Apple's HomePod isn't about Siri, but rather the future of home audio

123468

Comments

  • Reply 101 of 142
    Until this is actually delivered all this beamforming and phase and multiple drivers and microphones is just talk and hype. We need to hear it for ourselves, in our own rooms. I have a high-quality (depends on your standards) amp and speakers with 12" woofers, along with midrange and tweeter drivers. I'll be very interested to hear what it sounds like with only 4" drivers. Even with long-throw woofers, the excursion needs to be carefully controlled. They have to move a lot of air. I'm skeptical. And it's not stereo?
  • Reply 102 of 142
    gatorguy said:


    This is a very basic example what the multiple tweeters in the HomePod can do to create a wider soundstage and also to eliminate problems with phase (and will look familiar to anyone who watched the HomePod video).

    When sound is reflected off the rear walls, it has a longer path to take to get to the listener than sound coming directly from the speaker. In my example above, the total time for sound to reach the listener is 2.5ms from the front driver and a total of 8.0ms from the rear drivers. When the sound reaches your ears it could be perfectly in phase, completely out of phase or most likely, somewhere in between.Phase can be adjusted mechanically (physically changing the position of a driver or speaker) or electrically (through digital time delay). Obviously, the HomePod uses digital time delay to adjust phase.

    In the example above, the sound to the rear tweeters would be sent out normally. However, the sound to the front tweeter would be delayed by 5.5ms. This delay allows the rear sound to "catch up" to the direct sound such that by the time it's reflected off the rear walls and starts moving forward it will end up being in phase with the sound from the front tweeter. All the possible issues that can arise with sounds being out of phase are thus eliminated. Since the HomePod also has 6 microphones, calculating this delay time would be fairly straightforward. A few clicks or other test tones played through the individual tweeters can be measured by the microphones so the HomePod can determine exactly how far away it is from any walls and set the appropriate delay time accordingly.

    It's important to note that what I described above isn't actually beamforming. It's a well established method of using time delay to control phase and improve sound quality. Beamforming is more complex but still relies on the same basic principles (precisely controlling phase to multiple drivers to direct where sound goes).

    When Apple says beamforming it's not a marketing term. The HomePod has the proper hardware and layout to enable beamforming. All the rest (Sonos, Google, Amazon) don't.
    But do at least a couple of those (Sonos/Google) have the hardware needed to accomplish what you diagramed, other than reflecting off the back wall which doesn't seem like a necessary feature. (Why not just compute the time delay firing forward?) I think so. Both Sonos One and Home Max appear perfectly capable of computing delay times and adjusting phase matched to your room structure (wall angles, size, furniture placement, other reflecting/absorbing surfaces, etc). We already factually know Google uses beamforming in concert with the microphones for better sound recognition. It's a short drive to using the same technology for much of the same sound adjustments as Apple might be accomplishing thru other methods isn't it? As for beamforming, and despite your stated years of professional audio experience, I think you yourself have realized your knowledge about what Apple may be doing with it is somewhat lacking since you are having some difficulty expressing how it will benefit the Home Pod or why it disadvantages others who lack it.

    Now having said all that I personally expect the Google Home Max to be noticeably bass-heavy just as the original 2016 Google Home was. I'm not a fan of boom-sound myself and I've no doubt many others would agree. Fortunately for those owners there is an included equalizer now. It's certainly possible the Home Max may suffer some muddiness.

    Apple will of course have a well-thought-out Home Pod with very good sound and well matched to other Apple products. It may well bring in more revenues than other mid-range smart-speakers by a significant margin, which at the end of the day is all this is about: More profits.  

    Sonos One with Alexa (other voice assistant support coming soon) is what I would expect to have the better features for most folks and at least comparable overall sound to the Home Pod if not a bit fuller, particularly for the price which is significantly undercutting both Apple and Google. That's before the expected Play:5 replacement this next year that will likely support Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple's Siri at launch.

    Another plus for some Homepod competitors is the much better cross-platform and 3rd party support, services like Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, Amazon Music, TuneIn and others, that won't be supported by Apple. IMHO If you're not already deep into the Apple ecosystem there are better featured products for you than the Home Pod, but for dedicated Apple fans the Home Pod might be (and probably will be) the best choice among the three as long as your music sources only from Apple Music/iTunes or your personal library.

    And again this is just personal opinion but at some point Apple's Homepod will have to support some 3rd party streaming. As is they are too limited IMO, assuming of course that the product they eventually ship is the same as the one they demo'd and spec'd back in the summer.

    Everything you said in regards to phase and beamforming is, again, completely false.

    My only problem is trying to explain complex ideas so the layperson can understand. Your comments about phase make this abundantly clear.

    I own a small pro audio business and concur with your thoughts on the HomePod and the various other products in this discussion. It is a very intriguing product. It’s like a steerable array but in 360 degrees. I’m guessing each hf driver has an independent  amp channel and what frequency does that long excursion driver unit cross over I wonder ? I’ve heard some passive radiator technology deliver amazing bass response from tiny driver units and wonder if Apple has developed a hybrid type driver? All very interesting and I can’t wait to try one out. 
  • Reply 103 of 142
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 17,876member
    fmalloy said:
    Until this is actually delivered all this beamforming and phase and multiple drivers and microphones is just talk and hype. We need to hear it for ourselves, in our own rooms. I have a high-quality (depends on your standards) amp and speakers with 12" woofers, along with midrange and tweeter drivers. I'll be very interested to hear what it sounds like with only 4" drivers. Even with long-throw woofers, the excursion needs to be carefully controlled. They have to move a lot of air. I'm skeptical. And it's not stereo?
    The Home Max delivers stereo sound from a single unit, (yeah color me surprised too) so I'll be curious just how effectively they can do so. I believe Apple says that 2 Home Pods will be needed for stereo. 
  • Reply 104 of 142
    I wonder if Apple went after the wrong market here. I just helped my sister set up an Echo yesterday and she absolutely loves it. And she’s someone all-in on Apple devices. But she would never pay $350 for a speaker. The Echo she got was $69 with tax. The audio isn’t amazing but I’ve heard worse and she thought it sounded great. On TV I’m constantly seeing commercials for Google Home mini starting at $29. Where is the evidence peope are willing to pay a significant premium for smart speakers, and where is the evidence Home Pod will be good enough for serious audiophiles? It seems like it’s in this niche space that will appeal to Apple die hards but not a mass market. 
    Look at the price range for headphones. Then compare it to the price range for compact speaker systems. They're not that different, so there's little doubt that a market exists for Apple's product/price. For example, the Sonos 5 compact speaker is retailing for $499...and that isn't really an audiophile system. That's more mid-range. $350 for all of the technology that Apple is packing into the HomePod is not a premium at all in the current market. 
    Is that a big market?
  • Reply 105 of 142
    VRingVRing Posts: 108member
    gatorguy said:
    fmalloy said:
    Until this is actually delivered all this beamforming and phase and multiple drivers and microphones is just talk and hype. We need to hear it for ourselves, in our own rooms. I have a high-quality (depends on your standards) amp and speakers with 12" woofers, along with midrange and tweeter drivers. I'll be very interested to hear what it sounds like with only 4" drivers. Even with long-throw woofers, the excursion needs to be carefully controlled. They have to move a lot of air. I'm skeptical. And it's not stereo?
    The Home Max delivers stereo sound from a single unit, (yeah color me surprised too) so I'll be curious just how effectively they can do so. I believe Apple says that 2 Home Pods will be needed for stereo. 
    Left and right drivers. Seems simple enough. Mind you, the tweeters are roughly 10 inches apart. 
    Related image
  • Reply 106 of 142
    VRingVRing Posts: 108member
    foggyhill said:
    gatorguy said:


    This is a very basic example what the multiple tweeters in the HomePod can do to create a wider soundstage and also to eliminate problems with phase (and will look familiar to anyone who watched the HomePod video).

    When sound is reflected off the rear walls, it has a longer path to take to get to the listener than sound coming directly from the speaker. In my example above, the total time for sound to reach the listener is 2.5ms from the front driver and a total of 8.0ms from the rear drivers. When the sound reaches your ears it could be perfectly in phase, completely out of phase or most likely, somewhere in between.Phase can be adjusted mechanically (physically changing the position of a driver or speaker) or electrically (through digital time delay). Obviously, the HomePod uses digital time delay to adjust phase.

    In the example above, the sound to the rear tweeters would be sent out normally. However, the sound to the front tweeter would be delayed by 5.5ms. This delay allows the rear sound to "catch up" to the direct sound such that by the time it's reflected off the rear walls and starts moving forward it will end up being in phase with the sound from the front tweeter. All the possible issues that can arise with sounds being out of phase are thus eliminated. Since the HomePod also has 6 microphones, calculating this delay time would be fairly straightforward. A few clicks or other test tones played through the individual tweeters can be measured by the microphones so the HomePod can determine exactly how far away it is from any walls and set the appropriate delay time accordingly.

    It's important to note that what I described above isn't actually beamforming. It's a well established method of using time delay to control phase and improve sound quality. Beamforming is more complex but still relies on the same basic principles (precisely controlling phase to multiple drivers to direct where sound goes).

    When Apple says beamforming it's not a marketing term. The HomePod has the proper hardware and layout to enable beamforming. All the rest (Sonos, Google, Amazon) don't.
    But do at least a couple of those (Sonos/Google) have the hardware needed to accomplish what you diagramed, other than reflecting off the back wall which doesn't seem like a necessary feature. (Why not just compute the time delay firing forward?) I think so. Both Sonos One and Home Max appear perfectly capable of computing delay times and adjusting phase matched to your room structure (wall angles, size, furniture placement, other reflecting/absorbing surfaces, etc). We already factually know Google uses beamforming in concert with the microphones for better sound recognition. It's a short drive to using the same technology for much of the same sound adjustments as Apple might be accomplishing thru other methods isn't it? As for beamforming, and despite your stated years of professional audio experience, I think you yourself have realized your knowledge about what Apple may be doing with it is somewhat lacking since you are having some difficulty expressing how it will benefit the Home Pod or why it disadvantages others who lack it.

    Now having said all that I personally expect the Google Home Max to be noticeably bass-heavy just as the original 2016 Google Home was. I'm not a fan of boom-sound myself and I've no doubt many others would agree. Fortunately for those owners there is an included equalizer now. It's certainly possible the Home Max may suffer some muddiness.

    Apple will of course have a well-thought-out Home Pod with very good sound and well matched to other Apple products. It may well bring in more revenues than other mid-range smart-speakers by a significant margin, which at the end of the day is all this is about: More profits.  

    Sonos One with Alexa (other voice assistant support coming soon) is what I would expect to have the better features for most folks and at least comparable overall sound to the Home Pod if not a bit fuller, particularly for the price which is significantly undercutting both Apple and Google. That's before the expected Play:5 replacement this next year that will likely support Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple's Siri at launch.

    Another plus for some Homepod competitors is the much better cross-platform and 3rd party support, services like Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, Amazon Music, TuneIn and others, that won't be supported by Apple. IMHO If you're not already deep into the Apple ecosystem there are better featured products for you than the Home Pod, but for dedicated Apple fans the Home Pod might be (and probably will be) the best choice among the three as long as your music sources only from Apple Music/iTunes or your personal library.

    And again this is just personal opinion but at some point Apple's Homepod will have to support some 3rd party streaming. As is they are too limited IMO, assuming of course that the product they eventually ship is the same as the one they demo'd and spec'd back in the summer.

    Everything you said in regards to phase and beamforming is, again, completely false.

    My only problem is trying to explain complex ideas so the layperson can understand. Your comments about phase make this abundantly clear.

    He doesn't give a hoot if he's in error (it's the new thing don't you know, not caring about being wrong without embarrassment), just throw things out, lie, distort, withhold, cherry pick, and more and feel smug  doing it; it is "working" for that orange juice man wringing the life out of the US right now and he's got legions of copiers.
    Reminds me of you... You're just as quick to insult as you are to turn tail and run.

     It baffles me how you're both rude and insulting to almost everyone you might disagree with. You'll attract more bees with honey than vinegar.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 107 of 142
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 834member
    rogifan_new said:
    The Echo she got was $69 with tax. The audio isn’t amazing but I’ve heard worse and she thought it sounded great. On TV I’m constantly seeing commercials for Google Home mini starting at $29.
    Just remember... with Google, you're the product. There's a reason it's so cheap.

    fmalloy said:
    And it's not stereo?
    It's stereo (or more with all those tweeters) as long as they can send a separate signal to each of those tweeters, but is relying on the beamforming to enhance it's very limited stereo separation.

    rogifan_new said:
    Is that a big market?
    Maybe not huge, but Apple only seems to care about market size when it comes to Macs (as an excuse).
  • Reply 108 of 142
    fmalloy said:
    And it's not stereo?
    Stereo consists of two channels, so any compact speaker with more than one tweeter is technically capable of producing stereo.
  • Reply 109 of 142

    gatorguy said:
    The Home Max delivers stereo sound from a single unit, (yeah color me surprised too) so I'll be curious just how effectively they can do so. I believe Apple says that 2 Home Pods will be needed for stereo. 
    Why would you be surprised? Boomboxes back in the 70s and 80s could produce stereo sound from a single unit. This is nothing new or surprising. The HomePod will definitely be able to produce stereo sound from a single unit as well. All you need is more than one tweeter. 
  • Reply 110 of 142

    Is that a big market?
    Big enough to have a lot of competitors in the $200 - $500 range. Compact systems are very popular these days and there's as wide a range of prices as there is for headphones. 
  • Reply 111 of 142
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 17,876member

    gatorguy said:
    The Home Max delivers stereo sound from a single unit, (yeah color me surprised too) so I'll be curious just how effectively they can do so. I believe Apple says that 2 Home Pods will be needed for stereo. 
    Why would you be surprised? Boomboxes back in the 70s and 80s could produce stereo sound from a single unit. This is nothing new or surprising. The HomePod will definitely be able to produce stereo sound from a single unit as well. All you need is more than one tweeter. 
    Surprised because I wasn't aware the Home Max had 2 separate high-excursion (22mm) woofers on each side in addition to separate tweeters for delivering left and right channel stereo sound rather than pseudo-stereo sharing a single woofer. At least that's the way I understand it, not that it matters. It's the in-home sound that will count.

    ..and IMO it also seems like far too much Home Max emphasis on bass FWIW
    edited December 2017
  • Reply 112 of 142
    gatorguy said:
    And? One HomePod can produce stereo sound. Two HomePods can also produce stereo sound as a paired set. The CPU will change the way the stereo sound is handled based on whether you're using one or a pair. 
  • Reply 113 of 142
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 17,876member
    gatorguy said:
    And? One HomePod can produce stereo sound. Two HomePods can also produce stereo sound as a paired set. The CPU will change the way the stereo sound is handled based on whether you're using one or a pair. 
    I've no idea. Never heard one myself and don't see where Apple has commented on it other than using as a pair for stereo so like you just relying on what I read. If you can find where Apple mentions one Home Pod and stereo as Google says about the Max that would pretty much settle it. You could well be correct. 
    edited December 2017
  • Reply 114 of 142
    tedthedevtedthedev Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I think you are missing a few things. First, Google (and Amazon) can sell these 'mini' home assistants at such a low price point because 1) they're cheap to produce, and b) their main purpose it to teach/condition users to use the service. I was definitely skeptical of having one of these devices in my home (especially after it was revealed the mini was always listening, a 'bug' that was recently fixed), but I picked one up over Thanksgiving because it was just so damn cheap ($29 with a $25 Walmart credit, basically making it $4). Having had it for a couple of weeks, here's my take - Apple better get in this space soon, or its going to be woefully behind. Yeah, Apple has their 'assistant' in Siri in a lot of pockets, and the Homepod is not trying to compete with the Google Home or Echo, but the perception is that it will be. Apple will sell lots of Homepods to psuedo-audiophiles (I say psuedo becase a real audiophile wouldn't waste their time with a awesome speaker that plays files that compressed with inferior audio codecs), but that is a niche market. Every week sales of Google Home's or Echo's goes unanswered by Apple, they lose out on two fronts. The first is that these devices are entering peoples homes, and they are becoming comfortable with their abilities, and integrating these devices in to their daily routines. The second is with the increased traffic/usage of these devices, both the Google Assistant and the Alexa assistant become smarter, more useful and more natural to interact with. Siri already is running 3rd in the race for usefulness between these assistants, and if wants to stay in the race, it needs to become #2 soon. By just about any means necessary. Oh, and any audiophile looking at the Homepod will also be looking at a Sonos speaker, which starts at half the price of the Homepod, and offers you the choice of either Alexa or Google Assistant. Or the Google Max (which is albeit a bit pricer - now - than the Homepod). The competition in this space is fierce, and Apple is in danger of being run off the road.
  • Reply 115 of 142
    Did you forget the name HomePod tells us its more than a fine speaker it's the center point within ones home (room). The problem here it has three major failings based on the current HomePod shown:
    - It does not offer a base or a means to tie to a system to be the base other than your phone. We need the HomeBase element for managing all of the 'HomePod's within the home. This HomeBase would be the common brain (not dependent on your iPhone or iPad alone) as well as the storage of your content libraries, HomePod services ($$) and other HomeKit elements integrating your smart-home control.
    - If you have more rooms that you want to use a HomePod in it does not follow you! You'll need to blast the sound across all of the HomePod's. I should be able to walk around and have my AppleWatch or iPhone tell the HomePod's where I'm located within the house and only turn on the speakers in the rooms I'm walking around in. In addition it should allow two or more people to have different things going on (upstairs and downstairs, or different closed off rooms) and not compete (bleed across)
    - Size matters! I should be able to have HomePod devices in all my rooms! A small room does not need the fidelity of the current unit and then it doesn't fit cleanly on a night table without taking it over. While it's not going to be as powerful a unit the size of a UE Boom2 would be great!

    I see the intro of the HomePod at WWDC was a placeholder to tease us. It was not fully developed as Apple feared (rightfully) Amazon and Google would take over. All of the voice systems fail right now as none have done the needed work to make them work cleanly and well!

    To think Siri needs to be monetized by Apple directly I think is missing the point! Apple needs to dig deeper into Siri's abilities as what it offers will grow the market. Think how the discreet camera industry is shriveling up! Apple is a major cause of this! Every new phone has pushed the envelope with better cameras. Thats not a bad thing its were we are now. Apple doesn't make money on every picture you shoot but it does make money on the storage of your library of images. Siri is no different! Apple needs to do the same thing with Siri. The more power it has within our home the more hardware (Apple) and other Apple services we'll likely buy.

    So to sum it up:
    • Apple needs multiple HomePod devices with a range of power to match to the room it will be used in (size).
    • HomePod devices need an intelligent base unit to host your stuff and serve as the App hub for HomePod services and HomeKit (i.e. HomeBase)
    • Siri is VERY important! It needs to be conversational and not get tripped up with a much deeper lexicon and knowledge base. It needs to be the guardian & concierge of the home. Off loading tasks & protecting you and your family.


    Soli
  • Reply 116 of 142
    gatorguy said:
    If you can find where Apple mentions one Home Pod and stereo as Google says about the Max that would pretty much settle it. You could well be correct. 
    The funny thing about what you're saying is that Apple doesn't mention "stereo" at all for any of their music products on their web site...not for the HomePod or Beats headphones or AirPods or Apple Music. But that doesn't mean they don't provide "stereo". It's just not an important marketing term for audio in 2017.
    edited December 2017
  • Reply 117 of 142
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 17,876member
    gatorguy said:
    If you can find where Apple mentions one Home Pod and stereo as Google says about the Max that would pretty much settle it. You could well be correct. 
    The funny thing about what you're saying is that Apple doesn't mention "stereo" at all for any of their music products on their web site...not for the HomePod or Beats headphones or AirPods or Apple Music. But that doesn't mean they don't provide "stereo". It's just not an important marketing term for audio in 2017.
    Ah, gotcha. They do specifically refer to "Stereo" when setting up  a pair of Home Pods and only then, not in connection with a single Home Pod, but it appears that would not be unusual for Apple. Thanks.
  • Reply 118 of 142
    cgWerks said:
    rogifan_new said:
    The Echo she got was $69 with tax. The audio isn’t amazing but I’ve heard worse and she thought it sounded great. On TV I’m constantly seeing commercials for Google Home mini starting at $29.
    Just remember... with Google, you're the product. There's a reason it's so cheap.

    fmalloy said:
    And it's not stereo?
    It's stereo (or more with all those tweeters) as long as they can send a separate signal to each of those tweeters, but is relying on the beamforming to enhance it's very limited stereo separation.

    rogifan_new said:
    Is that a big market?
    Maybe not huge, but Apple only seems to care about market size when it comes to Macs (as an excuse).
    Newsflash most people don’t care if they’re the product. That’s why Google is the dominant search engine and almost 2B people use Facebook. I guarantee you in the smart speaker space people care more about price (and good smarts) than how the product is funded. There’s a reason HomePod was delayed and my guess it’s because Apple is working more on the smarts part.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 119 of 142

    Is that a big market?
    Big enough to have a lot of competitors in the $200 - $500 range. Compact systems are very popular these days and there's as wide a range of prices as there is for headphones. 
    Honestly I think Apple trying to compete with Bose and Sonos is a waste of time. They should use HomePod as an excuse to really make Siri a lot better. HomePod should become another Apple platform.
    Soli
  • Reply 120 of 142
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,202member
    cgWerks said:
    rogifan_new said:
    The Echo she got was $69 with tax. The audio isn’t amazing but I’ve heard worse and she thought it sounded great. On TV I’m constantly seeing commercials for Google Home mini starting at $29.
    Just remember... with Google, you're the product. There's a reason it's so cheap.

    fmalloy said:
    And it's not stereo?
    It's stereo (or more with all those tweeters) as long as they can send a separate signal to each of those tweeters, but is relying on the beamforming to enhance it's very limited stereo separation.

    rogifan_new said:
    Is that a big market?
    Maybe not huge, but Apple only seems to care about market size when it comes to Macs (as an excuse).
    Newsflash most people don’t care if they’re the product. That’s why Google is the dominant search engine and almost 2B people use Facebook. I guarantee you in the smart speaker space people care more about price (and good smarts) than how the product is funded. There’s a reason HomePod was delayed and my guess it’s because Apple is working more on the smarts part.
    Most people want a large, bright TV and are fine with the built-in speakers. Most people seem to be using their iPhone's EarPods. Clearly this argument that everyone only wants high-end audio and Apple doesn't do anything but, is a scapegoat for a delayed product that's already late to a market. I have no doubt Apple can make this work as they're often very late to a market and start with a high-end product offering, but the arguments on this forum are that all other devices aren't even worth it… even when you can attach any number of speaker systems to them. We even see people saying that it's not about Siri and that there's a touchscreen (the size of the Apple Watch display) that  they'll be able to control everything, which is just BS.
    cgWerksmuthuk_vanalingam
Sign In or Register to comment.