A couple of weeks ago, I unboxed and listened to a big HomePod for the first time ever.
I was relatively underwhelmed.
I was cautious with my optimism for the OG HomePod’s second coming. There has, after all, been an awful lot of hyperbole spouted by the Apple-centric press about Apple’s prowess in audio.
Don’t get me wrong – they make very small things sound much bigger than they should, but we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. The MacBook Pro can’t ‘fill a room like a HiFi’, as some have suggested. The HomePod mini is similarly relatively impressive for its size, but it won’t knock your socks off.
As it turns out, the big HomePod does grow on you the more you listen to it (and the more you don’t sit 30 centimetres from it as I did in my first impressions video). This gives me hope for the plans I have over the next few months.
I’ve broken up my HomePod plans into three stages, and I’d like to share them with you today. I’d also like to ask for some help.
Stage 1: Goodbye, Alexa
We’re an Alexa household. There’s an Echo Studio in the kitchen, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the HomePod, and an Echo Dot in the dining room. We also have an Echo Dot for our son’s nursery which is yet to be unearthed from its box.
So, while we’re ‘all-in’ on Alexa, we haven’t exactly gone mad. This is for one very simple reason; our Alexa devices only serve three purposes: timers, weather checks, and kitchen music.
That’s it – we’re not pushing the boundaries of home automation.
This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I lost interest in adding Alexa-compatible devices to our home some time ago. It felt fiddly, inconsistent, and an absolute ballache to maintain. Secondly, Alexa devices have dreadful sound, and as someone who previously invested heavily in Sonos gear for his old house, that has left me totally uninspired about filling the home with music.
The plan, therefore, is to replace Alexa with Siri and add HomePods throughout the house. The biggie will go in the kitchen, and my unloved HomePod mini will be resurrected and placed in the dining room. I’ll build out from there.
Will Siri adequately replace Alexa (I can’t expect much more than that, I’m afraid)? Will the improved sonic performance we’ll get from the HomePods reignite my passion for home-filling audio?
Once again, I remain cautious with my optimism.
Stage 2: Ok, OK – I’ll try a stereo pair
“Get ready to be told that you need to try it as part of a stereo pair. Because everyone will tell you to do that.”
I can’t remember who uttered those immortal words, but boy were they right. The comments thread for my initial impressions video of the 2023 HomePod is littered with people ordering me to buy a second one.
That isn’t an inconsequential purchase. It would result in me spending £600 on a pair of big Siri speakers and then forcing myself to find somewhere to use them.
This isn’t as easy as you might think. Our living room is kitted out with a 5.1 surround sound system that’s embedded into the walls and ceiling. I therefore literally have no need – or room – for a stereo pair of HomePods downstairs.
Placing them in the kitchen would make even less sense; from what I understand, this setup is at its best when placed in a traditional listening environment and when paired with an Apple TV.
This is why Stage 2 of my HomePod journey is going to be a tricky one. But I’ll figure it out, I promise. I need to, from the sounds of it, because the result of the stereo pair is clearly more than the sum of its parts.
Stage 3: Down the HomeKit rabbit hole
The final stage of my HomePod journey feels both exciting and daunting.
Apple has understandably always been pretty bullish about HomeKit. Watch any of their presentations that feature it, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that a world of Star Trek-like automation awaits your own home.
The reality, I suspect, is rather different. Kitting out your home with HomeKit stuff relies on your ability to choose the right devices from a sea of manufacturers who have jumped onto the Apple bandwagon. I have no doubt that there are some corkers in there, but I’m also fairly sure there are some utterly terrible, frustrating HomeKit-compatible devices.
I don’t really know where to start with this, which is why I’m leaving it until last.
This is where I could do with your help, please!
If you’ve dived headfirst into the world of HomeKit devices and have a bunch (or just one) that works brilliantly for your home, get involved in the comments and let me know what I should be looking at. I’ll more than happily take your lead on this one!
My 2023 HomePod is currently still at the studio. I’ve found myself using it consistently each day and, consequently, will miss it when it finally makes its way to my house in a couple of days’ time.
That leads me to an inevitable conclusion; I’m probably going to kit out the studio with HomePods, too. Maybe that’s where the stereo pair will reside!
Will I regret this ‘all-in’ on Apple assistance? It’s going to be a fun ride, I think. For you, mainly.
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