Apple HomePod review:

Apple’s $349 (£319, AU$499) Siri-powered HomePod intelligent orator produces overwhelming sound opposite a extended operation of genres, creation it mount out, utterly compared to a $199 Sonos OneGoogle’s $399 Home Max and Amazon’s next-gen $100 Echo. Its crazy-fast setup and glorious long-range Siri microphones also make it appealing. Offering multiroom audio and stereo pairing, pleasantness of AirPlay 2, helps a HomePod contest with Alexa and Google Assistant speakers.

But it isn’t all good news. 

Siri still has a lot of sappy to do before it can contest with Alexa or Google Assistant. Buying a HomePod also means you’re signing adult for a orator that’s built with a Apple Music streaming use in mind. You can’t play Spotify and other third-party strain services loyal from a HomePod around a Siri command. Instead, we have to send that audio to your Apple orator from a analogous mobile app. 

You unequivocally need to be OK with these stipulations to clear shopping a HomePod today, unless we don’t caring about anything yet a stellar sound quality. Everyone else should wait to see what Apple will supplement to this earnest orator in a months ahead, above and over a just-released AirPlay 2.


Hey, good lookin’

The fabric mesh-wrapped HomePod, accessible in possibly space gray or white, weighs a large 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg). It’s 6.8 inches high and 5.6 inches far-reaching (170 by 140 mm) — petite compared to a 11.7-pound (5.3 kg) and foot-wide Google Home Max. But a HomePod feels surprisingly unenlightened when we lift it, as we schooled while carrying it by a airport.

In loyal Apple form, a HomePod has a sleek, minimal design. It looks good, yet not distractingly so, and I’m blissful we get a integrate tone finishes to select from. We got a white HomePod and while we like how it looks, we can simply suppose smudging it with repeat handling. The HomePod’s filigree extraneous isn’t transmutable like a Amazon Echo’s removable shell. What we buy is what we get. You can, however, purify it with a dry or damp cloth.

The HomePod relies on a single, two-prong energy cord, that we can block into any customary outlet. Apple says a HomePod can go flattering many anywhere in your home, from a lavatory to a garage, possibly circuitously a wall or in a core of a room. Just be wakeful that a cord isn’t detachable as a HomePod doesn’t have a battery onboard, so we competence have to censor it underneath a carpet if we wish to uncover it off in a core of a space.

At a tip of a speaker, you’ll find a reason display. It isn’t a screen, so it can’t arrangement high-res calm or video calm like an Amazon Echo Show or Spot, yet it does have integrated and and reduction signs for adjusting a speaker’s volume manually. Tap or reason them to boost or diminution volume.

Touch and reason a core of a arrangement to get Siri’s courtesy yet carrying to say, “Hey, Siri.” A familiar, blue-green-purple LED standing indicator will start to heat on a arrangement to let we know Apple’s voice partner is listening. Tap a arrangement to play or postponement strain or to stop Siri mid-sentence. You can also double daub to skip a strain or triple daub to skip behind and replay a song.

The arrangement glows white to tell we it’s prepared for initial setup and immature during a phone call. You can’t place or accept calls directly from a HomePod, yet we can use it as a speakerphone when your iPhone ($1,000 during Cricket Wireless) is nearby. The several taps and LED standing indicators have a slight training bend during first, yet a HomePod is easy to control loyal from a speaker.

The HomePod doesn’t have a symbol on a orator itself to tongue-tied Siri, weirdly enough. Both Amazon and Google speakers have dedicated tongue-tied buttons so we can manually invalidate voice control. With a HomePod, we can usually diminution a strain volume from a orator itself, that isn’t unequivocally a same as muting Siri. Instead, we have to use a app or voice control to spin a “Hey, Siri” underline off or on.

I unequivocally wish a HomePod had a dedicated tongue-tied button. It would be good to have another choice over carrying to squeeze your phone or use voice control.

You know Siri’s listening when we see this. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Apple’s HomePod has 7 tweeters, all placed in a bottom of a speaker. Each tweeter has an amplifier and a transducer. Six Siri-ready microphones lay above that, followed by a woofer and Apple’s A8 chip during a really top.

Apple creates considerable claims about a pattern of a orator and how that translates to improved opening on a website. The tweeters are ostensible to yield 360 degrees of consistently good sound, while a microphones (with assistance from a A8 chip) safeguard Siri can hear we over shrill strain from a satisfactory distance, yet we wanting to shout. The woofer brings that abounding bass.

The HomePod claims omnidirectional sound by a underline called “spatial awareness.” No matter where we put your speaker, a built-in accelerometer (movement and suit sensor) is ostensible to flog in and recalibrate shaped on a location. This helps it establish how to approach sound and should assistance safeguard consistently good sound peculiarity no matter where a HomePod is — and no matter where we are in a room relations to it.

The same is loyal if we use dual HomePods as a stereo pair in a same room. The speakers are ostensible to take measurements to get a clarity of a space they’re in, as good as where they are relations to any other.

Stellar sound peculiarity for a stretch

For a compress speaker, a HomePod offers large sound, and in contrast we found it flattering many unflappable no matter what kind of strain we threw a way. It’s tough to contend that about many speakers, regardless of size. From dance cocktail to guitar stone to orchestral pieces, a HomePod sounded excellent. It doesn’t furnish stereo sound by any widen — you’d get some-more “presence” or “you are there-ness” from a span of stereo speakers. But a HomePod is a plain performer we can plonk in your kitchen yet carrying to worry that it competence crush during high volume.

The HomePod’s uniform sound opposite so many opposite forms of strain separates it from a dual categorical competitors, a Google Home Max and a Sonos One. Most of a time in a tests during CNET’s Smart Apartment, a Max and a HomePod sounded similar, with both exhibiting a comparatively open sound and good extension, while a less-expensive Sonos One sounded somewhat some-more distant.

One of a marks that combined some subdivision among a 3 speakers was “Yulunga (Spirit Dance)” by Dead Can Dance. It’s a kind of strain done for a HomePod — a mixed of ethereal vocals, low sepulchral records and frail percussion brought out a best in Apple’s speaker. The HomePod done a strain come to life from a droning beginning, into a magnificent outspoken line and beyond.

Although a Max presented some-more of a stereo effect, a sound was a small oppressive in comparison, and a Max usually wasn’t means to puncture low adequate in a bass. Sonos, meanwhile, sounded some-more sealed off.


The HomePod sounds identical to Google’s Home Max and improved than a reduction costly Sonos One. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

On a lane like “3WW” by Alt-J, with a low drum bed, a HomePod has an management that a Google Home Max and a Sonos One can’t muster. Despite a track’s pithy synth bass, a Apple orator never struggled. While a other dual were balanced, they lacked heft — generally a Sonos, that didn’t even try to imitate a low notes.

The HomePod’s drum prolongation sounds great, yet it wasn’t always as parsimonious as we expected. The flog drum in “Girlfriend is Better” by Talking Heads sounded a lot looser than I’ve ever listened it before, for example, and resonated a small too long. If we like despondency or other styles with a distinguished low drum drum, this orator competence not give we a kind of discerning response you’re used to.

Most of a time a HomePod and Max sounded similar, with Apple circumference forward for drum prolongation and balance, yet there was one lane where a tables turned. “Don’t You” by Amber Rubarth, with a rich, reverb-drenched vocals and indolent drawl of a violin, sounded crisper on a Google Max. The pounding percussion sounded some-more evident on a Google speaker, yet a HomePod was means to amplify a bang of a drum drum. Though a Apple device gave a improved clarity of a hall, it combined a widen between a thespian and a listener that Google’s tool didn’t have.

Unlike a Sonos and a Max, that are standard “directional” speakers that sound improved when we listen from a front, a HomePod is presumably some-more versatile. Apple talks adult a speaker’s ability to lay anywhere in a room and emanate good sound, yet we found opening on all sides hit-and-miss.

With a HomePod in a core of a room, for example, we listened graphic wedges of good (and reduction good) sound around a speaker. Sometimes a front sounded good and a behind not so much. Sometimes a best sound came from 90 degrees to possibly side.

Apple says a orator adjusts itself shaped on room position, and as we changed a orator around we could hear a disproportion as it recalibrated. Overall we found that a HomePod sounded best placed opposite a wall or in a corner, that is excellent given that’s where many people will substantially place it anyway.

I listened to a series of opposite marks comparing a Apple HomePod in stereo to a Sonos One in a span — from disco, to acoustic, to rock. On a whim, we started with a HomePod and The Replacements’ Nightclub Jitters and a contrast room was immediately remade into a hazed jazz bar a strain seeks to emulate. The sound was huge. Meanwhile, a strain was offering improved stereo subdivision on a Sonos One with a float carillon appearing in a right orator even yet a clarity of space was lessened.

Charged with something some-more challenging, a drum underbed on 3WW by Alt-J seemed some-more entirely shaped on a HomePod. The Sonos combo didn’t go utterly as low or feel so full, yet it is also half a price.

Does a stereo HomePod sound improved than a stereo Sonos One? In some ways a HomePod is better, it’s a some-more loose combo with improved extension. But in others a Sonos offers larger accent and a keenly-honed stereo image.The Homepod is easier to listen to in a prolonged term, and if we listen to lots of disintegrating strain this competence be some-more critical to you. You also don’t have to call your phone around your room for 3 mins that is a worst/weirdest thing about a Sonos setup slight — Apple’s microphones do it all for you.

30-second setup, Apple-centric lock-in

Before we can start listening to strain on your HomePod, we need to configure it. The good news: It literally takes seconds to set up. Not distinct AirPods, usually holding your iOS device subsequent to a HomePod triggers a process. Follow a stairs to start personification strain and some-more with Siri on your HomePod.

The bad news: You’ll need an iOS device for this. The HomePod and Apple’s Home app don’t work on Android phones or tablets. Scroll down to a bottom of this page for a finish list of concordant iOS devices.

Your iOS device prompts we on setup to give your HomePod a dedicated location, pointer adult for Apple Music (if we haven’t already), and capacitate something called “Personal Requests.”


You don’t even need to download an app to set adult a HomePod.

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

That Apple Music prompt is important, since when it comes to voice control, Apple services are flattering many a usually diversion in town. Here’s what we can ask Siri to play as summarized on a Audio Sources territory of this Apple specs page:

  • Apple Music
  • iTunes Music Purchases
  • iCloud Music Library with an Apple Music or iTunes Match subscription
  • Beats 1 Live Radio
  • Podcasts

Multiroom audio is finally here with a iOS 11.4 program update.

Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

What about a Spotify, Pandora, third-party podcast apps or any other audio source? They’re all playable on a HomePod — from iPhone, iPad ($276 during, iPod Touch, Apple TV and Mac — yet you’ll manually need to daub a AirPlay 2 symbol on a shade of a source device. (Windows PCs using iTunes can also be used as a strain source.) That’s a large step down from a Sonos One, that works with dozens of strain services, as do a Google Home ($129 during Dell Home) and Amazon Echo speakers.

AirPlay 2 enables multiroom audio, definition we can play a same strain or podcast in mixed bedrooms (on mixed HomePods, or on a combo of HomePods, Apple TVs and additional AirPlay 2-compatible devices) during a same time. Launch multiroom audio from your iPhone or iPad Control Center by selecting some-more than one HomePod. Saying, “Hey Siri, play a strain in a Living Room and in a Bedroom” works, too.

If we simply say, “Hey Siri, play a song,” usually that HomePod will play. we like that it doesn’t assume we always wish to play audio on each concordant speaker. That means that we do have to mention “in a Living Room and in a Bedroom,” though. 

You can also say, “Hey Siri, pierce a strain to a Living Room” if we wish to switch bedrooms — or “Hey Siri, play this strain in a Living Room” to supplement a room around voice commands. 

It’s critical to note that a HomePod doesn’t work as a simple Bluetooth speaker, either. So an Android-toting guest or family member won’t be means to send any strain to a HomePod from their device.

In other words, unless we have an downright database of strain we purchased on iTunes, you’re going to need an Apple Music subscription. Apple extends a giveaway three-month subscription to Apple Music when you’re environment adult your HomePod. After that 90-day duration ends, a use costs $10 per month for one chairman (or $15 monthly for a family plan). College students can pointer adult for usually $5 per month, yet Apple will ask we to determine your tyro status. (Those prices in a UK are £10, £15 for family and £6 for students. In Australia it’s AU$12, AU$18 or AU$6.)

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