Apple HomePod 2 design stays close to the first, but it’s improved in every way.
The “all-new” Apple HomePod speaker from Apple is more of a remake than a replacement. There are no allusions to the original HomePod in any of Apple’s marketing materials, in contrast to when it releases a new iPhone or Mac. That might sound a little strange, but it makes sense in this situation. Despite six years of research and how great it may have sounded, the first Apple HomePod was a failure because of its expensive price and Siri’s flaws. It was abandoned by Apple in March 2021, leaving just the $99 HomePod Mini as a smart speaker for over two years. We are concentrating on HomePod Mini. The first HomePod is being discontinued, Apple formally announced at the time.
Prioritizing the Mini was the right move because it has developed into a really practical smart home device with the superb sound quality considering its small size. To its credit, Apple has continued to update the original Apple HomePod with new features even after it was taken from the stores, even if some users have reported hardware reliability concerns over time.
However, you can only use a “Mini” product alone for a limited amount of time. Currently, a full-size HomePod is back in the mix. Furthermore, it is obvious from the $299 tablet that Apple has opted to improve upon its original idea rather than start over from scratch. The device will be available beginning on February 3. Those who have seen (or experienced) an original HomePod would recognise this one even though it has some new sensors and internal components, including greater smart home features. This is not the reported updated HomePod with a screen (and many have been hoping for)
- High-quality audio that is comparable to the original
- Temperature and humidity sensors that are helpful
- Siri responds quickly to queries
- Comprehensive Apple ecosystem integration, including Apple TV
- Pricey compared to comparable smart speakers
- No additional smart home capabilities over the HomePod Mini
- When you play spatial audio, HomePod is not always aware of it
- Two of these are required for the optimal experience
How To Use The Apple HomePod’s Temperature And Humidity Sensors
Similar to those that were covertly included in the Apple HomePod Mini, the new Apple HomePod has temperature and humidity sensors (but dormant until just recently). Finally, according to Apple, a “new system sensor” improves the HomePod’s real-time audio changes. The new sensor is intended to enhance the original speaker’s automated background tuning, which adjusted the speaker’s sound based on the acoustic properties of a room.
The most essential component of Apple’s new HomePod in terms of audio performance is the high-excursion woofer, which can be pushed up to 20mm to push as much air as possible and optimise bass response. The HomePod distinguishes itself from similarly small speakers like the Sonos One, Amazon Echo, and Nest Audio with powerful lows. The internal microphones are once again dynamically monitoring and tuning output to maintain the low-end kick forceful yet tight and clean. However, bass is seldom floppy or overbearing.
Apple Music continues to be an essential part of the HomePod experience, just like it was the previous time. Other services like Pandora and Deezer may be set as the default for Siri music requests, but Spotify is still being uncooperative. The default role can’t be filled by other options like YouTube Music and Amazon Music either. Although it takes only a few seconds to AirPlay audio from any of these applications on an Apple device to the HomePod, the $300 speaker is still primarily targeted at Apple Music users due to the lack of deeper integration.
Both Bluetooth playback and aux input are still not supported, and getting a turntable and Apple HomePod to get along is a little trickier than in the Sonos world. Still at the core of the HomePod’s existence are Siri and Apple Music.
The Audio Quality Is Comparable To The Original HomePod, But Not Identical
So how does it sound? I continue to believe that the new HomePod’s sound profile is consistent with the old HomePod after many days of playing to it (both alone and in stereo pairs). If you liked that speaker, you’ll be happy with the second-generation model. Certain slight changes in the way music is presented can be heard when contrasting both generations with the same piece. A guitar solo played on the newer HomePod could have a little more focus than on the older one. But the essential characteristics are the same.
In-depth analysis of Apple’s strategy for audio processing and connectivity was provided in Nilay’s original Apple HomePod assessment, and while the driver config has changed, the fundamental concept has not.
Apple’s real-time tuning aims to create a rich, complete balance by bouncing sound off neighbouring walls and concentrating on crystal-clear vocals. It typically succeeds in doing so, and since it emits music from all sides, you don’t have to worry about finding the ideal listening position.
However, the music from the HomePod lacks considerable warmth. Dan Seifert, my editor, compared it to the ideal sound signature that lab testing may reveal to be clinical and favoured the sound qualities of Sonos speakers. In terms of overall performance, I’d put a single HomePod ahead of the most well-liked smart speakers from Google and Amazon. And compared to a Sonos One, I enjoy its larger sound field.
However, the HomePod’s audio cannot be modified; any EQ settings you have on your iPhone for Apple Music are ignored by the HomePod. If you’re hosting a late-night listening party, your only option is to momentarily lower the bass in the settings.
A single Apple HomePod has limited functionality even at $299. It shines further when two of them are combined as a stereo pair in Apple Music’s lossless streaming library. And in this case, spatial audio is more effectively realised and compelling than the gimmicky sensation you get through headphones and earbuds. Some spatial recordings do seem more atmospheric because of the imaginary array of sound beams created by the two HomePods, but badly produced Atmos tracks still sound worse than stereo.
However, software problems are possible. My HomePod evaluation devices occasionally appeared to be unsure about whether to play a spatial audio track or just remain with lossless audio. The Now Playing panel frequently failed to display an Atmos or lossless badge. It is frustrating that voice commands don’t allow you to turn spatial audio on or off, as this seems like a feature that should be available. (Without it, finding options for lossless and spatial audio playing requires digging deep into the Home app).
And Siri still has a propensity to give up on music requests that ought to be simple. You’re certain to receive the response, “Sorry, that was taking too long.”
The second major benefit of connecting two HomePods is the capacity to utilise them as wireless speakers for an Apple TV, in addition to a stereo audio experience that is far more immersive. (This can be accomplished with just one unit, but the outcomes are less striking.) It gets better with the most recent Apple TV 4K and a contemporary TV: you may connect the streaming device to your TV’s eARC connection and configure your Apple HomePods to handle audio from all sources coming from your television.
When playing games with a linked PS5, I was astounded at how well this worked; I played MLB The Show and saw no glaring latency or audio sync difficulties during the crack of a bat or slap of a catcher’s glove. And the Apple HomePods’ woofers are excellent at giving games, movies, and television programmes some bass punch. I’m confident that Apple has additional home theatre items in the works given how well everything works and how recently tvOS 16.3’s eARC capability was released from beta.
Why waste time working so hard if not? Right now, a pair of Apple HomePods will perform better than many entry-level and low-cost soundbars. Movies and music both sound fantastic because to their exceptional quality, and the beamforming tweeters are effective at dispersing sound all around you.
You’ll spend $600 if you decide to get 2 Apple HomePods, so this is obviously not a cheap option. However, if you have the money, it’s one of those Apple ecosystem hacks that works better than I had anticipated.
A virtual assistant and smart home hub are the HomePod’s secondary functions, which are related to ecosystem. I’ll turn things over to our resident expert Jennifer Pattison Tuohy for additional information on that.
The new Apple HomePod can function as an Apple Home Hub, the command centre for your Apple Home-based smart home, just like the previous HomePod did. A speedier CPU and certain additional smart home-specific technologies, such a Thread radio and temperature and humidity monitoring functions, are also included in the updated model.
The second generation’s Thread radio also transforms it into a Thread border router. Both Apple HomePods can also serve as Matter Controllers to add Matter devices to your home network. This enables the usage of Thread-enabled devices in Matter and Apple Home. The majority of them will be more important in the future as there aren’t many devices that are Matter-compatible right now, and those that are don’t include any that didn’t previously have HomeKit versions.