How to make stereo HomePods louder when paired with Apple TV 4K

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited June 2018
If you have a pair of HomePods and want to use them in stereo as a home theater speaker replacement on the Apple TV, you may find the volume to be lower than you would really want for the setup. Changing a setting on the Apple TV can help push the decibel count higher, but even that has its limitations.





Following the release of AirPlay 2, we recently compared a set of stereo paired HomePods connected to an Apple TV to a home theatre surround sound system, and Apple's smart speakers were found to be extremely lacking. The two HomePods even seemed quieter than a $350 soundbar usually used to watch television in a bedroom.

The seemingly lower volume prompted us to use an audio decibel meter to see how loud the HomePods really are. During an intense fighting scene in Thor: Ragnarok, the stereo HomePods only put out a peak volume of 77 decibels, a fairly weak number for $700 worth of speakers.

Stereo HomePods


There seemed to be an issue which lowered the volume output to our stereo HomePods, but then we found a fix for the problem.

On the Apple TV, go to Settings, then Video & Audio, followed by Surround Sound. Select Turn Convert Format On, then switch it to Stereo.

Replaying the same action scene, the HomePods achieve a much better peak volume of 83 decibels, which due to the logarithmic scale of decibels, is roughly three times louder. This small change made the viewing experience much more enjoyable.

As a crude comparison, this is similar to the difference in volume between a vacuum cleaner in the same room and standing 30 feet away from the tracks as a freight train passes by.

Curious to see how the built-in speakers of the television compared to stereo HomePods, the same test revealed that the HomePods were still quieter, even after the volume fix.

Apple TV Audio Settings


Of course, the sound quality from the TV speakers was obviously worse, but it seems ridiculous for a cheap $350 4K smart TV to have louder speakers than two HomePods paired in stereo.

We then decided to compare the volume while watching a movie to what the HomePods produce when playing music.

We rolled the end credits of Disney's Big Hero 6 to listen to "Immortals" by Fall Out Boy. The movie was purchased through the iTunes Store.

HomePods listening to Big Hero 6


The meter recorded 83 decibels, the same peak volume achieved in the earlier test, which seems fine.

We then asked Siri to play that exact song straight through the HomePods, and we immediately noticed a massive difference.

HomePod Audio Meter


The stereo HomePods played the song at a peak of 91 decibels. Ideally, this is as loud as we wish the HomePods would play while watching a movie on the Apple TV.

Ultimately, while we found out how to make the stereo HomePods play quite a bit louder than under default settings, it is still way too quiet to use a pair as a viable home theater system replacement. Apple does have an option in the Apple TV settings to reduce loud sounds, but we actually wish Apple would include an option to amplify the sound altogether.

Hopefully Apple addresses this issue in a future update, so Apple TV users who like their action loud can use a set of stereo HomePods as their dedicated external Apple TV speakers.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,499member
    I wonder if it was intentional, given most Apple TVs are probably directly connected to a TV and outputting sound through the rubbish TV speakers that would distort away at that level?
    Alex1N
  • Reply 2 of 24
    zroger73zroger73 Posts: 707member
    I noticed this same issue when using a single HomePod with an Apple TV 4 a few days ago. I had to turn the volume up to about 70-80% just to achieve a "normal" listening level in a quiet home.

    The same thing happens when sending audio from an  Apple TV 4 to a Bose SoundLink Mini II via Bluetooth in another room - I have to turn the volume "way up".

    Audio coming from a third and fourth Apple TV 4/4K to vis HDMI is "normal".
    edited June 2018 Alex1N
  • Reply 3 of 24
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Most likely Apple is trying to prevent ear damage in its customers. This is a good thing. I wouldn't try to mess with it.
  • Reply 4 of 24
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,418member
    Pushing decibels and not distorting the audio quality is not an easy task, the problem is most people who do not understand audio performance think loader is better even if that means giving up sound quality. I think that is what Apple is trying to balance.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 5 of 24
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,965member
    I just got a Homepod. It's not THAT loud. It sounds good, even at MAX volume, but it's not really LOUD. For me, getting 2 of them to use as Sterno at the price point seems silly.

    You're going to be better of in getting a Nice Sound Bar. One with it's own Sub for a fraction of the price and be better off!!! It's a joke to a half way decent 5.1 surround system or better.

    I got a small sound bar for my 34" Ultra Wide Screen Monitor. I have it attached to the bottom of my Monitor so it still swivels around. It's great and works for my needs on my computer. Out in the Living Room, I have a nice 5.1 system. I was under my house running wires to the back speakers. Not a big deal after wiring my house with CAT6 Ethernet.

    My Panasonic Plasma in my Bedroom actually has some nice speakers on it. Sounds really good and loud. No need for even a sound bar. Let alone using my Homepod. It sounds great for music. It can hear my voice really good. For the things it can do, it does it pretty good. But it needs to be opened up to 3rd party's. It needs at least FULL Siri support. Not limited Siri. Having a Amazon Dot and a Google Mini, I can play with all 3 of them and compare.
    edited June 2018
  • Reply 6 of 24
    maestro64 said:
    Pushing decibels and not distorting the audio quality is not an easy task, the problem is most people who do not understand audio performance think loader is better even if that means giving up sound quality. I think that is what Apple is trying to balance.
    it might be true about peoples lack of understanding, however the HomePod listens to itself - and thus can take care of minimizing distortion - doesn't explain why the same 'sound' played from Apple Music is 91dB, compared to when played via airplay from Apple TV as only 77dB. Thats a HUGE difference.
    I have a stereo pair of home pods in one location, and a single home pod in another. I have the stereo pair near an Apple TV - I use them for listening to podcasts via my Phone, and for this they are incredible. I wish I could say the same when driven from my Apple TV - 
    Confident Apple will correct this With future updates - but Im not going to try to invent excuses as to why the current sound level disparity.
    PickUrPoisoncaladanianAlex1N
  • Reply 7 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,553member
    Got my HP today. Sound is excellent for a shelf speaker, full and deep. I can see why some feel it has too much bass, but that’s fine for me. It’s not as powerful as my home theater but that is to be expected. Perfect for study, kitchen, master bath, hookah den, etc.

    Bought mine as a BestBuy.com refurb so well worth the $260 price.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 8 of 24
    matrix077matrix077 Posts: 554member
    Just watching a new Pacific Rim Blu-ray through Plex & they’re loud enough for me. The bass moved through my floor & the sound is 3D. Maybe my living room is small (4.5 m. deep). In my case I prefer to leave it at default because I like the sound dimension of it even though it’s obviously less loud (at the same volume) than listening to Music. 
    I’m watching it at almost full volumue though. 
    edited June 2018 Alex1N
  • Reply 9 of 24
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 240member
    Uh, what is the “Convert Format” this article talks about???  When I go to “Surround”, I only get the options “Best Quality Available”, “Dolby Digital 5.1” and “Stereo”.  I have tvOS 11.4.

    And I have exactly the setup - and problem - described:  when I play music directly to my two HPs, it’s perfectly acceptable at normal volume.  When I use the HPs for audio from an ATV 4k, I have to up the volume to 80-90% to get decent volume on Netflix, DirectTV Now, Amazon Prime.
    edited June 2018 zroger73Alex1N
  • Reply 10 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,553member
    With HBO Go on an ATV I have to set the volume near max (one speaker). 
    zroger73Alex1N
  • Reply 11 of 24
    Oh FFS. Does anyone even know what stereo is anymore?  It's an abused word these days. Two sound emitting devices that are spraying in all directions have no chance of developing the kind of imaging that a properly (or even approximately) positioned pair of monitors can reproduce. I get it that few care about a stereo setup that provides premium imaging these days, but it's a real [email protected] shame that the work of many fine studios and mixing & mastering engineers not only continues to be marginalized, but may well be on the way to a situation where the reproduction hardware available to general consumers is de facto incapable of providing anything near what stereo imaging can deliver with a couple of moderately priced conventional speakers.

    And TWO speakers is considered generally unnecessary for mere music (unless you want to have music in the kitchen and the living room) —that's the REALLY crazy part. Yeah, yeah, yeah.... psychoacoustics, ear candy reflections, self-calibrating, blah, blah, blah,  etc. etc.

    How depressing...
  • Reply 12 of 24
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    If I had to guess,
    Oh FFS. Does anyone even know what stereo is anymore?  It's an abused word these days. Two sound emitting devices that are spraying in all directions have no chance of developing the kind of imaging that a properly (or even approximately) positioned pair of monitors can reproduce. I get it that few care about a stereo setup that provides premium imaging these days, but it's a real [email protected] shame that the work of many fine studios and mixing & mastering engineers not only continues to be marginalized, but may well be on the way to a situation where the reproduction hardware available to general consumers is de facto incapable of providing anything near what stereo imaging can deliver with a couple of moderately priced conventional speakers.

    And TWO speakers is considered generally unnecessary for mere music (unless you want to have music in the kitchen and the living room) —that's the REALLY crazy part. Yeah, yeah, yeah.... psychoacoustics, ear candy reflections, self-calibrating, blah, blah, blah,  etc. etc.

    How depressing...
    All I hear is blah blah blah blah and blah. Even properly positioned speaker mostly sound like shit in most rooms because of poor acoustics, are you treating your god damn walls too. The fact that getting good sound from those speakers / receiver system is such a pain in the butt is the reason sales of those systems are in a freefall and people are buying single speakers (Bose, Sonos, Google Home, etc).

    Most people also don't have time to sit on their asses in their living room all day listening to music, it's not a religious experience; they're somewhere else in the house doing other stuff while listening to good music wherever they're at.

    I've basically never heard a normally priced sound system (say less than $2000) that sounds good anywhere (and I've heard hundreds of setups), they're all in echo city, or have some weird freq response, even when in the so called sweet spot.
    edited June 2018 StrangeDaysargonaut
  • Reply 13 of 24
    macapfelmacapfel Posts: 495member
    What if you use 3, 4, 5, 6, ... HomePods instead of only 2?
  • Reply 14 of 24
    unneunne Posts: 3member
    There’s a simple explanation for all this: Music audiofiles like the ones streamed from Apple Music and Spotify or downloaded from iTunes (or ripped from a CD for people who still buy those) are generally mastered at very loud volume levels (google volume wars) while movies are not. So the same song as part of the movie soundtrack will have much less volume since it has to have a level that fit with the rest of the movie. Movie soundtracks are mixed with much more dynamic range and so the playback system needs much more headroom.

    HP is optimized for audio playback and they would need to change the gainstaging significantly to deal with soundtracks properly.

    Perhaps this would be easily done in software, perhaps not. Regardless, a movie playback audio mode would have to be restricted to movie playback, or regular music would be able to totally overload and distort the HP.

    Apple generally want to keep things simple for consumers, ie not allowing them to push way too loud volume to the speaker, so they would have to figure out a good way to know what type of material is being played back. I imagine that would be possible through ATV since the player would be aware of the source but not from other sources.

    Its highly unlikely Apple would choose the easy way out and simply allow much higher gain. That’s what Google, Samescum etc would have done. They will take their time to figure it out or choose not to do it at all since HP is supposed to be a music device and not home theatre speakers.
    flydogStrangeDaysargonautAlex1N
  • Reply 15 of 24
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,573member
    First time I have read STEREO and home theatre in the same sentence. If you have 700 bucks to spunk on stereo speakers you surely have enough for a decent HT system. 
  • Reply 16 of 24
    irelandireland Posts: 17,528member
    It’d be great in the video if you also mentioned audio quality compared to the built in speakers, in addition to loudness.
  • Reply 17 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,553member
    Oh FFS. Does anyone even know what stereo is anymore?  It's an abused word these days. Two sound emitting devices that are spraying in all directions have no chance of developing the kind of imaging that a properly (or even approximately) positioned pair of monitors can reproduce. I get it that few care about a stereo setup that provides premium imaging these days, but it's a real [email protected] shame that the work of many fine studios and mixing & mastering engineers not only continues to be marginalized, but may well be on the way to a situation where the reproduction hardware available to general consumers is de facto incapable of providing anything near what stereo imaging can deliver with a couple of moderately priced conventional speakers.

    And TWO speakers is considered generally unnecessary for mere music (unless you want to have music in the kitchen and the living room) —that's the REALLY crazy part. Yeah, yeah, yeah.... psychoacoustics, ear candy reflections, self-calibrating, blah, blah, blah,  etc. etc.

    How depressing...
    You sound confused. HPs aren’t designed to be studio monitors, or a home theater. It’s a shelf speaker system. 

    Judging by the popularity of bluetooth and crummier speakers, it’s clear most people don’t care about the things you seem to believe they should. 
    Alex1N
  • Reply 18 of 24
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,884member
    I have an intermittent issue related to this it seems.  My paired HomePods are also not loud enough but out of the blue last night they suddenly went far louder.  A few minutes later they reverted, this all without any known interaction from me.  One tip I only found recently is instead of saying Hey Siri louder or quieter far faster to say Hey Siri volume 85 or 65 etc.  She jumps to the percentage of full volume I assume, although full volume is what this is all about.  

    As an aside has anyone else noticed the Fox Sports coverage of the World Cup Football occasionally runs voice over where they say Hey Siri and some commands such as list all games coming up or whatever.  Of course Siri does!  Funny the first time but it is annoying after a while as the volume to anything you are listening to is lowered so you can hear Siri answer and some of the answers are very long when listing all the games coming up, of course you can say Hey Siri STFU.  

    IMHO Apple need to come up with a system whereby we name our own devices not use a generic name like Siri  that any idiot can say on air and cause all HomePods, iPhones and iPads across the nation to respond.
    edited June 2018 Alex1N
  • Reply 19 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 6,553member

    irnchriz said:
    First time I have read STEREO and home theatre in the same sentence. If you have 700 bucks to spunk on stereo speakers you surely have enough for a decent HT system. 
    It’s not about cost, it’s about simplicity. See the price of higher Bose sound bars - $700. I have a decent HT system and expensive 5.1 speakers, but I just don’t want to plug all that shit in anymore. I’m redoing the room and I’m no longer interested in cutting custom speaker wires, wiring them to the back of the receiver, positioning speakers around the space, etc. So I’ll likely get a sound bar or another HP. 
    Alex1N
  • Reply 20 of 24
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,884member

    irnchriz said:
    First time I have read STEREO and home theatre in the same sentence. If you have 700 bucks to spunk on stereo speakers you surely have enough for a decent HT system. 
    The term Stereo when related to HomePod /Pods is somewhat a misnomer when you understand (or hear) the technology they contain.  Beam-Forming and multiple speakers and a powerful computer.  Even a single HomePod sounds like surround sound.
    Alex1N
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