Can a pair of Apple’s HomePods take on a surround sound theater system?

“Apple’s HomePod is one of the best sounding smart speakers on the market, and the recent addition of stereo pairing with AirPlay 2 makes the setup even more engaging,” Max Yuryev writes for AppleInsider. “But how does a pair of HomePods stack up against a dedicated home theater system?”

“Obviously, the HomePod is unable to achieve true 5.1 channel surround sound, which uses 5 separate speakers and a subwoofer, but Apple’s devices do feature technology that bounces sound off walls and nearby objects to simulate a deep soundstage. With stereo pairing, HomePods detect each other and their respective placement in a a room, so they know exactly where to send different channels of sound for optimal audio reproduction,” Yuryev writes. “To be clear, this is not Apple’s attempt at 5.1 channel virtualization, but the solution does broaden HomePod’s soundstage considerably.”

“The surround sound system sounded amazing in all respects, as loud as a good movie theater but with a better surround sound experience since it is tuned to an exact point in space. Moving to the HomePod, we were in some cases surprised to hear crowd both in front and behind us. The vocals were clear, but not as crisp as we would like. We had a similar experience with the bass, which was present but not as visceral as the output from a dedicated woofer,” Yuryev writes. “The thing that was missing most was the volume. The built in speakers of any modern TV are at least twice, if not three times as loud as Apple’s max settings. Apple has a function built in to limit HomePod volume, but not to boost it. That’s a feature it needs to be a viable home theater solution.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We suspect that HomePod is finely tuned to present the maximun volume it can deliver without distortion, so no additional volume boost would be possible.

9 Comments

  1. No. NO. NO! The HomePods can’t move nearly as much air as the 6 speakers in my surround system. Period. End of Story. Do they sound really good? Sure… That they can reproduce the earth shattering sound of a bigger system? Simply. No. Way.

    1. Without a doubt, but I was a bit stunned to learn that “The built in speakers of any modern TV are at least twice, if not three times as loud as Apple’s max settings.”

      Seriously?

      And if you want to compare Homepods to a 5.1 surround system, compare it to one in the same budget ball-park, i.e. a $700-$800 surround sound system or soundbar/sub combo.

      Seems like Apple should create a 5.1 system with a pair of “master” speakers, and then have the rest be “slaves” so that they don’t cost as much.

      1. We use our 5.1 surround system (bar, sub and 2 rear satellites) primarily for watching movies. Bluray discs with 5.1 surround sound great, and having two HomePods instead would both cost more and lose separation.

        No thanks.

    2. I would be curious to know how much air they do move with the special 4″ driver that has a p-p excursion of 20 mm.
      Would it be comparable to an average 6″ or 8″ speaker?

      Obviously it can’t compete with six speakers in a surround system.

  2. Don’t bother reading this or the source article.
    It is a complete joke of proper testing.
    An Iphone streamed over Airplay to test the surround system.
    When that didn’t work with the HomePods, hey lets use the Apple TV and YouTube and run “maybe the same” clip that way.

    Scientific testing it is not.

  3. @MDN Take ®

    While I concur with your belief that the “HomePod is finely tuned to present the maximun volume it can deliver without distortion,” I also suspect that Apple was conservative in their volume limit and used a low THD target (0.05%, for example).

    In real life, I have observed that many people value volume over sound quality, some to the extreme that their car panels are resonating with the woofers and creating all kinds of nasty sounds. Cheap audio equipment, especially for cars and trucks, are “rated” at highly unrealistic power levels, often 250W to 500W at a THD 0f 10%. Anyone who knows audio knows that the realistic power levels achievable from compact mobile audio amps is a lot lower than that.

    But, I wanted to make the case that additional HomePod volume boost *is* likely possible if Apple and its customers are willing to throw sound quality out the window.

  4. Useless “test”. So many problems with the methodology that it’s a waste of time to list them. The main problem is the lack of a direct hard wired input to the HomePods to send a reliable audio stream. There are so many variables when dealing with WiFi, BlueTooth, compressed audio and videos streams and decoding of those streams that nothing this “tester” did has any concrete relevance to the question posed.

    I, too, would like to replace the sound bar system I have with a pair of HomePods but there is no way I can see of getting my cable box, BluRay player and over-the-air television audio into the HomePod system. An optical input would do it but is that in Apple’s plans?

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