Apple was a computer company for a long time. It kind of became a music company with the launch of iPod and subsequently iTunes. Then it became a phone company and with gradual advancements, it even became a camera company. With the Apple Watch Series 3, it’s become the No.1 watchmaker on the planet.
With the iPad Pro and recent iMacs, Apple proved it had the mettle to produce decent speakers for its product lines. With the HomePod, Apple has morphed into a genuine speaker company.
Steve Jobs had a profound love for music, and while the company he founded in 1976 has had its foot in the music world since the start of this millennium, it hasn’t had a music system to back it all up (except perhaps the short lived iPod Hi-Fi).
HomePod has changed that. Like every industry Apple steps into, it’s going to revolutionize the speaker industry, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk HomePod Review: Phase One
What is HomePod?
For those who are still unclear on the hype that is HomePod, here’s a short intro:
“HomePod is a powerful speaker that sounds amazing and adapts to wherever it’s playing,” says Apple’s page for HomePod.
“It’s the ultimate music authority, bringing together Apple Music and Siri to learn your taste in music. It’s also an intelligent home assistant, capable of handling everyday tasks — and controlling your smart home. HomePod takes the listening experience to a whole new level.”
Apple’s simple statement understates what the HomePod really is, though.
Is it a Google Home Or An Amazon Echo Competitor?
No. It’s a simple answer you don’t need to mull over for long.
It’s a culmination of six years of Apple engineering. Apple claims that the HomePod has been in the works since the past six years and is everything an audiophile would expect from a speaker if Apple manufactured one.
And manufactured one they did, and it’s utterly Apple in its promise.
It delivers on aesthetic, on quality, on ambiance, and even on the hype around the smart speaker. Apple is known for delivering at the highest of levels, and HomePod is no exception.
Google Home and Amazon Echo may be good speakers, but they are not in HomePod’s league, hence, any thoughts of Apple competing for a share of that market is slightly absurd. HomePod is for serious audiophiles and people who love the locked Apple environment.
For people who like playing spotify on Google Home or Podcasts on Amazon Echo using their Android devices, you’re out of luck. HomePod works the best with your iPhone and iPad and of course, Apple Music.
So, how does it do on the design front?
When you set your eyes on a HomePod, it’s abundantly obvious that Apple’s behind it.
No other company would focus so much on producing a minimal-looking speaker that delivers insane sound quality in such a small frame.
If anything, given the small size and look of the Siri-powered speaker, you can call it adorable. It’s something you would like to place by your television where your friends’ eyes would dart automatically. It’s unapologetically minimal, with somewhat of a resemblance to the 2013 Mac Pro, but without the slots and USB ports of a supercomputer.
It’s no hulk in size as well. If you are looking for a boombox that will rock your neighborhood, this is not your forte. As said, it’s a minimalistic, cute looking speaker wrapped in textured cloth mesh. However, size won’t give you a factual estimation of its weight and you’ll find it slightly heavy. That’s something we should all be okay with given the immense technology that lives inside the HomePod.
On the top is the touch screen for controls and on the bottom is a small rubbery hollow base that houses the Apple logo and on which the HomePod rests.
Similarly, the cable extending from the bottom is unlike the cables you’ll find on Apple’s accessories as well. It’s made from the same cloth-like material, and that’s something that makes it look and feel far more durable.
If you like the circular Siri animation on your iPhone, HomePod’s touch screen will fancy you. It’s a smooth, glossy surface (a fingerprint magnet too),
Using the screen, you can:
- Play/Pause with a tap
- Skip Forward with a double tap
- Skip back with triple tap
- Awaken Siri with a tap and hold.
On either sides there are the + and – buttons to, of course, control volume.
As far as Siri is concerned, you’ll find that voice detection on the HomePod to activate Siri is simply phenomenal. A meter away or 10, you’d be able to speak normally and trust Apple’s engineering to invoke Siri and request away your favorite music.
This is it. The carpe diem. This is what you came here for and a review of HomePod’s sound quality will determine whether you’ll get one or not.
Let’s put it this way: when you know Apple was involved in making a speaker, you should have made up your mind about receiving the best of the best out there for the price they’d charge.
And the HomePod is utterly Apple in it’s promise. In short, the HomePod is hands down the best sounding smart speaker in the wild. Given that it’s not really competing with $90 or $150 priced smart speakers, if you’re looking for quality, HomePod is the answer.
Keeping the bass and volume in check is a tricky business, but Apple’s engineers are no stranger to challenges. Play a song with deep bass and turn up the volume and you’ll marvel at what the HomePod is capable of given its size.
If anything, Apple has made its latest product least like the Beats lineup that’s often criticized for gimmicks rather than sound quality.
On the treble side, the details will blow your mind. Your songs will definitely not sound too aggressive or high pitched.
It’s the perfect blend of music, and serious audiophiles will be the happiest. However, for most of music lovers but not too scientific about every frequency range that our speakers deliver will still be able to tell the difference between a good speaker and the insanely great HomePod. Pitting it against the Sonos system was the most satisfying; HomePod easily trumped the $1000 system in sound quality, and that speaks more than anything else can.
Here’s all the Audio technology that Apple has used:
- High-excursion woofer with custom amplifier
- Array of seven horn-loaded tweeters, each with its own custom amplifier
- Six-microphone array for far-field Siri
- Internal low-frequency calibration microphone for automatic bass correction
- Direct and ambient audio beamforming
- Transparent studio-level dynamic processing
When you entitle something with the word ‘smart,’ it should live by it. And HomePod is a personification of what a smart speaker should be.
No matter where you place HomePod, it adapts to its surrounding and recalibrates how it delivers your music. First, it easily fills up an average sized room adequately. Secondly, whether it’s in a corner or the center of the room, you’ll be listening to crisp clear music.
The technology inside the HomePod is insane. No matter where you put the tiny speaker in the room, it calibrates itself by learning about its surrounding through the microphones and adjusts accordingly. There’s an array of six microphones that not only listens for your voice intently, and even listens to itself, and when it detects that the sound is bouncing off the walls, furniture, or things blocking it, it recalibrates and delivers audio from the face that isn’t facing obstruction.
That’s downright the smartest speaker we’ve tried our hands on yet.
A custom Apple chip (A8 system-on-a-ship, used in iPhone 6 and Apple TV fourth-generation) dictates the hardware and powers the machine learning and ambient audio mixing, etc., that makes the speaker as great as they are.
Oh, and there’s even an accelerometer that makes HomePod aware if you move it around and readjusts for its new surrounding.
Apple is a walled-garden for its users, but the best kind of garden where you have all the fruits you need to enjoy. There’s fresh air, there’s beautiful trees; you get the idea.
Apple’s audio lab has produced something that despite its limitation and the fact that you are stuck with using the HomePod with Apple’s own products is still something that audiophiles and Apple fans will treasure to the max. The integration with your iPhone and iPad is as simple as pairing your AirPods is with the iPhone. Simply bring the two objects close, and the option to pair both will pop up on your iDevice.
If you’re looking for a smart speaker you can control with your voice, but quality matters to you, shelling Apple’s asking price of $350 is a bargain. Apple’s HomePod review won’t do much justice to it, though, because listening to one is a different experience altogether.
So get one, and get going!
“Hey Siri, play my music”
“There’s nothing in your music library. Just… silence.”
Oh, time to pay for my Apple Music subscription!