14(+) things we just learned about Apple’s HomePod (Updated)
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.
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.”
The .79-inch subwoofer moves back and forth by 20mm inside the 7-inch high machine.
[Also read: Essential Siri HomePod Apple Music commands]
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.
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.
While developing the product the audio team visitied hundreds of Apple employee homes to figure out how to resolve echoe problems.
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
One of the biggest
Apple’s largest chamber is one of the biggest in the U.S., says LoopInsight.
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.