Can you name another Apple product in the 21st century more maligned than HomePod? Reviews seem to come into view from two trails. Expensive and Siri sucks. Or, expensive but they sound great. The common ground is expensive.
With HomePod, Apple took the high road and went for high quality sound and by almost every measure except that by common man, the little speaker that should sounds great. Siri? Not so much. Apple’s talking assistant might be the most used but is either, 1) very smart but reserved, or, 2) not so smart. Period. What about Siri and HomePod?
2nd First Impressions
Apple seems to have adopted the position of introducing good hardware and then getting the software to match when it’s ready. Alright, that strategy didn’t work with recent Mac notebook keyboards, but you get the idea. Apple is a hardware company that prefers to make its own software and nowhere is that more apparent than HomePod.
Especially HomePod and HomePod– as in, two HomePods hooked up with AirPlay 2 for a stereo combo. The sound? Amazing. Amazing, that is, to anyone who values quality sound and recognizes that even $1,000 for a set of speakers is a worthy but inexpensive venture.
Dual dueling HomePods will set you back $700 (and, yes, we all want to see a smaller pair for half the price, but preferably without a Beats logo; audiophiles are not into Beats beats) but the sound emanating from the diminutive devices is a sum greater than the total of the parts.
Stereo HomePods are an amazingly unexpected experience of the good kind.
Apple built in some automatic intelligence– not Siri– that analyzes the acoustics of your room and adjusts the sound accordingly. So, HomePod sounds good in a larger, open room, and good in a smaller room with plenty of furniture. And, yes– at least to the ears of Chicago’s Nowaks– HomePod in stereo sounds better than stereo Sonos (which they replaced).
So, HomePod’s sound– in stereo– is expected to be good, but the surprise experience is three-fold. First, the little devices sound better together than individually, and far better than expected thanks to some engineering prowess in the much delayed AirPlay 2. Voice. Music. Podcasts. Whatever. And, second, HomePod listens better than expected. All those microphones are tuned to help HomePod create a superb sound from the surroundings, but microphones listen for human voice, too, and easily bests Amazon’s best Echo for voice recognition.
Still, HomePod listens for human voice and does not differentiate so commands can come from anyone, but I suspect that somewhere down the road Siri can attach herself to a singular voice and Apple ID account association.
Third? Siri, surprisingly, still isn’t very smart, understands context better than the last Siri, but remains the least useful of the talking assistants, none of which are all that useful anyway.
What I want for the future are less expensive HomePods and a smarter Siri. For now, there’s just no way to walk into an Apple Store and get the full-on HomePod experience, so check the reviews from those who know their sound. HomePod sounds great in stereo, too.