If you're shopping for a Google Assistant-powered smart speaker, chances are you've been mostly looking at Google's own first-party offerings with the Home, Home Mini, and new Home Hub Smart Display. Google's smart speakers are really great and among the best out there, but a quick look over at the third-party world will reveal a heap of goodness just waiting to be explored.
One such third-party speaker is the Soundcore Model Zero+.
Soundcore is a subbrand from the popular smartphone accessory manufacturer Anker, and the Model Zero+ is its first shot at a speaker with the Google Assistant built-in. It costs $250, and if you've got the means to buy it, is worthy of a well-deserved spot at the top of your shopping list.
Here's my full review!
- Stunning, unique design
- Excellent sound w/ Dolby Audio
- Can be used wirelessly
- Responsive touch controls
- Issues with audio groups
- Costs the same as some Smart Displays
Soundcore Model Zero+ Why it's so great
Let's get started by discussing the elephant in the room — the Model Zero+'s design.
This thing looks unlike any other smart speaker I've ever seen, and I absolutely love it. Made out of brushed aluminum and woven fabric, the Model Zero+'s unique shape gives it a great deal of character and allows it to easily stand apart from just about every other smart speaker you can buy.
I'll let the pictures below speak for themselves.
Underneath the handle is a curved touch bar that allows you to turn the volume up and down by either tapping the - and + icons at either end or by simply sliding your finger across it. This slide gesture works really well and honestly makes controlling the volume kind of fun. When you want to pause/resume the song or podcast that's playing, just tap the bar in the middle.
Not only does the handle design look great, but it also serves a legitimate purpose. That's because you can use the Model Zero+ completely wirelessly.
If you ever want to move the speaker from your desk or table, just unplug the power cable and you're covered with up to 5 hours of use before needing to plug it back in. That's likely part of the reason the speaker has so much heft to it 1955g, but being able to completely unplug is a really nice addition that's quite convenient to have.
That's all fine and dandy, but how does the Model Zero+ actually sound? Pretty darn good.
Soundcore outfitted the Model Zero+ with two 63mm woofers, two 19mm tweeters, and two passive radiators. Adding to that is sound tuned by Dolby Audio and a system called BassUp that aims to increase the power/force of bass in your songs.
In real world testing, I found the Soundcore Model Zero+ to be a joy to listen to. Voices are clear, bass is powerful, and there's a good sense of depth to the music I listened to. I'm not an audiophile, but I do know that this is a great-sounding speaker.
You can access your music in a variety of ways, including asking for it using the Google Assistant, Casting, Bluetooth, and by taking advantage of the 3.5mm jack. Plus, if you have two of the speakers, you can pair them together for powerful stereo sound.
Speaking of the Google Assistant, you can use it just like you would on any Google Home speaker — allowing you to check your calendar, control smart home gadgets, broadcast messages to other Google Assistant devices, and much, much more.
Soundcore Model Zero+ A couple things to consider
No product is perfect, and with the Model Zero+, the biggest annoyance I came across was its poor performance in multi-room audio groups. You can easily add the speaker to an audio group in the excellent Google Home app, but once music actually starts playing, it's noticeably delayed on the Model Zero+ compared to other speakers.
I tried playing music from multiple apps in a group consisting on two Smart Displays, two Home Minis, a regular Google Home, and the Model Zero+. Every single time, the Model Zero+ was a second or so behind everything else. Some speakers allow you to fix this using something called "group delay correction", but no such option exists for the Model Zero+.
Another potential pain point lies with the price. At $250, the Model Zero+ is $50 more expensive than the Sonos One and the same price as the recently released JBL Link View that also sounds great and delivers a full Smart Display experience.
If you're after smart speaker with a top priority being sound quality, the Model Zero+ makes sense. However, if you don't need wireless functionality or want something that can act as a central hub for all of your smart home devices, there are better options out there.
Should you buy the Soundcore Model Zero+? Yes!
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect going into this review, but I came away a lot more impressed than I had anticipated.
The Soundcore Model Zero+ looks fantastic, has top-notch sound, and offers a lot of flexibility with the option to use it wirelessly. There are a lot of great elements here, and for $250, you're getting a lot for your money.
4.5 out of 5
Soundcore's entering an extremely competitive field, but for the right person, the Model Zero+ is a real treat.
All of this money - for what? I did a quick mod to one of my google minis and added the 3.5mm jack that Google overlooked. Then I hooked it to my stereo system and it works great! IMHO, the smart speakers are more for systems control than music anyway. I like the Google Home Minis because, with the after-market hangers I bought that let me hang them directly from a duplex plug, I can have minis all over my house and shops. I control my lights, thermostats, and even my two big air compressors all with voice commands. All of this talk about sound quality is lost on me. These weren't ever meant to replace a good stereo anyway.
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