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Reddit audiophiles test HomePod, say it sounds better than $1,000 speaker (arstechnica.com)
30 points by mpweiher 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments

I have one, and it sounds great despite being in a large, cluttered, echoey room. And I can just say "Hey Siri, listen to Thelonius Monk" and boom.

I've had various complicated setups over the years, including vacuum tube class-A amps and CD players with separate DACs. They sounded great but required a lot of space and button pushing to hear something, while Spotify on my phone through a Bluetooth speaker was convenient but sounded weak, so it was a toss-up.

The HomePod is A+ convenience and A sound, so I'm converted.

What a very diplomatic way to call bullshit on someone (o;

But at the same time while advertising a glowing review for an Apple product. To me it seems like a good way to claim something is awesome and that everyone needs it without actually having to write that themselves.

Conspiracy Theory Time

It's not about being lazy... it's about protecting yourself from criticism when running an advertisement.

If a PR company wants to pay for a glowing review of their product, you can give it without really damaging your reputation if the product isn't great by featuring a story on someone else's review. I'm not saying that happened here, but there is no way they aren't testing the water for this approach.

I saw the same thing happen in Star Wars prequel promotion. When you see more stories about the line outside the theater, than actual reviews of the movie... something funny may be going on.

The review was very technical and very detailed. It measured the quality of sound, quantified as parameters, measurable by various calibrated instruments.

People may feel their costlier equipment sounds better, but the data says Home pods sound output is awesome value for money.

They were awaiting this review. They could've designed it to butt up against a $400 setup and sold a similar number of units. Given the current limitations on Siri and AirPlay this could even out the criticism, especially from the usual crowd that despises anything coming out of Cupertino. Sound is subjective but you can't argue against that response curve, awesome work Apple.

I wonder if the next iteration will be portable, possibly capable of any Bluetooth source and at a similar price.

Most non-pro 'audiophile' speakers are unadulterated crap. A 20 dollar boombox, minus the resonance of the case, usually has flatter response.

Unfortunately, 'flat response' and 'sounds good to a human' are not at all the same measurment. Otherwise I wouldn't bother with fussy distorting tube setups when recording.

Tldr: Its still subjective.

> Tldr: Its still subjective.

Sure, but you still want your speaker to recreate the input audio accurately. Any subjective effect desired can be added either when recording or after. If said effect is however "built-in" to the speaker you can't then go and turn it off if desired.

Lots of things wrong with this.

1) $1k is nothing in the world of hi-fi. Unfortunately, loudspeakers are one product where price absolutely does matter. Why? Well designed drivers tend to be expensive and have heavy magnets (or even more expensive rare-earth magnets). Acoustically non-harmful cabinets are expensive to produce and heavy to ship. The speakers they're comparing them to are not hi-fi. They're cheap home theater speakers.

2) Flat frequency response is a small part of perceived sound quality. Thought experiment: Buy $10 computer speakers and EQ them flat with a software EQ. Do they magically sound good? Of course not. Distortion, off-axis response, room interaction -- these are just as important.

3) "Audiophile" quality usually means a strong / stable phantom image. Most people haven't heard this before since true hi-fi system are rare. A properly designed system in a properly set up a room, with a properly recorded album -- the illusion that the band is in the room with you is very strong. This isn't even possible with a mono speaker.

4) Small speakers do not produce a meaningful amount of bass at normal listening levels. No amount of DSP can cheat physics. Without the lowest 1-2 octaves, you do not have high fidelity.

I have a small Sony bluetooth speaker on my desk. It's acoustically somewhat similar to the HomePod in the sense that it has high frequency drivers crossed over to a (inadequate) bass driver at a relatively low frequency. This type of design can have a pronounced clarity in the vocal range, which can be nice for some recordings.

Sony EQ'd the shit out of them and boosted the bass in the 100hz region (or more accurately and to their credit, shelved everything else). They don't sound bad. But you can't beat physics. The bass driver is too small. The stereo pair are too close together to create a phantom image. Their max output is very limited.

The HomePod isn't any different. Yes, it can EQ itself flat. But for where? The listening position? It can't EQ any more bass than that small driver is capable of producing -- which is probably not much below 60-70hz at normal listening levels. Room modes dominate in-room frequency response below 100hz. EQ can't fix room modes. More drivers at different positions can. Two (as in a stereo pair) would be a bit better. Two or three dedicated subwoofers at random locations would be best (yes, it's that hard to get right).

EQ also can't fix room contribution above ~1khz if that contribution is dominated by reflections. Omnidirectional speakers like the HomePod are actually the worst in this regard. (Directional speakers are the best, but that's a big topic). These reflections mask the recorded reflections / timings that allows your brain to construct a phantom -- the band is here -- image.

That's not to say they sound terrible. Omnidirectional speakers can sound "spacious" because of all of those reflections. A lot of drivers can mean more output / less distortion. But then you're anchored by your tiny bass driver. Good? Maybe. High fidelity? No.

The cynic in me says this is guerrilla marketing by Apple. Doesn't really matter. The product is a good example of what's "killing" Apple -- optimizing for a set of largely arbitrary metrics to fit the marketing style they seem incapable of moving beyond.

I put "killing" in quotes because obviously they're doing well. They are losing core supporters though, myself included. My new top of the line Macbook Pro has me swearing at least once a day (usually the window server crashing when I connect external monitors). And that touch bar, FFS...

What do you mean by "not much below 60-70hz?" I presume you saw the graph that shows the bass drops off between 35-40. Is that not much below?

Also, what speakers in the price range of the KEFs in the article would you put against the HomePod to show the deficiencies of the HomePod?

I guess it depends on the volume. Pretty much any speaker should be able to get a flat frequency response with appropriate filtering at low volumes.

Edit: The reddit review did check at multiple volumes, including 100%. Impressive if true.

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