HomePod…Review (HomePod Back 2023)

Here’s my experience giving the original Apple HomePod a home test.  (After discontinuing the large HomePod, Apple released an updated version in February of 2023, more info at the end of this article.  It looks nearly identical.)

On the first day it was available to order, I did.  On February 9th, 2018 the UPS man handed me the box.  It was much heavier than I expected.  I took out the nicely packed white HomePod and plugged it in.

With my iPad next to it, the setup was just a few taps on the screen, and the HomePod was activated.  From that point, no Apple device is needed on a daily basis.  The HomePod gets the music directly from iCloud through our wi-fi.  I asked Siri to play a particular song, and it sounded great.  There is amazing clarity throughout the frequency range.  The bass is extremely impressive, especially for the HomePod’s size, which is only about 7-inches high and 5 1/2-inches wide.

Now the reason I wanted the HomePod was for playing songs using my iTunes playlists.  Playlists are the way I’ve organized my music over the last 14 years or so.  Most of each playlist’s songs are placed in chronological order by years, and programmed with tempos, styles and meanings in mind.  Anyway, I didn’t want to just use Apple Music’s streaming service after spending so much time getting songs in order.  Plus, I have quite a few rare versions of songs that aren’t on any streaming service.  Here’s how the HomePod looks in our home:

(When Siri is voice-activated, the top has modulating colored lights.)

Before:  To play music on our large stereo system, it took:  1. Turning on the Mac in the office.  2. Going to the family room and using a remote to turn on the TV.  3. Using another remote to turn on the Apple TV.  4. Using yet another remote to turn on the Stereo Amplifier.  5. Choosing the Apple TV computer/music function, and then scrolling to the playlist I wanted.

Now:  I just walk into the living room and ask Siri to play whatever playlist or song I want.

The six internal microphones will pick up commands when spoken at a normal tone of voice, even when the music is fairly loud.  Until you activate the unit by saying “Hey Siri”.  All of your commands are automatically deleted, and never used to give advertising information to businesses.

The sound of the HomePod is very impressive.  Even though the audio is coming from a single source (with 8 internal speakers, as shown above), the instruments and voices seem separate and clear.  The bass is surprisingly full, and yet never muddy.  The volume goes higher than we’ll ever need, and it doesn’t distort at any setting.  Volume is adjusted by asking Siri, or by tapping the + and – lights on the top of the unit when it’s playing.   Basically, all stopping, pausing, resuming, and other needs can be accomplished by telling Siri.

The HomePod uses “beaming technology” to automatically adjust its audio pattern to fit any room in which it’s placed.  The circular array of the internal speakers is much better than any front-facing speaker at giving you good sound no matter where you sit in the room.  The circular array might become a common speaker design in the future, so there isn’t just one “sweet spot” for listening.

The HomePod is so enjoyable to listen to, we even added another one when the stereo option became available.

We came up with this placement, and the stereo sounds absolutely great!  The separation is excellent.  HomePods have an exceptional ability to reproduce all frequencies clearly.  The bass is so good, you might even wonder if there’s a subwoofer hidden in a corner of the room.

After decades of purchasing and storing thousands of records and CD’s, and having large stereo systems…It’s almost unbelievable that these small speaker/amplifiers would take the place of all of it, and that you could simply ask to hear any songs you want!

Update:  It’s sad that this great-sounding speaker was replaced by a small one with lesser sound quality.  Apple will continue to provide technical updates to the original HomePods.  I’m glad we got the larger HomePods when we could.  Here’s the size comparison:

The mini is only 3.9 inches wide and 3.3 inches high.  Apparently, the sound of the Mini is good “for it’s size”.

Update 1/18/23:  There’s a new version of the original large HomePod.

It looks almost the same as the original HomePod, with the colors being white and “Midnight” black.  The price is $299 each, which is $50 less than the original, but the same price used prior to the pause in manufacturing.  The display now covers the entire top, and the electronics feature the S7 chip.  The new HomePods was released February 3rd, 2023.  Most reviews say it sounds nearly identical to the original HomePod.

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