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Early HomePod review: Sound is superior to the Echo and Google Home, but Siri may be a liability

HomePod Review

After a brief delay, Apple’s HomePod smart speaker will finally hit store shelves on February 9. Sporting a $349 sticker price, the HomePod isn’t exactly cheap when stacked up against rival products from the likes of Amazon and Google. Not to be deterred, Apple strategy with the HomePod, above all else, is to position it as a premium acoustic device. So while you won’t be able to use the HomePod to order Dominos pizza — as one can do with the Amazon Echo — Apple is confident that the superior sound quality offered by the HomePod will compel buyers to pull the trigger.

Speaking to this, Tim Cook during a recent interview stressed that the one thing currently missing from the smart speaker market is incredible sound quality.

“We think one thing that was missing from this market was a quality audio experience, a very immersive audio experience,” Cook said earlier this week. “Music deserves that kind of quality as opposed to some kind of squeaky sound.”

With Apple pushing the acoustic quality of the HomePod as a key differentiator, Madeline Buxton of Refinery29 was recently given an opportunity to take Apple’s upcoming smart speaker for a test drive.

Said to be about the same size as the Sonos One, Buxton notes that sound on the HomePod truly delivers.

When I listened to the speaker next to Google Home Max, the latest Amazon Echo, and Sonos One, the vocals were consistently crisper and clearer on HomePod. The pluck of guitar strings pops, and bass notes have the robust thump-thump you want from them.

More interesting, though, is that sound on the HomePod remained crisp and strong no matter what room it’s placed in and no matter where a listener happens to be stationed in relation to it.

It’s also nice that regardless of where you are in the room, HomePod’s sound quality stays strong. That’s due in part to HomePod’s ability to automatically tune to the size of the room you’re in, without you needing to do any additional setup. You don’t have to carry your phone around the room, covering all its dimensions to ensure the best sound, like you do when setting up some other speakers.

As many others have opined, Buxton relays that a stunted version of Siri may prove to be a drawback for the HomePod. Still, we’ll find out soon enough if the device’s acoustic quality will be strong enough to attract buyers in the face of cheaper alternatives.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.