Reviewed: Apple HomePod goes stereo and multi-room

 

When a Apple HomePod “smart speaker” debuted in February, there were some large fat reasons not to buy it. For example:

  • You can voice-command it to play strain usually from Apple’s possess strain use ($10 a month)—not Spotify, Pandora, or any other service.
  • It costs $350, distant some-more than a similar intelligent speaker from Sonos ($200).
  • It requires an iPhone or iPad to operate.
  • Siri isn’t scarcely as intelligent as Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant. (Isn’t Apple ill of conference that? Why doesn’t it make Siri-smartening a priority?)
  • Unlike a rivals from Sonos and Google, we couldn’t set adult dual HomePods as a stereo pair. You also couldn’t set them adult in opposite bedrooms of a residence and approach them by voice (“Hey Siri, play Barry White in a bedroom”).

With a attainment of a program refurbish (iOS 11.4), we can take that final bullet off a list. Stereo pairing and multi-room audio have now come to a HomePod, pleasantness of a record that Apple calls AirPlay 2. The refurbish also brings calendar commands to the HomePod’s Siri version.

And here’s a happy news for a true-blue Applehead: it works great.

Stereo HomePods

The pivotal to handling dual HomePods is an iOS app called Home. It’s Apple’s executive app for handling smart-home gadgets.

Once you’ve set adult your dual HomePods (or more, we rich thing), their icons uncover adult in this app. Long-press one, and afterwards strike Details, to open a sum screen. Here, we can change a name (“Living room,” “Mancave,” or whatever)—and this is also where a “Create stereo pair” symbol appears (below, left). (If, during setup, we prove that dual HomePods are already in a same room, a app offers to stereo-pair them.)

Once you’ve selected a second speaker, a small blueprint (below, right) lets we daub to prove that one you’d like to be a right channel, and that to be a left.

HomePods have always sounded fantastic. Reasonable people can remonstrate on possibly or not it’s a best sounding intelligent orator on a marketplace (see my blind listening row here), yet few protest about a sound quality.

But in stereo—ooh, man. Yes, obviously, there’s twice as most sonic energy now. But there’s some-more to it than that; a sum of a dual speakers sounds somehow larger than a parts. The clean, low-pitched bass, already a HomePod specialty, blossoms.

Apple’s breathless website says that “A HomePod stereo span works in unison to now emanate a wider, some-more immersive soundstage with a significantly bigger honeyed mark than normal stereo speakers. Each HomePod automatically detects a chain in a room and precisely adjusts a strain in change with a other, from a really initial strain it plays.”

Well, whatever. Basically, stereo HomePods sound terrific.

(Weirdly, only the left one lights adult and serves as the voice of Siri. But you can tap the tip of possibly one to postponement or adjust the volume manually.)

Multiroom

Setting adult HomePods in mixed bedrooms is also simple; once again, we use a Home app for setup.

But to control your music, we have dual options.

First, we can use your voice: “Hey Siri, play some exemplary strain in a kitchen,” we can say. Or, “Hey Siri, play ‘Hamilton’ in a vital room.”

You can get a same (monophonic) strain to play in mixed bedrooms with one authority (“Hey Siri, play ’80s hits in a kitchen and a vital room”).

Unfortunately, we can’t authority opposite strain on opposite speakers by voice. If we contend “Play Beethoven in a kitchen and Coldplay in a vital room,” Siri plays a same Beethoven on both speakers.

You can also approach your multiroom strain regulating a Control Center, a settings shade that appears when we appropriate adult on your shade from any app (on an iPhone X, appropriate down from tip right). It takes 3 taps to find a list of speakers, that isn’t ideal for preference or palliate of learning. But once you’re there, we find apart volume sliders and on/off buttons for any orator (below, left).

HomePod’s prospects

According to Bloomberg, a HomePod isn’t offered really well.

That’s not a shock. Apple’s story shows that it can arrive late to a product difficulty and still dominate—but usually when a entrance leapfrogs a existent competitors. That’s how it won with a iPod, a iPhone, and a iPad.

But a HomePod limps to a marketplace years after a competitors with fewer features.

It does sound great, though, generally in stereo. For a singular audience—the well-heeled, entirely-Apple conduct of domicile who understands a stipulations going in—the new AirPlay 2 facilities make this one-trick, one-ecosystem hack even some-more attractive.

David Pogue, tech columnist for Yahoo Finance, welcomes non-toxic comments in a Comments below. On a Web, he’s davidpogue.com. On Twitter, he’s @pogue. On email, he’s poguester@yahoo.com. You can pointer adult to get his things by email, here.  

 

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