Best thing about HomePod :: We are having a quality discussion

by Volker Weber

Reading David Pogue's test of four speakers, I wasn't surprised by the results:

- Amazon Echo Plus ($150)
- Apple HomePod ($350)
- Google Home Max ($400)
- Sonos One ($200)

He did something the other reviewers did not. Instead of taking the "trust me, I'm an expert" road, he let other people express their preferences in a blind test. The unsurprising result was that Apple HomePod did not win in a landslide. It was far too easy for Apple PR to influence the opinion with controlled test scenarios or biased testers.

When setting up the blind test behind a curtain, David may have created a handicap for the HomePod. Its room correction depends on feedback the speaker receices from the room. When you tune a Sonos One, you do this from the point of view (or rather hearing) of the listener. That process can correct for major flaws like putting a speaker behind a sofa, in a room corner, or inside a cabinet. HomePod corrects the sound from what it hears at its own location. It does not have a microphone where the listener is and certainly not on the other side of a curtain.

Another observation is that those who preferred the Google Home Max where those closer to it, vice versa for the Sonos One. If you would have used the Home Max budget and bought two Sonos One, they might have won hands down.

The important discussion we are having here is that sound does indeed matter. Apple is bringing quality back into the discussion. And that's a good thing.

Comments

You're right about your headline. As soon as Apple enters a market segment, more attention is paid to the quality of the software and hardware and a bit of style is added to the equation. A win-win situation for everyone.
Sonos has done a lot right in the market segment so far, but as you can see from the last controller software, a little bit of competition never hurts. But you have to admit that Apple doesn't exactly shine here (ITunes).
I love the sound of my two Sonos One and I'm thrilled about what can be brought out of a fully tiled bathroom via trueplay. But I am also an engineer and know what the limits are for such a small device. Even Apple won't be able to perform miracles.
I personally believe that trueplay with a mobile measuring microphone on the place of the listener is superior to a stationary solution like the HomePod - but Apple does a good job here, but the limits become visible when there are curtains or furniture between the HomePod and the listener.

Patrick Möller, 2018-02-14 17:38

it would be interesting to re-do that test but use a blindfold on the listener instead of a curtain just to see if the curtain was indeed a limiting factor.

I will add that I am very happy with my HomePod. I don't have any other speakers or smart speakers to compare it against but for what I need in my apartment it is doing a fantastic job to the point where I am considering buying a second for the bedroom instead of moving this one back and forth.

Declan Lynch, 2018-02-14 17:52

So you should be. That is another take away from the test. If you cannot compare them side by side, you would not notice a difference. Once Apple cracks multi-room, you can buy lots of HomePods. :-)

Volker Weber, 2018-02-14 18:14


I am lucky/blessed enough that my hearing is like my eyesight... sucky.

So pretty much anything that isn't a broken speaker sounds just fine to me. But I *can* tell stereo from non-stereo..

Which is why I love the AAC vs FLAC vs MP3 vs Turntable discussions. I *literally* and demonstrably can't tell the difference.

Craig Wiseman, 2018-02-14 18:20

Exactly. We must not forget that it depends on the music. A song combined with memories gives you goose bumps on a kitchen radio.
Like the cameras, the best one is the one you've got.

Patrick Möller, 2018-02-14 18:27

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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