Technophile

Apple’s HomePod: This smart speaker is all about music

Mala Bhargava | Updated on May 22, 2020 Published on May 22, 2020

Great sound quality with a deep rich chocolaty bass and room-sensing abilities, plus a layer of Siri-style smartness

The smart speakers we’ve been more familiar with here in India are focussed on being all over your house to answer any passing question that occurs to you. Never at a loss for words, Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant have competed to be the one source you would turn to for information, entertainment and, of course, music.

Apple’s HomePod, which has just slipped into India after being missing in action for so long, has a different position. Instead of the heavy emphasis on skills and conversation, the HomePod is about sheer sound quality. So the HomePod is about great sound with a layer of Siri style smartness, versus all-round smartness with music — sometimes sounding good and sometimes just sounding.

If you haven’t seen the HomePod somewhere, you’ll be surprised at how small it is relative to its sound. Amazon’s Echo Studio is an equivalent but happens to be much bigger though they’re similarly shaped. The design details are quite different on the two speakers. The HomePod is essentially minimalistic, coming in white and space grey, with the touch sensitive top showing plus and minus buttons with a lovely swirling centre of coloured light effects. This centre glows when Siri is listening or speaking.

Where the HomePod differs from the other two is that it’s completely tied into the Apple ecosystem. To set it up at all, you need an iPhone or iPod. Or even an iPad. And a subscription to Apple Music. Setting it up is magical and involves showing the speaker to your device — the rest just happens. There’s no way for the set-up to take place on an Android device, so if you aren’t in the Apple ecosystem, forget it until you do buy an Apple device. There are some AirPlay apps on Google Play but these are not official and we certainly wouldn’t recommend buying a HomePod if you’re banking on those. Much like the Apple Watch, the HomePod works within its own family.

 

Deep chocolaty bass

 

Once set up, just ask Siri to play some music. Prepare to be surprised. It’s unlikely that you’ll have heard that quality of sound from a speaker the size of the HomePod. The closest I can think of is probably one of the Bang & Olefson products. Deep and beautifully modulated rich bass — like chocolate — in all its textures and layers along with nice and clear higher frequencies.

I’m not an audiophile and can’t speak their language, but I’ll say this — this speaker sounds really good. If you have a pair of these — and they really aren’t as expensive as you would have imagined — they will stereo with each other, an experience I unfortunately haven’t had. You can also place HomePods in different rooms and, by mere voice command, have Siri move the music from one place to the other or even play everywhere in a multi-room format.

The HomePod has sensors built in to figure out the room around it and adjust the EQ in the sound accordingly. It uses a 6-microphone array to gauge location and sense the room as well as hear you from wherever you are around. From the first song it plays, the speaker will be able to tell whether it’s it’s against the wall or in a bookshelf, and adjust its own output.

Room sensing skills

The HomePod has a 7-tweeter array each with its own amplifier located at the bottom meant to negate any reflections from the surface and take away from the quality of the sound. So it doesn’t vibrate objectionably and change the sound from the way it’s supposed to be. The HomePod narrow-beams out sound all around it in a nice direction-controlled way so that within a room the speaker is really pleasant for personal listening or even for using at a get-together where people like to listen at reasonable volumes. Even when lower, the sound separation is really good and clarity is nicely maintained because of the attention to the higher frequencies. A woofer on the top, which Apple says moves 20 mm of air to give its deep bass. Well, it certainly works.

 

Siri on the HomePod is specially good with music related queries and interactions. You can tell her you like a piece of music and she’ll learn that. Next time you ask her to generally play music, it’ll be the kind of thing you’ll like. Siri will also answer questions on weather, news, Covid stats, sports, your calendar, etc. Alexa and Google are both more conversational, but that’s their focus.

For music, the HomePod is really just integrated with Apple Music. For anything else, you can use AirPlay (not Bluetooth) to listen on the HomePod, but you can’t voice command these third party services to play.

Apple’s HomePod
  • Price: ₹19,900
  • Pros: Excellent precise sound, specially powerful for its size but even otherwise, fantastically easy set-up and use, very good pricing in India, senses location and adjusts EQ
  • Cons: Tightly tied to Apple ecosystem and AirPlay; Android users, look elsewhere

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on May 22, 2020
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor