Listening to HomePod

While at WWDC this week I had a chance to listen to Apple’s new HomePod and compare it to some of the competing products on the market. The results were somewhat surprising.

Music is a huge part of my life. I play guitar, record, mix, play live and listen every single day. I love many genres of music and the talented people that make it. I want my music to sound the best it possibly can, in all situations.

I use Future Sonics Ear Monitors because they are quite simply the best in-ear headphones on the market—nothing beats them. In my home, I have a Sonos bar and a few satellite speakers to fill the room wirelessly. They do sound great, but I don’t often use them for just listening to music.

I mentioned that the results of listening to the HomePod were surprising—that’s in a good way. I never expected the sound from this relatively small speaker to fill a room so well. It wasn’t just loud, it was crisp, clear, warm, and filled with bass. It sounded so good, I was truly surprised.

And that was just with one HomePod speaker.

The real listening magic came when I heard two HomePods together. The HomePods automatically talked to each other and split the channels of the song. It wasn’t just adding another HomePod increased the loudness of the music in the room, they seemed to intelligently know what the other was playing.

The HomePod will also adjust its sound depending on where you place it in the room. If it’s against a wall, it will know and play the music according. If you move it to an open space, it will readjust for those conditions as well, all automatically.

I also listened to the same songs using the Sonos Play 3 and Amazon Echo. The Echo was so bad, it’s not even worth discussing. The sound was awful—it’s like it was being played in a tin can. I understand that people have the Echo for many uses, but I hope playing music isn’t one of them.

The Sonos was better, but it still didn’t measure up to the HomePod. Being a fan of Sonos and owning a system myself, I expected a lot more from it.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the HomePod, from setting it up to how many can be connected and what that experience would be like. I’m not even sure how Siri will work on the HomePod.

What I can say is that from a listeners standpoint, the HomePod is one hell of a great sounding speaker. One will certainly not be enough for me.

  • justis

    How does the HomePod compare to Devialet? Does it get anywhere close?

    • Space Gorilla

      That would be interesting if the HomePod did get close, given that the Devialet Phantom speaker starts at $2,795 Canadian funds.

      • justis

        Exactly. I don’t understand the details of the technology, but at the surface they’re trying to do similar things.

        • Space Gorilla

          For the pundits who think HomePod is too expensive, I’d say they’re wrong. Consider all the people that own iPhones and don’t have much in the way of a good sound system. Maybe they live in a dorm room or a small apartment. All they need is one HomePod and that’s good enough, and miles better than what they have now. My entry level surround sound system was more than the cost of two HomePods (I have to include the cost of the receiver that runs it).

        • Tom_P

          From what Apple claimed, Devialet has more power. That’s all. (It’s altually like the difference between Platinum, Gold and Silver Phantom)

  • Hey, that’s great news. Psyched to check ’em out!

  • Could you see it as a Home Theater system replacement? Not sure if this is a use case or not? (for small/medium sized rooms)

  • JimCracky

    I am sure it does all that they say it will do. I will also guarantee that DSP is arbitrary and I will not allow that in my signal chain.

    Also, $349 for mono sucks.

    • entropy

      It has six tweeters and a woofer. We will see how good the directional stuff is later. But so not mono.

    • Tom_P

      Many paid ~€1,700 on Phantom for mono. And good luck setting it up for AirPlay. Never dream I’ll get distortion-free sound at this price.

  • Why is the HomePod being compared to the Play 3; a six year old non-equivalent speaker?

    • pguinnessy

      Only other thing close to it apart from Sonos might be

      Libratone ZIPP Portable Multi-Room Wireless Speaker with WiFi + Bluetooth + Airplay & 360° Sound

      • justis

        Could and should also be compared to the Devialet. Similar goals of intelligent sound shaping, though the Divialet costs 10x as much.

    • rick gregory

      Probably because it’s the most well known product in that category. It’s roughly the same cost and Sonos positions their stuff as being principally for home audio. It’s not Apple’s fault that the Play 3 is 6 years old. That’s on Sonos.

      • Picollus

        Based purely on form factor, I would compare it to Play1

        • rick gregory

          Sure. But on features and price, Play 3 – but I’d like to see the comparison on all 3.

  • Dana Pellerin

    I have a pair of Alesis studio monitors in my recording room and a receiver & pair of Infinity bookshelf speakers in my garage (aka mancave). I would love to replace the Infinity and receiver with something smaller, and I have no sound system in the main house. The HomePod would fit those two bills perfectly. And since those are places where I’m really never just sitting in one place, a mono speaker is just fine. I’m looking forward to hearing it.

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  • Bob Smith

    If your using sonos speakers and or ANY in ear headphones you do NOT want music to sound it’s best in all situations. Sorry but both statements don’t go together. As for the new Apple speaker, I’m sure it’s fairly good for its size but we’ll see when it drops in 6 months. For now I’ll continue to use a B&W A7 for my wireless music and full high priced cans when headphones are needed. I DO want music sound it’s best in every situation. My 2 cents…

    • rick gregory

      it’s not positioned as an audiophile product. It’s for people who either have no current music system that integrates with their computing gear or have one but it’s in one room and that want audio elsewhere too. The latter is my case. I have a nice sound system in my media room, but not in my living room. I don’t want to orient my living room around a sound system but it would be nice to have decent audio there as well.

    • griffd

      What Rick said.

      • Bob Smith

        What I said.

    • Chex Lemeno

      That’s a complete matter of opinion. When we are talking high-end audiophile headphones, electrostatic cans give you the beautiful soundstage, openness, and warmth. CIEMs of the same caliber are going to give you unparalleled clarity that you don’t come anywhere near with cans. Technically, no kind of headphone is the “full package,” but ultimately think it depends on what kind music you listen to. IMHO cans are better for live music, orchestras, rock, CIEMs are way better for electronic. I’ve tried a bunch of cans, nothing touches my JHA 16 pros for my electronic collection.