“With the Apple HomePod, the cotton that has been in our ears since the arrival of the first smart speaker has been removed,”Joanna Stern writes for The Wall Street Journal. “The HomePod sounds far better than the popular smart speakers from Amazon, Google — and even Sonos.”

“But will anyone care?” Stern wonders. “That’s what I’ve been asking myself during my week testing the HomePod, which goes on sale Friday for $350.”

“‘Hey Siri, play ‘Tusk’ by Fleetwood Mac.’ About 2 minutes into the song, you can hear everything Apple engineered the HomePod to be,” Stern writes. “The horns surge, the tom-toms thunder, the guitar and bass keep pounding, yet I can also hear distinct band members yelling ‘Tusk.’ I could hear it all while walking around the speaker at my kitchen island.”

“‘Hey Siri, crank the volume up to 100%.’ ‘That’s very loud, are you sure?’ Siri warns,” Stern writes. “That’s because even though the HomePod is only the height of three stacked New York bagels (sans schmear), it has some mean volume. When I put the HomePod on stage at a 450-seat theater, I could hear Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” beautifully from the last row.”

“But Alexa and Google Assistant not only knew more answers, they could better parse my questions. When I asked, ‘Who is the prime minister of England?’ they both correctly named Theresa May’ Stern writes. “On the HomePod, Siri only knew the answer when I asked, more appropriately, ‘Who is the prime minister of Great Britain?”

MacDailyNews Take: Theresa May isn’t the “prime minister of England,” so both Google Assistant and Alexa actually answered incorrectly. Of course, it would be smart of Apple to have Siri answer the question thusly: “Theresa May is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom.” People might even begin to think of Siri as intelligent if such responses became routine. Better to be thought of as a smarty-pants than a perennial passenger on the short bus.

Apple's all-new HomePod

Apple’s all-new HomePod

“Siri turns out to be quite a good butler. Through the Home app, you can set up various HomeKit-compatible smart-home devices, and the voice prompts to control them. With Philips Hue lightbulbs and three iHome smart plugs, I was quickly commanding Siri to change my nightlight to a fuchsia hue, make tea via my electric kettle and turn on the humidifier,” Stern writes. “Respect for your privacy may be one of the top HomePod selling points. While Google and Amazon upload recordings of your queries associated with your account, Apple anonymizes and encrypts anything it uploads to its servers.”

“If you’re an Apple Music user, the HomePod is the best matching speaker,” Stern writes. “It really comes down to what you want your speaker to do. If you want the smartest smart speaker, this isn’t it. But if you prize music above everything else, the HomePod isn’t a dumb choice.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: There’s only one* smart speaker for Apple Music members: HomePod.

*until inexplicably tardy Apple gets around to enabling multi-room and stereo pairing.

CNET reviews Apple’s HomePod: Strong wireless speaker with awesome sound – February 6, 2018