Apple has recently released the HomePod, the company’s version of a high-end smart speaker. But how does the sound quality measure up to existing models like the Google Home Max and Sonos One?
While smart speakers have been around for a few years at this point, the scene is gradually shifting more towards a focus on sound quality as the smart functionality has continued to improve. As the novelty of a voice-activated speaker has started to pale, more customers are looking for a media center that sounds great in addition to featuring the intelligence to interpret and respond to commands. The Apple $350 HomePod joins the $200 Sonos One and the $400 Google Home Max as some of the highest-quality smart speakers around, but does the Apple HomePod perform well enough to hang with these existing audio powerhouses? According to various media sources around the web, Apple’s newest smart speaker falls short when it comes to sound quality.
It’s important to note that the Apple HomePod does have high-end audio quality, but when compared to the performance of the Google Home Max and the Sonos One, it fails to offer any significant improvements over these tried and true competitors.
When we first saw the HomePod announced, it was a novel idea. With the Amazon Echo and Google Home being the only mainstream smart speakers on the market, a system that prioritized sound quality was hotly anticipated by audiophiles that wanted to retain fidelity while taking advantage of smart features. However, during the development of the product, the Google Home Max and Sonos One released – giving us what we were looking for and making what the HomePod had to offer a little less attractive.
Overall, many reviews rate the Apple HomePod audio as “Very Good” – a similar rating to the Google Home Max and Sonos One – but put it slightly behind those two in the overall score.
Music fans will generally be impressed with the performance of the HomePod, but testers from ConsumerReports have reported that the bass was a bit boomy and overemphasized. Midrange tones were also somewhat hazy, which resulted in some of the nuance from vocal, guitars, and horns being lost. Treble sounds were also underemphasized, but the volume was generally loud enough and suited to the room.
Also worth noting is that the HomePod doesn’t currently have the capability to support multiple speakers, but that functionality is apparently coming later this year.
When it comes to sound quality on a single speaker, the Google Home Max edges out the other two competitors. However, with a price of $400 vs the $200 Sonos One, a setup of two Sonos speakers puts the overall sound quality extremely close to that of the Google smart speaker.
While sound quality is a chief concern for many looking to purchase a high-end smart speaker, this is far from the only consideration when trying to decide on a new feature. If audio quality matters above all else, we recommend going with the Google Home Max or two Sonos One smart speakers. However, the Apple HomePod is definitely still in the running – especially if you’re heavily invested in the Apple Ecosystem.
While Apple made a big deal out of talking up the sound quality of their HomePod, it turned out that it failed to reinvent the wheel once consumers got their hands on it. As a luxury smart speaker, it generally keeps up with the competition but fails to stand out in a major way when it comes to audio. Where the HomePod does excel, however, is its virtual assistant.
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, integrated into the Sonos One and Google Home respectively, are quality virtual helpers. When it comes to controlling your music, however, the HomePod comes out on top. With the ability to answer questions like “Who plays bass on this song?” and other specific musical queries, it’s a perfect companion for the serious music enthusiast. However, the HomePod does fall behind when it comes to app integration when compared to the Alexa and Google Assistant functionalities.
If you don’t have an iOS device, however, the Apple HomePod is nearly useless, considering you need one to get it set up. For those who enjoy Apple products, the new smart speaker may be right up their alley. The sound quality, however, while extremely competitive, falls behind the winner of this comparison – the Google Home Max.
If sound quality is your chief concern, we highly recommend purchasing a Google Home Max or pairing two Sonos One smart speakers. Both options end up being a similar price and offer similar performance, so it essentially comes down to whether you prefer Amazon Alexa or the Google Home as your virtual assistant. Due to the fact that it’s been around a while longer, Alexa seems to offer more features, but the Google Assistant is rapidly gaining ground. Overall, the three speakers are incredibly close, but the Apple HomePod, unfortunately, lags behind.