I have been using Apple Macs for my work for nearly two years, and out of all the machines I have ever used, and I have used a lot, using Macs has been by far the best experience, and this helps with productivity if you enjoy using your tools. Over this time, I have also started using more of the Apple eco-system as it all works together so well. This means the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and AirPods. They all work together very well indeed.
When Apple announced the new HomePod speaker system, I was intrigued. They wanted to enter the voice assistance cylinder market alongside Amazon and Google, but Apple said all along they were putting the most emphasis on sound quality as well as Siri integration. I don’t usually do the early adopter thing, but in this case, I thought I would give it a go and see if the speaker sounds as good as all the reports have been stating. In a worst-case scenario, I could just send it back if I didn’t like it as Apple as a 14 days returns policy.
The HomePod has a system internally that can scan your room (spatial awareness) and adjust itself to give optimal sound for your environment, so it is much more than just a speaker. It also has extensive integration with Apple Music, which is good as that is the music streaming service I use.
The speaker is a lot smaller than I was expecting but it looks nice. I got mine in white as opposed to the space grey, as I like white colored apple kit. Once unboxed I just plugged it into the power, turned it on, and it immediately connected to my phone and iCloud Account with only one button press. You certainly can’t fault the setup process.
The first thing I did was ask Siri to play one of my playlists which is a playlist of movie soundtrack scores. All I have to say is, HOLY SHIT THIS SOUNDS GOOD. The sound quality was much better than I was expecting. Bass was well rounded and lots of detail in the middle and high frequencies. I have this setup in my office, which is quite boxy and not that large, but this sounds very impressive.
Siri is naturally a big part of the HomePod, but I was not expecting miracles from it as Siri needs a lot of work, but as long as the main music commands work, I am happy. Using Siri, and an Apple Music subscription, you can ask the HomePod to play music by certain artists and it will put a personalized playlist together for you. You can also ask it to play any of your premade playlists. Whilst the music is playing you can also ask questions about the song or artist. For example, you could ask who the drummer is, or when was the song first released. Also, if you want to just hear the news, you can ask Siri to read the news headlines which will play relevant news to your location. I am quite liking this options as I can listen to the headlines whilst checking email in the morning. Siri will also tell you things like the weather forecast which is a nice novelty.
You can also use Siri for local recommendations. So, for example, you could ask for Italian restaurants in the area and she will give you recommendations and tell you their ratings. You can then ask for directions to the restaurant and ask if there is any traffic. You can also do normal phone related operations like ask Siri to send an SMS or make a phone call.
In my iPhone, iPad and Mac laptops, I never use Siri at all. I have just never found the need as I always found it a bit annoying, but I have to say on the HomePod, it feels like it could be genuinely useful, especially when they release more functionality for it over time.
The HomePod was initially announced to include Airplay 2, but at the time of launch this isn’t ready so that it will come as an update later on, but standard AirPlay works fine. This just means you cant have multiple HomePods in different rooms linked, but I am not intending on getting two of these. But as I say, normal Airplay works fine and I use this to send audio from my laptop to the speaker.
I am also very impressed by the microphones on this. With the volume turned up loud, I could still command Siri with a quieter voice, which I wasn’t expecting. Siri works fine for basic tasks, but unfortunately, Siri still lacks when compared to Alexa, I hope Apple is going to put some focus in this area, otherwise it will be a missed opportunity.
I have the HomePod next to my computer on my desk, so the next task was to try it as a set of computer speakers. This also worked perfectly. From my mac, I just change the sound output to the HomePod, and the sound is redirected to the speaker. I was expecting this to work just fine as it is no different to a typical set of Bluetooth speakers, but again, the sound quality is fantastic.
So, overall I am very impressed. I like listening to film soundtracks when I am working, so I appreciate the excellent sound quality. The speaker is expensive, but everything in apple land is costly, but in return, you are getting high quality. It is a shame AirPlay 2, and other features are not available at launch, but the speaker should get smarter over time. While it is a little disappointing, there is not more functionality on launch, these will all be added as software updates, I am glad Apple has focussed on sound quality. I will be interesting to see how the speaker compares to other high-end speakers when the professional reviews start coming out. For me though, I am happy with the speakers and the sound quality, so I shall now irritate my neighbors with some loud music while I work.
If you are all-in with the Apple ecosystem and have an Apple music subscription, then this is a no-brainer if you are ok with the costs.
If you don’t have an Apple music subscription, then your use of this device will be extremely limited so I wouldn’t bother. You can play Spotify through the speaker, but you do this through AirPlay.
If you are an Android, then this device is not for you as it will not work. You need an iOS device.