My love-hate relationship with Apple’s HomePod

“When HomePod finally came to market little more than a week ago, I read review after review that immediately gushed over the device’s premium audio quality,” Jim Gresham writes for iDownloadBlog. “No surprise, I had to go get one on launch weekend, but, I am not sure I intend to keep it.”

“The kit is impressive and a lot of speakers are crammed into a small footprint. Full room audio is definitely something HomePod delivers in a sleek package, and with a voice assistant,” Gresham writes. “I’m not going to tear into the HomePod and just bash its sound quality. I just don’t prefer the device. HomePod does sound incredible, don’t get me wrong! There is a lot of impressive sound coming from a device about the size of a tissue box. In fact, if you had hidden it behind a screen, played music, then revealed to me how small it is, I would have never believed it. But so many reviews claim it sounds better than even thousand-dollar equipment. These statements are grossly exaggerated.”

“I’m not an audiophile, but I do have experience with prosumer level audio products,” Gresham writes. “Again, I am no authority on sound quality. You see, this is just my opinion… To spare you a very long story, for a shorter-but-still-long story, I could not and still cannot get macOS to reliably output audio to the HomePod from my late-2017 iMac… As a Sonos customer, I was very interested in an AirPlay speaker that I could use with my iMac, because there is no way to get your Apple desktop to push audio to Sonos… Well, not easily. Let’s just say, there is not currently a proprietary app that will make that happen. Therefore, the ability to push iTunes and system audio to an awesome speaker, right next to my iMac, is an amazing opportunity. So, I shelled out the premium $350 to grab one of these guys on opening weekend and got burned as an early adopter. Apple will certainly fix these issues in upcoming software patches.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If you think a Sonos Play:1 sounds better than a HomePod, you suffer from amusia.

We expect AirPlay 2 to rectify many, if not all, issues people are currently experiencing.

SEE ALSO:
Jean-Louis Gassée: The trouble with Apple HomePod reviews – February 20, 2018
Steve Crandall: Apple’s HomePod is the next big step in home audio – February 13, 2018
Apple HomePod: The audiophile perspective plus 8 1/2 hours of measurements; HomePod is 100% an audiophile-grade speaker – February 12, 2018
Apple’s HomePod is actually a steal at $349 – January 26, 2018
Digital Trends previews Apple’s HomePod: Impressive sound coupled with strong privacy – January 26, 2018
Hands on with Apple’s HomePod: Attractive, ultra-high-quality speaker, an excellent Siri ambassador – January 26, 2018
Apple’s HomePod, the iPod for your home – January 25, 2018
One hour with Apple’s new HomePod smart speaker – January 25, 2018
Apple’s iOS 11.3 beta delivers AirPlay 2 with multi-room playback – January 25, 2018
How Apple is positioning the HomePod and why – January 24, 2018
How I got talked into buying an Apple HomePod despite my reservations – January 24, 2018
Tim Cook says audio quality puts HomePod ahead of ‘squeaky-sounding’ competition – January 24, 2018
Apple’s HomePod arrives February 9th, available to order this Friday, January 26th – January 23, 2018
Apple delays HomePod release to early 2018 – November 17, 2017
Apple reveals HomePod smart home music speaker – June 5, 2017

20 Comments

  1. A Sonos speaker sounds better every time it connects to something a HomePod won’t. Especially when we are talking about other Apple products like a Mac.
    Can HomePod function as a soundbar for Apple TV?

    1. Yes I connect mine to Apple TV and it sounds awesome.

      I bought 2 Homepods when they were released and have been experimenting putting them in different rooms to see what sounds quality was like and how much we’d use them. I just ordered 3 additional ones today because we found we’re listening to much more music in every room now. Garage/man cave, outdoor patio, up/downstairs and with 2 Apple TVs.

    2. It does..with an Apple TV. Not without though. I have no problems pairing and playing from my Mac (running beta MacOS). But only tested that as it is a step backwards for me as I have Apple Music and just tell it to play what I want. Haven’t found anything that I listen to that isn’t in Apple Music.

      If I wanted to, for example, play a track I recorded, I’d just stick it in the cloud and play it from my phone (stream to HomePod ..or Airplay from phone to appleTV..or Mac to appletv).

  2. Beauty is in the the eye and ear of the beholder. Too bad Jim Gresham et al will suffer the predictable onslaught of fanboy insults, recriminations, and fatwas because they, shudder, even consider ridding themselves of Home Pod. It’s amazing that Apple fanboys who pride themselves on their acceptance of diversity and “Thinking Different” are in reality plain and simple bigots.

    1. There are silly fanboys on all sides – best ignored.
      The firmware clearly is in beta – it is even labeled such. I would have never wiped and reinstalled a system. I have never found that this sort of thing resorts anything except maybe bungled disk driver and disk structure.
      If he likes the Sonos sound, he should stay with that.

    2. Fred, make up your mind.

      Here and on the thread two down from here, you have insisted (correctly) that user satisfaction with speaker performance is mostly subjective. Two users in two different rooms may differ completely on whether speaker A is better than speaker B. That is perfectly normal, you argued.

      Then, on both that thread and this one, you have insisted that anybody who thinks that HomePods are a waste of money is objectively correct, while anybody who likes the sound is objectively a clueless Apple fanboy.

      You can’t have it both ways. Nobody here has suggested that Gresham et al. need to like the HomePod or use one. Instead, they have suggested that they personally like the device and plan to buy more of them. You are the only one arguing against diversity in musical taste.

    3. Fred, people can disagree with you (and others) without being a fanboy or a mindless drone. In all sincerity, you are the one who seems more like a mindless drone.

      Jim Gresham is certainly entitled to his opinion. But when his review is negative because he is too stupid to properly set up a device and too lazy or egotistical to ask for help, then I have a problem with that. Why? Because he is in a position to influence other people, therefore he has a responsibility to be as thorough and accurate as possible, not rush some crap out the door for some click-bait money.

      Whatever…. Apple has received this type of treatment for decades and has survived pretty well. I doubt that this situation will turn outing differently. The HomePod will likely sell reasonably well, delivering profits to Apple that would make most companies drool.

    1. All good points by Jim Gresham. The fawning about “audio quality” is overblown – I guess you thinks it’s an ‘audiophile’ device if you’ve been using earbuds for the last 15 years. I also agree it should work for streaming reliably. It does not.

      Finally, in my situation Siri is functionally useless. Asking Siri to play “Mahler’s Sixth Symphony” or “Shostakovich Five” is useless when Siri insists (STILL??) on listening for, and saying, foreign-based words as phonetic English. The voice control in my BMW is much more reliable for finding music than Siri. I don’t need Siri to tell me the weather.

      1. I would agree if this were a Bluetooth speaker. Since it isn’t, noncompliance with that industry standard is as irrelevant as the fact that HomePod isn’t an AM clock radio or television. If you want a Bluetooth speaker, buy one. Don’t expect a completely different product to do what it isn’t designed to do.

        1. That might well be possible. That doesn’t alter the fact that the HomePod currently only uses BT to get WiFi connection information from the iOS device used to set it up. It does not use BT for audio and may never do so.

          Until it does, it isn’t a Bluetooth speaker and Apple has never claimed that it is or ever will be. Complaints that HomePod is a too-expensive BT speaker, or a bad BT speaker, or fails to comply with industry standards for BT speakers miss the point that it isn’t a BT speaker at all. It is something else entirely. If you want a BT speaker, don’t buy a HomePod. It is the wrong product for your use case.

          Likewise, complaints that it isn’t as good as an Amazon Echo at ordering stuff from Amazon or as good as a Google product at doing internet searches miss the point that The HomePod wasn’t designed to be a generic smart speaker. Complaints that it can’t substitute for a $2000 home theater system miss the point that it was never intended or marketed for that, either. If you want a product that excels at those things, you don’t want a HomePod.

          All I was saying above is that Apple doesn’t have “a duty” to make the HomePod comply with the needs of anybody outside its intended market.

  3. I love my HomePod and will order another soon. I am very impressed with he sound quality and the ease of use. 43 million songs is plenty for me and I am listening to a lot more music and loving it. It amazes me how good the sound is. Sonos is kludgy and has all kinds of issues with connectivity. I gave up on my Sons 3 speaker a year ago. On the other hand the HomePod is so easy to use and will just get better with new software updates, rather than keep making me go through new setup approaches. I literally brought my phone into close proximity and the HomePod took over. Siri works fine for what it does, but I could care less. The sound quality is stunning and the ease of navigating around Apple Music is a joy.

  4. I want the HomePod to be smarter, much smarter. The sound is great but SIRI is still just ordinary. For example, I’m listening to an audible book on my iPhone. Everything works great. But sometimes I’d like to continue listening to the book via HomePod. I don’t want to have to go to my iPhone and play it from there, I want instead to tell Siri to resume playing the book on the HomePod. I don’t think Siri/HomePod can do it.

    Come on, APPLE, turn SIRI into something more. I know you can do it. Right now, SIRI isn’t much, especially on the HomePod when buyers are expecting much more.

  5. I bought two HomePods staying up late to make sure, I would get them. It is safe with the easy 30-day return privilege. I have a local Apple Store, so it is no fuss.
    1. Net-net: I like mine and will keep them.
    2. As indicated by the FW version, they are clearly in beta and feature sets are incomplete. I would equate it to the first iPhone, but hopefully, the hardware is beefy enough to allow plenty of capacity for updates. I am using iOS beta 11.3 and it dramatically improves remote control and interaction with HomePods.
    3. My main living room system uses Event Opal studio monitors costing thousands. They do not compete directly. But their use case is very different – low to mid-level ambient music listening and Siri music interactions – they sound amazing for that. They clearly improve upon my Apple HiFi and Jamboxes (mini and Big) as well as the Bose Sound Dock.
    4. They adapt to the room acoustics in an amazing fashion. That said, some thought on positioning and trial and error can really tweak the subtle harmonics. For example, I moved one HomePod an inch closer to the wall and the sonics changed in an amazing way.
    5. I am not sure, how long the tuning to the room takes and how persistent it is before changing its settings. Clearly, it is more than the 30 seconds quoted by some. Yesterday I was listening to a long playlist while doing other stuff and 45 minutes later I had to stop with the realization – “dang, now this sound really good.”
    6. It is clearly best for people in the Apple Ecosystem with concern about privacy.
    A plug: I love Rogue Amoeba’s products – AirFoil, Fission, Audio Hijack, SoundSource, etc. AirFoil was just updated for full support of HomePods. I tend to bypass Apple’s AirPlay control and run everything from my Mac Pro via AirFoil – including AirPlay. Recommended…
    BUT!!!! Your mileage may vary. Music, systems, and speakers are very personal choices. In the discussions, let’s leave the AR 15’s in the gun racks in your trucks…

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