HomePod reviews of note. And one not so much.

Yesterday saw a river of HomePod reviews. Here are a few that struck me, each with its own unique spin.

For starters, if you have not yet already, spend a few minutes with Jim Dalrymple’s take on HomePod. Jim is passionate about music, is an excellent guitarist, and has a real musician’s take.

With Jim’s review as foundation, take a look at these three reviews:

  • Rene Ritchie, iMore: HomePod: Retina for your ears. I love Rene’s analogy comparing HomePod’s computation audio to iPhone and portrait mode. Rene’s review might be the most technically detailed of all the reviews I’ve read. He asks a lot of interesting questions, lays out understandable answers.

  • Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch: A four-sentence HomePod review (with appendices). Here’s the four sentences:

Apple’s HomePod is easily the best sounding mainstream smart speaker ever. It’s got better separation and bass response than anything else in its size and boasts a nuance and subtlety of sound that pays off the 7 years Apple has been working on it.

As a smart speaker, it offers best-in-class voice recognition, vastly outstripping the ability of other smart speakers to hear you trying to trigger a command at a distance or while music is playing, but its overall flexibility is stymied by the limited command sets that the Siri protocol offers.

Buy a HomePod if you already have Apple Music or you want to have it and you’re in the market for a single incredibly over-designed and radically impressive speaker that will give you really great sound with basically no tuning, fussing, measuring or tweaking.

What follows is the review itself. Keep an eye out for the discussion of Siri detection (how HomePod picks up a Siri request with music playing or background noise competing with your voice) as well as Matthew’s appreciation of the HomePod power cord.

  • John Gruber, Daring Fireball: HomePod. John’s review starts with a tweet-sized summary:

Apple says HomePod:

  • Has great audio quality.
  • Is easy to set up.
  • Makes it easy to play audio content from Apple (Apple Music, iTunes Store, iCloud Music Library, podcasts from iTunes’s directory).
  • Has primary interaction via Siri. You just talk to HomePod.
  • Allows secondary interaction using HomePod as an AirPlay speaker.

All of this is true.

Great summary. What follows is really worth reading. John avoids all boilerplate, digging into the good and the bad. Pay special attention to the “What’s missing” section towards the top. Every one of these rang true for me. Other than the lack of a line-in jack (I’ll address that in a sec), each of these issues can be addressed, should Apple choose to, in a future software release.

As to the line-in jack, I get that some people are bothered by this, but this is a speaker made for wireless. To me, a wired input would be old school in a bad way. And if the need is large enough, surely someone will step in with a product that allows you to plug any audio source in, then wirelessly bridge that signal to HomePod via AirPlay.

The final review in my list is sort of an anti-review. This one is from the New York Times and, as is often the case with the Times, is a curmudgeonly take with the title, Apple’s HomePod Has Arrived. Don’t Rush to Buy It. The core of this review is a complaint about Siri:

Siri on HomePod is embarrassingly inadequate, even though that is the primary way you interact with it. Siri is sorely lacking in capabilities compared with Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Siri doesn’t even work as well on HomePod as it does on the iPhone.

Two points here:

  1. Know going in that the Siri domain on HomePod is limited, a subset of the Siri domain on your iPhone. This is no secret, and the reviewer should not have been surprised by this.

  2. Anyone paying attention knows that HomePod is first and foremost about music, about audio. This review doesn’t even look at audio until near the end of the article.

I find reviews like this mind-bogglingly irresponsible. Clearly, Siri is an issue, but that itself is not the story. This feels like an unbalanced slam. Read the other reviews instead. They all carry the good and the bad, they’ll let you know what’s what.