“Once upon a time, I had a fairly sophisticated stereo sound system, worth well over ten thousand dollars,” Gene Steinberg writes for The Tech Night Owl. “It consisted of a set of classic flat panel ribbon speakers, the Carver Amazing Platinum, in piano black, and several components bearing the Carver and Sunfire labels. The preamplifier even had tubes in it, so call me retro.”

“While Apple builds premium gear, it has not established a reputation for creating products with superior audio quality. Even the 2014 purchase of Beats Electronics for $3 billion didn’t convey the impression that Apple cared about high-quality audio. Beats headphones were legendary for bloated bass,” Steinberg writes. “I suppose recent iPhones, iPads and Macs can play louder without distortion. But you’d hardly call the audio rich and full. Even Apple’s best selling AirPods aren’t delivering state-of-the-art audio either, although they excel in other categories, such as the tiny size and the seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem.”

Apple's HomePod

Apple’s HomePod

 
“That takes us to the HomePod, a smart speaker system, powered by Siri, which was supposed to debut this month for $349. It has since been postponed until early in 2018,” Steinberg writes. “I wouldn’t for a moment expect audio quality to exceed that of those huge Carver Amazings that I used to own. That system offered scintillating highs and thundering bass, but it required loads of power to deliver the goods. But Apple is strongly emphasizing the ‘amazing’ sound of the HomePod in its promotional materials. The ability of the HomePod to tailor itself to your listening environment is impressive if true. If you recall the placement considerations of traditional loudspeakers, you’ll appreciate not having to waste time finding the ideal positioning for Apple’s forthcoming smart speaker system.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As Reddit user Arve stated after HomePod’s unveiling:

1. They’re using some form of dynamic modeling, and likely also current sensing that allows them to have a p-p excursion of 20 mm in a 4″ driver. This is completely unheard of in the home market. You can read an introduction to the topic here. The practical upshot is that that 4″ driver can go louder than larger drivers, and with significantly less distortion. It’s also stuff you typically find in speakers with five-figure price tags (The Beolab 90 does this, and I also suspect that the Kii Three does). It’s a quantum leap over what a typical passive speaker does, and you don’t really even find it in higher-end powered speakers

2. The speaker uses six integrated beamforming microphones to probe the room dimensions, and alter its output so it sounds its best wherever it is placed in the room. It’ll know how large the room is, and where in the room it is placed.

3. The room correction applied after probing its own position isn’t simplistic DSP of frequency response, as the speaker has seven drivers that are used to create a beamforming speaker array,. so they can direct specific sound in specific directions. The only other speakers that do this is the Beolab 90, and Lexicon SL-1. The Beolab 90 is $85,000/pair, and no price tag is set for the Lexicon, but the expectation in the industry is “astronomical”.

So yes, compared to the typical sub-$2000 speaker, the technology they apply may just as well be considered “magic”.

SEE ALSO:
Apple’s late, delayed, limited HomePod is looking more and more like something I don’t want – November 27, 2017
Why Apple’s HomePod is three years behind Amazon’s Echo – November 21, 2017
Under ‘operations genius’ Tim Cook, product delays and other problems are no longer unusual for Apple – November 20, 2017
Apple delays HomePod release to early 2018 – November 17, 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook: The ‘operations genius’ who never has enough products to sell at launch – October 23, 2017
Apple’s HomePod is uniquely positioned to win the smart speaker market – August 25, 2017
Consumers appear eager to buy Apple’s upcoming HomePod smart speaker – July 14, 2017
Apple Watch and AirPods in high demand; HomePod buying intent outpaces Amazon Echo – July 10, 2017
Apple’s HomePod could have an even more successful start than Apple Watch – July 7, 2017
Apple’s HomePod first impressions: Lots of mystery, impressive sound quality – June 8, 2017
With HomePod, Apple just wants to shake things up (for now) – June 7, 2017
Apple HomePod vs. Amazon Echo – June 7, 2017
CNET: Apple’s HomePod offers superior sound quality vs. Amazon Echo and Sonos Play:3 – June 6, 2017
Apple’s new HomePod sounds incredible! – June 6, 2017
Apple reveals HomePod smart home music speaker – June 5, 2017