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HomePod Mini – my first 6 months, and STILL pleasantly surprised

I’m a man who likes decent audio. Would the HomePod Mini satisfy even my ear?

HomePod Mini
image courtesy of author

Yet another speaker – really?

I have my weaknesses, I’ll admit it! And one of those happens to be audio. Now, I am not the kind of guy that will spend thousands on amps, DACs and speakers, but equally, I won’t ever put up with poor quality audio. It just ruins the event for me.

Be it listening to music, podcasts, TV or working in the studio, the audio has to be reasonable, at least. I hate the shrill, sharp, sibilant high-end that cheap speakers offer. I also dislike overemphasised bass too. Balance and an even sound is what I am most keen on.

At home, I have all sorts of speakers; I have studio monitors, a sound bar on the TV, AirPod Pro, more headphones than any sane man should own, oh, and now, a HomePod Mini.

I have had it six months, so I thought it was about time I gave you my thoughts.

Welcome to the world of smart speakers

HomePod
is a new HomePod on the way?

For all the speakers I have, though, this was my first smart speaker. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it. I knew they are more than just a speaker, more of a home assistant. But, that to one side, the sound was always going to be crucial to me – the audio, above all else, would have to cut it.

HomePod mini costs £89. That’s right, an Apple product for under £100, and it is now available in five zingy colours; space grey, blue, white, yellow & orange. And the good news is – you can get hold of them immediately! Never a given in these times, with the ongoing chip shortages.

The HomePod mini, came to be in the wake of HomePod. Now I’ve never heard or owned one of the OG HomePod’s, but this product, although flawed, was, and indeed is still universally loved. So much, in fact, that since it was discontinued by Apple in March 2021, they are now appreciating in value. They are going through a resurgence, and on ebay, a factory boxed, untouched HomePod is fetching around 25% more than when first released.

The poor relation

HomePod Mini
image courtesy of author

For some reason, the HomePod Mini, has never felt that level of love. It has never quite reached the same cult status, and I am not really certain why that would be?

The build and design is classic Apple through and through. It’s solid, and rugged. Covered in a heavy mesh type fabric, which is alarmingly tactile to the touch, it looks and feels great. On the top is a translucent screen that lights up when you activate any function on the speaker. The touch sensitive buttons on that screen, are highly sensitive – possibly too much so. I know these speakers are generally designed to be used with voice activation, but it is just worth noting that those buttons are ‘lively’ shall we say. There is no i/o to speak of on the HomePod Mini, with only the power cable trailing out the back.

Setting it up is super straightforward. Pretty much, once it is on your network, any devices connected to that network will instantly pair and work with it.

So far, so good then…

The important bit – the sound!

HomePod Mini
image courtesy of author

So on to the most essential aspect of HomePod Mini – the sound!

My expectations are possibly higher than some. As I said, I have a reasonable amount of decent audio available to me. I wanted to avoid being disappointed by setting the HomePod Mini unrealistic goals and audio expectations.

It is a small speaker at only 8.5cm tall. The sheer dimensions of the speaker would surely limit it, I figured on first sight. Apple were one step ahead, though, (aren’t they always!) and developed 360 Degree Audio. This feature helps the audio sound good from all angles of your room. I am not saying you could use one for your next house rave, but for decent sounding audio in any home, the HomePod Mini ticks the box.

Many people are now using these speakers in stereo pairs with Apple TV – which is actually something I am considering. Over the weekend, I paired my HomePod Mini to Apple TV 4K, replacing the sound-bar that I had always used. The beta Sky Go app wouldn’t work with it, but apart from that, it worked brilliantly. The feeling of ‘surround’ sound was an improvement, and the audio from Apple Original content or YouTube, was more present and a little crisper.

The sound continues to pleasantly surprise me. Apple has not over eq’d this smart speaker, and as a result, the overall sound is refined, fairly ‘flat’ and easy to listen to for long periods of time. Nothing is too harsh – be it the bass, mids or, highs. I am not suggesting it is super-high end audio, but it was never aimed at that niche.

For a general use speaker, in any room, and for under £100, it is a solid purchase. I have experimented with it in the kitchen, bedroom and now living room, and it has sounded fine in all environments. And, of course, it looks good too.

Some winning features

HomePod Mini
image courtesy of author

HomePod Mini comes packed with a few party tricks – naturally.

If you have a large enough home with kids etc, you can use HomePod as an intercom – the speaker will recognise up to six voices.

Handoff is probably the feature I use, and love the most with my HomePod Mini. It’s the simplicity of the function, that is its calling card.

If you’ve been out, listening to a podcast, radio or music, on getting home, simply offer your iPhone up to the speaker, and the audio will transfer over seamlessly. It will work in reverse as well – transferring what you are listening to at home, back on to your iPhone.

It is a genuinely great feature that I use all the time. It’s kind of in the Universal Control level of clever…

We have to mention it

HomePod Mini
image courtesy of author

Siri, is, well, Siri. I have not used any other voice assistant devices, but I understand that Google’s option is way superior to Siri.

Siri continually baffles me – somedays, it will work great, then on other days, all you get is that all too familiar response “hmmmm- hold on, I’m looking in to that”! I want to buy in to using Siri more, and I’m trying to bring her more in to my daily life, but it still infuriates me. One thing I did use Siri for all the time, when HomePod Mini was in the kitchen, was for setting cooking timers…but it really ought to be able to do more than that right?

Just a point to mention is that if you are a big listener to music on Spotify, then you may be frustrated. Apple Music, understandably, is the only native music player on this speaker. You’ll not be able to ask the smart speaker to play music direct from the Spotify app. The only work-around I’ve managed to find, is to start to listen on your phone, then use the Handoff feature mentioned above.

Worth getting?

HomePod Mini
image courtesy of author

The acid test is – would I recommend this speaker to you?

100% – YES. I am not saying for a moment that I have the most discerning ear out there, but I know decent audio when I hear it, and this tiny, pretty little speaker delivers good audio by the arm full.

No fussy set up and multiple cables, simple to hook-up, and it’ll look good in any room. It integrates brilliantly with your Apple TV and ecosystem as well. Setting up a stereo pair is now definitely on my to-do-list. As I’m watching all my TV through Apple TV now, it makes sense. The audio experience this weekend has proven that to me. I think I actually prefer the room filling sound of the HomePod Mini, over my more expensive Sony sound bar and subwoofer.

Mark Gurman strongly believes that a new full-fat HomePod is on the way. But, why wait? At only £89, the little fella, that is available today really will not leave you unhappy.

Go grab one (or two even), pair it up and let me know what you make of it.

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