Nest RetroMod

Nest RetroMod is a smart speaker built by modifying components of a Nest Mini speaker from Google in order to create an officially supported device with every feature one would expect from a Nest product, including music streaming, smart home integration, voice calling, app control, and software updates directly from Google.

The name ‘Nest RetroMod’ is derived from the words ‘retro’ and ‘modern’ as the device is a modern take on speaker designs of the 1960s and ’70s. The overall aesthetic of the device is similar to popular speakers of the period, such as those from Acoustic Research, but has been updated by replacing the dark wood that was popular at the time, such as walnut, cherry, and teak, with a lighter birch, as well switching from a cream linen to a cooler gray polyester material. The grain of the wood wraps around the speaker enclosure and the ply of the Baltic birch plywood is exposed on the front to add extra visual flair.

A larger ported enclosure and Dayton Audio PS95-8 3.5″ point-source speaker driver replace the small speaker module originally used in the Nest Mini to provide fuller sound and increased bass. The electronics are placed in front of the speaker driver in order for the stock indicator lights to shine through the front grill fabric and enable tap to play/pause, while a power extension allows the stock Google power adapter to be used with the device.

This project was my first attempt at building a speaker, so it gave me the opportunity to learn a little bit of audio engineering and new woodworking skills/tools. I learned how to plan out a speaker enclosure in WinISD and practiced calculating component values for the corresponding baffle-step circuit. I also started learning how to use a circular saw to cut down the plywood sheet for the project, but I ended up getting help from a friend to cut the final box pieces to size in order to get perfect mitered corners and inset the front baffle and back panel. I did not have access to digital fabrication tools to cut the details for the thin front panels of the speaker, so I got comfortable using a jigsaw, a tool I had not handled in a decade.

I am happy with the look of the final speaker, especially since I took on a more complex project as my first attempt, but the speaker’s sound quality is not what I expected. The mids and mid-bass are exaggerated to the point where, with some songs, the instruments become almost indistinguishable. The resonant frequency of the enclosure itself might be within the mid-bass range, which would explain why those specific frequencies are amplified. It is also likely that Google includes hardcoded equalizer settings to optimize audio quality for the original small driver and enclosure, which are settings I cannot account for, so I might need to add more components to process sound before the signal reaches the speaker driver. For now I am trying to tune the sound using an internal foam lining, plugging the port with foam, and possibly adding fiberfill at a later date. In the future, I might also look into extending the capacitive touch pads for volume so they can be reached through the front grill fabric, but for now the volume can be controlled by voice or through the smartphone app.