14(+) things we just learned about Apple’s HomePod (Updated)

Here comes the HomePod

Apple’s HomePod systems are hitting the streets.

Set to ship in Australia, the U.S. and UK February 9, HomePod is already sold out on pre-order in Australia, UK and running low in America. As the release day hype builds, the first behind the scenes insights into the device have emerged. Here’s what we learned about HomePod this morning:

Development took over six years

Apple has been working on audio products for over five years inside its top secret Apple Audio Lab.

The audio team

Apple’s audio team has been around for over a decade. It isn’t just responsible for speakers, it also handles tasks like minimizing the sound Macs make when used. Their work is very complex, one part of the group works to prevent Apple products making annoying buzzing noises.T he team is led by Gary Geaves, who is from the UK.

Proper proprietary

The system contains numerous Apple-designed proprietary components. Apple designed its own tweeters and the subwoofer.

I mean really, really proprietary

From Loop Insight: “Even the fabric mesh that covers HomePod was designed by the acoustic team in collaboration with other Apple teams to make sure it was acoustically transparent, but still met all of Apple’s other standards.”

20mm

The .79-inch subwoofer moves back and forth by 20mm inside the 7-inch high machine.

[Also read: Essential Siri HomePod Apple Music commands]

360-degrees

While designing the system, Apple’s boffins focused on ensuring the system would be capable of figuring out how to deliver the best sound in complex environments, such as rooms in which you find both soft and hard furnishings.

Optimized folded horn geometry

No, it’s not some new fetish, optimised folded horn geometry is actually a thing that describes the technology HomePod uses to direct high frequency sounds accurately, which helps create a sense of space and depth during music playback.

Non-stop

The microphone array inside HomePod listens to and adjusts the music playback constantly to achieve good results. The A8 processor is even capable of separating background elements from songs in order to bounce those sounds of walls to enhance the perceived sound stage.

Home visits

While developing the product the audio team visitied hundreds of Apple employee homes to figure out how to resolve echoe problems.

Secret chambers

Apple has built a number of silent ‘anechoic’ chambers, Metro claims few (if any) of its competitors have made such an investment in sound design.

The chambers are complex

David Phelan claims one chamber is built on a slab of concrete that weighs 28 tons with foot thick metal walls that weight 27 tons more.

One of the biggest

Apple’s largest chamber is one of the biggest in the U.S., says LoopInsight.

Seriously Siri

The work done using these chambers is why Siri does such a great job hearing what you have to say. Apple has done a lot of work to help HomePod identify your voice above background noise.

It’s virtually stereo

The system does such a good job with sound that the audio you hear is virtually stereo. Apple hasn’t claimed this, and in a few months you will be able to use two of these together to make a less virtual stereo.

The result? It sounds great

All the early reviewers seem to agree that HomePod sounds great. Ben Bajarin puts it this way: “I can say, with absolute confidence, the HomePod will be the best sounding speaker many people have ever owned,” he wrote. He also says the Alexa-powered Sonos Play One is the next best option – you’ll currently find these for just $149 on Amazon, in comparison to the HomePod’s $349.

Set-up is simple

Waft your iPhone near it and you’re done. It takes around a minute.

But no radio

Oh, come on Apple. We like radio. At present HomePod will only play Apple Music radio – surely it would be good to figure a way to make more radio available?

What else have you learned about HomePod? Let us all know in comments below.

It doesn’t stop there

Apple has developed a bunch of tech in building HomePod that it already admits will appear in other Apple products.

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Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

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