Apple’s HomePod ($349) is a new, wireless speaker from the tech giant that disrupted the entire music industry with its iPod music player. HomePod offers 360-degree sound and comes equipped with a microphone array that allows users to interact with Siri, Apple’s digital assistant. It also marks Apple’s first major hardware entry into the world of multi-room networked audio that’s dominated by Sonos.
Apple touts the HomePod as being a “powerful speaker.” A performance highlight is its high-excursion woofer that offers 20 mm of cone travel; that’s a lot for such a small speaker. A circular array of seven horn-loaded tweeters take advantage of beam-forming technology to adapt the sound to various circumstances. Furthermore, a built-in calibration mic performs automatic correction of bass frequencies
A six-microphone array allows the HomePod to hear your questions and commands. This can range from music requests to home automation and a wide variety of other tasks, like checking the news or setting a timer. Watch out Alexa, Siri looks like she’s ready to give you some competition.
In addition to voice commands, you can control the HomePod with touch. The top of the device responds to taps that allow you to play, pause, and adjust the volume. Plus, an integrated waveform LED animation lets you know that Siri hears what you’re saying.
Since it’s an Apple product, HomePod taps into Apple Music for access to and enormous catalog of recordings—40 million songs from over 2 million artists.
The HomePod has multi-room wireless-audio capability built in thanks to support for AirPlay 2, which operates over your Wi-Fi network. It’s compatible with 802.11a/b/g/n/ac routers.
Is this a Sonos killer? Only time will tell. But without question, Apple introducing a smart speaker is a potentially seminal moment. In typical Apple fashion, it’s not the first product of its kind, but its influence is sure to be huge. The HomePod will be available in “Space Gray” as well as white and measures 6.8″ (high) by 5.6″ (diameter).
If all this sounds great and you want a HomePod, there’s a catch: This intriguing speaker will not be available to consumers until December 2017.