This speaker sounds amazing. I have a full Sonos 5.1 (Playbar, subwoofer, and two Sonos 1's) setup in my living room. Last night, I brought the HomePod into the living room to do a side by side test. While the $350 HomePod is not as good as the $1800 Sonos surround system, it really held its own. Unsurprisingly, the Sonos offers more separation of sounds. There's over a dozen combined tweeters and woofers in the setup, physically located throughout the room. In spite of the HomePod's distinct disadvantage, it still sounded good in comparison. I was expecting it's sound like a transistor radio next to the Sonos system, but it didn't. There's a $1400 difference between these systems, but the sound difference doesn't sound like a $1400 difference. It sounds like maybe a couple hundred dollar difference.
The great thing about this speaker is how it can get loud without sounding like it's getting loud. The tones stay clean and undistorted. Thought it's one speaker, it distributes the sound throughout the room. If you were blindfolded, you could certainly tell the sound is coming from one point, but that's always the case unless you have a surround system.
I've also owned the Google Home Max. I liked that I could get a family plan for Google Play Music and not really pay any more per month because we're also Youtube Red subscribers. One less subscription in my life is a good thing. However, the Max almost never worked as advertised. I was constantly on the phone with support, who did a valiant job trying to fix my problems (the speakers would no longer take casts from my phone, music uploaded to the Google servers would not play via voice commands, and multiroom was intermittent).
On the sound front, the Google Home Max sounded great playing anything with lots of bass. If you're into dance music, rap, RnB, etc., and don't mind the bugs I've listed above, then maybe the Max is for you. My main complaint with the Home Max sound was that it sounded loud, even if it wasn't turned up all the way. I'm tempted to say it overplayed the mids, but I'm not a true audiophile. Maybe that's why I didn't think it sounded that great playing rock/metal/jazz.
I've found the HomePod matches the Max in those categories of music, while soundly bettering the Max in playing rock, classical, and jazz. People make much of the Max's bass, but I think the HomePod delivers a better bass with less distortion, especially at loud volume.
Now, there's Siri. She's a mess at most things. However, when it comes to getting music to play on the HomePod, she's quite good. Google Home and Alexa might know more, but Siri is better than both of them when it comes to responsiveness for playing music. When I had the Home Max, I'd have to yell at it in the morning to turn off my alarm (I also had white noise playing in the room as it helps me sleep). You have to speak about as loudly with the Home Max as the music it's playing. With the HomePod, I can whisper for her turn off my alarm and she gets it.
Would I ask her for directions, or who's playing in the game tonight? Or add an event to my calendar? Or set multiple timers? No. I wouldn't. She's not that smart. But, asking her to play a song from my music library or shut off an alarm? Absolutely.
Much has been made of the fact that HomePod doesn't "support" Spotify. However, that's only true in the sense that you can't voice command Siri to play your Spotify playlist. You can play media from any app that supports Airplay. That includes Spotify, Audible, podcast apps, and even Google Play Music.
Much has been made of the fact that HomePod doesn't support Bluetooth, to which I say, good! Bluetooth is a horrible technology, and anyone who's struggled to get their phone to play nice with the Bluetooth setup in their car knows exactly what I'm talking about. Airplay is a much superior technology and Bluetooth should go away.
I'm giving 5 stars because I'm completely satisfied with my purchase and plan on getting more of them in the future (I have two right now). It's not a perfect speaker, but it does what I want it to do without hassle and it does it well.
- World class sound for a small speaker.
- Attractive design.
- Easy setup.
- Works as advertised without constant calls to customer support.
- The speaker has great ears and can hear you whisper commands.
- Executes music related commands extremely well.
- Doesn't support Bluetooth but executes via Airplay flawlessly.
- No multiroom yet. (Apple has promised it in Airplay 2)
- No multi HomePod stereo. (Again, promised in Airplay 2)
- Siri is a poor excuse for a personal assistant. It can't make calendar events or multiple timers.