can replace the Chromecast Audio because mine — and yours — aren't going to live forever.
Great for almost everyone
Looks good, sounds good, easy to use!
With improved volume, dynamic range, and bass, the Nest Audio shows that Google prioritized quality musical performance above all else for its new, tall, smart speaker. It also has the same processing speed for voice commands as the recent Google Mini.
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