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An Audiophile Listening Room with Apple’s HomePod

Published March 5th, 2019

Apple's HomePod has been the underdog in the "smart speakers" category since its introduction last year. It's more expensive than the offerings from Google and Amazon, and Siri doesn't seem to be as powerful. I haven't used Alexa or the Google AI assistant, so I can't say what the difference may be. But let me just say that HomePod is a revelation in audio quality, and its "smart" features are more than adequate for my needs. The most surprising aspect of HomePod is that it has finally let me put together an audiophile listening room without taking out a second mortgage!

At its most basic, HomePod is a smart speaker with Siri built in and truly gifted sound quality. It's a breeze to set up... you just use your iPhone to pair and copy settings, which takes about a minute. My first use was to add some smart light bulbs to the house, and with Apple's HomeKit app on the iPhone that's a simple matter too. To activate a new device, you just scan an icon on the packaging and then assign it to a "room" in your house. (In HomeKit, you can set up rooms and "scenes" for your devices.) Once set up, it's a simple matter to say "Hey Siri" and then turn on or off a given bulb. HomeKit also makes automation simple, so you can easily have lights come on and off at different times of the day. With scenes, you can automate multiple devices with a single command. For example, when I go to bed, I say, "Hey Siri, Goodnight," and Siri turns off the basement family room light and the foyer light.

I also subscribed to Apple Music as part of my movement to the HomePod, and I've thoroughly enjoyed being able to listen to any given album by voice command. Of course, HomePods are also AirPlay speakers, so you can easily play music to them from your iPhone, iTunes, or other devices. It's simple to play to multiple HomePods at once, and Siri can move the music from room to room by voice command if you so choose.

But the most surprising aspect of HomePod has been its audiophile sound quality. Even bass response is great, which is amazing given the small size of these speakers.

I got a new HomePod for Christmas (I already had two) and decided to put it in the living room. It sounded so wonderful I decided to buy another one and set them up as a stereo pair. That's when the true value of these little speakers became clear.

With two HomePods now in my living room, I finally have achieved an audiophile listening environment at a truly reasonable price. The two little speakers pump out amazing sound, and they only cost me about $700. To replicate a listening environment with traditional high-fidelity speakers would cost at least $2,000, because you need not only the speakers (minimum: $1,000), but also you would need a receiver/amplifier and some components to get music into the system: A CD player or turntable, for example. On top of that, you would need some place in the living room to house the speakers (much larger than HomePods) as well as the stereo components... and that means another piece of furniture as well as considerably more space than my current setup requires.

With my paired HomePods, I just need to plug them into the wall and put them on a shelf. And voila! Instant audiophile listening without all the other setup headaches and at a much lower cost.

And I love the fact that the speakers have Siri built in, which means I can raise or lower the volume by voice, get information on what's playing, skip a song, or repeat... all by simply asking Siri.

The HomePod's audio quality is more than just a differentiating factor when you compare it to Google and Amazon speakers. It truly is great enough to compete with high-end speakers costing much more, and you can easily set up a listening environment that will tickle the ears of even the pickiest audiophile. A surprising punch for such a tiny device.

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