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Posted on February 6, 2023 by Kirk McElhearn
It got here as a shock when Apple discontinued the unique HomePod in March 2021, after three years, and it was much more stunning in January 2023 once they introduced a brand new mannequin. If Apple stopped promoting the machine on account of lack of gross sales, there does not appear to be a lot level in bringing again a brand new model that’s basically the identical. There are some variations within the sound signature and residential capabilities, which I will talk about on this article, however in the event you take a look at an authentic and second-gen HomePod facet by facet, you will not be capable of inform the distinction. (The brand new one is on the left within the picture above.)
What’s totally different concerning the new HomePod
The brand new HomePod is simply 4mm shorter than the unique and weighs round 200g much less, primarily as a result of it has fewer tweeters (5 as a substitute of seven) and microphones (4 as a substitute of six). It has a removable energy wire, which the primary one did not, and it is available in the identical two colours: white (or mild grey) and black (“midnight” for the brand new mannequin and “area grey” for the unique).
The unique HomePod debuted at $349 and dropped to $299 on the finish of its life; the brand new HomePod is $299. The HomePod mini, launched in December 2020, remains to be $99.
How does the brand new HomePod sound?
The HomePod has two jobs: play music and perceive and act on Siri requests. In my evaluate of the unique HomePod, I mentioned:
“The HomePod has full, wealthy sound that tasks nicely and fills even giant rooms. The issue is that it solely has one colour of sound, and that colour is low.”
Apple later added a bass discount choice to the Dwelling app (which is the place you management HomePod’s settings) to treatment this, they usually’ve made adjustments to HomePod’s digital sign processing to refine the bass.
I performed my audio take a look at playlist, which is made up of songs I do know very nicely, on the brand new HomePod. I’m accustomed to the nuances of songs and might simply give attention to the strengths and weaknesses of audio gadgets. I went into this take a look at with open ears and was shocked to seek out how significantly better this machine sounded than the unique HomePod.
The brand new HomePod can fill a giant room, similar to the unique, however its sound is not fairly as punchy. Bass response was toned down barely, and I did not want to use the bass rolloff setting, although the occasional monitor sounded boomy. The sound signature is far brighter than the unique, nevertheless it lacks element. The primary monitor on my take a look at playlist, Exit Music (for a film), by Brad Mehldau, options refined cymbal work starting with the second verse, and that is basically inaudible on the HomePod. the grateful useless Vibe sounds nice, however the harmonies within the last vocal part are muddy. Polyphonic voices from Pérotin’s The Hilliard Ensemble recording Viderunt omnes they lack element, and it is exhausting to make out particular person voices. However the Schubert string quartet motion on my playlist sounded significantly better than I anticipated, with more room and element.
The brand new HomePod leans in the direction of the excessive finish, and that is evident in a number of songs. Bob Dylan path of desolation It sounds nice, particularly the acoustic rhythm guitar breakup and compulsory guitar solo, however Dylan’s voice is lacking a lot of its midrange. This can be the primary weak point of the brand new HomePod: whereas its bass is much less boomy and the treble is shiny, it lacks physique within the midrange. This may be heard with many vocals, but in addition on instrumental tracks.
I then in contrast the brand new HomePod to the unique: I positioned each on my desk, a couple of foot aside, and adjusted the amount on my iPhone in order that the 2 gadgets have been roughly on the similar stage. (The brand new HomePod is a couple of click on louder than the unique.) Switching between the 2 confirmed simply how totally different they’re. The brighter sound of the brand new HomePod makes it sound livelier than the bass tones of the unique. Nevertheless, with many tracks, there may be an excessive amount of treble within the new machine. Ideally, one thing in between, a HomePod Goldilocks, could be ultimate. Some tracks profit from decreased bass, others require that setting to be disabled; you’ll be able to inform Siri to “Flip off bass” and “Activate bass” if you wish to do that on the fly.
The brand new HomePod additionally helps spatial audio, and when listening to numerous Apple Music tracks with Dolby Atmos, it is clear that the machine provides some area to the audio, presumably utilizing a number of tweeters for various channels. It is a refined impact and generally sounds weak; this might simply be the results of poorly combined Atmos tracks. Nevertheless, on some tracks, specifically combined in Dolby Atmos, resembling The Grateful Useless’s satan’s good friendand Brian Eno there have been bellssounds surprisingly good.
Handoff helps you to switch music enjoying in your iPhone to a HomePod, or vice versa (assuming it is in Apple Music or your library). This can be a nice method to preserve listening to one thing whenever you get dwelling or need to change rooms. .
Word that when you can create a stereo pair with two HomePods, you’ll be able to’t combine an authentic and second-generation machine; the sound signatures are vastly totally different, as is the digital sign processing. So when you have an authentic HomePod and need to get a brand new one to make a stereo pair, you are out of luck.
How does the brand new HomePod work together with your good dwelling?
The brand new HomePod, utilizing Apple’s HomeKit, contains temperature and humidity sensors (additionally current within the HomePod mini, just lately enabled in HomePod software program 16.3). You’ll be able to ask Siri what the temperature or humidity is, and you need to use these measurements in dwelling automation routines. A future software program replace may also add audible detection for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, so you’ll be able to arrange a routine to warn you if these alarms are triggered. And the HomePod has help for Thread, to combine right into a Thread-based dwelling automation community, and because the new Matter dwelling protocol rolls out, it can help it too.
Siri is simply as responsive because the first-gen mannequin, even when music is enjoying loud; take heed to my requests and reply to them. After all, this all depends upon Siri with the ability to do what you ask, which remains to be a bit iffy, even ten years after the expertise was launched. For instance, I can inform Siri on HomePod so as to add gadgets to my purchasing record, but when I ask it to remind me to do one thing, it places all of the reminders on the purchasing record I share with my associate, whereas my iPhone or Apple Watch efficiently add reminders to my Reminders record. And too typically I acquired the reply: “Sorry, one thing went fallacious, strive once more.”
You may get all of the options of Siri, Thread, and Matter with the $99 HomePod mini, so that you’re paying an additional $200 for a greater speaker, and you are able to do all of the Siri controls together with your iPhone or Apple Watch. The Sonos One, which sounds simply pretty much as good, if not higher than the HomePod, at the moment retails for $219 (though as of this writing, it is $40 off); the Sonos One SL, with out the microphones for Alexa, is simply $199. Nevertheless, Sonos audio system don’t help spatial audio.
Is the brand new HomePod value $299?
The brand new HomePod’s improved sound makes it a lot simpler to suggest as a speaker, for somebody prepared to drop the worth of an excellent pair of bookshelf audio system in a single restricted machine. After all, you do not want an amplifier and it is compact, making it a sensible choice for a room the place you don’t need your sound system to face out. Whereas I have not heard a stereo pair of the brand new HomePods, I am guessing that based mostly on my expertise with a pair of authentic gadgets, it can sound significantly better. For $600, you may get an amplifier and good bookshelf audio system, however for some folks, a pair of HomePods could also be precisely what they need.
About Kirk McElhearn
Kirk McElhearn He writes about Apple merchandise and extra on his Kirkville weblog. He co-hosts the Intego Mac Podcast, in addition to a number of different podcasts, and is an everyday contributor to The Mac Safety Weblog, TidBITS, and different web sites and publications. Kirk has written greater than two dozen books, together with the Take Management books on Apple’s multimedia apps, Scrivener, and LaunchBar. Observe him on Twitter at @mcelhearn. View all posts by Kirk McElhearn →
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