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 (Caution)

Top Rated Comments

zerind Avatar
39 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
39 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
39 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
39 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
39 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
39 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

lg wing

LG Considering Exit From Smartphone Business, Halts LCD Production for iPhone

Wednesday January 20, 2021 5:38 am PST by
LG is considering exiting the smartphone business entirely amid declining shipments and accrued losses of $4.5 billion over the past five years (via The Korea Herald). LG CEO Kwon Bong-Seok cautioned staff earlier today that the company is re-evaluating its presence in the smartphone industry: Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about...
2019 mac pro side and front

Tim Cook Gifted Donald Trump 'First' 2019 Mac Pro

Wednesday January 20, 2021 5:45 pm PST by
Apple CEO Tim Cook gifted former United States President Donald Trump with the first 2019 Mac Pro that came off of the assembly line in Austin, Texas, according to a financial disclosure report that was released today (via The Verge). "Mac Pro Computer, the first created at the Flex Factory in Austin, Texas," reads the entry, which values the machine at $5,999, the base price for a Mac Pro....
Apple VR Feature

Bloomberg: Apple's First AR/VR Headset 'Pricey, Niche Precursor' to More Ambitious AR Glasses and Could Launch Next Year

Thursday January 21, 2021 3:27 am PST by
Apple's first virtual reality headset will be a "pricey, niche precursor" to a more ambitious augmented reality product, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. As a mostly virtual reality device, it will display an all-encompassing 3-D digital environment for gaming, watching video and communicating. AR functionality, the ability to overlay images and information over a view...
Flat MacBook Air Feature

Bloomberg: Apple Working on 'Thinner and Lighter' High-End MacBook Air With MagSafe, Could Launch in Second Half of 2021

Friday January 22, 2021 3:34 am PST by
Apple is working on a "thinner and lighter" version of the MacBook Air that the company plans to release during the second half of this year at the earliest or in 2022, according to a new report by well-connected Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman. It will include Apple's MagSafe charging technology and a next-generation version of the company's in-house Mac processors. Apple has discussed...
iOS 15 icon mock banner

iOS 15 Rumored to Drop Support for iPhone 6s and 2016 iPhone SE

Thursday January 21, 2021 11:58 am PST by
Apple's upcoming iOS 15 operating system, which we expect to see unveiled in June, is rumored to be dropping support for a few of Apple's older iPhones. According to French site iPhoneSoft, iOS 15 will not be able to be installed on the iPhone 6s, the iPhone 6s Plus, or the 2016 iPhone SE, all of which have an A9 chip. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were introduced in 2015 and are now more...
iphone 12 vs iphone 12 mini

Apple Shifting Some Production From iPhone 12 mini to iPhone 12 Pro to Meet Demand

Wednesday January 20, 2021 8:12 am PST by
Apple has reportedly cut production of the iPhone 12 mini by two million units to create more manufacturing capacity for the iPhone 12 Pro, according to a new Morgan Stanley investment note seen by PED30. Apple is believed to have made the switch for the first quarter of 2021 in an effort to combat continuing lead times for the more popular iPhone 12 Pro. iPhone 12 Pro lead times remain ...
iPhone 13 Notch Feature

iPhone 13 Rumored to Feature Smaller Notch, Pro Model Cameras to Use Larger Image Sensor

Thursday January 21, 2021 1:38 am PST by
Apple's iPhone 13 series will feature a redesigned Face ID system that will allow for a smaller notch at the top of the screen, according to a new report today. The rumor comes via hit-and-miss Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes, whose supply chain sources also claim that the ultra wide-angle lens in Apple's next-generation iPhones is due for an upgrade. The next-generation iPhones'...
maxresdefault

Video Demos macOS Catalina Running on iPad Pro via x86 Emulation

Thursday January 21, 2021 11:36 am PST by
A video demonstrating macOS Catalina running on a current 2020 iPad Pro has been shared on YouTube, giving us a look at an interesting hack that has a Mac OS up and working on one of Apple's iPads. There's limited information about how the process of getting macOS Catalina on an iPad Pro works, but it uses x86 emulation and was done through the UTM software that allows virtual machines to...
iOS 14

Apple Seeds iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 Release Candidate to Developers and Public Beta Testers

Thursday January 21, 2021 10:14 am PST by
Apple today seeded the RC version of upcoming iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the new betas coming a week after Apple released the second betas. iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or over the air after the proper profile has been installed on an iPhone or iPad. Paired with the HomePod 14.4 beta that is...
iPhone OIS Feature2

Sensor-Shift Camera Stabilization Rumored to Expand to Entire iPhone 13 Lineup

Wednesday January 20, 2021 7:46 am PST by
The entire iPhone 13 lineup will feature sensor-shift optical image stabilization, compared to only the iPhone 12 Pro Max among current models, according to a brief story preview shared today by Taiwanese publication DigiTimes. "Apple's next-generation iPhones slated for launch in the second half of 2021 will all come with sensor-shift stabilization technology, according to industry...