Amazon working on new Echo with better speakers in response to Apple HomePod

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  • Reply 21 of 31
    Soli said:
    [..] unlike the Echo proper which has good sound
    To provide some perspective on my position relative to yours, one of my co-workers has an Echo on her desk and I think it sounds terrible. Not as in it upsets my audiophile sensibilities, as in I think the speakers on my laptop sound better. It's got a grainy, tinny top end, no bottom AT ALL, and is only somewhat better than a '70s vintage transistor radio in terms of distortion.

    Soli said:
    [..] there are audiophiles on here that will say that unless I spend over $100k on overpriced speaker that it would cause their ears to bleed).
    I know what you mean, and to be clear, that's not at all what I'm saying. There's a wide range of product between a $50K pair of PMC mastering monitors and a $300 wireless speaker. B&W spring to mind as one example (though they also descend into that gauche and unsavoury world of wireless all-in-ones).

    The HomePod may the best among its peers, but I wouldn't call any of them "high-end audio." I'm not dismissive of it at all -- it's a great idea with tons of benefits. It's just not high-end audio.
    roundaboutnowpscooter63
  • Reply 22 of 31
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Apple is aiming at a high-end audio market
    Is is? How? With what?

    Or is a little wireless speaker what we consider "high-end audio" now? I'm not being a smart-ass, I'm checking if my understanding of the phrase differs from the average tech consumer.

    I don't doubt the HomePod will sound better than an Echo -- hell, it can hardly miss -- and I totally get the concept of trading sonic accuracy for size and convenience, but I think calling it "high-end audio" devalues products from companies that work painstakingly to make speakers that sound as close to real life as possible.
    Most "high end" stereo sound like CRAP  no matter how expensive they are because of where they are setup and how they are setup;

    The recorded sound, except in a few genre were you have solo performers, or small bands with minimal post production, doesn't in any way sound like what you'd hear if you were there. The whole thing is basically a big joke.

    Listening to an orchestra, a chamber orchestra any ensemble really on two high end speakers, no matter how expensive they are, doesn't sound even close to sounding like it sounds in person even if your in the sweet spot in a room with good acoustic.
    To reproduce that kind of sound you need to do some fancy encoding and then decoding and what you get out is not at all what you could hear in person.

    Having each instruments miked and then placing say 5 speakers in front could get you closer if you just forget most rooms acoustic is garbage,

    Apple's speaker actually purports to caring and adjusting on the fly to the room's acoustic and possibly even the current listening position of the person. That alone would produce a better sound than many expensive setups in most rooms.

    If the speaker can analyse the sound that bounces back and adjusts the sound on all its speakers so the person listening, no matter its position, is in the sweet spot. That's a hell of a better sound than most speakers can do.

    People always seem to forget what problem is trying to resolve; the fact HIFI systems take a lot of space and often produce dubious sound because of acoustics, placement and setup issues.


    Soli
  • Reply 23 of 31
    lorin schultzlorin schultz Posts: 2,771member
    foggyhill said:
    Most "high end" stereo sound like CRAP  no matter how expensive they are because of where they are setup and how they are setup;

    I don't know if I'd go so far as to say they sound like crap, but yeah, most people aren't aware of how important the room is to the listening experience.


    foggyhill said:
    Listening to an orchestra, a chamber orchestra any ensemble really on two high end speakers, no matter how expensive they are, doesn't sound even close to sounding like it sounds in person even if your in the sweet spot in a room with good acoustic.

    You're preachin' to the choir there, brother. I made exactly that mistake once and now make a point of warning others. Do NOT listen to a recording of a symphony immediately after hearing it live. It doesn't matter how good the recording, playback system and room are. It just plain doesn't sound like the real thing. That's why an audio engineer I respect used to end just about every discussion with the observation that the only music that's any good at all is live.


    foggyhill said:
    Apple's speaker actually purports to caring and adjusting on the fly to the room's acoustic and possibly even the current listening position of the person. That alone would produce a better sound than many expensive setups in most rooms.

    If the speaker can analyse the sound that bounces back and adjusts the sound on all its speakers so the person listening, no matter its position, is in the sweet spot. That's a hell of a better sound than most speakers can do.

    If only it were that easy. The reality is that the laws of physics and millennia of evolution get in the way.

    Our ear/brain combo is actually surprisingly well equipped to avoid being fooled. Some phase tricks are reasonably effective, like the way the new MacBook Pro makes it seem like the sound field is wider than the space between the speakers. It's just a parlour trick though, because even though it creates an interesting and novel effect, it doesn't actually sound like two speakers placed farther apart.

    Processing, even really, really fast processing, can only do so much. A tiny driver with a tiny amplifier isn't ever going to produce decent bottom end, even with fancy DSP EQ. Want proof? Listen to Bose. There's a "boom" that makes buyers think it has bass during a two minute demo, but it's really just exaggerating one frequency, and it's about an octave higher than where the real action is. It's all one note. If you listen to an upright bass playing scales you'll hear that a couple notes are way louder than all the others, and it isn't the lowest notes that are loud. Fake bass is probably better than no bass, but let's not pretend it's something that it's not.

    Further, multiple tweeters with DSP steering will exacerbate reflection issues, not correct them (that pesky laws of physics thing again). It's also likely that listeners will experience strange effects when moving around the room -- a kind of subtle "swishiness" -- similar to compression artifacts (aka "cell phone audio"). It will very likely sound pretty cool as long as the listener doesn't move around too much, and undoubtedly better than a similarly restricted conventional speaker placed poorly, but again, let's not confuse "novel" and "fun" with "accurate."

    The HomePod seems like a great product, and if it sounds even halfway decent I will very likely buy one. I'm just not going to make exaggerated claims about its position in the sound quality hierarchy. It is what is, and what it is seems like it will be a worthwhile product. It just isn't very likely to be "high-end audio."
    edited July 2017 gatorguy
  • Reply 24 of 31
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 4,056member
    I'm ok with my Echo Dot + the Vaux speaker  which has built in battery too for portability. The cost total = $75.

    Soli
  • Reply 25 of 31

    Further, multiple tweeters with DSP steering will exacerbate reflection issues, not correct them (that pesky laws of physics thing again). It's also likely that listeners will experience strange effects when moving around the room -- a kind of subtle "swishiness" -- similar to compression artifacts (aka "cell phone audio"). It will very likely sound pretty cool as long as the listener doesn't move around too much, and undoubtedly better than a similarly restricted conventional speaker placed poorly, but again, let's not confuse "novel" and "fun" with "accurate."

    The HomePod seems like a great product, and if it sounds even halfway decent I will very likely buy one. I'm just not going to make exaggerated claims about its position in the sound quality hierarchy. It is what is, and what it is seems like it will be a worthwhile product. It just isn't very likely to be "high-end audio."


    I agree with this part of your post. I am a little wary of the HomePod being designed to dynamically alter the sound based on it's technology. I remember having these hi-fi systems that had auto-volume options which was probably the most irritating thing designed on a hi-fi. If the system heard something that was higher than the usual volume of a track, it would drop the volume to keep it consistent. That was really horrid. You'd hear a fraction of the high note in the normal volume and then it would become lower.

    Shit like that shouldn't happen in an audio product.

    Having said that, the HomePod may probably be a lot better than that. I assume Apple has the engineering and auditory chops to avoid crap like that.

    Another thing that gave me a little faith was that Ben Bajarin from TechPinions mentioned that it sounds really amazing in a room that wasn't designed for audio.

    Anyway, I am a shoo-in for buying at least one HomePod, whenever they roll it our internationally to their secondary markets.


    watto_cobra
  • Reply 26 of 31
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 4,056member

    Further, multiple tweeters with DSP steering will exacerbate reflection issues, not correct them (that pesky laws of physics thing again). It's also likely that listeners will experience strange effects when moving around the room -- a kind of subtle "swishiness" -- similar to compression artifacts (aka "cell phone audio"). It will very likely sound pretty cool as long as the listener doesn't move around too much, and undoubtedly better than a similarly restricted conventional speaker placed poorly, but again, let's not confuse "novel" and "fun" with "accurate."

    The HomePod seems like a great product, and if it sounds even halfway decent I will very likely buy one. I'm just not going to make exaggerated claims about its position in the sound quality hierarchy. It is what is, and what it is seems like it will be a worthwhile product. It just isn't very likely to be "high-end audio."


    I agree with this part of your post. I am a little wary of the HomePod being designed to dynamically alter the sound based on it's technology. I remember having these hi-fi systems that had auto-volume options which was probably the most irritating thing designed on a hi-fi. If the system heard something that was higher than the usual volume of a track, it would drop the volume to keep it consistent. That was really horrid. You'd hear a fraction of the high note in the normal volume and then it would become lower.

    Shit like that shouldn't happen in an audio product.

    Having said that, the HomePod may probably be a lot better than that. I assume Apple has the engineering and auditory chops to avoid crap like that.

    Another thing that gave me a little faith was that Ben Bajarin from TechPinions mentioned that it sounds really amazing in a room that wasn't designed for audio.

    Anyway, I am a shoo-in for buying at least one HomePod, whenever they roll it our internationally to their secondary markets.


    I don't see any sound being "amazing" coming out of 3-4' speakers. It's convenient, all in one unit...sure; amazing audio system: nah. I can't get a real $350 audio system that's 100x better than any of these so called smart speakers like xxxxPod, Echo or GxxxxHome craps. No troll tho, of these 3, I would still buy HomePod even though it's 2x expensive because it seems a lot better than the rest and with Apple ecosystem. I had a few Echo at home for my kids to play and they loved those especially the regular Echo that I got for <$90 on Prime Day. Still, I'm Apple-centric guy.
  • Reply 27 of 31
    lorin schultzlorin schultz Posts: 2,771member
    fallenjt said:

    Further, multiple tweeters with DSP steering will exacerbate reflection issues, not correct them (that pesky laws of physics thing again). It's also likely that listeners will experience strange effects when moving around the room -- a kind of subtle "swishiness" -- similar to compression artifacts (aka "cell phone audio"). It will very likely sound pretty cool as long as the listener doesn't move around too much, and undoubtedly better than a similarly restricted conventional speaker placed poorly, but again, let's not confuse "novel" and "fun" with "accurate."

    The HomePod seems like a great product, and if it sounds even halfway decent I will very likely buy one. I'm just not going to make exaggerated claims about its position in the sound quality hierarchy. It is what is, and what it is seems like it will be a worthwhile product. It just isn't very likely to be "high-end audio."


    I agree with this part of your post. I am a little wary of the HomePod being designed to dynamically alter the sound based on it's technology. I remember having these hi-fi systems that had auto-volume options which was probably the most irritating thing designed on a hi-fi. If the system heard something that was higher than the usual volume of a track, it would drop the volume to keep it consistent. That was really horrid. You'd hear a fraction of the high note in the normal volume and then it would become lower.

    Shit like that shouldn't happen in an audio product.

    Having said that, the HomePod may probably be a lot better than that. I assume Apple has the engineering and auditory chops to avoid crap like that.

    Another thing that gave me a little faith was that Ben Bajarin from TechPinions mentioned that it sounds really amazing in a room that wasn't designed for audio.

    Anyway, I am a shoo-in for buying at least one HomePod, whenever they roll it our internationally to their secondary markets.


    I don't see any sound being "amazing" coming out of 3-4' speakers. It's convenient, all in one unit...sure; amazing audio system: nah. I can't get a real $350 audio system that's 100x better than any of these so called smart speakers like xxxxPod, Echo or GxxxxHome craps. No troll tho, of these 3, I would still buy HomePod even though it's 2x expensive because it seems a lot better than the rest and with Apple ecosystem. I had a few Echo at home for my kids to play and they loved those especially the regular Echo that I got for <$90 on Prime Day. Still, I'm Apple-centric guy.
    One thing that the HomePod has going for it is that the vast majority of wireless speakers sound pretty poor, so it doesn't have to be audiophile grade to be better than most of what's out there now. There are a few notable examples of products that sound petty good, but they're expensive. There's an opportunity for Apple to do well here if they can produce something that sounds decent at that price point. It doesn't have to be "high end," it just has to be "nice." It very well could be.
  • Reply 28 of 31
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,541member
    fallenjt said:

    Further, multiple tweeters with DSP steering will exacerbate reflection issues, not correct them (that pesky laws of physics thing again). It's also likely that listeners will experience strange effects when moving around the room -- a kind of subtle "swishiness" -- similar to compression artifacts (aka "cell phone audio"). It will very likely sound pretty cool as long as the listener doesn't move around too much, and undoubtedly better than a similarly restricted conventional speaker placed poorly, but again, let's not confuse "novel" and "fun" with "accurate."

    The HomePod seems like a great product, and if it sounds even halfway decent I will very likely buy one. I'm just not going to make exaggerated claims about its position in the sound quality hierarchy. It is what is, and what it is seems like it will be a worthwhile product. It just isn't very likely to be "high-end audio."


    I agree with this part of your post. I am a little wary of the HomePod being designed to dynamically alter the sound based on it's technology. I remember having these hi-fi systems that had auto-volume options which was probably the most irritating thing designed on a hi-fi. If the system heard something that was higher than the usual volume of a track, it would drop the volume to keep it consistent. That was really horrid. You'd hear a fraction of the high note in the normal volume and then it would become lower.

    Shit like that shouldn't happen in an audio product.

    Having said that, the HomePod may probably be a lot better than that. I assume Apple has the engineering and auditory chops to avoid crap like that.

    Another thing that gave me a little faith was that Ben Bajarin from TechPinions mentioned that it sounds really amazing in a room that wasn't designed for audio.

    Anyway, I am a shoo-in for buying at least one HomePod, whenever they roll it our internationally to their secondary markets.


    I don't see any sound being "amazing" coming out of 3-4' speakers. It's convenient, all in one unit...sure; amazing audio system: nah. I can't get a real $350 audio system that's 100x better than any of these so called smart speakers like xxxxPod, Echo or GxxxxHome craps. No troll tho, of these 3, I would still buy HomePod even though it's 2x expensive because it seems a lot better than the rest and with Apple ecosystem. I had a few Echo at home for my kids to play and they loved those especially the regular Echo that I got for <$90 on Prime Day. Still, I'm Apple-centric guy.
    One thing that the HomePod has going for it is that the vast majority of wireless speakers sound pretty poor, so it doesn't have to be audiophile grade to be better than most of what's out there now. There are a few notable examples of products that sound petty good, but they're expensive. There's an opportunity for Apple to do well here if they can produce something that sounds decent at that price point. It doesn't have to be "high end," it just has to be "nice." It very well could be.
    Since most people are not audiophiles, then making "very good sound" (at least as compared with other products) targeted at a sizeable section of the market (non audiophiles, but those who like that really good sound) seems like a typical Apple strategy.  

    From what I have read of the product (often from those who received the demo from Apple, and received info on how it works), its very intelligent approach to sound design based on using that very capable A8 chip, is likely to provide superior experience to an updated Echo.  It also allows the device to receive updates which improve its usefulness over time.
  • Reply 29 of 31
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,541member
    It's unlikely Amazon's Echo response to the HomePod will have an onboard computer chip for audio processing. I think that chip makes all the difference in the HomePod. It's funny how even though the Amazon Echo is supposedly crushing the HomePod's market before it is even for sale, Amazon finds the need to build a better Echo. That's the one main thing about Jeff Bezos. He doesn't stop being aggressive which seems to be a failing of Apple. Jeff Bezos definitely wants that digital assistant market for his own.  With Apple pricing the HomePod at $349, Amazon will have no problem completely dominating the digital assistant market.

    What I also find amusing is hearing that the next Echo will have a cloth covering despite all the derisive comments about the HomePod becoming some cat's scratching post.  Some people are seriously retarded when it comes to design.  Cat's use all sorts of things as scratching posts, so it's stupid to design products as not to attract cats.
    In terms of your highlighted statement, I would agree with that if the "digital assistant" market was based purely on standalone speakers, it would be true.  However, it is (and will be) dominated by mobile devices.  Apple has over 1.2 billion devices that can access Siri, and growing by over a 100 million devices per year, without HomePod.  Unless Alexa can really make inroads into being an active, day-to-day assistant for 100's of millions of Android and iPhone users, it will not be dominant.

    I use Siri every day, and believe it has improved over the last 4 years.  However, I only use it for items where the current capabilities (of all such assistants) make sense today - sending texts when driving & other such tasks while driving, setting timers and reminders, dictation, etc.  I don't expect it to be able to (reliably) book a dinner reservation at the best Italian restaurant in my neighbourhood today while sending the invite to all of my friends by calling out their first names - though technology is improving such that this might be feasible in the near future.
  • Reply 30 of 31
    brucemc said:
    Since most people are not audiophiles, then making "very good sound" (at least as compared with other products) targeted at a sizeable section of the market (non audiophiles, but those who like that really good sound) seems like a typical Apple strategy.
    Sure. It seems like a good approach for ANY company entering the market. I just think the definition of "very good sound" varies considerably from listener to listener. If the baseline for comparison is computer speakers or something of similar quality, it doesn't take much to produce something that sounds a lot better. On the other hand, if you're accustomed to listening through reasonably well-designed traditional speakers of any size larger than a milk carton, driven by even a modestly powered amplifier (like a home theatre receiver), you're less likely to be particularly impressed by even a fairly decent Google Home/Echo/HomePod-class device.

    That's not a dig at the HomePod. That it may not be suitable for everyone in every setting is not a shortcoming. I just take exception to Mr. Fingas characterizing Apple as concentrating on the "high-end audio" market. It's an exaggeration, confounds reasonable discussion, and diminishes the perceived value of genuinely accurate audio equipment.

    The fact that a Civic isn't as fast as a Lambo does not make the Civic deficient in any way. It doesn't cost as much as a Lambo and the intended use is much different. However, describing the Civic as a "supercar" would be inappropriate, and opens the door to criticism of the Civic for not being able to go from zero-to-holy-shit in "What was that?" even though that was never what it was meant to do. It also leads some to question why a BMW or Mercedes costs so much when a Civic promises better performance for much less money. Obviously that's an oversimplified example, but you get what I mean. Exaggerated claims lead to unrealistic expectations, which causes some people to be disappointed that a product isn't what they thought it was going to be, and hurts the people who provide the things that actually deliver a high end experience but cost more.

    brucemc said:
    From what I have read of the product (often from those who received the demo from Apple, and received info on how it works), its very intelligent approach to sound design based on using that very capable A8 chip, is likely to provide superior experience to an updated Echo.
    At the risk of sounding snarky, which I promise is not my intent, I would certainly hope the HomePod sounds better than the Echo. I obviously don't know what the new one will sound like, but the present one sounds like poo. The HomePod also costs as much as two Echos, so buyers will undoubtedly EXPECT the HomePod to be a helluvalot better.
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