One of the first hands-on experiences with the new second-generation HomePod provided new details about the quality and performance of the latest smart speaker compared to the original HomePod launched in 2018.
Tech RadarLance Ulanoff had the opportunity to listen to the new HomePod during a hearing by Apple to members of the media and share his experience with the speaker.
According to Olanov, the new HomePod handles separating vocals, instruments, and tracks with “excellent” accuracy when listening to songs like Ingrid Michaelson’s “Everybody.” “What I noticed right away, from a single HomePod 2, was the excellent separation between the vocal instruments and their sound. I could clearly pick out the tambourine, guitar, and drum kit as highlights in the air,” said Ulanov.
One of the challenges with typical amplifiers is that the higher the volume, the more distorted the sound becomes. Even with volume at 90%, Ulanov said, the new HomePod delivers “auditory clarity” without distortion. According to Ulanoff, the new HomePod has a sensor built into its design that can measure the system’s internal temperature and, if under ideal conditions, can “power up even further.”
Like the original HomePod, the new model has spatial awareness, but with better performance thanks to advanced computational audio and improved hardware, like the S7 chip. With spatial audio, the new HomePod, either alone or in a stereo pair, can deliver an immersive 360-degree listening experience.
One of the interesting things about the new HomePod 2 is its spatial awareness. When I listened to music from one pair and then stereo from the HomePod 2 devices, I noticed how the sounds often didn’t sound like they were coming directly from the HomePods (thanks to Spatial Audio!). Some were coming from the left, others from the right, and still others (often, but not always, singing) from dead center. The most interesting sounds, however, were those that seemed to drown me out; They would jump off the back wall (maybe a foot away from the HomePod 2) and then up, I think here, jumping from walls to ceiling to my ear.
Ulanov called the stereo pair of the new HomePods “impressive,” adding that some songs sounded like they were “coming from behind and in front of me. The sound stage was so wide and deep that it didn’t matter where I stood in the field.” It should be noted that the first-generation HomePods cannot be used in a stereo pair with the newer model, according to Apple.
The new HomePod 2nd generation internals
Visually, the new HomePod is very similar to the original smart speaker, but with a larger backlit touch interface and a slightly shorter design. Internally, the new model has fewer speakers and microphones than the original HomePod, which was likely a cost-cutting decision. According to Olanov, the speakers and microphones are “tilted upwards to avoid any sound being distorted by reflections from whatever surface the speaker sits on”.
Like the original HomePod, the new speaker can quickly analyze its position in a room to adjust sound accordingly in just 20 seconds, thanks to a combination of four microphones and an S7 chip. The built-in accelerometer also detects motion to allow the speaker to reset its room analysis.
The new HomePod comes about two years after Apple stopped producing the original smart speaker. The first generation HomePod failed to be the market success that Apple had hoped for, due to its high price of $349 at launch and limited integration with third-party services. We’ll get a closer look at the new HomePod when media reviews are released in the days leading up to its launch on Friday, February 3.
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