Apple and music have always had a strong connection. I remember when I was first getting into music production and moving from an analog set up to a digital one, every person I talked to said you need to get a Mac. I didn’t understand at first; I had a perfectly capable PC and a copy of Cakewalk Sonar that I was trying to figure out how to use. It wasn’t until I went to college and was able to use a Mac Pro in a recording studio that I realized it was more than just the Apple hardware and software. Music was part of Apple’s culture as a business. It didn’t matter what new hardware or software was being released. There was always music angle and throughout the years we’ve seen it change with Apple Music more recently and now HomePod.
I’ll skip the parts you’ve already read about. Yes, the hardware is great and yes the setup was just as easy as connecting a pair of AirPods. The experience is what we really need to talk about. I set up my HomePod in the corner of my office, on top of a dresser, next to a small TV which has an Apple TV connected to it. Using HomePod over the past few weeks has made me realize how much I appreciate a speaker that fills the room with sound. My desk setup has a stereo pair of monitors directly in front of me and while that’s great for editing in Logic or listening to a final master before sending it off for manufacturing, it’s different than consuming music.¹
What really amazed me was this small speaker, about the size of Sonos Play:1 or if you’re not a collector of smart speakers, a large pineapple, was creating such room-filling sound. The low-end response is more than enough feel impactful in an average sized office or bedroom. Mids and highs are crisp so much so that no matter how you loud turn it up, HomePod never feels like it’s struggling. Apple has done some pretty special work with how its software analyzes the room to reproduce the best sound possible. I’m extremely interested in what a stereo pair can do with not only music but movies and TV as well.
Speaking of, you can easily connect the speaker to Apple TV. It shows up on the list of audio devices just like any other Airplay speaker. Quick tip, if you hold down the “play/pause” button while on the home screen, you’ll be able to see a list of audio devices and connect to the HomePod right from there. I never used Apple Music much on Apple TV but found controlling music through it just as easy as any other device. It also adds a remote element of control if you don’t want to use voice.
If you made it this far, you’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Siri once. Well that’s because it’s really not a big part of the HomePod story so far. Siri works and the one positive thing I can say is that they did a great job of being able to hear your voice and trigger the assistant even in loud listening environments. Apple is so confident HomePod will hear “Hey Siri” and the request after, that it doesn’t lower the music volume right away like other smart speakers. A small touch but once again proof that this device is music first. If you’re looking for a “smart” speaker with all the hooks you’re better off with an Amazon Echo or Google Home. I have 4 Amazon Echos throughout my home and currently use them as my primary home voice assistant. Currently there’s room for both of these devices in my home as they serve a different purpose.
Right now HomePod is an Apple Music accessory. If you don’t subscribe to the service, it’s more than likely not worth buying a HomePod. Airplay works fine but if you want to request songs, playlists or album with your voice, you’ll need Apple Music. Don’t take my initial statement as negative, it’s a fantastic Apple Music accessory. It’s the easiest way to solve the problem of “I want to listen to music right now and want it sound great.” I’m more than happy to throw $350 at this problem. If you’re a music enthusiast and Apple Music subscriber I’d tell you do the same thing.
1. I work for an independent record label and one part of my job is overseeing production and manufacturing of all our releases. So yes, I listen to a lot of music all day long.