Apple ​HomePod (2nd-gen 2023) assessment

The HomePod (2nd-gen) comes almost 5 years after the unique and, whereas the design hasn’t modified, it does herald some large new options. Consider the second-generation HomePod extra as a much-needed refresh, slightly than an all-out model new good speaker.

It’s nonetheless very a lot speaker first, and good speaker second. However the addition of Thread signifies that this Matter-enabled HomePod is usually a centerpiece of the rejuvenated good residence over the subsequent couple of years.

Ensure you learn our information to Matter to know all of the complexities.

We’ve spent a few months residing with the Apple HomePod 2. Right here’s our thought of take…

Apple HomePod 2 value

Apple’s newest HomePod has entered the market at £299/$299, surprisingly undercutting its 2018 predecessor’s debut value.

For those who’re studying this due to Matter, know that the $99/£99 Apple HomePod Mini can also be a Thread border router, and can allow you to construct out a Matter-powered good residence for much less.

The HomePod prices greater than alternate options reminiscent of Amazon’s Echo Studio (£190/$200) or the Sonos One (£199 / $219). Nevertheless it’s nonetheless an reasonably priced machine, and delivers a good quantity of audio bang for the buck.

Sonos has fired again at Apple by releasing the Period 300 (£449 / $449) which wins on sound and can help spatial audio on each Apple Music and Amazon Music – however prices considerably extra.

Apple HomePod 2: Must know

Apple HomePod (2nd Gen 2023) review

When it comes to the design, the 2nd-gen HomePod is an identical to its predecessor. It’s a compact speaker, that’s only a tad greater than a Sonos One.

Externally, the HomePod seems to be an identical to the unique – the identical cloth mesh outer and touch-enabled high. The one variations are the 0.2-inch drop in peak and a slight weight reduction, with it going from 5.5lbs to five.16lbs.

There’s the identical touch-enabled high, with quantity management and pause/play. Nevertheless it’s not a display screen regardless of the Siri swirl animation and doesn’t present knowledge or playback info. There are a sequence of contact controls, very like the AirPods, with double or triple faucets skipping music ahead or backward.

Simply say “Hey Siri” and you may see it gentle up with a colourful swirl, much like what you see in the event you name up Apple’s digital assistant on an iPhone.

The primary signal of life on this contact panel (which might get a bit smudgy in the event you contact it lots) is a white swirling gentle throughout setup mode. That’ll final for about 10 seconds, you then’ll hear a noise indicating your HomePod is prepared for pairing.

Pairing this factor is a breeze – simply put your iPhone close to it and also you’re completed. It’s going to switch over all of your Apple account particulars, your own home Wi-Fi particulars, the entire shebang. You may be asking Siri to play music inside two minutes of plugging it in.

The brand new HomePod nonetheless helps iOS solely with AirPlay the principle choice for playback with out Siri. There’s no Bluetooth or Spotify Join. So it’s actually for households which are all-in with iPhones, and greatest used with Apple Music.

You continue to can’t ask Siri to play from non-Apple Music apps, as there is no choice for altering the default music service, like you possibly can with Alexa. So you will need to play to the machine from inside these apps, which form of negates the good thing about a sensible speaker.

You do have entry to all the key streaming providers and radio stations by AirPlay although – and that features Spotify playback in your HomePod.

Each the HomePod Mini and HomePod – the unique and the second-gen model – can do all the pieces that some other common AirPlay speaker does. So, in case your favourite streaming app is on iOS and has an AirPlay choice, then you possibly can beam over your tunes by your iPhone or iPad.

You may discover no aux-in port on the HomePod and, though Bluetooth is inbuilt, that is solely there for setup; HomePod shouldn’t be a Bluetooth speaker. There are Android workarounds as soon as setup is finished, however they’re actually not value it.

The speaker array has additionally modified barely. The HomePod 2 includes a four-inch woofer paired with 5 tweeters, which is down from the seven tweeters discovered within the unique HomePod.

New options as a look

Apple HomePod (2nd Gen 2023) review

  • Temperature sensor
  • Humidity sensor
  • Thread powered Matter compatibiltity
  • Tweaked speaker array with 4 tweeters and a 4-inch sub-woofer
  • U1 chip

Audio and spatial

Apple HomePod (2nd Gen 2023) review

For those who’re right here for sound high quality you then’ll be impressed. The HomePod punches properly above its dimension for sound and energy – and is surprisingly bassy.

To some, the speaker may very well ship an excessive amount of low-end punch, particularly in smaller rooms, however there’s a setting to scale back bass if wanted.

It actually works properly in a bigger room, and within the nook of our loft room, we may have required the low bass setting. Nevertheless, our private style is bass-heavy, with a whole lot of reggae and dub on rotation, so it suited us simply tremendous.

Our HomePod lived alongside our Alexa-fired Sonos One, and it blows the One out of the water on sound high quality. There’s actually no competitors, even when listening to the radio, the sound is deeper, hotter, and punchier.

The Sonos Period 300 is a special story and might be the one good speaker that may outstrip the HomePod as a standalone Spatial Audio speaker.

Nevertheless, the substantial value enhance means you can seize a pair of HomePods at an identical value, and we’ll come onto why you would possibly do this shortly.

The USP of the HomePod, when paired with Apple Music is Spatial Audio. These are tracks which are blended in Dolby Atmos for a extra ‘immersive’ sound, which ought to depart you with the impression of the band enjoying round you.

Some spatial mixes are spine-tinglingly glorious, some not a lot. However when it’s completed proper, it’s a recreation changer. And we a lot choose the impact on HomePod, which might deliver tracks to life, slightly than on AirPods, the place the head-tracking form of ruins the expertise.

New tracks usually tend to have an honest Spatial Audio therapy than older ones. The Narcissist by Blur advantages from the separation of the lead and backing vocals.

Nonetheless, Easy Man by Lynyrd Skynrd reveals off the deftness of the HomePod’s tone on the excessive hat, whereas additionally delivering on the guitar and bass as properly. We regularly use ‘well-rounded sound’ to specific an evenness between all ends of the spectrum, however none excel. The HomePod delivers each, and there’s no actual space for criticism.

Critics of Spatial liken it to the faux encompass impact on 90s stereos, and there are actually examples of that throughout the catalog. However Spatial could make you sit up and take discover, and the HomePod delivers this expertise in spades. And given it’s accessible for no additional price on Apple Music, we’re large followers.

Away from Dolby Atmos, the HomePod additionally helps lossless playback in Apple Music, (24-bit/48kHz) which additionally sounds fabulous, whether or not you play to the HomePod by way of your iPhone, or ask Siri for music straight.

On the multi-room entrance, there’s nothing to arrange as such – you will simply see the HomePods exhibiting up within the AirPlay speaker listing in your iOS machine or Mac, and simply choose as many as it is advisable to get music pumping round your own home.

Good residence expertise and Matter

Apple HomePod (2nd Gen 2023) review

Good audio system are after all a key element of the good residence – which is the place The Ambient involves play.

The HomePod (2nd Gen) is Matter appropriate, and it’s additionally a Thread border router for seamless and speedy management of good residence gadgets that help the usual. That is the stuff you’re going to want when increase a sensible residence of Matter gadgets as we go ahead.

We arrange one of many first Matter merchandise – the Nanoleaf Necessities Mild Strip – and had it working in seconds, with a wealthy vary of options, together with colour management.

After all, Matter is constructed out of Apple’s current good residence know-how, so including a product is a carbon copy of the HomeKit means of scanning a QR code. There’s no have to seize the proprietary app or make an account elsewhere.

Matter will massively broaden the quantity of gadgets that may play with Apple House, so the good residence ecosystem is about to get a lot greater and higher.

After all, the place the HomePod falls down in opposition to the likes of the Echo vary and Sonos audio system is that it depends closely on Siri.

Siri nonetheless lags

Siri continues to be not nearly as good a voice assistant as Alexa, neither is it straightforward to hold out comparatively easy duties by voice. There are such a lot of examples. At the same time as we write this, we fired off a fast climate question to Siri, which it didn’t reply after an extended deliberation. That actually is past fundamental stuff.

Music queries are usually dealt with significantly better – and Siri is basically adept at listening to a ‘Hey Siri’ over loud music.

However there are niggly downsides. Within the UK, BBC Radio has no help and must be performed by way of AirPlay from the BBC Sounds app. Not an enormous imposition, however Alexa has a BBC Sounds talent, so we’re used to only asking for radio and it enjoying – I do not wish to pull my cellphone out.

In the long run, we gave up listening to the radio by way of HomePod, which is maybe a win for Apple, if not for the person.

We additionally bumped into issues with Siri understanding whether or not we wished info by way of the iPhone or HomePod. This often occurred if we have been holding our iPhone when speaking to the speaker.

The HomePod is also now a humidity and temperature sensor, and the accuracy stood up. Our heating system doesn’t enable for third-party sensors, however we may see this turn into extra helpful as Matter rolls out.

iPhone calling means you possibly can ask Siri to make a name or reply an incoming one. As soon as the characteristic is enabled, you possibly can merely say, “Hey Siri, name Jennifer” or “Hey Siri, reply my name.”

Hyperlink to Apple TV

HomePod works greatest in all-Apple houses, and it actually acquired good once we hooked it as much as our Apple TV 4K (third Gen).

In our loft room, we arrange the HomePod as a default speaker for the Apple TV. If we had a stereo pair it might have been even higher, however the HomePod did a masterful job.

Even higher was the brand new eARC characteristic of the brand new Apple TV 4K, which allows the HomePod to take over the sound of something performed on the TV. This makes a stereo pair an efficient various to mid-range soundbars, and greater than a match for the likes of the Sonos Beam.

We additionally turned our Xbox Sequence X right into a CD participant, and eventually had a very good high quality outlet for the handful of particular CDs we’d retained.

The Apple HomePod stays a wonderful residence speaker – with a number of the greatest sound high quality at this value level. It’s nonetheless solely an choice for all-Apple households, and paired up with an Apple TV, it will probably do fantastic issues. However in true Apple type, you do issues its manner or the freeway by way of the providers you utilize. From a sensible residence perspective, nonetheless, Siri nonetheless lags as a voice controller, nevertheless it will get the job completed with solely occasional frustrations. Matter ought to open up a brand new world of choices for Apple-centric good houses, and might be the start of a brand new

  • Nice sound
  • Spatial slaps
  • Matter is a cinch
  • Siri continues to be Siri
  • Non-Apple integrations are flaky
  • No aux-in