Listen, I’d be going to more concerts if it wasn’t for the cost and the crowds and the rigamaroll involved in getting to the venue. Now, after a very short hearing session with the new Apple HomePod 2, I probably don’t need to go anywhere. Good music experience.
As much as Apple’s new HomePod 2 looks like its predecessor, it’s very different. After Apple’s surprise launch, I looked at pictures of the new audio components versus the old ones. Basically, everything is different.
Inside the new HomePod 2 is a high-motion amplifier with a dedicated amplifier, five tweeters (each paired with a dedicated amplifier), and a four-microphone far field array. There’s even a sensor that monitors how the system is performing (including its internal temperature) to see if it can power up further…
Inside the original HomePod vs. the 2nd Gen HomePod. Seems like a cleaner build and some repositioning of audio components like, say, the tweet array. pic.twitter.com/FdsUgqfnkSJanuary 18, 2023
Yes, that’s fewer speakers than the original HomePod, but this is a new device, and all of the speakers are angled upwards to avoid any sound being distorted by reflections from whatever surface the speaker sits on.
The mesh fabric is a bit like the last HomePod, though it’s made from recyclable materials and designed not to have a muting effect on audio.
These are all things you can learn by reading the publicly available specs page on new audio hardware. But after my listening experience, I believe nothing can fully prepare you for the HomePod 2’s impressive sound quality.
Because of the HomePod 2’s design, you can expect 360-degree sound, but that simplistic term is misleading. Based on my listening experience, the HomePod 2 uses its convoluted sonic skills and the technology that supports it to create an impressive and immersive soundscape.
We started with a song called Everybody by Ingrid Michaelson. I sat maybe eight feet away from the speakers in a medium-sized, high-ceilinged living room. It’s a beautiful tune, with Mitchellson’s clear, bright, and plaintive voice front and center. What I noticed right away, from a single HomePod 2, was the excellent separation between the instruments and their sound. I can clearly pick out the tambourine, guitar, and drum set as the highlights in the air. I wish I could have listened to the whole song, Michelson’s voice is kinda magical.
Next up was Cool Sounds’ funky Six or Seven More. With this, I got the chance to experience surprisingly strong, rich, and warm bass. What I noticed is that even with a solid base beat, the music was never muddy. The HomePod 2 gave me an idea of where the original instruments were during the recording session.
Part of the HomePod 2’s musical skills can be added to the S7 chip (yes, the same as in the Apple Watch 7) and the advanced computational audio application. HomePod 2 essentially listens to itself and makes quick adjustments to improve sound quality, just as the first did — but now with even more computational power.
The HomePod 2 was adept at delivering audio clarity at everything from 30% to 90% volume. 90% was high but not in a bad way. It was a moment when I thought I was walking into a dive bar to hear a really cool indie band.
One of the interesting things about the new HomePod 2 is its spatial awareness. When I listened to music from one pair and then stereo from the HomePod 2 devices, I noticed how the sounds often didn’t sound like they were coming directly from the HomePods (thanks to Spatial Audio!). Some were coming from the left, others from the right, and still others (often, but not always, singing) from dead center. The most interesting sounds, however, were those that seemed to drown me out; They would jump off the back wall (maybe a foot away from the HomePod 2) and then up, I think here, jumping from walls to ceiling to my ear.
The HomePod’s awareness of space comes courtesy of all those microphones that can read a room in about 20 seconds and adjust sound to fit the space. The HomePod 2 has an accelerometer so it knows when it’s on the move, and as a new song plays in a new space, it will quickly reset.
Listening to Faith by The Weeknd, I could really hear this soundscape of the electronica building in the area behind the HomePods 2 then slowly moved forward until the entire auditory landscape immersed me. And of course, the bass was smooth and moving without getting in the way of her bright falsetto.
I really enjoyed listening to Yebba’s Boomerang. There are many distinct acoustic instruments to choose from, right down to human hands hitting the drum.
A pair of HomePod 2 speakers were even more impressive.
The mysterious lady by Macego and Don Tolliver seemed to come from behind and in front of me. The sound stage was so wide and deep that it didn’t matter where you stood in the room. This is not to say dead center in front of the speakers was not the optimal auditory experience. It was, but I was just as happy to stand farther away or stand in a corner and listen.
A live recording of The Eagles’ Hotel California highlighted the speaker’s ability to lift individual instruments up front. I waited impatiently for Don Henley to start singing, not realizing the prelude runs about a minute into the song. [Note from our Audio Editor: “Ah, first time?”] The left and right separation of the song and the HomePod 2 stereo pair’s ability to put audience claps and reaction to the side made it sound like a real live performance.
Captured in the void of this tiny experiment, the new HomePod 2 delivers impressive soundtracks for a $299 / £299 / AU$479 smart speaker. That’s right, I said smart speaker, because there’s a lot the HomePod 2 can do, but if you want nothing more than some of the best music you’ve listened to in a while, it’s probably worth checking out and the HomePod 2 could head on our list of the best speakers. smart sound.