Luckily for us, Apple decided to reign itself in a bit and, as it announced yesterday, the HomePod will cost only $349. When compared to other smart speakers currently available on the market, which retail between $130 and $250, it’s obviously a bit pricey, but, as Apple made it perfectly clear on stage, they believe the sound quality in the speaker –which also features Siri on board– makes it a clear standout in the crowded market.
And also warrants that price point.
So it should not be a surprise that Apple was hosting listening parties for the HomePod after the keynote wrapped up, allowing those on hand to try their ears out in front of the new smart speaker to hear just how great it is. But that’s not all. Apple also wanted to show how it compares to the competition, so the company included the Amazon-branded Echo smart speaker, and even included a SONOS Play 3 speaker to really heat things up.
Now there are some early impressions being posted, and while they all admit that the listening scenario wasn’t perfect, considering the people, the room, and the other factors, the underlying current between all of the impressions is that the HomePod does indeed provide a superior audio quality experience when compared to both of the other speakers on deck to compare it to.
Here are the impressions:
“It’ll be a while before the HomePod official goes on sale, but right now it has one clear edge over the competition: it’s just a killer speaker. It’s important to note that we have no idea how the virtual assistant angle works, though — Alexa in her current form is very capable, and Google Assistant is getting more sophisticated by the day. We know Siri is getting some more elegant voices, but we’ll have to see if how it makes the leap into this new body before rendering a final verdict.”
“We also heard the sound quality up against an Amazon Echo and a Sonos 3 — obviously the HomePod came out better — but I’m not sure how much credence to lend to that part of the demo. For one thing, the audio to the Echo was playing over Bluetooth. Now I have zero problems saying that the HomePod sounds way better than an Echo, but it’s still not a direct comparison. As far as the Sonos is concerned, I’m not 100 percent sure it was tuned using Sonos’ TruePlay room tuning. The Sonos 3 isn’t really the best-sounding Sonos speaker, but I know it can pull off better audio than what I heard today.
Regardless, the takeaway here is that when it comes to smart speakers, the HomePod is likely to be head-and-shoulders above its direct competitors, the Echo and Google Home. For the price and size, you should expect that, and Apple delivered.”
“HomePod came off as bolder and more vivid than Sonos Play:3 in the experience I tried, and a lot better than Amazon Echo. I’d also say the music sounded consistently vivid and crisp in a quiet space, more so than the Sonos and Amazon comparisons on-hand. But the one thing I didn’t get to experience was how HomePod can listen, talk and suggest things. I couldn’t request music, or ask for the weather, or try any smart controls.”
“Still, it was tough to evaluate the HomePod on its own, and I didn’t realize just how good it sounded until I heard a nearby Sonos 3 speaker playing the same songs. The Sonos sounded OK, but the sound wasn’t nearly as rich as the HomePod.
And the Amazon Echo?
Compared to the HomePod, the Echo sounded like someone was singing through a tin can a mile away. It isn’t even in the same league as the HomePod or Sonos.
That seems to be Apple’s key differentiator. The HomePod may be more expensive and can’t do as much as the Echo, but when it comes to sound quality, HomePod blows the Echo away.”
“In a controlled environment, we heard tracks played on a Sonos Play:3, Amazon Echo and HomePod.
The Play:3 had been tuned for the room using Sonos’ excellent Trueplay software. The HomePod had also been calibrated using its own set-up software – although we didn’t get to see how exactly the speaker carries this out.
As Sia’s The Greatest played out, the HomePod sounded impressive: strong bass rang out – which was perhaps the overriding audio takeaway for the speaker – but the vocals still seemed sharp and crisp.
In comparison, the Sonos Play:3 appeared uncharacteristically flat, while the Amazon Echo felt almost pedestrian.”
The goal for Apple, with a price of $349, had to be a better sound experience with the HomePod when compared to the competition, and if these early impressions are any indicator, the company has delivered on that. Still, with so many different options out there, even just from Amazon itself at this point, one has to wonder if the Apple ecosystem and better sound quality are enough to push a potential buyer over the edge and spend a bit more to do so.
It might not work for everyone. What about you? Do you plan on picking up a HomePod?