Why You Should (or Shouldn't) Integrate an Apple HomePod Yet
No one makes a splash quite like Apple and despite a delayed launch of their HomePod, it seems that the wait was almost worth it.
For integrators, smart speakers are becoming a big deal. On the surface, they are allowing homeowners to dabble in home control at their own pace - in part to the high learning curve and partly because use cases are pretty limited right now. Google and Amazon have used their gigantic head start over Apple to begin courting integrators as they recognize the budding CI market.
Alongside the evolution of voice assistants, the hardware has seen some serious upgrades as well. From the humble beginnings of Amazon's Dot, the evolution of the speaker has been remarkable. Every other manufacturer has seemingly jumped headfirst into making their own speaker, offering a ton of different price points and styles for consumers.
This is all underscored by the ceremonious entrance of Apple's HomePod. Gut reactions from reviews were that it sounded good, without any real data to make objectively so. Of course, objective claims can be a bit difficult as results can change quickly between a users experience, but there are a few key metrics to prove a speakers worth.
And Reddit user Fouzan Alam knows exactly what to look for.
Hey Rene, so I'm /u/WinterCharm on reddit. I'm the one who made that post. I'm doing some measurements of the HomePod right now... and it's black magic. I swear it's black magic. THD and Frequency Response (smoothed) at 87% volume. pic.twitter.com/7dnKtgOpbP
— Fouzan Alam (@FouzanWasTaken) February 10, 2018
In his massive review, Alam pitted his $350 HomePod against his Kef X300A and found that Apple had undersold the sonics of their beastly speaker.
I am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you’re new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I’d made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker.
Hope you Enjoy The read.
It should be noted that this is just one test and as a responsible integrator, you should come to your own conclusions. As for Alam, he was floored. His test used an untreated room (read his apartment), a MiniDSP UMIK-1 USB calibrated microphone using Room EQ Wizard, and a bottle of Tres Picos Borasao. Using AirPlay for both his speakers, he found that the HomePod provided a "near-perfectly flat frequency response of the HomePod" despite being in such a "terrible" environment. The HomePod uses an on-the-fly calibration thanks to a lot of clever software and it's beefy A9 processor. After about 30 seconds, it can calibrate to a room and everything in it, changing on the fly if you move the speaker thanks to its accelerometer.
Again, this is one test and Alam implores people to use their own testing methods to see how it stacks up, but he is certain it can comfortably outmuscle many $1,000 speakers.
So where does it fall short? That list, unfortunately, is about as long as the gushing reviews for its pure acoustics.
In short, Apple's smart speaker isn't all that smart. One of the major flaws being Siri, a hugely underwhelming voice assistant stuck championing Apple's closed ecosystem. Early reports show that the HomePod not only ignores third-party streaming services not called Apple Music (Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Deezer) it also won't work with Android. That means the HomePod should act as a glorified HomeKit anchor right? Well, no not exactly. Apparently, the HomePod is not ready to be a HomeKit hub just yet, but there is hope a software upgrade will fix that.
The Apple HomePod has proven, at least to some degree, that is maybe one of the best pound-for-pound speakers ever created. It's ability to quickly out muscle speakers almost three-times its price and size is truly the byproduct of some of the most cutting-edge technology on the market. However, that same technology is also trumped by a lowly Amazon Dot, making the HomePod a total bust for integrators right now.