It seems as if everyone is getting invited to the smart home audio party, and now Sonos has combined with Ikea to create the Ikea Symfonisk bookshelf speaker because apparently, floating shelves don’t play music. Google Nest Audio can’t hold your books while playing the latest hits on Spotify, but it offers enough features to challenge the attraction of a singing bookshelf.
These two smart speakers couldn’t be more different aesthetically and practically. The Google Nest Audio is designed to be at the center of everything, while the Ikea Symfonisk essentially begs to be mounted in a library-themed environment. Both are effective speakers with excellent sound quality, while each has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Visual appeal is obviously important, and both speakers manage their own style and placement well.
|Ikea Symfonisk||Google Nest Audio|
|Dimensions||12”H x 6” D x 4” W||6.89” H x 3.07” D x 4.89” W|
|Colors||Black and White||Chalk, Charcoal, Sand, and Sky|
|Placement||Stand-alone or as a bookshelf||Sits on flat surfaces or mounts with an encasement sold separately|
|Ports||Ethernet and power cable||Power cable port only|
|Design||Plastic and silicone rubber base. 100% polyester fabric over the body.||70% recycled plastic enclosure with 100% polyester fabric exterior.|
For the Google Nest Audio, the internal tweeters are placed so that they create 360 degrees of sound. This makes sense as the Nest Audio is designed for flat-surface placement anywhere in the home, but particularly in the center of the room, if the power cable isn’t an inconvenience. The Nest Audio comes in various colors to satisfy those who prefer adding a little flair to their home environment.
The Ikea Symfonisk’s sound is forward-directed, a sensible choice considering the fact that it can be used as a bookshelf. Unfortunately, it lacks the visual appeal from some of Sonos’ other offerings—it looks like a pretty standard speaker—and only comes in black and white versions. It does have the addition of an ethernet port, which the Google Nest Audio lacks, for a consistent and more stable internet connection.
As smart speakers go, third-party connectivity and virtual assistants are almost a must. While both the Google Nest Audio and the Ikea Symfonisk are certainly smart speakers, the Nest Audio both supports more and does more than the Symfonisk.
|Ikea Symfonisk||Google Nest Audio|
|Virtual Assistants||Lacks a mic but supports Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Siri/Airplay 2||Google Assistant Built-in, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Siri/Airplay 2|
|Third-Party Support||Supports a variety of additional speakers (check for Sonos compatibility). Integrates with most third-party, Wi-Fi-enabled products but lacks a mic for direct voice control||Supports third-party, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth-enabled devices|
|Wireless Capabilities||Wi-Fi 2.4GHz – 5.0GHz||Wi-Fi 2.4Ghz – 5.0GHz or Bluetooth 802.11b/g/n/ac|
|Associated App||Sonos for iOS or Android||Google Home for iOS or Android|
|Optional Ethernet||Ethernet capable||No ethernet|
|Operating System||N/A||Quad-Core A53 1.8GHz|
The lack of Bluetooth continues to be a puzzling feature in Sonos products, although it’s understandable that this is a software choice in favor of stability over Bluetooth compression. Also, the Ikea Symfonisk lacks a microphone, which makes an additional hub—such as the Amazon Echo 4th gen—a necessity if you want to control your music with your voice.
The Ikea Symfonisk still supports most third-party devices and is compatible with over 120 different radio and streaming services, including Apple Airplay 2. It can also connect directly to your router via an ethernet port, eliminating the need for Wi-Fi altogether, along with any interference that Wi-Fi is subject to. App support is integral to Sonos products, and the updated Sonos app retains abilities lost without voice commands.
Google Nest Audio falls purely into the Amazon Echo category of smart speakers. It supports the same range of streaming services, radio, and apps that the Ikea Symfonisk does but includes a microphone for voice control over your entire streaming experience in addition to voice control over other smart devices linked to your network.
There is no ethernet port for the Google Nest Audio, and despite the loss of audio richness with Bluetooth compression, it supports the latest Bluetooth connection technology for stronger and more vibrant audio with less interference.
Sound quality and audio were approached very differently by Sonos and Google. Whether that’s a hardware design choice or software is irrelevant, as both speakers perform very well in the sound department.
|Ikea Symfonisk||Google Nest Audio|
|Speaker Type||2 class-D amplifiers, 1 tweeter, and 1 mid-woofer||75mm Woofer, 19mm Tweeter, and 3 far-field mics|
|Sound Features||Connects to additional speakers for stereo sound, playbars, arcs, beams, or subs||Pairs with additional Nest devices for stereo sound. Ambient and Media EQ technology|
The Ikea Symfonisk can connect to up to 30 additional speakers for entire-home or room-filling, stereo sound. As a “bookshelf’ type speaker, it does lack range from left to right as you move away from it. However, it has better internals than the Google Nest Audio and produces a deeper bass with more vibrant and rich sounds over the Nest Audio.
However, the quality of sound diminishes when you move away, which isn’t the case with the Google Nest Audio. Google designed the Nest Audio with increased bass over its predecessors, the Google Nest Mini and Google Home. The three, far-field mic and 19mm tweeter provide the same sound quality no matter where you stand about the Google Nest Audio.
Google also incorporated Ambient and Media EQ, which adjusts the audio for the type of sound you’re listening to, such as music, audiobooks, or podcasts, and also adjusts the sound to compensate for background noise.
Where the Ikea Symfonisk is mounted can effectively eliminate any of the Google Nest Audio’s advantages, as the Symfonisk has a slightly better overall sound quality, and—if mounted directly in front of where you sit in the evenings, for example—will erase the need for 360-degree sound.
Sonos and Ikea partnered for a unique combination. That combo has produced a line of Bookshelf speakers, lamp speakers, and picture-frame speakers. Sonos is no stranger to high-quality speakers, and though the Ikea Symfonisk is their cheapest product yet, there’s a slight drop-off in quality.
On the other hand, Google had some initial problems with its entry into the smart speaker market. The original Google Home and Home Mini were discontinued, despite generally favorable reviews. When Google purchased Nest—thus changing the name of their smart speakers to Nest—it opened up a new market entry of smart speaker devices, resulting in the mid-range Google Nest Audio.
In terms of sound quality and usefulness—the Google Nest Audio can’t hold a rack of books after all—the Ikea Symfonisk takes the cake. Easily expandable, in terms of additional speakers, a direct ethernet connection, and the choice of Wi-Fi over Bluetooth, combine to create a stable and powerful speaker that can also hold your books or whatever else floats your boat and happens to fit on its six-inch deep surface.
While the Ikea Symfonisk lacks a microphone, this is easily remedied with the addition of other smart hubs, or even the Sonos One—the Google Nest Audio could be an ironic addition to your Ikea Symfonisk as a virtual assistant. The Google Nest Audio is an outstanding device. However, its versatility and compatibility don’t quite match the audio superiority of the Symfonisk. Oh, and it can’t hold books.
While Google is trying to find a happy medium by developing reasonably priced smart home speakers with built-in virtual assistants, Sonos decided to team up with Ikea to create a unique, dual-use experience.
The Ikea Symfonisk wins in the audio department, with deeper bass and a higher, distortion-free decibel range. However, the Google Nest Audio is far more compatible with third-party virtual assistants and has zero audio drop-off no matter where you stand in relation to it.