The first hands-on experience with the new second-generation HomePod has provided new details on the quality and performance of the latest smart speaker compared to the original HomePod from a few years ago.
TechRadar‘s Lance Ulanoff had the opportunity to listen to the new HomePod during an Apple media listening session and shared his thoughts on the quality and performance of the HomePod.
Ulanoff says the new HomePod handles the separation of vocals, instruments and tracks with “excellent” precision when listening to songs like Ingrid Michaelson’s “Everybody.” “What struck me immediately with a single HomePod 2 is the excellent separation between acoustic instruments and their voice. I could clearly see a tambourine, guitar and drums as distinct elements in the air,” Ulanoff said.
A challenge that typical speakers often face is that the louder the volume, the more distorted the sound can become. Ulanoff said the new HomePod delivers “aural clarity” with no distortion, even at volume levels up to 90%. According to Ulanoff, the new HomePod has a built-in sensor that can measure the system’s internal temperature and, under ideal conditions, “can boost performance even further.”
Like the original HomePod, the new model has spatial awareness but offers better performance thanks to advanced computer audio and upgraded hardware like the S7 chip. With spatial audio, the new HomePod can provide an immersive 360-degree listening experience, either alone or in a stereo pair.
One of the interesting things about the new HomePod 2 is its spatial awareness. When listening to music from a single and then a stereo pair of HomePod 2 devices, I noticed that the sounds often didn’t seem to be coming directly from the HomePods (thanks Spatial Audio!). Some came from the left, some from the right, and some (usually, but not always, vocals) from the center. The most interesting sounds, however, were the ones that almost seemed to overwhelm me; They bounced off the back wall (maybe a foot from the HomePod 2) and then rose and, I’m guessing here, bounced from the walls to the ceiling to my ears.
Ulanoff called a stereo pair of new HomePods “awesome,” adding that certain songs felt like they were “coming from behind and in front of me.” The soundstage was so wide and deep that it didn’t matter where I was standing in the room,” Ulanoff concluded. It’s worth noting that first-generation HomePods can’t be used in a stereo pair with the newer model, according to Apple.
Internals of the new second-generation HomePod
Visually, the new HomePod looks like the original smart speaker, with a larger backlit touch surface and a slightly shorter design. Internally, the new model has two fewer tweeters and mics than the original HomePod, which was likely a cost-cutting decision. The tweeters and microphones are “slanted upwards to avoid audio being distorted by reflections from the surface the speaker sits on,” according to Ulanoff.
Like the original HomePod, thanks to a combination of four microphones and the S7 chip, the new speaker can quickly analyze its placement in a room to adjust audio accordingly in just 20 seconds. An accelerometer is also built in to detect movement and readjust its spatial analysis.
The new HomePod comes about two years after Apple discontinued its original smart speaker. The first-generation HomePod wasn’t the market success Apple had hoped for due to its hefty price tag of $349 at launch and limited integration with third-party services. We’ll be taking a closer look at the new HomePod as media reports surface in the days leading up to its launch on Friday, February 3rd.