Apple wants to make sure everyone who considers a HomePod knows they’re selling it on the (smart) speaker’s audio quality. Good thing for them, then, that the device delivers.
When I wrote up my first impressions of the HomePod, I wanted to just focus on the device itself. I didn’t have a lot of time after I pulled the smart speaker out of the box, so right then and there it was just about the speaker’s design, easily identifying Siri, and that’s about it. Quick and to the point.
I always intended on breaking things up a bit. This is Apple’s first smart speaker after all, and I think it deserves attention for the individual parts.
So here we are, and I’ve finally been able to actually use the HomePod for more than a handful of minutes. And I’m just going to get right to the point here: This thing sounds ridiculous. I’m not sure that I’ve seen or heard a review say the opposite, so depending on how many you’ve gone through yourself, this might be preaching to the choir. I can’t speak to the specifics here, or the technical side of things, but as far as I’m concerned the results are off-the-charts.
The HomePod isn’t small, but Apple has packed a ton of technology in the package.
As a quick reminder, let’s go over the technical specifications of the HomePod, briefly. Specifically, the audio technology that Apple has crammed into the package. It includes a “high-excursion woofer,” which is coupled with a custom amplifier. The HomePod boasts an “array of seven horn-loaded tweeters”, and each of those tweeters also includes its own custom amplifier. There are six microphones in total that are designed to catch the user requesting Siri. There is an internal low-frequency calibration microphone embedded inside the HomePod, which is designed to automatically correct bass on a per-song basis.
The HomePod also supports “direct and ambient audio beam forming”, and what Apple calls “transparent” studio-level dynamic processing”.
I also wanted to test how the HomePod would adapt to individual rooms, because Apple has hyped the ability of the smart speaker to change its audio footprint depending on where you put it. I set it up in my living room first, and, indeed, the speaker pumped out audio that filled up the space around me. There weren’t any walls around it, either, so it wasn’t bouncing any audio off a solid structure behind the speaker or next to it.
However, I put it in the corner of a bedroom and I could immediately hear the difference. It is a legitimately awesome feature.
I should note that I think the HomePod might be a perfect speaker for an apartment, because of the way the audio bounces off the walls and fills up a small- or medium-sized room. But for anyone who has a huge living room or other open space, the HomePod might still sound like it’s not filling the entire space.
Before the HomePod launched, we ran a report about how the smart speaker automatically tunes the EQ, in real-time, based on the song that’s playing on the device.
Apple is a company that goes out of its way, sometimes, to remove the user from changing things. iOS has been built on this idea from day one (compared to Android, for instance). And that EQ story made me skeptical, to say the least. I don’t necessarily go out of my way to change the EQ on a regular basis, mostly because what I listen to changes on a regular basis. But the fact that Apple thought it could use technology, and on a song-by-song basis, just seemed almost too good to be true.
And yet, the results are there. Listening to the official soundtrack for Black Panther offers plenty of bass, which fills my entire living room. And then switching over to Heavy Thoughts by For The Win changes the footprint in major ways. The bass gets reduced and there’s more range in general, as the variety of instruments are taken into account.
I can’t compare the HomePod to other high-level speakers, from the likes of Sonos and others. Not yet, at least. But I can say that the Google Home and the Amazon Echo just don’t hold a candle to Apple’s smart speaker when it comes to audio quality. Maybe the Google Home Max can come close (one would hope, considering it costs $50 more than Apple’s device).
What I can say is that Apple’s selling point, the one element of the HomePod they are selling above all else, is spot on. There is al to to be said about all the points that Apple may have missed, and I’m going to get to those in later write-ups, but the HomePod’s audio quality is, as far as I’m concerned, absolutely one of the best reasons to buy it.
I am impressed by the HomePod’s audio quality. By the way that it can fill a room. I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of owning the HomePod before it was released, but now that I’ve got in the house, and I’ve listened to it for a good length of time, I’m glad to see it on the mantle, and it’s definitely going to be something I use every single day.