Can the Second Generation Apple HomePod Save the Smart Speaker?

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By Amit

As resurrections go, no one is going to write a holy tome about the return of the Apple HomePod. Before it was announced alongside the new MacBook Pro this month, the second coming of Apple’s smart speaker seemed about as likely as a return for the iPod Sock or quartz-powered Apple Watch. Usually, when Tim Cook and co. release a brand new product and then discontinue it three years later, it doesn’t get another shot at success. And yet here we are in the year of our lord 2023 with a revitalized HomePod to contend with. Truly, these are blessed days indeed.

So why exactly has Apple gone back to the well again? In essence, the smart home arena is finally about to get interesting and that means the HomePod makes more sense than ever before. Now admittedly, this is exactly the kind of thing that has been said for the best part of the decade about a technology that promises to automate and simplify your humble abode. Still, that doesn’t mean that we’re wrong this time. Also, the original HomePod was actually a pretty good product to begin with. Don’t believe us? Here’s our verdict on the second-gen speaker after a week spent in its company.

In defense of the HomePod

Nowadays it’s well-established—even by the kind of hi-fi snobs whose life-force is derived from ‘70s era Tangerine Dream—that Apple makes a quality audio kit. Before the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max came along, it was the HomePod that set down a marker for its maker’s ambitions. Since this second-gen model broadly sticks to the same design as its predecessor, that top-tier status remains.

Inside its slick mesh fabric construction, the HomePod is comprised of five tweeters, a four-inch high-excursion woofer and Apple’s latest S7 chip to tune this boombox to its environment. The result is a speaker that sounds better than the Sonos One, better than the Google Nest Audio, and infinitely superior to the Amazon Echo, especially if you sync up two of these speakers in a stereo pairing. Then you can truly sink into the depths of Samia’s indie sad-pop, vibe with SZA’s lusty R&B, and embrace the ribald punk of Fucked Up’s latest LP. Even on its lonesome, the HomePod provides ample depth, clarity, and separation when blasting out your tunes of choice. Considering its $299 price tag, you’d expect as much.

If you’ve got an Apple TV 4K and two HomePods—admittedly a quite specific set of circumstances—you can use your speakers to control your TV’s sound as well. It’s a good idea in theory with the combo carrying enough muscle to do justice to The Last of Us’ barbaric bombast, as well as the nuance for comedic fare in the form of Shrinking. The catch? You’ll need a spare eARC HDMI connection on your TV to get the job done, which means sacking off any existing soundbar setup you may already have, and finding the space for two speakers on either side of your TV may not be feasible.

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