John Gruber reviews Apple’s HomePod: Seemingly impossible sound quality

“I’ve been testing Apple’s new HomePod for the last week or so, and this is the first product review I’ve written that could be accurately summarized in the length of a tweet, and an old-school 140-character tweet at that: HomePod does exactly what Apple says it does, doesn’t do anything more than what Apple says it does, and costs $349,” John Gruber writes for Daring Fireball. “There.”

“If you have a room in your home or workspace where you would like to listen to music from Apple and/or podcasts, and you care about audio quality, you should absolutely consider HomePod,” Gruber writes. “Audio quality is what Apple is hanging HomePod’s hat on, and to my ears, they’ve nailed it… Apple claims two primary reasons for HomePod’s audio quality. First, an old-fashioned reason: high-quality hardware. Seven good tweeters arranged in a circle around the base, and one good woofer at the top. The second reason is decidedly, well, new-fashioned: dynamic features that adjust playback by analyzing both the music and the acoustics of the room.”

“What has impressed me most about HomePod’s performance in our kitchen is — somewhat amusingly given the name of the product it’s replacing — the lack of echo. I can say with certainty that HomePod’s hardware speakers are excellent for a $349 product,” Gruber writes. “I can’t prove that its dynamic “adjust to the acoustics of the room” features are making a significant difference, but I believe it. The lack of echo exceeds my expectations. The sound also seems more three-dimensional than seemingly should be possible for one small speaker.”

Tons more in the full article here.

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

*until inexplicably tardy Apple gets around to enabling multi-room and stereo pairing and, then, multiple HomePods will be the ticket!

SEE ALSO:
The Independent reviews Apple’s HomePod: Exceptional audio quality, easy to use, and reliably accurate with spoken commands – February 7, 2018
‘What Hi-Fi?’ reviews Apple’s HomePod: The best-sounding smart speaker we’ve ever tested – by far – February 6, 2018
Ben Bajarin: You can’t unhear Apple’s HomePod – February 6, 2018
Inside Apple’s HomePod audio lab – February 6, 2018
Ten things nobody has told you about the Apple HomePod – February 6, 2018
TechCrunch reviews Apple’s HomePod: Easily the best sounding mainstream smart speaker ever – February 6, 2018
WSJ reviews Apple’s HomePod: Sounds far better than the popular smart speakers from Amazon, Google, and Sonos – February 6, 2018
CNET reviews Apple’s HomePod: Strong wireless speaker with awesome sound – February 6, 2018

12 Comments

  1. Ordering on Friday.

    LORD ABOVE PLEASE!!! …. iHope Tim does not fck this one up. If they run out of supply with this audio beast iAm going
    to write Tim personaly and scold him like Steve would have done.

    NO EXUSES THIS TIME TIMMY TIM.

  2. I realize that the Apple customer in general is happy with the audio performance from cheap white earbuds or plastic beats cans. I even know people who play music directly from their iphone speaker because, they say, Apple puts really good speakers in iphones now. Well if that is your standard, then the homepod cannot help but be a dramatic leap forward. It still isn’t going to be any part of a main listening system for any audiophile.

    Let’s just start with the basics. Average people can hear frequencies of about 20 to 20,000 hertz. Apple and the first round of “impression” reviews don’t even publish what a homepod will do.

    Truly great audio systems. struggle to reproduce anything below perhaps 100 hertz. Consumer plastic boxes don’t even try. It takes a lot of energy to move that much air and control it.

    On the high end, reproduction isn’t the challenge, but distortion. A truly great audio system will allow you to hear Neil Peart’s most intricate passages with breathtaking detail and no ear fatigue. Consumer junk will barf out a hiss instead of a crisp cymbal clash. Huge distortions above 10k hz with cheap drivers is typical. Thanks to a couple decades of horrid mp3 and otherwise compressed digital music, kids don’t even know what they are missing. older folks are losing their hearing starting at the high frequencies too. So that’s typically sacrificed for price or fashion in consumer audio too.

    That’s just the limitations of the speaker drivers. Add to that cheap unshielded wiring, poorly designed amplifiers, and compressed source material with computer corrected rubbish blaring in every non-acoustically designed public space and chip shop nonstop — you have a Very low audio quality standard in the world today.

    So i will take all these reviews and put them in the same rubbish bin as all the ones for revolutionary tv soundbars and amazing plastic surround speakers that were supposed to fill a room with amazing sound — unfortunately, rubbish sound. Filling every corner of a room with partial frequency high distortion sound is really not a step forward for affluent people who understand audio.

    After the measured acoustic performance lab reviews come in, you can be assured that the narrative of Apple fanboys will change from “amazing audio” to “surprisingly good for the price” or “Apple will eventually offer future models that expand the capability”.

    I will wait.

    Reference audio system of this critic: Yamaha Airplay-enabled separate amp & preamp; biamped Bowers&Wilkins Nautilus speakers (multiple room); inputs from Sony SACD/bluray, Marantz CD, MacBook Pro, and Synology NAS full of uncompressed music and movies.

    No need for a tiny monopole speaker with a dimwitted virtual assistant.

    1. You sound like one of those people that when played a blind 256 AAC encoding can’t tell the difference between that and lossless. You haven’t heard the HomePod, and given that even the extreme audiophile sites have given it top marks? You’re probably wrong. I bet you $1,000.00 that even using studio quality headphones you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, and if listening blind to a HomePod and a more traditional hifi set up at equal volume you wouldn’t be able to either. This is a real bet, we can have MDN officiate, I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is are you?

    2. “Let’s just start with the basics. Average people can hear frequencies of about 20 to 20,000 hertz.”

      Maybe some pre-teen children can hear frequencies in this range. The vast majority of people (which certainly covers “average people”) have lost most of their hearing above 10K. A fact of modern times (me, I can barely hear above 4K; too many BOC concerts in my younger days).

  3. “Audiophile’s” extensive pontificating remind me of when the iPhone’s retina display was coming in.

    I thought, “It can’t possibly be that good. The display is already superb.” Then I saw one.

    At least I kept that unfounded opinion inside my head, rather than blathering at length about it on MDN.

    1. …says the resident fanboy cheerleader.

      Count me as skeptical about the review claims too. When my hearing was better, speakers were huge. You needed huge speakers to get full spectum audio. I get that you can fill a room with many tiny speakers, but i have never heard a great sounding small speaker. Ever. Even expensive bookshelf speakers are missing the deep end like Audiophile says.

      So why attack him/her when he points out that top quality audio is much much more than one will ever achieve with a single small speaker? He’s not slamming Apple, he’s saying that the inflated expectations are over the top. I agree. Some people know great audio, others just buy whatever corporate logo stuff they are hooked on. Sean has always fallen into the latter camp, with nasty attacks on anyone who questions the oversold hype that comes with every new Apple release.

      I don’t know what Sean doeas, or what makes him an expert, but Audiophile clearly has a lot invested in top notch gear and obviously knows a lot about audio. As a former DJ, I think Audiophile was right.

      For the record, most people do agree that 256kbps is fine for elecrtonica, pop and rap. But even an old hack like me can instantly spot proper hifi when seriously great recordings are played. My brother had a Super Audio CD of Steely Dan which totally blew me away. Back to back against a redbook CD, there was no comparison. Shocking, I thought the CD was as good as a human ear could realistically hear. Turns out i learned better. It must have been the super accurate high and low end frequencies that Audiophile was talking about. Other than live music, i had never heard such clarity before.

      Anyway, please buy what you like and stop bickering.

  4. Frankly, a good beer, nice glass of champagne, the company of a charming lady, a nice appetizer of a tapas or two, a pretty sunset …. all have more impact on what you are hearing than a few fancy components! Come on … get first things first for Christ’s sake.

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