See Apple's HomePod take on the competition in our ultimate smart speaker sound comparison...

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Comments

  • Reply 41 of 48

    evilution said:
    I'm happy with the sound of my HomePod and it's better than the sound from any other speaker I own.
    If the HomePod sounds this good, imagine how good it'll sound with 2 in stereo. Can't wait for that.
    Awesome. 
    Although I'm not keen on it myself - this is an honest post. Can't argue with it. You aren't making any insane claims. 
    Happy you got some good sound man. 
    Interested to hear how 2 sounds. Although they fill the room - the sound is still emanating from a location. I'm curious how 2 will sound. 
  • Reply 42 of 48
    bitmod said:
    foggyhill said:
    rain22 said:
    timmillea said:
    What a way to test sound quality - heavily compressed studio mush! Live-recorded orchestral or jazz would have been a better testing candidate
    Agreed. I would have also liked to have heard something from Tidal MQA - to see which handles it better. AM’s low quality AAC compression is the target audience thou. But yah, those 2 songs were brutal
    Anyway who says this crap knows nothing about aac, so in fact you demonstrate your "non knowledge".

    I would have made not one ounce of difference for this kind of speakers in this price range in such a room.

    Maybe makes one once of difference on top end headphones if you have super duper ears on recorded live performances with a minimum of post processing.
    Anyone who knows anything about audio at all just rolled their eyes and laughed at you. 
    I like to think I have a better-than-average understanding of the physics, physiology, and psychology of sound perception, and I actually agree with foggyhill on this point. With a product like the HomePod there are so many other factors that have much, much more affect on the sound than that particular compression algorithm that it's very unlikely you or I could reliably identify whether a HomePod was playing a 256kb AAC source or PCM in blind testing. The comparatively subtle effects of the AAC compression would be masked by other distortions.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 43 of 48
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,514member
    rain22 said:
    The big google speaker has more fidelity than the HomePod. On the electronic song at 80% you can hear layers that are barely audible or non-existent on the HomePod. 
    Im guessing it’s a better DAC in the google one - as it also sounded more transparent and layers more defined.
    I don't think a DAC is going to make that much difference (and would Apple put in a really, really bad one?), and we're listening to it via a camera mic, quite possibly. But, yes, I was surprised how much difference there was in that recording (and, IMO, not positively for the HomePod, at least on the recording).

    It's more likely that if the Google sounds better (which many people seem to say it doesn't), that it is more about having bigger speakers. While a really good small speaker can sound better than a bad bigger one, it doesn't take a whole lot in bigger speakers to beat even the best small ones in the overall experience, IMO. There's something about feeling the music and real, actual low-end bass that you just don't get with smaller speakers.

    That said, one of my favorite pairs of speakers was a set of Infinity 'bookshelf' speakers with 6.5" woofers my dad had. Those things were just insane at the time for their size. Friends would come over, and literally try to find where the "real" speakers were hiding. But, they weren't like having a somewhat good tower with 15" either, if you knew what you were listening/feeling for.

    maestro64 said:
    Folks, think of it this way, Apple by all measures including pure scientific measurement is the better sounding product. Apple can always fix Siri, add software functionality both on the homepod and on the cloud servers and continually make it better assistant. So it a great foundation product with years of upgrades in the future.
    Of course that's a bit like saying this car, or this food, etc. is better on paper. That gives you one slice of information, but once you experience the whole, it usually changes the picture.
  • Reply 44 of 48
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,514member
    larrya said:
    Still need to see a double blind study. Or maybe they tried that and got the wrong results. 
    Yes! I want to see a panel of people from the average person to some people knowledgable in audio sit blindfolded or something and rank a number of smart speakers (AND a few other setups in a similar price range of components... i.e. bookshelf w/ amp or powered).

    lorin schultz said:
    I have a traditional Bluetooth setup in my kitchen (only because I'm already stuck with it, otherwise I'd go with the compact-amp-with-good-little-speakers setup you describe.)

    My complaint is that I have to have a "source" with me to use it. If I want music, I have to use my phone as a controller (I know, such an immense hardship, right? :)) The overwhelming inconvenience is compounded by me having an iPhone 6, so I have to activate Siri MANUALLY! It's not hands free. It's almost as bad as having to walk over to the stereo to insert a CD! It's all just too much sometimes...

    With the HomePod I can just walk into the room and tell it what i want to hear. No phone, no fingers, no problem. Sarcasm aside, I gotta admit that appeals to me.
    Fair point, though I have an Airport Express just sitting around doing nothing. :) And, starting a playlist from a phone or computer isn't a hardship. I suppose I'd find some things to like about Siri eventually, but that is a pretty low priority for me (might be a different story for other family members, so I need to keep that in mind).
  • Reply 45 of 48
    cgWerks said:
    [...] I have an Airport Express just sitting around doing nothing. 
    Want another one? I gave one away when I sold my last Mac mini (the buyer took it despite saying he had no idea what he would do with it), but I still have the one we retired from my daughter's living room when we put in an Apple TV. I can't seem to find a place to use it. In the living room there are already TWO ways to AirPlay -- the Apple TV, plus our receiver is AirPlay capable.
    cgWerks
  • Reply 46 of 48
    chasmchasm Posts: 701member
    cgWerks said:
    chasm said:
    If you're buying the speaker primarily to play music and control said music with your voice, you probably want the HomePod. Every review I've seen thus far (barring that bizarre CR review) basically says the same thing: the HomePod is the smart speaker for people who are into music. As with other Apple products, I expect the HomePod will get "smarter" with updates over the next year or so, but for a music-centered smart speaker, this is the one you should invest in.
    But, here's the thing... if you're buying it primarily to play music, then the competition isn't other 'smart' speakers.

    So, then it is up against powered bookshelf speakers in the $350 and under range, as well as any pair of speakers that cost less than $250 (except maybe obnoxiously big ones, as room aesthetics are part of it too) as you can add an adequate amp for ~$100. And, these would even have aux-in, so you could use them with anything, not just the Apple universe.
    To your first point: true enough, but I fear you may be overlooking a couple of points:
    a) the "smart" part of the HomePod is not just its voice assistant, it's the ability of the device to re-calibrate for different rooms, to control its acoustic delivery to less than one decible of variance no matter where you are in a room, and its ability to be controlled by voice. Buyers are by self-selection interested in buying a speaker they can control by voice, and most are probably self-selected interested in running their preferred streaming music service through it (primarily), so I would suggest that for <i>most</i> buyers of smart speakers, non-smart ones are not part of the picture for them.
    b) I have not tested this personally, but based on the various reviews and the reaction of the audiophile community, you're not going to find any serious competition in sound quality coming from non-smart speakers in the under-$350 price range (though you do gain stereo immediately, haha!) at least compared to the Sonos One, the Google Max, and the HomePod.

    To your second point about the advantage of aux-in: the primary purpose of aux-in is to add analog sources, so I can see why Apple didn't feel that was needed as its not part of their vision for the experience. Still, feel free to count it as a minus compared to others that have an aux-in jack. But you are certainly not limited to "just the Apple universe," as other articles on this very site have noted: Thanks to AirPlay (which is also available in some non-Apple devices, such as certain Android and Windows apps), you are only "limited" to digital audio sources (and even then, who knows what tomorrow will bring?). Friends who received their HomePod have verified that they use Spotify and Google Play with it via their phones -- which is precisely how they intended it to be used, so the lack of native support for that (at present) is not an issue for them.
    edited February 14
  • Reply 47 of 48
    chasm said:
    [...] the "smart" part of the HomePod is not just its voice assistant, it's the ability of the device to re-calibrate for different rooms, to control its acoustic delivery to less than one decible of variance no matter where you are in a room,
    Just to clarify: Would I be correct to assume that the 1 dB deviation limit refers to the radiation pattern, not the frequency response of the device? In other words, the frequency response at my ear when I stand here will be within 1 dB of what I hear when I stand over there. Is that right? Or are you saying that Apple claims the frequency response of the device is linear within 1dB across the spectrum?
    cgWerks
  • Reply 48 of 48
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 1,514member
    chasm said
    To your first point: true enough, but I fear you may be overlooking a couple of points:
    a) the "smart" part of the HomePod is not just its voice assistant, it's the ability of the device to re-calibrate for different rooms, to control its acoustic delivery to less than one decible of variance no matter where you are in a room, and its ability to be controlled by voice. Buyers are by self-selection interested in buying a speaker they can control by voice, and most are probably self-selected interested in running their preferred streaming music service through it (primarily), so I would suggest that for <i>most</i> buyers of smart speakers, non-smart ones are not part of the picture for them.
    b) I have not tested this personally, but based on the various reviews and the reaction of the audiophile community, you're not going to find any serious competition in sound quality coming from non-smart speakers in the under-$350 price range (though you do gain stereo immediately, haha!) at least compared to the Sonos One, the Google Max, and the HomePod.

    To your second point about the advantage of aux-in: the primary purpose of aux-in is to add analog sources, so I can see why Apple didn't feel that was needed as its not part of their vision for the experience. Still, feel free to count it as a minus compared to others that have an aux-in jack. But you are certainly not limited to "just the Apple universe," as other articles on this very site have noted: Thanks to AirPlay (which is also available in some non-Apple devices, such as certain Android and Windows apps), you are only "limited" to digital audio sources (and even then, who knows what tomorrow will bring?). Friends who received their HomePod have verified that they use Spotify and Google Play with it via their phones -- which is precisely how they intended it to be used, so the lack of native support for that (at present) is not an issue for them.
    Good points, as I have no handle on which weighs more heavily, 'smart' or sound quality, for the masses. And, as I've said many times before, none of this stuff is really audiophile... it's just that the gap between 99% of the consumer audio market and audiophile is like an ocean-wide gap. Or, the bar is horrifically (and expectations) low.

    I've never had the budget to be an audiophile. My best setup was probably my dad's hand-me down HK (17w/channel) receiver until the knobs went bad and I was stupid enough not to fix it! And, a pair of Infinity (can't remember the model number) bookshelf speakers with 6.5" woofers from maybe the early 80s (don't recall when dad bought them, but I know they weren't there when i was little).

    Along the way, I've built a number of reasonable speakers. I've played in bands that had 18" EVs and such... so I know what's missing in these itty bitty tiny speakers. :) And, there is some gained control there, and huge technical advances. But, IMO, the vast majority of consumer audio equipment turned to total crap in the 90s. I've had Kenwood and Yamaha surround units that I spent well over $500 for that have been absolute crap (don't hold a candle to that HK, despite claiming orders of magnitude more watts and better specs).

    The only recent thing I have to go by is the A.R.T. amp and studio monitors I have (and am selling), which were excellent for what I wanted, but not as 'sweet' to my ears either. High quality stuff though, besides the fan noise and heat (which I can handle in a tiny office). I also have no need (in that situation) for 100W pure watts per channel... as with the HK, I'm fine with 15 to 20 real or 'good' watts (which most systems don't have these days).

    As for aux-in, it's more about longevity. $350 isn't cheap for a speaker, and besides many decades of deterioration, I could still use speakers older than me (and probably should have repaired them, as with the HK). Who knows if anyone will even know what AirPlay is in a decade?

    The whole analog/digital thing is mostly bogus. It needs to be analog again for your ears. It's all about transmission quality and conversion quality. If the concern had been digital, they could have put a fibre input on it. But, if you use semi decent cables, you'll lose more quality in the audio codecs most people use than fussing about analog vs digital. (That aspect is about their target market and marketing buzz, not quality.)
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