Acoustic testing finds HomePod's adaptive audio tech delivers highly consistent sound

Posted:
in General Discussion
In its advertising push for HomePod, Apple has touted its smart speaker as capable of delivering consistent sound to listeners positioned anywhere in a given room. New testing backs up those claims, and offers insight into how the company accomplished such a feat.




As part of an ongoing HomePod evaluation, Fast Company partnered with professional acoustic analysis hardware and software maker NTi Audio to measure the speaker's performance in reporter Mark Sullivan's living room.

Setting up HomePod on a table near a wall, a specialized microphone was used to capture white noise test sound from four different locations. Results were compared to generate a sound profile for the speaker, which displayed an average variance of 0.95 decibels across all audible frequency bands.

As NTi notes, humans are typically unable to detect changes below a decibel, meaning this particular test backs up Apple's claims that HomePod will deliver consistent sound to listeners positioned just about anywhere in a room.

"The developers have done an excellent job of having the HomePod adjust to the room; (it has) Impressive consistency in overall level and frequency response," said Brian MacMillan, associate general manager at NTi. "The HomePod automates spatial compensation that previously required a real audiophile's expertise, tools and time."

To achieve such consistency, HomePod employs an array of six exterior microphones and a digital signal processor to analyze its surrounding environment. Another microphone located inside HomePod's chassis detects nearby objects like walls and other large obstacles that might interfere with generated sound waves.

An onboard A8 chip applies collected microphone data to advanced algorithms to dynamically modify sound output from each of the speaker's seven tweeters and its single woofer. These adjustments are made when HomePod is set up, moved and during music playback.

The result is highly consistent, adaptive and immersive audio. Most importantly, the entire process is performed in the background without manual intervention from the user.

The Fast Company analysis validates AppleInsider's report detailing the inner workings of HomePod's audio magic and follows a similar evaluation that found Apple's speaker provides a nearly flat representation of sound, a metric often used to quantify audio quality.
lolliverforegoneconclusion
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    Now let’s send the Consumer Reports testing to the trash. Another major failure for CR to add to their history. 
    cornchiprob53lolliverleavingthebiggzroger73chabigdjkfisherjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 39
    CR hates Apple like most of WS and Andriod fans. Typical... You can tell by listening to it that it rocks as well as the tear downs. Solid well built device....
    djkfisherjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 39
    In spite of the CR report (perhaps because of it) I ordered my HomePod yesterday & received it today. Set up was ca. 75 seconds once it was out of the box.  I think the music sound is just fine- better than my home video setup with Klipsch & Polk Audio speakers.  I'm happy & what CR says just does not matter.
    lolliverdjkfisherjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 39
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,282member
    siretman said:
    Now let’s send the Consumer Reports testing to the trash. Another major failure for CR to add to their history. 
    This report and referenced testing isn't anymore useful than CR's report.    In the end it is how a speaker sounds to an individual user that is important as no two people have the same hearing profile.    

    I just find it funny that people reference positive reports of HomePods performance that aren't any more valid than CR's report.    An individuals ears have more to do with a speaker sounding ""good"" than the speaker itself.   Combine the ears variable performance with the fact that installations vary widely and you can't really say if HomePod is good enough until you actually try it out.
    Solimuthuk_vanalingamdaven
  • Reply 5 of 39
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 17,852member
    wizard69 said:
    siretman said:
    Now let’s send the Consumer Reports testing to the trash. Another major failure for CR to add to their history. 
    This report and referenced testing isn't anymore useful than CR's report.    In the end it is how a speaker sounds to an individual user that is important as no two people have the same hearing profile.    

    I just find it funny that people reference positive reports of HomePods performance that aren't any more valid than CR's report.    An individuals ears have more to do with a speaker sounding ""good"" than the speaker itself.   Combine the ears variable performance with the fact that installations vary widely and you can't really say if HomePod is good enough until you actually try it out.
    Sound quality is subjective. Who knew?
    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/head-head-apple-homepod-really-sound-best-160346138.html
    Solimuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 6 of 39
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,763member
    wizard69 said:
    siretman said:
    Now let’s send the Consumer Reports testing to the trash. Another major failure for CR to add to their history. 
    This report and referenced testing isn't anymore useful than CR's report.    In the end it is how a speaker sounds to an individual user that is important as no two people have the same hearing profile.    

    I just find it funny that people reference positive reports of HomePods performance that aren't any more valid than CR's report.    An individuals ears have more to do with a speaker sounding ""good"" than the speaker itself.   Combine the ears variable performance with the fact that installations vary widely and you can't really say if HomePod is good enough until you actually try it out.
    This is a lame bit of reasoning. The FACT the test organization found "an average variance of 0.95 decibels across all audible frequency bands" means everyone's ears will be provided with a consistent level of sound. This is important and not something you can wish away by saying everyone's ears are different. Bad sound reproduction is bad for everyone. As for CR's testing, or lack thereof, CR hasn't said how they tested the HomePod so using your reasoning, their tester's ears didn't like it so it must be bad. This is like saying the HP of a car engine is determined by how it sounds while someone who puts that engine on a dyno and gives an accurate HP value means nothing.
    sully54lollivermwhitedave marshteejay2012Bluntjony0
  • Reply 7 of 39
    wizard69 said:
    siretman said:
    Now let’s send the Consumer Reports testing to the trash. Another major failure for CR to add to their history. 
    This report and referenced testing isn't anymore useful than CR's report.    In the end it is how a speaker sounds to an individual user that is important as no two people have the same hearing profile.    

    I just find it funny that people reference positive reports of HomePods performance that aren't any more valid than CR's report.    An individuals ears have more to do with a speaker sounding ""good"" than the speaker itself.   Combine the ears variable performance with the fact that installations vary widely and you can't really say if HomePod is good enough until you actually try it out.
    gatorguy said:
    wizard69 said:
    siretman said:
    Now let’s send the Consumer Reports testing to the trash. Another major failure for CR to add to their history. 
    This report and referenced testing isn't anymore useful than CR's report.    In the end it is how a speaker sounds to an individual user that is important as no two people have the same hearing profile.    

    I just find it funny that people reference positive reports of HomePods performance that aren't any more valid than CR's report.    An individuals ears have more to do with a speaker sounding ""good"" than the speaker itself.   Combine the ears variable performance with the fact that installations vary widely and you can't really say if HomePod is good enough until you actually try it out.
    Sound quality is subjective. Who knew?
    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/head-head-apple-homepod-really-sound-best-160346138.html
    I understand what both of you are saying but this report is about sound consistency, not quality. 
    lolliverchasm
  • Reply 8 of 39
    There absolutely are references for how a speaker should perform and those references are used to design and calibrate speakers. By definition, a speaker that performs at or close to the ideal reference points will sound as a good speaker should.

    Perception of what sounds good to an individual can be coloured by the speakers they regularly listen to.

    This is similar to the first time someone views a properly ISF calibrated display panel after watching LCD TV's in "torch mode" for years - a properly calibrated display will leave them looking to crank up the brightness and the contrast.
    tmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 39
    chasmchasm Posts: 373member
    wizard69 said:
    This report and referenced testing isn't anymore useful than CR's report.

    You are fundamentally incorrect in this claim, making me wonder if you read the report at all.

    This is a test by a lab using microphones to judge sound quality variance around a room; it is as objective as any other scientific test, as it does not rely on human ears in any way whatsoever. This is not, like some other articles, a subjective human-based test of which one "sounds better." No comment is made about the sound quality at all -- only that the HomePod's claim that the sound is consistent to below a human's ability to detect variance is supported by scientific testing.

    So no, you are wrong. This report is more useful and objective than subjective listening reviews -- just as Jwdav, ihatescreennames, and Rob53 mentioned. it doesn't, and wasn't intended to, make up for doing your own first-hand listening test, but it was intended to, and does, verify one of Apple's claims on the product.
    edited February 14 jony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 39
     Apple's speaker provides a nearly flat representation of sound, a metric often used to quantify audio quality.
    This is not actually the case. Please read the EDIT in the review.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/audiophile/comments/7wwtqy/apple_homepod_the_audiophile_perspective/

    Tl;Dr:

    I am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you’re new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I’d made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.

    EDIT: before you read any further, please read /u/edechamps excellent reply to this post and then read this excellent discussion between him and /u/Ilkless about measuring, conventions, some of the mistakes I've made, and how the data should be interpreted. His conclusion, if I'm reading it right, is that these measurements are largely inconclusive, since the measurements were not done in an anechoic chamber. Since I dont have one of those handy, these measurements should be taken with a brick of salt. I still hope that some of the information in here, the discussion, the guesses, and more are useful to everyone. This really is a new type of speaker (again see the discussion) and evaluating it accurately is bloody difficult.


    Small portion of the critique:

    The experimenter seems obsessed with that graph which they claim shows a very flat frequency response. They even say, further down the review, that it's an "almost perfectly flat speaker". Mmm. I opened that same measurement in REW and here's what I get (with the same 1/12 octave smoothing as the above image): https://i.imgur.com/3nHZimq.png

    Doesn't look as nice doesn't it? That's because of the scale, you see. It's the ages-old trick of messing with the vertical scale to make things look flatter than they really are. In the screenshot that the experimenter posted, the interval between ticks is 10 dB. That's enormous. Almost anything will look almost flat at that scale.




    edited February 14
  • Reply 11 of 39
    wizard69 said:
    siretman said:
    Now let’s send the Consumer Reports testing to the trash. Another major failure for CR to add to their history. 
    This report and referenced testing isn't anymore useful than CR's report.    In the end it is how a speaker sounds to an individual user that is important as no two people have the same hearing profile.    

    I just find it funny that people reference positive reports of HomePods performance that aren't any more valid than CR's report.    An individuals ears have more to do with a speaker sounding ""good"" than the speaker itself.   Combine the ears variable performance with the fact that installations vary widely and you can't really say if HomePod is good enough until you actually try it out.
    gatorguy said:
    wizard69 said:
    siretman said:
    Now let’s send the Consumer Reports testing to the trash. Another major failure for CR to add to their history. 
    This report and referenced testing isn't anymore useful than CR's report.    In the end it is how a speaker sounds to an individual user that is important as no two people have the same hearing profile.    

    I just find it funny that people reference positive reports of HomePods performance that aren't any more valid than CR's report.    An individuals ears have more to do with a speaker sounding ""good"" than the speaker itself.   Combine the ears variable performance with the fact that installations vary widely and you can't really say if HomePod is good enough until you actually try it out.
    Sound quality is subjective. Who knew?
    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/head-head-apple-homepod-really-sound-best-160346138.html
    I understand what both of you are saying but this report is about sound consistency, not quality. 
    And for the blind test, you could clearly see there is a curtain draw between speakers & listeners. Why drawing this curtain when a product like HomePod might try to adjust its sound to it?
    Not that it matters though, because I’m willing to bet if someone else do this kind of test the result will be different because that’s what all blind test get. Different results from different groups. 
    edited February 14
  • Reply 12 of 39
    I agree with the CR report that the Google Max is more clear sounding.
    I stated this after hearing AppleInsider’s comparison. The HomePod does sound less open, transparent and the G-Max revealed detail that isn’t audible on the HomePod.
    Just listen to it. It’s definitive. (80% volume test). 

    As far as consistency of sound - What’s better:
    - Room Treatment to improve reflection of all sound?
    - Algorithms that reduce frequencies on a source to compensate?



  • Reply 13 of 39
    Google beat out HomePod in blind sound test. Personally I think the SOnos sounds the best. Here is the link:
    https://9to5google.com/2018/02/13/home-max-homepod-listening-test/
  • Reply 14 of 39
    digitol said:
    Google beat out HomePod in blind sound test. Personally I think the SOnos sounds the best. Here is the link:
    https://9to5google.com/2018/02/13/home-max-homepod-listening-test/
    Funny now some hat.. um.. people think this blind testing is an undeniable truth, while Sonos CEO himself had conceded on Twitter that HomePod sounds better than his product (Sonos One). 
    Should tell you all about reliability of this kind of testing really. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 39
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 17,852member
    matrix077 said:
    digitol said:
    Google beat out HomePod in blind sound test. Personally I think the SOnos sounds the best. Here is the link:
    https://9to5google.com/2018/02/13/home-max-homepod-listening-test/
    Funny now some hat.. um.. people think this blind testing is an undeniable truth, while Sonos CEO himself had conceded on Twitter that HomePod sounds better than his product (Sonos One). 
    Should tell you all about reliability of this kind of testing really. 
    I missed reading that tweet and can't seem to find it. Link?

    EDIT: Ah, you meant a former CEO. Found it now. 
    edited February 14
  • Reply 16 of 39
     Apple's speaker provides a nearly flat representation of sound, a metric often used to quantify audio quality.
    This is not actually the case. Please read the EDIT in the review.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/audiophile/comments/7wwtqy/apple_homepod_the_audiophile_perspective/

    Tl;Dr:

    I am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you’re new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I’d made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.

    EDIT: before you read any further, please read /u/edechamps excellent reply to this post and then read this excellent discussion between him and /u/Ilkless about measuring, conventions, some of the mistakes I've made, and how the data should be interpreted. His conclusion, if I'm reading it right, is that these measurements are largely inconclusive, since the measurements were not done in an anechoic chamber. Since I dont have one of those handy, these measurements should be taken with a brick of salt. I still hope that some of the information in here, the discussion, the guesses, and more are useful to everyone. This really is a new type of speaker (again see the discussion) and evaluating it accurately is bloody difficult.


    Small portion of the critique:

    The experimenter seems obsessed with that graph which they claim shows a very flat frequency response. They even say, further down the review, that it's an "almost perfectly flat speaker". Mmm. I opened that same measurement in REW and here's what I get (with the same 1/12 octave smoothing as the above image): https://i.imgur.com/3nHZimq.png

    Doesn't look as nice doesn't it? That's because of the scale, you see. It's the ages-old trick of messing with the vertical scale to make things look flatter than they really are. In the screenshot that the experimenter posted, the interval between ticks is 10 dB. That's enormous. Almost anything will look almost flat at that scale.





    No, his measurements are still ok. The idea a speaker that adapts its output to a room should be tested in an anechoic chamber is pure horseshit. People don’t live in anechoic chambers - they live in real buildings that have all sorts of varying acoustical properties.


    Edited: One thing for sure. Before the HomePod nobody gave a rats ass about doing listening tests or instrumented measurements. Nobody knew what imaging or soundstage are. Now everyone’s talking about it (even though most still don’t understand it). And as usual with any Apple product opinions on the HomePod are strongly divided. And as usual it will be highly successful.

    Sonos and Bose should be worried. Apple will sell millions of these, and each sale represents one less potential sale for them. Google doesn’t have to worry about the Max because it wasn’t going to sell anyway (like all Google “premium” hardware).
    edited February 14 watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 39
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 17,852member
     Apple's speaker provides a nearly flat representation of sound, a metric often used to quantify audio quality.
    This is not actually the case. Please read the EDIT in the review.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/audiophile/comments/7wwtqy/apple_homepod_the_audiophile_perspective/

    Tl;Dr:

    I am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you’re new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I’d made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.

    EDIT: before you read any further, please read /u/edechamps excellent reply to this post and then read this excellent discussion between him and /u/Ilkless about measuring, conventions, some of the mistakes I've made, and how the data should be interpreted. His conclusion, if I'm reading it right, is that these measurements are largely inconclusive, since the measurements were not done in an anechoic chamber. Since I dont have one of those handy, these measurements should be taken with a brick of salt. I still hope that some of the information in here, the discussion, the guesses, and more are useful to everyone. This really is a new type of speaker (again see the discussion) and evaluating it accurately is bloody difficult.


    Small portion of the critique:

    The experimenter seems obsessed with that graph which they claim shows a very flat frequency response. They even say, further down the review, that it's an "almost perfectly flat speaker". Mmm. I opened that same measurement in REW and here's what I get (with the same 1/12 octave smoothing as the above image): https://i.imgur.com/3nHZimq.png

    Doesn't look as nice doesn't it? That's because of the scale, you see. It's the ages-old trick of messing with the vertical scale to make things look flatter than they really are. In the screenshot that the experimenter posted, the interval between ticks is 10 dB. That's enormous. Almost anything will look almost flat at that scale.





    No, his measurements are still ok. The idea a speaker that adapts its output to a room should be tested in an anechoic chamber is pure horseshit.
    Huh...
    Not even the guy who did the tests now says that. You plainly did not read the update, which the author himself promotes as more accurate than his original claims which he now says should be taken with a "huge brick of salt". 
    edited February 14
  • Reply 18 of 39
    gatorguy said:
     Apple's speaker provides a nearly flat representation of sound, a metric often used to quantify audio quality.
    This is not actually the case. Please read the EDIT in the review.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/audiophile/comments/7wwtqy/apple_homepod_the_audiophile_perspective/

    Tl;Dr:

    I am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you’re new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I’d made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.

    EDIT: before you read any further, please read /u/edechamps excellent reply to this post and then read this excellent discussion between him and /u/Ilkless about measuring, conventions, some of the mistakes I've made, and how the data should be interpreted. His conclusion, if I'm reading it right, is that these measurements are largely inconclusive, since the measurements were not done in an anechoic chamber. Since I dont have one of those handy, these measurements should be taken with a brick of salt. I still hope that some of the information in here, the discussion, the guesses, and more are useful to everyone. This really is a new type of speaker (again see the discussion) and evaluating it accurately is bloody difficult.


    Small portion of the critique:

    The experimenter seems obsessed with that graph which they claim shows a very flat frequency response. They even say, further down the review, that it's an "almost perfectly flat speaker". Mmm. I opened that same measurement in REW and here's what I get (with the same 1/12 octave smoothing as the above image): https://i.imgur.com/3nHZimq.png

    Doesn't look as nice doesn't it? That's because of the scale, you see. It's the ages-old trick of messing with the vertical scale to make things look flatter than they really are. In the screenshot that the experimenter posted, the interval between ticks is 10 dB. That's enormous. Almost anything will look almost flat at that scale.





    No, his measurements are still ok. The idea a speaker that adapts its output to a room should be tested in an anechoic chamber is pure horseshit.
    Huh...
    Not even the guy who did the tests now says that. You plainly did not read the update, which the author himself promotes as more accurate than his original claims which he now says should be taken with a "huge brick of salt". 

    There is no “huge”, just a brick of salt. 

    And yes because it’s not done in anechoic chamber. his quote:
    ”these measurements are largely inconclusive, since the measurements were not done in an anechoic chamber.

    The discussion makes him question his method. But the measurement is still equivalent to the real world usage, so the consumer still get what he measures. His questioning is simply, how are these numbers if it’s tested in a chamber. It’s academic. But his test is realistic. 

    HomePod is designed to be used in household rooms, not sound absorbed listening room like other audiophile grade speakers. 


    edited February 14 watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 39
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 17,852member
    matrix077 said:
    gatorguy said:
     Apple's speaker provides a nearly flat representation of sound, a metric often used to quantify audio quality.
    This is not actually the case. Please read the EDIT in the review.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/audiophile/comments/7wwtqy/apple_homepod_the_audiophile_perspective/

    Tl;Dr:

    I am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you’re new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I’d made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.

    EDIT: before you read any further, please read /u/edechamps excellent reply to this post and then read this excellent discussion between him and /u/Ilkless about measuring, conventions, some of the mistakes I've made, and how the data should be interpreted. His conclusion, if I'm reading it right, is that these measurements are largely inconclusive, since the measurements were not done in an anechoic chamber. Since I dont have one of those handy, these measurements should be taken with a brick of salt. I still hope that some of the information in here, the discussion, the guesses, and more are useful to everyone. This really is a new type of speaker (again see the discussion) and evaluating it accurately is bloody difficult.


    Small portion of the critique:

    The experimenter seems obsessed with that graph which they claim shows a very flat frequency response. They even say, further down the review, that it's an "almost perfectly flat speaker". Mmm. I opened that same measurement in REW and here's what I get (with the same 1/12 octave smoothing as the above image): https://i.imgur.com/3nHZimq.png

    Doesn't look as nice doesn't it? That's because of the scale, you see. It's the ages-old trick of messing with the vertical scale to make things look flatter than they really are. In the screenshot that the experimenter posted, the interval between ticks is 10 dB. That's enormous. Almost anything will look almost flat at that scale.





    No, his measurements are still ok. The idea a speaker that adapts its output to a room should be tested in an anechoic chamber is pure horseshit.
    Huh...
    Not even the guy who did the tests now says that. You plainly did not read the update, which the author himself promotes as more accurate than his original claims which he now says should be taken with a "huge brick of salt". 

    There is no “huge”, just a brick of salt. 

    And yes because it’s not done in anechoic chamber. his quote:
    ”these measurements are largely inconclusive, since the measurements were not done in an anechoic chamber.

    The discussion makes him question his method. But the measurement is still equivalent to the real world usage, so the consumer still get what he measures. His questioning is simply, how are these numbers if it’s tested in a chamber. It’s academic. But his test is realistic. 


    You certainly have a different definition of "inconclusive" than most folks. Fair enough. At least the author isn't now claiming the results to be anything other than "I still hope some of the information is helpful" (reworded for brevity)
    edited February 14
  • Reply 20 of 39
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 3,907member
    wizard69 said:
    siretman said:
    Now let’s send the Consumer Reports testing to the trash. Another major failure for CR to add to their history. 
    This report and referenced testing isn't anymore useful than CR's report.    In the end it is how a speaker sounds to an individual user that is important as no two people have the same hearing profile.    

    I just find it funny that people reference positive reports of HomePods performance that aren't any more valid than CR's report.    An individuals ears have more to do with a speaker sounding ""good"" than the speaker itself.   Combine the ears variable performance with the fact that installations vary widely and you can't really say if HomePod is good enough until you actually try it out.

    Actually, This is more important since it is not subjective, it is quantitative It tells you the speaker will reproduce the sound exactly as it should and it will not sound any different in any place in the room.

    The only subjective or opinion part is the individual persons ability to determine if something sounds good to them or not. Their evaluation has no baring on what someone elses  experience will be. Knowing a speaker will reproduce sound exactly and will not distort it due its only design limitation is the most important thing to know before you introduce someone personal, and most likely unprofessional non trained subject knowledge opinion. If CR did not do a control test first, and they are rendering an opinion it is not worth much.

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