One of the more interesting things about the HomePod is that Apple’s isn’t positioning the device as a direct competitor to products like Google Home and the Amazon Echo. On the contrary, Apple’s strategy with the HomePod is to deliver a speaker that provides unrivaled acoustic performance for less than $400. While Siri will certainly figure prominently in the overall HomePod experience, Apple executives have stressed that the HomePod’s underlying allure is its incredible sound quality.
“What we tried to do is deliver something that is a breakthrough speaker first,” Tim Cook said in the wake of the HomePod’s release at WWDC last year. “And so, music is deep in our DNA, dating back from iTunes and iPod. And so we wanted something that sounded unbelievable. I think when people listen to it, they are going to be shocked over the quality of the sound, and of course it does a lot of other things. But we wanted a really high quality audio experience as well.”
All that said, the question on everyone’s mind is quite simple: is listening to music on the HomePod as amazing as Apple has been promising?
As it turns out, nearly all of the HomePod reviews we’ve seen thus far suggest that the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Over the past few days, Apple has been giving select publications about an hour to play around with the HomePod, and the vast majority of those reviews offer up glowing reviews on Apple’s new smart speaker.
Below are a few of the more revealing excerpts.
To say the HomePod outshone the Echo is obvious: The Echo’s soundscape sounds more like a 90s car radio than a true room speaker, and it struggles mightily when being asked to fill a large open room as the center of attention, rather than background music.
The HomePod, in contrast, is designed for the whole-room experience. The magic that goes on between the A8 chip and its tweeter array allows for vocals and mids that sound like they’re coming from a stage in the HomePod’s general direction, rather than a small speaker.
There’s little question here that the HomePod is a speaker first, smart second, bucking the trend of the earliest Echo and Google Home devices. Apple’s engineers were able to get a lot of rich and full sound out of that little footprint. The speaker is particularly adept as isolating vocals and maintaining often muddled aural aspects, like background singers and audience sounds in live recordings.
Wired UK’s review was a little less enthusiastic:
First up on our demo is Ariana Grande’s Side to Side. What becomes immediately apparent is the formidable bass the HomePod kicks out. What’s more, the sound remains constant as you walk around the room, no doubt thanks to those beam-forming tweeters. The vocals are clear as a bell, too.
It’s not all good news, however. There is a distinct lack of mid-range, leaving you feeling that something is missing in the mix.
OK, yes, the HomePod sounds great. After spending a good chunk of the afternoon with Apple’s new Siri-controlled speaker, listening to tunes in the company’s tony Tribeca apartment meeting space, I’m more convinced than ever that Apple has built an aural triumph in its initial entry to the “smart speaker” space.
Meanwhile, a self-professed audiophile was given an hour with the HomePod and wrote an interesting write-up on the device on the audiophile subreddit.
Having heard it side by side with The Sonos Play One and Google Home Max, A single HomePod is already much better than both in terms of sound quality. I would say the Sonos Play One was 80% of the way there, but it just lacked the clarity of bass and wide soundstage. The Home Max was consistent with the Sonos Play One.
Walk around in the room you never feel like you’re leaving the sweet spot. An impressive feat.