Apple HomePod and why it sounds so good
The reviews for Apple’s HomePod are in and one thing everyone agrees on is just how good this new smart speaker sounds.
Apple is pretty late to the party with its intelligent music maker but there seems to be no question that, if you’re an audiophile, it was well worth the wait.
Despite its rivals being hugely popular, many suffer from poor audio performance.
But Apple is bucking this trend as the HomePod’s sound credentials are pretty spectacular.
Express.co.uk recently reviewed this all-new speaker saying, “It outshines all of the competition with an audio quality that’s rich, booming with bass yet packed full of the finest detail.
“When the HomePod is in full swing it’s hard to believe such sensational sound is coming from a device that’s so small.”
So how has Apple managed to do this when so many smart speakers have failed in the past?
Apple’s custom anechoic chamber in Cupertino used to develop the HomePod’s audio quality
To find out, we took a trip to the firm’s HQ in Cupertino to get an exclusive glimpse of the technology behind this latest speaker and it’s no surprise why the HomePod is leaving the competition in its wake.
Tucked away in a secret location, the dedicated HomePod team have been busy working on this device for a number of years.
Apple has enlisted some of the world’s best audio experts to help them create this new speaker with Phil Schiller, Senior Vice President Worldwide Marketing, telling us: “We care deeply about music at Apple, we’ve said that through the years and over many products.
“From iPod, iTunes, Apple Music to the speakers in the iPad and now the HomePod.
“We’ve built a pretty amazing audio engineering team to be able to make products that not only we are proud of but push the boundaries of what people thought could be done”.
Leading that team is senior director of Audio Design and Engineering Gary Geeves, a British sound guru who has worked for some leading audio manufacturers including Bowers and Wilkins.
A small chamber in Apple’s Noise & Vibration lab used to detect unwanted noises
Showing us around his lab you’re instantly struck by the intricate level of detail that Apple goes to to create its products.
There’s not a single part of the HomePod that hasn’t been agonised over with each of its seven tweeters and high-excursion woofer tweaked and fine-tuned until they simply can’t sound any better.
To help create the perfect environment Apple has even built an unique anechoic chamber just to test the HomePod.
The idea behind this foam-filled area is that it’s completely isolated from the outside world meaning no sound contamination ever affects the audio tests.
In fact it’s so well built that even the noise from the construction of Apple’s new HQ being built nearby couldn’t penetrate its walls.
Stepping inside this giant room is strange experience with it appearing so silent you can almost hear your own heart beating.
This chamber has been completely custom built and even the equipment and software that puts the speaker through its paces have been designed and made by Apple to make sure the optimum sound is achieved.
Hours of testing have gone into producing the HomePod’s exception audio
This incredible audio chamber has allowed the US technology firm to check every minute detail of the way the HomePod sounds with Apple even spending many hours listening for any defects or unwanted noises that could spoil the user experience.
“I think HomePod reflects the near obsessive way Apple goes about designing products” said Geeves.
“We have drawn on experts from many elite audio companies and universities and really assembled something really fantastic I think.”
One of the clever parts of the HomePod is its ability to monitor the room it’s been placed in.
When against a wall or on a bookshelf, the A8 chip that’s tucked inside can analyses the music and then appropriately beam direct energy and centre vocals into the middle of the room, while reflecting the ambient reverb and backup vocals against the wall for dispersion in the room.
The end result is an incredibly wide soundstage with a feeling of spaciousness and depth.
The entire process happens automatically and takes just seconds.
A quiet Noise & Vibration chamber in Apple’s sound lab in Cupertino used to measure the noise
It’s this advanced technology that Apple excels at but the sound isn’t the only thing the HomePod has to be good at.
This is of course a smart speaker so the firm has had to spend hours making sure its Siri assistant hears every command from its owner.
To do this, Apple visited real homes where they carried out thousands of measurements to get the optimal room environment.
Once this had been achieved they then built the perfect room inside the lab which even features the ability to test different background sounds which the HomePod may face in real life.
Explaining more Geeves told us: ”Reverberation is a problem for speech recognition. This room has typical acoustics.
“The way we did that was to go to the homes of hundreds of Apple employees and measure different rooms.”
It’s this obsessive level of detail that has mean’t Apple has created one of the best sounding speakers on the market and one the audio team should be immensely proud of.
It’s ability to create such depth of sound, even at low volumes, is a testament to the endless hours of rigorous testing.
HomePod may be behind its rivals with such a late launch but it’s way ahead when it comes to sound.