Apple found a new industry to conquer. Sound. HomePod isn’t the beginning. The sound emanating from the last two iPhone models and iPad Pro is loud, crisp, clear, and inviting. Apple’s AirPods are considered the wireless earphone leader– by audiophiles. The sound from HomePod is nothing short of remarkable considering the size of the device. Surprisingly small and heavy.
HomePod is less a challenger for Amazon’s talking speaker combo of Echo and Alexa than it is about high quality sound. If quality sound– specifically music, Podcasts, talking books, and anything else non-TV– is important to you, Apple has more to like. HomePod is the company’s first big step toward the future of talking devices that sound good and we can expect more in every device.
Just as Google, Apple, and Samsung have revolutionized photography with smartphone cameras that engage in computational photography– where software makes the photo better than it really is– Apple is doing something similar with sound.
I call it computational sound.
HomePod comes with the basics of sound. A high-excursion woofer and a custom amplifier; a motor that drives the diaphragm 20-mm. Additionally, HomePod features seven beam-forming tweeters; each with an amplifier and transducer, each with a customized acoustic horn for directional control.
In other words, HomePod knows how the music should sound in your home environment before it plays the sound.
Under the hood, so to speak is another Apple invention– the ARM-based A8 chip (found in previous generation iPhones and iPads). The chip and software powers real-time modeling of woofer mechanics, buffering that is faster than real time, and a mix of direct and ambient audio that enhances the sound beyond expectations; considering HomePod’s diminutive size.
All those microphones work in concert with speaker components, the A8 chip, and software to get sound that audiophiles already seem to love– but also with the ability to hear your voice when you speak.
In essence, computational sound delivers what iPhone’s cameras deliver– higher quality in a smaller package. You will notice that same kind of loud, vibrant, yet crisp and clear sound emanating from iPhone X and iPad Pro models.
Apple’s approach to sound differentiates the HomePod from Amazon Echo and Alexa, Google’s new talking speakers, and others sure to follow. No, Siri on HomePod is not as smart as Siri on iPhone. I’m sure there’s a reason and it should be safe to bet that Siri will improve over the next few years, but Apple seems to have nailed the hardware again.
HomePod has a remarkable sound, an innate ability to hear your voice query Siri right over the music (even when volume is high), and that tells me something about the near and long term future of Apple’s efforts to conquer sound. Two HomePods for serious stereo. Eventually, a smaller, less expensive HomePod for other rooms in the house– all connected to your voice.
Apple has gone all in on sound. Unfortunately, Apple Stores are a terrible place to hear what HomePod can do.