HomePod Initial Impressions

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Initial hands-on preview of HomePod sound quality

NDA is up. What can I tell you guys about the HomePod? from audiophile

Comments (46)

46 responses to “HomePod Initial Impressions”

  1. Paul Thurrott

    The early reviews I've seen so far all say the same thing: Great design/beautiful device, with great sound. But Siri is terrible. Also, half the features are currently missing.


    This thing you've posted, however, is almost comical. Based on his short experience with one device, he's recommending two for a stereo feature he has not even experienced yet, since it is literally not available.


    You can get a set of great speakers for $100, as I've written in the past. What's really needed (for Apple fans) is a $50 Apple AirPlay device that lets you target them wirelessly. Not a $350 single speaker that works with the worst personal assistant on the market.

    • PincasX

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      Calling an hour of controlled listinig a “review” is being really really generous. It’s a first impression at best.


      As for pairing them, did you not read the article? The author clearly states that the pairing feature was demoed for them and that is what they are basing the recommendation on. So he has experienced it. It's certainly dubious to recommend two based on the short amount of exposure to it but clearly was demonstrated.


      Lastly, and with all do respect, as an owner of APPL I’m fairly content with Apple once again avoiding what Paul says they should do. They seem to have done well for themselves and me by consistently avoiding your advice.


      • skane2600

        In reply to PincasX:

        With all due respect to Paul, I doubt that Apple pays a lot of attention to him or any other tech reviewer. The suggestion that Apple is "consistently avoiding" Paul's advice sounds more like a personal attack than a legitimate observation about Apple's strategies.

        • PincasX

          In reply to skane2600:

          I agree that Apple doesn’t pay attention to what Paul writes. Well other than the time the quoted him in a keynote which was pretty hilarious.


          If you think that voicing disagreement with Paul’s suggestions is a personal attack then I guess it’s a personal attack.


          Your newfound interest in personal attacks is fascinating and very selective.

          • skane2600

            In reply to PincasX:

            Nice spin. I've never equated simply disagreeing with Paul with a personal attack and I didn't this time either. It was your specific assertion about Apple's attitude towards Paul that I consider questionable.


            I have no idea where your last sentence is coming from.




            • PincasX

              In reply to skane2600:

              I wasn't spinning anything. My comment was me disagreeing with Paul's "what Apple should do" moment. I must have misunderstood that it wasn't the general comment that you were referring to but a very specific piece of it or some of the wording I used. The word choice was meant to be funny in that Paul has, in the past, bemoaned that fact Apple doesn't listen to him.


              As for the last sentence, you are coming after me for personal attacks. Anyone regular hear (I think it is fair to say you are a regular here) knows there are no shortage in personal attacks. Not just in the comments but Paul frequently engages in them. My point was that, to my recollection, you don't seem to really call folks out on them. So I found your new found interest in them fascinating and your interest in calling out personal attacks is selective.

              • skane2600

                In reply to PincasX:

                I thought my point was clear but perhaps not.


                I have criticized personal attacks here before but not often. I don't down-vote comments very often but when I do it's usually because of a personal attack on someone. There have been cases where I wanted to up-vote a comment but didn't because it contained a personal attack. BTW, I never down-vote a comment just because it disagrees with mine.


                I'm more apt to complain about a personal attack against someone who is using their real name rather than hiding behind a username like you and I do.


                Finally, your comment about Paul wasn't that bad, so perhaps I should have let it pass.

                • PincasX

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  All other conversations topics aside, I appreciate having it pointed out if a comment reads as a personal insult. It certainly isn't above me say something that comes off in a way that wasn't intended. I'm not saying I'm above using personal insults. Just the other day I called another commentor a "jackass". I do try to leave them out of substantive discourse or just because I don't agree with someone's view because they have no place in those situations. My use comes in when someone's already slinging them or just being generally obnoxious. I can't say that my reasons for doing so are great excuses for doing it and I should probably just ignore the jackasses of the world but I don't.

    • shameermulji

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      This is THE selling feature of HomePod:


      "A single HomePod, for the size and price, slaughters most speakers under $1000."


      Based on that, majority of early reviews so far say it delivers. Apple has a $1 billion business selling Beats headphones. Not hard to imagine many of those users wanting a high-end audio experience for their home.


      Macrumors has a compiled a list of all the early previews so far. Check it out;


      https://www.macrumors.com/2018/01/27/homepod-sound-quality-impressions/

      • skane2600

        In reply to shameermulji:

        I wouldn't be surprised if the HomePod sells well, but I doubt that most potential buyers are also considering spending as much as $1000 on a speaker. Nor do I believe Apple has developed some kind of magic speaker technology that allows them to offer a $350 device that is as good as a $1000 speaker made by companies that have been making speakers a lot longer.

      • Sprtfan

        In reply to shameermulji:

        The Beats equivalent of the digital assistant speaker is what I'm expecting from apple. Not particularly good for the money but sell well to people that don't know or care.

        The HomePod might fair a little better do less current competition in the voice activated speaker segment compared to that of headphones and the HomePods could turn out to be very good and a good value but that is yet to be seen. I'm not betting on it though.

      • Nicholas Kathrein

        In reply to shameermulji:

        All these are Apple's setup. It wasn't like they just put all three in a room and said " ask each to speaker to play what ever song you want. Instead they had them listened to pre setup songs and again if you don't ask Google Max to play a song then likely Apple used Bluetooth and that losses a lot of the data that makes a good speaker sound good. I'd really like to see how they did this.

      • Nic

        In reply to shameermulji:

        I must be mistaken, I could have sworn you just equated Beats headphones with a high-end audio experience (:

        • Sprtfan

          In reply to Nic:

          I was having a hard time deciding which statement was worse between the Beats headphones being a high end audio experience and that the HomePods may be the best bookshelf (2.0) setup under $1000 that you can get

      • AnOldAmigaUser

        In reply to shameermulji:

        But this is THE truth:


        There is no way that a single small speaker can slaughter a set of stereo speakers that can be purchased for much less than $1000. It has to do with physics, and no amount of Apple's magic fairy dust can change the laws of physics. Can it be a good small speaker? Yes. But can it slaughter real speakers? No.


        As an aside, go to any audio site and check the reviews for Beats headphones. They are a fashion statement, not an audio statement. Anyone wanting a high end audio experience is going to buy other headphones, and will have a decent sound system (not that there is not a whole other world of snake oil being sold in high end audio.)

        • WP7Mango

          In reply to AnOldAmigaUser:


          The guy testing the HomePod is using KEF 300 speakers, which are not the latest KEF speakers and certainly not the best KEF speakers. If he really wants to compare, he should do so with KEF Q350 speakers or with the KEF LS-50 Wireless speaker system. Then he'll see that the HomePod cannot compare.

          • AnOldAmigaUser

            In reply to WP7Mango:

            The speakers mentioned, KEF x300a, self powered monitors, are simply bigger and can push more air. They only reach about 60Hz +/-3db, which is impressive for what they are, but not super deep, but to get bass that low, they use a 5.25 inch driver and a port.

            The homepods, at 5.6 inches wide could possibly fit a similar sized midrange driver, but from the documentation on the apple site, it looks to be a 4 inch driver. They do not have a reflex port, so the bass is going to have a different sound, since acoustic suspension speakers do not typically go as low as a similarly sized bass reflex speaker, but IMHO sound cleaner.

            My guess is that they have a bass response to around 80Hz +/-3db at best, again, not bad, for what they are, but it will not be as imposing as the KEF. I tend to prefer the bass from acoustic suspension speakers, and have been very impressed with a small pair that I have, and the reviewer may have the same preference. The issue is that the longer you listen to them, the more you feel the lack of bass compared to a larger set of bookshelf speakers.

            I use a subwoofer to fill in the sound, and will likely repurpose them as surrounds in a different system, but right now they are in a bedroom setup, since they have a higher WAF than a bigger pair.

            I am sure the homepod is a good speaker, but a pair will set you back $700, which is pretty much the same as the KEFs. They might provide easier placement options, but there is no option for a subwoofer, and they lock you into the Apple ecosystem, which I am not in, and every piece of which is priced at a premium.


    • MutualCore

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      Siri works great on the iPhone with Apple Music Paul. You can bash it all you like, but the Siri experience with playing music w/Apple Music even with obscure sounding artists is impeccable. On the same iPhone Google's Assistant failed!

      • Nicholas Kathrein

        In reply to MutualCore:

        If all you want Siri to do is to be your music robot I have not doubt it will work well. Apple's AI if you can even call it that can be programmed to do set things very well but it takes a lot of time for them programing that specificly just for that task. where as whatever Google has done makes it's AI understand better than the rest and they don't have to spend tons of time programming it for each specific thing. I have no doubt the speak sounds good. I don't believe it sounds better though than the Google Max. If it does that alone would be a feat to sound a good as it because the Max is a big and heavy speaker and the Homepod isn't.

    • Lauren Glenn

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      To a point. The problem with many Apple devices is that their sound quality is not their priority and when playing music, it shows quite often. To those who say that they can't hear the difference between 256kbps AAC audio and lossless, listen to some different music where you can. Music originally recorded on analog equipment in lossless vs 256kbps audio and you can hear subtle bits of audio that you couldn't hear with 256kbps. Most of it being sounds of drums and cymbals that stand out. But if you take a song like Learning To Live by Dream Theater and play it on an LG V30+ in lossless, you can clearly hear the keyboards at parts of the song where I've never heard it before as easily with an Apple device.


      So just hooking a speaker up to an iPhone isn't the same thing as you are still hindered by the weakest link: the Apple DAC.

    • MutualCore

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      I got an Echo Plus a few days ago and I have to say that for $150 an excellent value. I'm only hitting the tip of the iceberg with what this thing can do.

  2. Bats

    I am sure that these sound good. The only problem is that Siri is awfully dumb (lol). Even Cortana is smarter than her.

  3. Sprtfan

    I ran into a independent review today that included the HomePod that give some details about how the Apple listening session was setup and then included and A/B with other speakers that was for the most part, actually setup correctly. (he tried to level match by ear at first and that is not ideal but I'll give him credit for at least trying. He did have someone with and SPL meter come for the 2nd round)

    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/head-head-apple-homepod-really-sound-best-160346138.html


    If you just want the conclusion, the 2nd round had 2 people picking the Sonos and 2 picking the Google Home Max as the best. The 1st round that he did with his family and friends had the HomePod winning.


  4. MutualCore

    LOL, nothing about how terrible Siri is?

  5. Jeff Goldman

    The problem is it ONLY supports Apple ecosystem and even die hard Apple users use Spotify, Pandora, and other music services.

  6. Jules Wombat

    So its an Apple branded wireless speaker then. OK.

  7. DJames

    Call me old school or whatever, but leading this review off with an obscenity, and then repeating it later, lowers my opinion of this reviewer and causes me to discount everything he says. Whether it is a public postings, discussions in professional settings, presentations, etc. how you say things is still important. The use of obscenities and profanities indicates a lack of class and intelligence.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to DJames:

      That is pretty old-fashioned, but I think it’s quite fair here. The author is knowledgeable on the topic - to me the far more important measure - but their writing skills leave a lot to be desired. There are some run-ons, places where commas would be nice, and otherwise just lax punctuation. They’re writing as though speaking it. It looks like unretouched dictation.

  8. Nicholas Kathrein

    I've seen these reviews but no one knows or has said if the Sonos or Google Play Max was send the music through Bluetooth or if they played it by asking the speaker to pull the audio from Google Play Music or some other service and this makes a big difference in sound quality. Sending music to a speaker through Bluetooth is the worst way to do it. You get lower quality music which will make the sound more flat as data is missing from the music. If they played everything from Apple Music then they can't chromecast it so all that leaves is Bluetooth. I can see them doing this. It makes Googles speaker sound worse and I don't know how they did it for Sonos but I know Sonos can play Apple Music so it's possible that got a fair shot.

      • Sprtfan

        In reply to PincasX:

        lol, Apple actually ended up telling people how they did the testing Nicholas was right. Each speaker was hooked up differently with the Echo being connected via Bluetooth

        • PincasX

          In reply to Sprtfan:

          Uhh, no he wasn't. He claimed that Google Max used Bluetooth to make it sound worse. The article you linked to didn't back that. So... that claim was a work of fiction.

          • Sprtfan

            In reply to PincasX:

            He said they didn't disclose how the music was sent. It was discovered that each was sent music a different way and one of those ways was via Bluetooth. It was a poorly set up demo with the potential to easily be biased. His mention of Google was basically for example. Either way you want to try to frame it the demo was pretty much garbage the way they did it. His point was with out more info we can't trust it and turned out that he was right.

            • PincasX

              In reply to Sprtfan:

              I'm not claiming the demo was good, I actually was down on the whole thing in my comment below. Nicolas was doing what alway does which is jumping to defend Google form any perceived slight. He suggested Apple used Bluetooth with both the Sonos and Home Max, he doesn't even mention Amazon which ironic since that was the only one that used Bluetooth. The method of connection for connecting to Sonos (Ethernet) and Max (stereo line in) are actually not going cause any sort of quality issues. So his Bluetooth conspiracy too make Google look bad is pretty much bunk. There are, of course other ways to rig it though. Source quality, picking music that the HomePod manages better and if I cared I'm sure I could come up with more, but what he was peddling was just crap.... as usual.

    • Sprtfan

      In reply to Nicholas_Kathrein:

      Technically, the speakers need to be the same volume level for a proper comparison also and this would need to be done with a SPL meter.  I wouldn't have expected them to have actually go to the effort though but is also why I wouldn't read much into these early impressions because there are to many unknowns and variables. 

      They could turn out to be great, but what information we have now is pretty useless for determining anything. 

  9. Tony Barrett

    So reports an Apple fan by the sounds of it. I'm not saying this 'HomePod' is rubbish or anything - obviously not, but if you're serious about your music, you still wouldn't use anything like this. If you're a casual listener, it's too expensive, if you're in between and already locked into Apple's iron walls, you might be interested. This isn't an impulse purchase, and there's unlikely to be a 'HomePod mini' because that's not how Apple work. You pay what they ask, or you don't have one. As for it being a 'smart speaker', well, Siri's probably the dumbest of the AI assistants, so I don't hold out much hope.


    There are plenty of descent alternative options that are 'good enough' for most people. This is just Apple being Apple.

  10. Sprtfan

    "Keep in mind these listening demos were conducted by Apple in controlled environments"


    I think it is worth pointing out that the room makes a huge difference in how a speaker will preform. All of these reviews were very short in a room that was set up by apple. I would take everything at this point with a huge grain of salt until some real world reviews come out. Most of the reviews I read seem like typical apple fanboy stuff at this point.

    There is a saying that there is no replacement for displacement. Saying these maybe the best sub $1000 set of bookshelf speakers seems like a huge stretch at this point and would at least need a qualifier of when considering the size.

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