2023 HomePod review roundup: similar sound, same price

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2023
Reviews are in for the new large HomePod, with them saying that while Siri is faster, and it has a similar sound, a high price make it hard to justify the product for round two.

The new HomePod is priced at $299
The new HomePod is priced at $299


Apple reintroduced the HomePod on January 18 at the same $300 price point it had when it was discontinued in 2021. It has a tweaked external design, a reconfigured speaker layout, and new sensors for improved audio reproduction.

Despite being the same price and size, it has two fewer tweeters and two fewer microphones. New sensors include temperature, humidity, and a dedicated system sensor for the audio algorithm.

Apple didn't spend any time comparing the new model to the old one in its announcement, so there was no clear promise of how audio might sound. However, early previews wowed some listeners and new tech seemingly ensured at least equal, if not better, audio.

The new HomePod ships to customers on Friday, February 3. Here's what initial reviews had to say about the revived smart speaker.

The Verge: better all around

The Verge praises the HomePod's sound quality, new sensors, and fast Siri responses. But, they say that it isn't a perfect speaker with its high price, which doubles when buying the better-optimized stereo pair.

The high cost is a sticking point, according to The Verge. They note that competitors have premium smart speakers closer to the $200 range.

That, and the review also says that large HomePod doesn't offer any special features beyond better sound compared to the $100 HomePod mini.

Use the HomePod with an Apple TV
Use the HomePod with an Apple TV


The user-removable plug is a bonus, as Apple has adopted a standard figure-eight adapter. The review highlights hardware additions like a temperature sensor and the U1 chip bringing welcome new functionality to the speaker.

The sound quality is comparable to the original, with some subtle improvements in how music is rendered. However, the audio doesn't offer much warmth and is described as "clinical."

The review goes on to say that Siri is still the same, as in it won't respond to requests any differently. However, it is much faster and more reliable at providing answers.

The consistent sound and returning $299 price tag make it seem like Apple is playing it safe to The Verge.

MKBHD: Confusing product

MKBHD calls the new HomePod "one of the most confusing new Apple products I've seen in a long time."

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However, the first HomePod also had amazing sound at a similar price, so Apple's play here doesn't make sense according to his review. If the first model flopped, it doesn't seem like Apple didn't do much to prevent that from happening again is the essential take on Brownlee's review.

Brownlee adds that it is both an amazing speaker and a bad product. Siri can be bad at times, Spotify can't be set as a default music player, and the price is hard to justify.

Most people will be better off with a HomePod mini or a competing speaker, depending on user preference and needs. He also notes that it still leaves a ring on some finishes, so use a coaster.

TechCrunch: new tricks, familiar look

TechCrunch describes the new HomePod's audio as "full." The highs are high, and the lows are low.

As always, having a stereo pair is better, according to the reviewer. Audio separation is great with one speaker, but two leave more space for the instruments. The low end can be overwhelming.

The review says that customers considering the HomePod need to have an iPhone, subscribe to Apple Music, and are building a smart home. Otherwise, the product doesn't make sense at that price.

TechCrunch concludes with calling the second-generation HomePod a good speaker that will work well for a select cross-section of consumers. It isn't for everyone, but it seems likely that Apple wouldn't have it any other way.

Engadget: a smarter smart speaker

Engadget says the new HomePod is best suited for those who have committed to Apple's ecosystem. It has more tools, a better Siri, and a lower price than the original did at launch in 2018.

The old HomePod had a raised glass top and the Siri waveform was small
The old HomePod had a raised glass top and the Siri waveform was small


The review cites great sound quality, improved smart home abilities, and the lower price point as positives. For the most part, the HomePod sounds amazing, but some choices in audio processing won't appease everyone.

The audio over emphasizes voice, which isn't ideal for some content according to the reviewer. Users will also need to fork over more cash for a second unit for maximum audio quality. And the lack of alternate inputs or even Bluetooth isn't ideal.

The Engadget review wraps up with a note that the HomePod is built for dedicated Apple users, and the only suitable alternative is the HomePod mini. The new HomePod is better in some ways because Apple had more time to define its smart speaker toolset and improve Siri, so it should only get better from here.

PCMag: more competitive

PCMag put the new HomePod through its paces with various audio tracks to test its performance. It can get loud and won't distort audio, but it isn't going to blow the roof off your house.

HomePod uses an array of sensors for computational audio
HomePod uses an array of sensors for computational audio


The review's testing revealed that songs like The Knife's "Silent Shout" would drive the HomePod to deliver powerful bass thumps at all volume levels. Though, songs like Kendrick Lamar's "Loyalty" would push against the lower limits of the main woofer's range.

To its credit, according to the reviewer, the HomePod can deliver robust lows for the most part, just not the deepest subwoofer-realm lows.

The review goes on to say highs and vocals perform well too, and listeners should enjoy the bass-forward and bright sound signature, though some will find it too sculpted. The lack of an EQ does present an issue, as users can't customize the sound to their preference either.

PCMag wraps up to say that the new HomePod is a notable improvement over the original and delivers far more bang than the HomePod mini. It earned the publication's Editor's Choice award.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 55
    Wow. This one is a head scratcher for me. I can't ever remember a tech product failing in the market and then being brought back shortly after in essentially identical form. Then there was this quote: "Listeners should enjoy the bass-forward and bright sound signature..." Oh, yeah, thumpy bass and bright treble with no EQ ability is exactly what I want from an expensive speaker. And let's not forget that you're locked into Siri, by far the dumbest and least capable of the major voice assistants. 

    So what's the Apple strategy here? The one difference from last time is that they now have a large installed base of happy Home Pod Mini users, which I guess their data suggests would be open to an upgrade if available. And maybe that's enough. Almost all the tech I own is Apple, except for small smart speakers, where I chose Echo Dots over the Home Pod mini for one simple reason: Alexa is way more capable, compatible and smarter than Siri. 
    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondoncaladanianbala1234FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 2 of 55
    Alex_VAlex_V Posts: 224member
    Anyone who thinks that smart speakers are ‘hi-fi’ is deluding themselves. Neither the audio bandwidth coming through the internet is insufficient, (nor through Bluetooth for that matter) nor is the speaker itself capable of reproducing the full range of hi-fi sound. Hi-fi is for the audiophiles. They pay fortunes for top quality equipment and listen to vinyl records, for example. Three-hundred dollar speakers don’t qualify. The sound that comes out of Apple HomePod is ‘good enough’ for the rest of us. That’s who it’s for. 

    I have a pair on my desk. I like the 360 degree sound. The smaller HomePod mini can’t compete in sound. 
    danoxwilliamlondoncaladanianFileMakerFellerStrangeDays
  • Reply 3 of 55
    charlesn said:
    Wow. This one is a head scratcher for me. I can't ever remember a tech product failing in the market and then being brought back shortly after in essentially identical form.  
    Uh - maybe because it didn't fail?

    Apple never made any statements about poor sells, or how it did in the market.  Apple never made any statements about why the 1st gen was discontinued.

    So what do you base your "failing in the market" statement on?  Hopefully not ANALyst who pull shit out of their ass... 

    PS - we have 8 x 1st gen HomePods.
    davwilliamlondongilly33lolliverFileMakerFellerStrangeDays
  • Reply 4 of 55
    nicholfd said:
    charlesn said:
    Wow. This one is a head scratcher for me. I can't ever remember a tech product failing in the market and then being brought back shortly after in essentially identical form.  
    Uh - maybe because it didn't fail?

    Apple never made any statements about poor sells, or how it did in the market.  Apple never made any statements about why the 1st gen was discontinued.

    So what do you base your "failing in the market" statement on?  Hopefully not ANALyst who pull shit out of their ass... 

    PS - we have 8 x 1st gen HomePods.
    Hang on - Why would ANY company "discontinue" a product IF it had succeeded in the market place????
    williamlondonavon b7bala1234
  • Reply 5 of 55
    nicholfd said:
    charlesn said:
    Wow. This one is a head scratcher for me. I can't ever remember a tech product failing in the market and then being brought back shortly after in essentially identical form.  
    Uh - maybe because it didn't fail?

    Apple never made any statements about poor sells, or how it did in the market.  Apple never made any statements about why the 1st gen was discontinued.

    So what do you base your "failing in the market" statement on?  Hopefully not ANALyst who pull shit out of their ass... 

    PS - we have 8 x 1st gen HomePods.
    Hang on - Why would ANY company "discontinue" a product IF it had succeeded in the market place????
    Component availability, production capacity availability, etc.  COVID was happening...

    Or, new model, but same issues as above to get it to market...

    Plenty of reasons other than "failing in the market".

    And none of us really know why, because Apple generally doesn't share that type of information.
    williamlondonlolliverFileMakerFellerAlex_VStrangeDaysjony0
  • Reply 6 of 55
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,048member
    Wut? Reviewers don't "get" an Apple product?

    I'll answer one question with my own speculation, because Apple will likely never answer it directly themselves. Why withdraw a product and then reintroduce it a couple of years later? It's an incorrect supposition that the "OG" HomePod was discontinued because it was a "failure." It wasn't a failure. It was actually a brilliant device with extremely good sound quality, and its computational adaptiveness to the room is something generally only available on much more expensive audiophile gear. My speculation is that its only failure was that its position in the product line was proving a barrier to broader consumer adoption of HomeKit as a smart home ecosystem. It's too expensive for most people to consider buying several to distribute throughout the home so that one is always within earshot for issuing smart home commands. Apple introduced the $99 HomePod mini to address that problem, but I suspect that the mere option of the better-sounding but more expensive OG device was causing too many to hesitate at committing to purchasing multiples of the mini. People would spend their budget on one or two OG HomePods for the sound and skip the mini. That leaves too many places in the house unserved by Siri. So Apple simply removed the OG device from the line-up with the typical lack of explanation. Freed from the other option, more people bought multiples of the mini, and suddenly HomeKit becomes viable throughout the house.

    With that problem resolved, now the better-sounding but more expensive HomePod can be resurrected. The fact that they've redesigned it so that fewer tweeters and mics still yield at least the same (or better) sound quality means the price should remain stable for several years. 

    Reviewers often don't get Apple products. At this point, there's a pretty well-established history of confused harrumphs, scalp scraping and confident pronouncements of doom for Apple devices. I think this is because, despite Apple's indisputable success at designing and selling things, reviewers and other members of the peanut gallery continue to expect Apple to operate just like every other tech company, and when they don't, there's little or no consideration that there is probably a well-thought-out reason as to why that might be.

    Apple thinks strategically and makes decisions based on long-term objectives. They issue the SEC's required quarterly reports, but very little of their decision-making is directed at quarterly or even annual market volatility. Because of that, reviewers are missing the forest for for trees when they're looking at the discontinuation and reintroduction of the larger HomePod as two separate events based on short-term market considerations. Given Apple's years-long product pipelines, it's far more likely that Apple knew they'd be reintroducing the HomePod when they pulled the previous model. If it wasn't for the reason I've suggested above, it surely was part of some other, larger strategic plan. One clue: Just as a person named after their father can drop the "Jr." from their name whether father dies, Apple would likely have re-branded the mini as simply HomePod if they weren't planning to bring back the non-mini model all along.
    williamlondongilly33lolliverFileMakerFellerforgot usernameStrangeDaysjony0
  • Reply 7 of 55
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,999member
    It isn’t Apple job to do Spotify’s job for them. Oh and Spotify is losing more money as usual.
    williamlondonlolliverFileMakerFellerjony0
  • Reply 8 of 55
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,999member
    The main point of the reviewers is that Apple products cost to much, HomePod, iPhone, all Mac’s, Apple Watch, iPad, Studio Display, or the Pro XDR display, and last but not least why can’t Apple be more like Windows and Android?
    edited January 2023 lolliverFileMakerFellerStrangeDaysjony0
  • Reply 9 of 55
    "largely the same as the first generation" is quickly becoming "almost everything is the same as the first generation."
  • Reply 10 of 55
    Maybe this model won’t shit the bed and Apple will claim nothing is wrong. Hard pass. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 55
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,999member
    charlesn said:
    Wow. This one is a head scratcher for me. I can't ever remember a tech product failing in the market and then being brought back shortly after in essentially identical form. Then there was this quote: "Listeners should enjoy the bass-forward and bright sound signature..." Oh, yeah, thumpy bass and bright treble with no EQ ability is exactly what I want from an expensive speaker. And let's not forget that you're locked into Siri, by far the dumbest and least capable of the major voice assistants. 

    So what's the Apple strategy here? The one difference from last time is that they now have a large installed base of happy Home Pod Mini users, which I guess their data suggests would be open to an upgrade if available. And maybe that's enough. Almost all the tech I own is Apple, except for small smart speakers, where I chose Echo Dots over the Home Pod mini for one simple reason: Alexa is way more capable, compatible and smarter than Siri. 
    Keep scratching your head, curated monitors made by Apple are back, some type of router probably will be back and there might be one or two other things that might make a return. MagSafe certainly came back.

    Changes in market conditions probably dictate. Somethings coming back, particularly when Apple doesn’t get any support from the third-party companies, which will always be true, as long as Microsoft and Intel are around, Apple can’t just sit and wait if they want to support their ecosystem and sell products.
    lolliverFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 12 of 55
    danoxdanox Posts: 2,999member
    Skeptical said:
    Maybe this model won’t shit the bed and Apple will claim nothing is wrong. Hard pass. 
    The price?
  • Reply 13 of 55
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 1,337member
    Skeptical said:
    Maybe this model won’t shit the bed and Apple will claim nothing is wrong. Hard pass. 
    Shit the bed?  I am listening to my OG launch homepod as I am working and writing this? I also have a couple of mini's in the house all updated to 16.3 and running fine. B)

    williamlondonlolliverFileMakerFellerStrangeDaysjony0
  • Reply 14 of 55
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,776member
    nicholfd said:
    charlesn said:
    Wow. This one is a head scratcher for me. I can't ever remember a tech product failing in the market and then being brought back shortly after in essentially identical form.  
    Uh - maybe because it didn't fail?

    Apple never made any statements about poor sells, or how it did in the market.  Apple never made any statements about why the 1st gen was discontinued.

    So what do you base your "failing in the market" statement on?  Hopefully not ANALyst who pull shit out of their ass... 

    PS - we have 8 x 1st gen HomePods.
    It failed. It was too expensive (why else did Apple cut the price? Apple never cuts prices), and restricted to Apple’s own ecosystem. Those issues haven’t been resolved but at least it’s $50 less than the old one, though missing some hardware soo really about the same price. 

    Besides, just before it was discontinued people were buying them and the serial number indicated a manufacturing date of 2018. You think Apple wanted to have HomePods sat around in warehouses for 3 years unsold?

    That said, I’m thinking of getting one or two so I can put the two og ones I have together to make a stereo pair, but I am balking at the price. 
    edited January 2023 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 15 of 55
    elijahg said:
    nicholfd said:
    charlesn said:
    Wow. This one is a head scratcher for me. I can't ever remember a tech product failing in the market and then being brought back shortly after in essentially identical form.  
    Uh - maybe because it didn't fail?

    Apple never made any statements about poor sells, or how it did in the market.  Apple never made any statements about why the 1st gen was discontinued.

    So what do you base your "failing in the market" statement on?  Hopefully not ANALyst who pull shit out of their ass... 

    PS - we have 8 x 1st gen HomePods.
    It failed. It was too expensive (why else did Apple cut the price? Apple never cuts prices), and restricted to Apple’s own ecosystem. Those issues haven’t been resolved but at least it’s$m $50 less than the old one, though missing some hardware soo really about the same price. 

    Besides, just before it was discontinued people were buying them and the serial number indicated a manufacturing date of 2018. You think Apple wanted to have HomePods sat around in warehouses for 3 years unsold?
    No proof in your statement that it failed.  You're welcome to your opinion, but no evidence provided.

    Billions of people in Apple's ecosystem.  For most, that's not a con & definitely not any indication of failure.

    "Those issues haven't been resolved" - what issues?  All of ours work just fine, and were purchased from release date until discontinue date of the 1st gen.  Most of ours are definitely from different production batches - we generally bought one at a time, and only 1 x pair purchased together.

    Sure Apple cuts prices.  New Mac mini M2 is $100 cheaper than previous version.  The new HomePod is released at $50 cheaper than the previous version release price.

    So people got old inventory?  So what?  Doesn't mean there was old inventory everywhere or that old inventory was the only inventory.  

    People always want to jump to conclusions...  
    williamlondonforegoneconclusionlolliverAlex_VStrangeDaysjony0
  • Reply 16 of 55
    jcs2305 said:
    Skeptical said:
    Maybe this model won’t shit the bed and Apple will claim nothing is wrong. Hard pass. 
    Shit the bed?  I am listening to my OG launch homepod as I am working and writing this? I also have a couple of mini's in the house all updated to 16.3 and running fine. B)

    It's his thing, "shitting the bed," which he's used it in at least 3 threads about the new HomePod. So pathetic.
    SpitbathlolliverAlex_VStrangeDaysjony0
  • Reply 17 of 55
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,048member
    elijahg said:
    nicholfd said:
    charlesn said:
    Wow. This one is a head scratcher for me. I can't ever remember a tech product failing in the market and then being brought back shortly after in essentially identical form.  
    Uh - maybe because it didn't fail?

    Apple never made any statements about poor sells, or how it did in the market.  Apple never made any statements about why the 1st gen was discontinued.

    So what do you base your "failing in the market" statement on?  Hopefully not ANALyst who pull shit out of their ass... 

    PS - we have 8 x 1st gen HomePods.
    It failed. It was too expensive (why else did Apple cut the price? Apple never cuts prices), and restricted to Apple’s own ecosystem. Those issues haven’t been resolved but at least it’s $50 less than the old one, though missing some hardware soo really about the same price. 

    Besides, just before it was discontinued people were buying them and the serial number indicated a manufacturing date of 2018. You think Apple wanted to have HomePods sat around in warehouses for 3 years unsold?

    That said, I’m thinking of getting one or two so I can put the two og ones I have together to make a stereo pair, but I am balking at the price. 
    Yes, Apple never cuts prices, and when it does, that's a sure indicator that they have a failure on their hands.
    lolliverwilliamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 55
    Strange the somewhat mushy sound quality wasn’t improved more? 

    Equalizer can be found in Spotify. So that’s no problem. :)
    williamlondon
  • Reply 19 of 55
    The pricing complaints relative to the market have always been worthless. $300 is not expensive for a quality audio product. Yes, there are going to be individuals who won’t buy it for that price but that doesn’t define the market overall.
    AppleZulugeekmeelolliverFileMakerFellerlaytechforgot usernamewilliamlondonStrangeDaysjony0
  • Reply 20 of 55
    charlesn said:
    Wow. This one is a head scratcher for me. I can't ever remember a tech product failing in the market and then being brought back shortly after in essentially identical form. Then there was this quote: "Listeners should enjoy the bass-forward and bright sound signature..." Oh, yeah, thumpy bass and bright treble with no EQ ability is exactly what I want from an expensive speaker. And let's not forget that you're locked into Siri, by far the dumbest and least capable of the major voice assistants. 

    So what's the Apple strategy here? The one difference from last time is that they now have a large installed base of happy Home Pod Mini users, which I guess their data suggests would be open to an upgrade if available. And maybe that's enough. Almost all the tech I own is Apple, except for small smart speakers, where I chose Echo Dots over the Home Pod mini for one simple reason: Alexa is way more capable, compatible and smarter than Siri. 
    It’s to resell the product to the same group that bought the first version.
    muthuk_vanalingamelijahgwilliamlondon
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