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The Computer Audiophile

Article: Apple HomePod Review - An Audiophile Perspective

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I did a critical listen to the HomePod on the Apple Store shelf, at least as best I could given the store noise in the evenings.  I wish I could have turned the bass compensation down a little, but it wasn't bad.  The treble was never peaky or irritating like so many things I've heard.  It's not audiophile sound, and while I didn't try to estimate its absolute tonality for things like piano or upright bass, it seemed adequate for background play, or checking out new music to buy or not buy.  I'd love to purchase two of them, but I'll wait for the Bluetooth-operated version.  I had some self-powered Audioengine speakers that weren't bad, but I like the multi-directional concept the HomePod was designed for.

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23 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

 

2. On my preamp about 24 inches from the rear wall and between my amps and speakers. 

 

If position 2 is what is shown in your main photo that might be a tough ask for an omidirectional speaker that has the tweeters located towards the bottom of the speaker. It looks like the perforated sides of the amps are less then 12 inches from the sides of the speaker. Probably less of of a question mark when you only have a forward firing tweeter but with 7 tweeters firing around 360 degrees ?

 Of course it is a;ways easy for someone to look at things after you have done the hard yards and throw up options that may have given you a better result. But equally important it may be worth people reading your review, perhaps people with less experience, understanding that your speaker placement may not have been optimised and for most speakers speaker placement can make a significant difference. Particularly if your reference is a high end system.

 

Regards

Mark

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1 hour ago, twist222 said:

If position 2 is what is shown in your main photo that might be a tough ask for an omidirectional speaker that has the tweeters located towards the bottom of the speaker. It looks like the perforated sides of the amps are less then 12 inches from the sides of the speaker. Probably less of of a question mark when you only have a forward firing tweeter but with 7 tweeters firing around 360 degrees ?

 Of course it is a;ways easy for someone to look at things after you have done the hard yards and throw up options that may have given you a better result. But equally important it may be worth people reading your review, perhaps people with less experience, understanding that your speaker placement may not have been optimised and for most speakers speaker placement can make a significant difference. Particularly if your reference is a high end system.

 

Regards

Mark

Hi Mark - Can you say why it’s a tough ask for this speaker? It senses its environment and adjusts automatically. 


Founder of Audiophile Style

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On 2/21/2018 at 7:12 AM, atban said:

There is nothing verifiable in this article.

If verifiability was critical to this avocation, I would not find talking about it very interesting.


Jim

 

Harlan Howard's definition of a great country song: "Three chords and the truth."

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Odd, atban joined on Wednesday morning made one awkward comment (that's fine) but hasn't been back since that morning.  Maybe just testing the waters.


PC/NAS/JRiver/Roon - PS Audio P5 Regenerator - KEF LS50 Nocturne - Rel 328 subwoofer - PS Audio AC5 Power cables 

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An epilogue for me on the conversation...

 

i am am sitting in front of a Klipsch The Three right now that my neighbor ordered for their remodeled kids playroom.  Although it’s impossible to do critical listening during a birthday party for a 3 year old girl and friends, it seems to be a pleasant enough sounding box that fills a 18’x18’ room pretty well.  The owner likes it.

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On 2/20/2018 at 2:14 AM, The Computer Audiophile said:

Hi Mark - Can you say why it’s a tough ask for this speaker? It senses its environment and adjusts automatically. 

 

Chris,

 

Having high frequency drivers firing into a half height wall located about 8 inches from the driver would not be my preferred option for critical listening. Of course if I want make it a bit tougher I can have perforations in the walls with the diameter of the peferations within the range of wavelengths cover by the high frequency driver. I understand the 7 high frequency drivers are mounted around the botom half of the HomePod.

Yes you can rely on DSP to try and correct for speaker placement but as per my original post "I understand it does have does have DSP capability and some people will place it were the wife gives it the highest acceptance factor but like all audiophiles we will put more effort into speaker placement before undertaking critical listening."

Hence my comment on it being a "tough ask" with that speaker placement when you are undertaking critical listening for a review.

 

Regards

Mark

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8 minutes ago, twist222 said:

 

Chris,

 

Having high frequency drivers firing into a half height wall located about 8 inches from the driver would not be my preferred option for critical listening. Of course if I want make it a bit tougher I can have perforations in the walls with the diameter of the peferations within the range of wavelengths cover by the high frequency driver. I understand the 7 high frequency drivers are mounted around the botom half of the HomePod.

Yes you can rely on DSP to try and correct for speaker placement but as per my original post "I understand it does have does have DSP capability and some people will place it were the wife gives it the highest acceptance factor but like all audiophiles we will put more effort into speaker placement before undertaking critical listening."

Hence my comment on it being a "tough ask" with that speaker placement when you are undertaking critical listening for a review.

 

Regards

Mark

Hi Mark - Wouldn’t the DSP just adjust for those tweeters firing at the close wall?


Founder of Audiophile Style

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29 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Hi Mark - Wouldn’t the DSP just adjust for those tweeters firing at the close wall?

I don’t know what the capability of the DSP in the HomePod might be. Do you know of any DSP that can currently correct for half the HF drivers output firing into a very close wall with the over half going over the wall ? Add to that perferations in the wall and then have all the calculations performed by an A8 chip ?

Like many here I have used DSP to make final corrections but that has always been after trying my best to optimise my speaker placement first. 

‘How have you found optimising speaker placement compares with relying on DSP to try and correct for less than optimal speaker placement.

Regards

Mark

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Given that the HomePod has microphones for listening and correcting DSP I don’t believe it matters if this thing has tweeters firing at the wall. It would be a pretty dumb design if the rear-firing tweeters continued to blast high frequencies at the wall. 


Founder of Audiophile Style

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Hello,

 

Executive Summary: Don't fool yourself into thinking this is an audiophile product. It's a me too voice control product that happens to play audio. 

 

Apple doesn't make me too products & this has very little to do with voice control. Please see below review for a much bigger picture.

 

http://appleinsider.com/articles/18/02/28/how-homepod-leverages-apples-silicon-expertise-to-deliver-advanced-audio-performance

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9 minutes ago, Osterberg said:

Hello,

 

Executive Summary: Don't fool yourself into thinking this is an audiophile product. It's a me too voice control product that happens to play audio. 

 

Apple doesn't make me too products & this has very little to do with voice control. Please see below review for a much bigger picture.

 

http://appleinsider.com/articles/18/02/28/how-homepod-leverages-apples-silicon-expertise-to-deliver-advanced-audio-performance

Thanks for the link. I'm reading the entire thing, but am struggling after then ends this way, "Here's an in-depth look at what makes HomePod not just an interesting product, but new product category with the ability to change how users experience audio at home."

 

The HomePod is so late to this category it's laughable. 

 

Now back to reading. 


Founder of Audiophile Style

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OK, just read the entire article that recaps Apple's marketing material. IT talked about AirPlay 2 being this great thing that's coming soon. Sonos has had all those capabilities for many years. Apple is way behind for this me too product. Apple had to get something in the marketplace before Amazon and Google completely took over. This is why it released a product that is clearly not ready for primetime. Siri works terribly on the unit and AirPlay 2 is coming soon. 

 

I fail to see anything in that advertorial piece that suggests the HomePod is anything but what I've described. 


Founder of Audiophile Style

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No, not a vested interest at all, just an appreciation for excellent quality & well thought out products. I simply like the way they think. Apple never rushes anything to market, in fact they are usually last. If they did, Homepod would have been out for Christmas.

 

As for Sonos, etc. having things out first - who cares? What is point of having these personal speakers?

The "sound" is all that matters. 

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On 2/19/2018 at 8:14 AM, The Computer Audiophile said:

 It senses its environment and adjusts automatically. 

 

 

I'd like to know if it  can sense being shoved all the way into a corner and adjust automatically. 


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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On 2/25/2018 at 11:22 PM, The Computer Audiophile said:

Given that the HomePod has microphones for listening and correcting DSP I don’t believe it matters if this thing has tweeters firing at the wall. It would be a pretty dumb design if the rear-firing tweeters continued to blast high frequencies at the wall. 

 

Hi Chris,

Looks like we are going to have to agree to disagree on this. I am used to reading HiFi reviews where the reviewer adjusts the positioning of the speaker/s to obtain the best sound and the response is not to rely on DSP to adjust for less than optimal positioning. These reviews usually even provide commentary on how the sound of the speaker changes with changes in positioning, particularly when initial placement resulted  in a less than even perceived frequency response.

 

Regards

Mark

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The HomePod like all "smart speakers" that are marketed as assistant devices, that can stream your favorite music from some source of your choice that the product supports.  Set it down anywhere and ask it questions or play music.  Apple is trying to take it a step further by saying there product sounds amazing compared to the other "smart speakers".  To compare the Pod to all the other products you have to treat as such.  So place it anywhere, end table, coffee table, kitchen countertop, fireplace mantel ect..  It should require no special placement or fine adjustments when operating, that goes for reviewers too. 

 

At $349 is it a good buy?  Maybe, not expensive by any means for an Apple product.  For the average Joe it's probably to much.  If your in the apple ecosystem I would have expected something more refined.  Maybe they'll come out with a few more models in the future but Apple usually gets it right on the first try.  Having heard this product at several stores and at my neighbors house, I'm not that impressed. My neighbor by the way has a pawn shop bought Kenwood receiver with Andrew Jones engineered Pioneer speakers SP-BS22 ($80 he paid for everything) that sounded pretty damn good for the price. 

 

I think the HomePod is good but nothing special.  Now factor in the price compared to the other competitors and what do get. This kind of reminds of the Bose Wave system first marketed a couple of decades ago.  Although Bose was/is far more expensive and like the sound of the Wave or not it could easily fill the room and tell time :).  YMMV


PC/NAS/JRiver/Roon - PS Audio P5 Regenerator - KEF LS50 Nocturne - Rel 328 subwoofer - PS Audio AC5 Power cables 

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2 hours ago, twist222 said:

 

Hi Chris,

Looks like we are going to have to agree to disagree on this. I am used to reading HiFi reviews where the reviewer adjusts the positioning of the speaker/s to obtain the best sound and the response is not to rely on DSP to adjust for less than optimal positioning. These reviews usually even provide commentary on how the sound of the speaker changes with changes in positioning, particularly when initial placement resulted  in a less than even perceived frequency response.

 

Regards

Mark

I used two different locations. 

 

Adjusting this speaker to obtain obtain the best sound? That’s not possible because you can’t disable DSP while it’s positioned. 

 

I’ll happily accept my position as the opposite of a HiFi reviewer. 


Founder of Audiophile Style

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5 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Adjusting this speaker to obtain obtain the best sound? That’s not possible because you can’t disable DSP while it’s positioned. 

Chris,

Could you explain this a little further ?

 

Regards

Mark

 

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I understand trying to reduce the use of DSP. I understand disabling DSP while positioning loudspeakers and turn on DSP to get the last bit of quality. 

 

However, DSP is always enabled on the HomePod. There’s no way to properly position the HomePod. 


Founder of Audiophile Style

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