HomePod Early Hands-On Reviews: 'Seamless' Siri Commands and Audio Quality 'Feels Like You're at a Live Performance'

Although longer and more in-depth reviews for Apple's smart speaker, the HomePod, have not yet been published, a few websites have gotten the chance to spend an hour or so with the speaker and have been sharing their experiences this week.

homepod apple music image
At Digital Trends, Julian Chokkattu liked the unassuming design of the HomePod, noting that "it's easy to miss... because it makes no effort at standing out." This should make it easier for the HomePod to blend in with any room's decor, according to Chokkattu.

In terms of sound, he got to listen to upwards of five songs from various genres at a volume of about 65 percent, and concluded that it "sounds great" no matter where you are in the room. He also called his brief encounters with Siri on HomePod "fast and seamless," explaining that Siri is smart enough to realize when you're meaning to activate it on your iPhone ("when your phone is in your hand") so that the HomePod does not answer.

Audio quality is beautifully warm, yet the bass is not overpowering, even though it was still quite rich. If you close your eyes, it’s easy to feel like you’re at a live performance. We could pick out the vocals and instruments clearly. The speaker allows each instrument to shine through; you can hear precise guitar plucks. No, it doesn’t have that crisp sound you’d hear from very expensive high-end speakers, but then again, the HomePod doesn’t cost thousands yet still pushes brilliant sound quality out of a single, small enclosure.

What’s more impressive is how consistent the HomePod sounds wherever you are in the room. Yes, the further away you are, the quieter it is, but not by much. It almost felt like the music was following our movement, and it consistently sounded great.

Tech journalist Lance Ulanoff shared his thoughts on HomePod in a post on Medium, and noted that when the sound quality was compared to the Google Home Max and Sonos One, HomePod was "astonishing." Ulanoff echoed a sentiment stated by Chokkattu, detailing a listening experience that felt as if he was hearing the music "in a small café for an audience of me" and equating HomePod's sound quality to a live performance.

Although stereo pairing won't be ready at launch, Ulanoff got to experience this as well and said that "two HomePods playing just about anything is incredible." Ultimately, he called HomePod an "ultra-high-quality" speaker that doubles as an "excellent Siri ambassador."

What Apple has here is an ultra-high-quality speaker and the first physical instantiation of Siri without a screen. The fact that Apple is finally entering the smart speaker race is cause for muted celebration. It’s attractive, sounds amazing and is an excellent Siri ambassador. And it’s $349. Is better sound and solid iOS integration (plus the added cost of an Apple Music subscription) worth spending nearly four times as much as a decent sounding Echo?

Pete Pachal with Mashable was also impressed by the HomePod's sound quality, which he described as an "aural triumph," but was more skeptical on the device and questioned whether or not Apple is too late to the smart speaker market.

What I'm less convinced of, however, is whether customers will care. The success of the Echo Dot — Amazon's puck-shaped smart speaker that definitely de-emphasizes the second word of that description — tells me that anyone who's been won over by the category mostly just wants to get the power of voice command in more places. And audio? A glorified intercom will do. Or, hey, just connect your own speakers.

In my short time with the HomePod, I came away impressed with its acoustic power and precision. I liked the design more than I thought I would, too. But in the world of smart speakers — which is where Apple is now competing, despite its desire to make the conversation all about music — those factors are secondary to the simple question, "How much can this thing do for me?"

Those interested in HomePod can pre-order the speaker on Apple.com in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia beginning today, January 26, and then the device will launch on February 9. For those on the fence about Apple's entry into the smart speaker market, Sonos today is launching a sale aimed at competing with Apple where you can get two Sonos One speakers for the same price of one HomePod.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Don't Buy)

Top Rated Comments

zerind Avatar
48 months ago
"equating HomePod's sound quality to a live performance."

Put this guy in front of some Martin Logans and his head will probably explode. lol, such hyperbole.
Score: 91 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Darryl.Jenks Avatar
48 months ago
" If you close your eyes, it's easy to feel like you're at a live performance."

Stop. Just stop it now.
Score: 77 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ersan191 Avatar
48 months ago
I have Martin Logan Electrostatic floor speakers for right and left and Martin Logan Electrostatic Center Channel speaker for home theater...all speakers require AC power to charge the panels......once you hear this kind of speaker...then any little speaker would sound very small. For some people this Apple speaker is good enough...not for audiophiles.
Truly shocking that a $2000 speaker sounds better than a $350 home assistant.
Score: 72 Votes (Like | Disagree)
pete2106 Avatar
48 months ago
Ugh the biggest problem I have is choosing what color. I wanted two, but i want it to match by other devices. Problem is I have a silver iphone X (256GB) and a space grey ipad pro (10.5), plus a space gray iMac Pro... not to mention my stainless steel (black) watch. So I ordered two HomePods in White, and two in Space Gray. I'm hoping that will cover my living room sufficiently. Depending on which color is nicest, I'll order more to place in the other rooms.
And the refugees from Syria think they have problems.
Score: 69 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rogifan Avatar
48 months ago
In terms of sound, he got to listen to upwards of five songs from various genres at a volume of about 65 percent, and concluded that it "sounds great" no matter where you are in the room. He also calledhis brief encounters with Siri on HomePod "fast and seamless," explaining that Siri is smart enoughto realize when you're meaning to activate it on your iPhone ("when your phone is in your hand") sothat the HomePod does not answer.
These aren’t reviews. A review is someone having the device for more than an hour and able to play whatever they want on it.
Score: 63 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Darryl.Jenks Avatar
48 months ago
Ugh the biggest problem I have is choosing what color. I wanted two, but i want it to match by other devices. Problem is I have a silver iphone X (256GB) and a space grey ipad pro (10.5), plus a space gray iMac Pro... not to mention my stainless steel (black) watch. So I ordered two HomePods in White, and two in Space Gray. I'm hoping that will cover my living room sufficiently. Depending on which color is nicest, I'll order more to place in the other rooms.
Please keep us updated. I won't sleep well until I've been briefed on your possessions.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

beats updater

Apple Officially Retires Beats Updater Utility in Favor of Over-the-Air Firmware Updates

Wednesday September 30, 2020 2:30 am PDT by
Apple has officially retired Beats Updater, the software utility that lets users update the firmware of their Beats Wireless headphones, earphones, and speakers. Beats Updater allows users to plug their Beats product directly into the USB port of their computer to check for firmware updates online, but with Apple's growing tendency to deliver over-the-air updates to wireless products via iOS ...
iphone 12 colors 2021

iPhone 12 Colors: Deciding on The Right Color

Thursday November 5, 2020 8:35 am PST by
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro arrived in October 2020 in a range of color options, with entirely new hues available on both devices, as well as some popular classics. The 12 and 12 Pro have different color choices, so if you have your heart set on a particular shade, you might not be able to get your preferred model in that color. iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone...
original iphone

Phil Schiller Says iPhone Was 'Earth-Shattering' Ten Years Ago and Remains 'Unmatched' Today

Monday January 9, 2017 7:15 am PST by
To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller sat down with tech journalist Steven Levy for a wide-ranging interview about the smartphone's past, present, and future. The report first reflects upon the iPhone's lack of support for third-party apps in its first year. The argument inside Apple was split between whether the iPhone should be a closed...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Kuo: iPhone 13 to Feature LEO Satellite Communications to Make Calls and Texts Without Cellular Coverage

Sunday August 29, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to LEO satellites. If enabled with the relevant...
m1 imac orange

New iMac Tidbits: Headphone Jack on Side, Ethernet Port on Power Adapter, Spatial Audio and WiFi 6 Support, No SD Card Slot

Wednesday April 21, 2021 6:38 am PDT by
Apple yesterday announced a completely redesigned 24-inch iMac with the M1 Apple silicon chip. The new iMac, the first major redesign of the Mac desktop computer since 2012, has several changes compared to the previous generation. In the aftermath of the event, a few new features and tidbits may have slipped under the radar, so we’ve compiled this list of some of the less-talked-about...
calculatorapp

iOS 11 Bug: Typing 1+2+3 Quickly in the Calculator App Won't Get You 6

Tuesday October 24, 2017 2:03 pm PDT by
A bug in the built-in Calculator app in iOS 11 is getting some major attention this week, despite the fact that it's been around since iOS 11 was in beta testing. At issue is a calculator animation that causes some symbols to be ignored when calculations are entered in rapid succession. You can try it for yourself: Type 1+2+3 and then the equals sign into the Calculator app quickly. Due to...
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Full iPhone 13 Feature Breakdown: Everything Rumors Say We Can Expect

Tuesday August 31, 2021 7:50 am PDT by
With the launch of Apple's iPhone 13 lineup believed to be just a few weeks away, we have compiled all of the coherent rumors from our coverage over the past year to build a full picture of the features and upgrades coming to the company's new smartphones. For clarity, only explicit improvements, upgrades, and new features compared to the iPhone 12 lineup are listed. It is worth noting that...
affinity designer contour tool

Serif Updates Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher With New Tools and Functions

Thursday February 4, 2021 1:58 am PST by
Serif today announced across-the-board updates for its popular suite of Affinity creative apps, including Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and the Apple award-winning Affinity Publisher for Mac, all of which were among the first professional creative suites to be optimized for Apple's new M1 chip. "After another year which saw record numbers of people switching to Affinity, it's exciting to...
YouTube Picture in Picture Feature

YouTube Says iOS Picture-in-Picture Coming to All US Users

Friday June 18, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
After a long wait, YouTube for iOS is officially gaining picture-in-picture support, allowing all users, non-premium and premium subscribers, to close the YouTube app and continue watching their video in a small pop-up window. In a statement to MacRumors, YouTube says that picture-in-picture is currently rolling out to all premium subscribers on iOS and that a larger rollout to all US iOS...