Audiophile Review: HomePod 'Sounds Better' Than $999 KEF X300A Digital Hi-Fi Speakers

HomePod reviews from the tech press came thick and fast last week, and while the smart speaker's sound quality was consistently praised, most reviews were based on subjective assessments and didn't take into account professional-grade output measurements. Early on Monday, however, Reddit user WinterCharm posted exhaustive audio performance testing results for HomePod to the Reddit audiophile community.


Using specialized equipment and a controlled testing environment, the review features in-depth analysis of the smart speaker's output when compared to a pair of $999 KEF X300A digital hi-fi monitors, representing a "meticulously set up audiophile grade speaker versus a tiny little HomePod that claims to do room correction on its own".

As expected, WinterCharm criticized the HomePod for its AirPlay-only output limitation and Siri's often-lackluster performance as a virtual assistant, but the speaker's audio quality appraisal was a different story. Interested readers can check out all the details and technical minutiae here, but in short, WinterCharm offered the following summary after a battery of exhaustive tests.

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.

Do you agree with WinterCharm's review? Let us know in the comments. And make sure to check out our HomePod roundup if you're new to HomePod or planning to purchase one -- it's got everything you need to know about HomePod along with a running list of our HomePod how tos.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Caution)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
30 months ago
"Audiophile" - the fella is a tit - he tried to tell me the HomePod has a perfectly flat frequency response. Even £10,000 studio monitors don't have a perfectly flat frequency response - further more the HomePod wasn't designed to have one.

His actual graphs show anything but perfectly flat, they show huge peaks and troughs everywhere - which is fine, it's a consumer hifi product and Apple haven't designed it to be flat, they've used every trick in the book to get big sound from a small speaker and to make it sound "wow" when you first play something through it "how is that bass coming from this" - the woofer is plenty big enough to get good bass, but they've gone for psycho-acoustic processing as well to make it even bigger.

To be honest this sort of sound is going to work well for most people, it's the sound signature they're used to. The way sound is presented only starts to change if you listen on studio monitors which are designed to be neutral flat and revealing - many people may find that sound "boring" or overly "clinical" compared to a HomePod type sound though. But when you get into the £300+ headphone market that is what they try to do as well, the £1000 Sennheiser HD-800's are more or less as flat as you can get in a headphone. The idea being to just present the music in as much detail as possible as it was from the studio without applying any sort of EQ curve or enhancement to it in anyway.

But it's a bit like getting a high end TV calibrated - some people watch with the shop "vivid" mode on their TV and some people want a perfectly calibrated TV. Many people would think the calibrated one looks flat, boring and too yellow, yet it's the accurate representation of what the original picture is. Horses for courses - depends if you want hyped or accurate, you can't have both.

The HomePod is a perfectly good "hyped" speaker, but it is anything but revealing, clear, detailed, open, transparent, flat, bright or even top end hi-fi. It does however sound better than 90% of the stuff most people will have heard or bought before, which is all Apple needed to do (and yes it destros the entire Echo range and easily puts Sonos to shame, not that i'd ever want to listen to either for extended periods)
Score: 86 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
30 months ago
How does one become an audiophile? Is it something you go to school for or does it apply to anyone who spends a lot of money on audio gear?
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
30 months ago
There is going to be a lot of denial of the obvious before everyone else starts frantically trying to emulate the HomePod, just like they did the iPhone.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
30 months ago
As usual the “experts” here are trashing the HomePod. Reviewers are dead wrong, audiophiles are paid shills, the HomePod has been pre-failed on MacRumors. Just another day in this forum.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
30 months ago
Good to see more intensive test write ups coming through. David Pogue's blind head to head test (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/head-head-apple-homepod-really-sound-best-160346138.html) also came up with some interesting results.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
30 months ago
I don't care what a flat frequency response even is.

I'm no audiophile, but I can tell when something sounds a bit crap, and do invest on some decent headphones for my phone. Currently have some Bowers and Wilkins P3s, which certainly sound way better than the supplied EarPods.

Have only had the HomePod for a few days, but it sounds pretty impressive to my non audiophile ears. Really great bass without any distortion, even at high volumes, great separation in the music, and really crisp sounding. I'd describe it as warm sounding, compared to cheaper speakers which can sound a bit cold and brash.

I've been trying to listen to things that might show that all off, so things like Slave to the Rhythm by Grace Jones, or Medicine Show by Big Audio Dynamite, or something like No Surrender live by Bruce. All sound incredible to me.

I'm really not fussed about Siri's supposed shortcomings - for us its just a great way of playing our music in the kitchen / dining room through a great sounding speaker. For the sound quality of this thing alone, there's no question its worth £319.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple's First MacBook Pro With a Retina Display Will Become 'Obsolete' in 30 Days

Monday June 1, 2020 7:50 am PDT by
If you are still hanging on to a Mid 2012 model of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display, and require a new battery or other repairs, be sure to book an appointment with a service provider as soon as possible. In an internal memo today, obtained by MacRumors, Apple has indicated that this particular MacBook Pro model will be marked as "obsolete" worldwide on June 30, 2020, just over...

Tim Cook Addresses George Floyd's Death and Ensuing Protests and Riots as Apple Temporarily Closes Some U.S. Stores

Sunday May 31, 2020 8:04 pm PDT by
Amid unrest in numerous U.S. cities following last week's killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Apple CEO Tim Cook has shared an internal memo with employees (via Bloomberg) addressing the pain that many are feeling and urging others to commit "to creating a better, more just world for everyone." Cook also announced that Apple is making donations to several groups challenging...

Apple Releases macOS Catalina 10.15.5 Supplemental Update With Security Fix

Monday June 1, 2020 10:56 am PDT by
Apple today released a supplemental update for macOS Catalina 10.15.5, the fifth update to the macOS Catalina operating system that was released in October 2019. The supplemental update comes a week after the release of the macOS Catalina 10.15.5 update. ‌macOS Catalina‌ 10.15.5 is a free update that can be downloaded from the Mac App Store using the Update feature in the System...

iOS 14 Again Said to Be Compatible With All iPhones Able to Run iOS 13

Monday June 1, 2020 2:08 pm PDT by
iOS 14 will be compatible with all iPhones and iPod touch models able to run iOS 13, according to information shared today by Israeli site The Verifier. The compatibility data was allegedly found in a leaked version of iOS 14 and confirmed by what The Verifier says is a "trusted source from the system development process." iOS 13 is compatible with the iPhone 6s and later, with a full...

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 13.5.1 With Fixes for Recent 'unc0ver' Jailbreak Vulnerability

Monday June 1, 2020 9:58 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 13.5.1, minor updates that come a little over a week after the release of iOS and iPadOS 13.5, major updates that brought the Exposure Notification API, FaceTime changes, mask-related unlocking updates and more. The iOS and iPadOS 13.5.1 updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the updates, go to Settings >...

Mockups Depict iPhone 12 Lineup Sizes, Relocated SIM Tray

Monday June 1, 2020 1:22 pm PDT by
A series of 3D printed iPhone 12 mockups designed based on leaked schematics and info from Apple's supply chain was today shared by Japanese site Mac Otakara, giving us a first look at what we can expect from the 2020 iPhone lineup. Rumors have suggested Apple will release four iPhone 12 models in 2020: A 5.4-inch iPhone 12, a 6.1-inch iPhone 12, a 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro, and a 6.7-inch...

Five Mac Apps Worth Checking Out - June 2020

Tuesday June 2, 2020 2:25 pm PDT by
Apps developed for the Mac often don't receive as much coverage as apps designed for iPhones and iPads, so we have a series at MacRumors that highlights interesting Mac apps that are worth taking a look at. This month's apps are designed to make working from home a little bit easier. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Meeter (Free) - Working from home often...

Apple Music Joins Music Industry's Blackout Tuesday Awareness Campaign

Tuesday June 2, 2020 1:31 am PDT by
Apple Music has cancelled its Beats 1 radio schedule for Blackout Tuesday and is suggesting that listeners tune in to a radio stream celebrating the best in black music. Blackout Tuesday is a campaign organized by the music industry to support Black Lives Matter after Minneapolis citizen George Floyd was killed by police in the course of his arrest. On launching Apple Music, many users...

6.1-inch 'iPhone 12' Production to Begin in July Ahead of Other 2020 Models

Monday June 1, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Volume production of Apple's forthcoming 6.1-inch "iPhone 12" models will start in July-August ahead of the rest of the company's flagship iPhone lineup this year, according to a new report by DigiTimes. Apple is widely rumored to be launching four new ‌iPhone‌ models in the usual September or October timeframe, although supply constraints and delays in production ramp-up could cause a...

Apple Releases tvOS 13.4.6 for Fourth and Fifth-Generation Apple TV Models

Monday June 1, 2020 9:56 am PDT by
Apple today released tvOS 13.4.6, a minor update to the tvOS operating system that runs on the fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV models. tvOS 13.4.6 comes a little over a week after the release of tvOS 13.4.5. tvOS 13.4.6, a free update, can be downloaded over the air through the Settings app on the Apple TV by going to System > Software Update. Apple TV owners who have automatic software ...