Setup is sort of immediate and easy: The process is not like that of any non-Apple sensible speaker I’ve used, and it is basically the identical course of as for pairing AirPods. After you replace to the most recent iOS software program, putting an iPhone or different iOS system close to the HomePod causes a window to pop up with an image of a HomePod and a Set Up button. Just a few presses later, and the HomePod vacuums up Wi-Fi passwords and Apple Music settings, provides a fast voice-command tutorial, and that’s it. In contrast to with an Amazon Echo, the place you need to obtain an app, pair the system, log in to your Amazon account, after which get into each streaming service you employ, all of it occurs right here in a single extraordinarily polished step. That is how all shopper tech ought to work at present.
The audio high quality is for actual: Essentially the most vaunted characteristic of the HomePod is the speaker itself, which Apple filled with a great deal of subtle audio elements—seven tweeters, a high-excursion subwoofer, and 6 microphones—in addition to, to make all of it work, one among Apple’s personal A8 chips, like these utilized in iPhones. The result’s that the HomePod can dynamically tweak its playback on the fly primarily based not solely on the tune you’re listening to but additionally on the size of the room. What which means to non–audio geeks is that in case you shut your eyes and pay attention, even strolling across the room, you don’t get echoes or a way of enclosing partitions; as an alternative there’s a broad soundstage producing faint guitar plucks and delicate voice qualities. Each in my testing and at an Apple-hosted speaker shootout by which a HomePod, a Google House Max, a Sonos One, and an Amazon Echo (2nd technology) have been demonstrated taking part in the identical music, there was simply no comparability: The House Max lacked bass punch and element and sounded compressed; the Echo was a welterweight and sounded tinny, as if it had been positioned in a can or field; and the One was a really shut second however lacked the HomePod’s precision. At house I positioned the HomePod in a kitchen with hardwood flooring and plenty of home windows and 10-foot ceilings, a lounge with carpets and furnishings, and an workplace house with all types of packing containers and crap stacked throughout, and it actually did magically fill the room with exact, detailed, highly effective sound. In contrast to the Sonos, which tends towards far too aggressive bass punch, the HomePod walks the road good. That is the very best present speaker for Apple Music, and it’s a giant improve over a Bluetooth possibility. Because the launch of AirPlay 2 in Could 2018, you possibly can stream audio from the HomePod to a number of appropriate audio system, too—however as of this writing, the AppleTV is the one different appropriate system obtainable.
On the HomePod, Siri is a next-level listener: In contrast to the expertise with Alexa or Google Assistant, which every get caught up within the second when the music is loud and sometimes can’t hear even shouted requests to pipe down, it’s astonishing to have music cranked to 75 p.c on the HomePod and to make use of a normal-level voice to say “skip” or “pause” and have Siri reply with out prodding. Extremely, this works not simply when the HomePod is in the identical room—I positioned the speaker at one finish of a 50-foot-long house and was in a position to comfortably management Siri by a number of rooms and entryways by solely fractionally elevating my voice (notably, a ability my children have but to grasp). It’s actually beautiful.
Equally, the HomePod, or extra precisely Siri, has spectacular chops for shortly deciphering which Apple system you are chatting with and responding appropriately, most each time. In a check room with a HomePod, an iPhone, and an Apple Watch, spoken queries meant for the HomePod would set off the display of the opposite units to gentle up, however then the HomePod would normally deal with the response as meant. (The converse, asking Siri for a perform that the HomePod couldn’t deal with, reminiscent of a calendar appointment, would set off the closest iOS system appropriately however then trigger Siri on the HomePod to apologize too.) As anybody who has frolicked with multiple Alexa system will acknowledge, this instinct on Siri’s half is priceless: The fixed misfires of 1 Alexa system in a single room overhearing and appearing on a request to a different are maddening. (I regularly discover one nosy Echo Dot streaming music away in an empty room.)
And one other kudo for Siri: It’s usually higher at understanding requests for songs and albums than Alexa paired with Spotify. That will must do with the best way Spotify and Apple Music every work—specifically Spotify will play the preferred model of a tune, which is probably not the unique you’re searching for—however in my testing I had a neater time getting songs I needed to listen to on the HomePod than on the Sonos One. As a result of Siri gained’t management Spotify, we are able to’t make a direct comparability.
The HomePod features as a hub for HomeKit, Apple’s smart-home platform: With this speaker serving as a HomeKit hub, you should use your voice to regulate HomeKit-compatible units round your property, together with sensible locks, thermostats, cameras, and smoke alarms, and now have entry to them whenever you’re not house. (See our information to HomeKit for a extra detailed rundown.) Earlier than the HomePod, the opposite hub choices have been both an Apple TV or an iPad, neither of that are as handy to have plugged in all through a house to entry sensible units which can be out of vary. Additionally, what few settings you possibly can manually regulate on the HomePod are discovered within the built-in House app in your iOS system.
The HomePod is to my eyes the best-looking sensible speaker in its class, from a subjective aesthetic perspective, and is the one you’d most fortunately have sitting in plain view with out its feeling misplaced. (Nonetheless, watch out what sort of furnishings you place it on.) It’s smaller than you may count on, and at simply 7 inches tall, it’s basically the identical dimensions as a Sonos One. Its shiny high, woven mesh wrapping, and tender silicone base all feel and appear top quality—traditional even. The ability wire is material wrapped and supple, and thus is simple to put discreetly on furnishings and on the ground.
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