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.

HomePod KEF X300A
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

Top Rated Comments

dannys1 Avatar
48 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)
Rogifan Avatar
48 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)
Ted13 Avatar
48 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)
lkrupp Avatar
48 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)
OllyW Avatar
48 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)
johngordon Avatar
48 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)

Related Stories

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...
macos catalina legacy system extension alert

Apple Begins Warning Users That 'Legacy System Extensions' Won't Work With a Future Version of macOS

Wednesday March 25, 2020 9:53 am PDT by
Apple has shared a new support document that indicates kernel extensions — which it calls "legacy system extensions" — will not be compatible with a future version of macOS because they "aren't as secure or reliable as modern alternatives."System extensions are a category of software that works in the background to extend the functionality of your Mac. Some apps install kernel extensions, which...
General Spotify Feature

Spotify Pauses Plans to Add AirPlay 2 Support to iOS App [Update: Spotify Clarifies]

Friday August 6, 2021 9:07 am PDT by
See update at bottom of article Spotify this week confirmed that its plans to add AirPlay 2 support to its iOS app have been placed on indefinite hiatus. In an online discussion forum post, a Spotify representative said the streaming music service had been working on supporting AirPlay 2, but the company has paused the efforts "for now" due to "audio driver compatibility issues." The...
apple privacy

Apple Publishes FAQ to Address Concerns About CSAM Detection and Messages Scanning

Monday August 9, 2021 1:50 am PDT by
Apple has published a FAQ titled "Expanded Protections for Children" which aims to allay users' privacy concerns about the new CSAM detection in iCloud Photos and communication safety for Messages features that the company announced last week. "Since we announced these features, many stakeholders including privacy organizations and child safety organizations have expressed their support of...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
m1 macbook air

Kuo: Mini-LED MacBook Air Coming in Mid-2022

Thursday July 22, 2021 7:48 pm PDT by
Apple will release a new version of the MacBook Air around the middle of 2022, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in note to investors seen by MacRumors. The upcoming MacBook Air will feature a 13.3-inch mini-LED display, which would make it the second Mac to gain mini-LED technology after the 2021 MacBook Pro, which is rumored to include a mini-LED display and is expected to launch later ...
Apple Films Tom Hanks Finch First Look

Apple Original Film 'Finch' Starring Tom Hanks to Premiere November 5

Thursday August 12, 2021 8:52 am PDT by
Apple today announced that the original film "Finch," starring Tom Hanks in its titular role, will premiere on Apple TV+ on Friday, November 5 and shared a first-look image from the film. The first look at "Finch," shared by Apple. The film, which is anticipated to be an awards season contender, revolves around a man, a robot (played by "Get Out" actor Caleb Landry Jones), and a dog that form ...
whatsintheboxiphonexs

Apple's iPhone XS, XS Max and XR Won't Ship With Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter

Wednesday September 12, 2018 12:58 pm PDT by
Since the headphone jack was removed from the iPhone with the launch of the iPhone 7, Apple has bundled iPhones with a Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter for customers who continue to have 3.5mm headphones. With the launch of the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR, Apple is discontinuing this practice and will not include the Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter. On the...
macbook air m1 first benchmark

Apple Silicon M1 Chip in MacBook Air Outperforms High-End 16-Inch MacBook Pro

Wednesday November 11, 2020 4:43 pm PST by
Apple introduced the first MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini with M1 Apple Silicon chips yesterday, and as of today, the first benchmark of the new chip appears to be showing up on the Geekbench site. The M1 chip, which belongs to a MacBook Air with 8GB RAM, features a single-core score of 1687 and a multi-core score of 7433. According to the benchmark, the M1 has a 3.2GHz base...
iphone 13 teal with text

Apple Begins Preparation for iPhone 13 Production Ahead of Fall Launch

Monday June 28, 2021 3:29 am PDT by
We're just a few months away from when Apple is expected to reveal the 2021 iPhone, dubbed the "iPhone 13." In preparation for its launch, it has been pulling in shipments of different components needed to produce the new iPhones, according to a report from DigiTimes. In years past, Apple released its latest iPhone lineup, alongside a new Apple Watch, during a September event at Apple Park....