David Lewis Talking Tech & Audio
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HomePods – 2 is the PERFECT pair

Not put off by the initial setup issues, I recently bought my second HomePod…the results though, I did not expect…

HomePods - perfect as a pair

I have been using a HomePod for a year now and have loved it.

I missed out on the smart speaker the first time around, so when Apple dropped this new version on us last January I made sure to grab mine quickly.

Although beset by quality issues the first time around and hindered by the less-than-sparkling Siri as your smart home assistant, no one had a bad word to say about the audio quality.

Over the years I’ve owned most of Apple’s audio devices – AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max and HomePod minis. Apart from them all sounding pretty good they are all a joy to use within your ecosystem – pairing and switching easily with your Macs, Apple Watch and iPhones and the HomePods also give you the super useful HandOff as well. It’s all very Apple – it all just works.

But of course, the HomePod, the full-size big HomePod is a very different beast designed not to be mobile or switchable but rather to be part of your home entertainment system – and in that department tHomePod delivers – which I’ll come back to later.

Failed by HomePod

My introduction to the world of HomePod was far from smooth – and very un-Apple-like.

It was a Saturday evening about a year ago around 6 pm – I recall it so well!

How long could it possibly take – 15 minutes…30 tops. I’d done the HomePod minis before and setting up HomePods is not rocket science…all I had to do was get it on my network and hook it up to my 4K Apple TV – simple right?

Well an hour and a half later and still the Apple TV had no output and I had no speaker. I’d installed the latest OS, restarted it and removed it from the network more times than I’d care to admit.

I decided to park it for the night and revisit the issue the next morning with a fresh head and a night’s sleep behind me.

Well that plan failed – still Apple TV wouldn’t see the HomePod – although it would see older devices I had at home. It was then that I finally caved in…and as much as I hated to admit it I needed help.

Apple Care would know the issue – I must’ve simply overlooked something…they’d have a quick fix…forever the optimist…I’m sure they’d know about the error message ‘Peer-to-Peer’ which kept on popping up…

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Apple cared – sort of

The Apple Care support guy I spoke to that Sunday on the face of it was helpful – spending hours with me sending me endless web pages and was patient as heck and even did some screen-controlled sessions on my iPhone.

We went through router settings together, checked Firewalls, flattened the HomePod and even removed my Home app. By 7 pm on Sunday, the HomePod was still not working – my Apple TV 4K wouldn’t see it as a default speaker output and the only way I could use it with Apple TV was as a temporary output.

The guy I’d spent all those hours on Sunday with promised to call back Monday after having spoken to other team members on his side – that call never happened but oddly the HomePod had mysteriously righted itself overnight. Suddenly, everything was working as it should be – so now I could start to enjoy it.

2 became 1

I’d removed a pair of minis to go solo with the new larger HomePod and immediately the audio was noticeably better – it was a massive improvement over the pair of minis and any reservations I’d had about losing the pair for a single HomePod were soon forgotten.

Speech is handled better with this larger speaker. The mids are way, way more sympathetic and the muddiness of the minis has been replaced with some clear, present, punchy mids.

For all of last year, I’d been using Apple TV 4K with a single speaker config and loved it – movies, sports, music everything was better with the HomePod…so time to make them a stereo pair I figured.

HomePods as a pair

Everything changed from the moment the second HomePod was up and running – and this time by the way the installation and setup could not have been simpler – 10 minutes and it was done.

The guilt I’d felt about coughing up another £300 for the second HomePod was forgotten the moment I heard the HomePods working as a pair…where to start…

Layers were the first thing I noticed – I’ll try to explain…I’d decided to watch some Apple TV content first knowing that would have been engineered for HomePods as a pair. The audio comes at you with the voice being front and centre – foley or background sounds somehow come from behind the voices and now as a stereo pair, you get say sirens from one side and road noises from the other.

The Enhance Dialogue feature in Apple TV helps to pull spoken words forward in the centre channel which sits high and present in your room. It’s like having an audio engineer on hand to EQ the audio for you – even whispers or quietly spoken dialogue sits perfectly on top of soundtracks or background sounds.

Apple’s audio engineers have worked out a way to know where your HomePod is placed in your room to adapt and deliver audio to match your environment – and that comes to life with the pair I now have.

There is more than enough bass to fill a decent-sized living room without being overpowering – but it’s not all about the base. Each HomePod has five tweeters which optimise the highs producing detailed, articulate audio with stunning clarity – my guess is that’s why any vocals sound so good on a pair of HomePods.

Nothing had prepared me for the soundstage that going from one to two HomePods was going to give me.

HomePods and home cinema

You’ll know what a massive fan I am of Apple TV and Apple TV+.

Every Apple Original series you watch feels like a special event – the way it’s shot, colour-graded and edited makes it feel like a trip to the movie theatre. Add to that Dolby Atmos audio with a pair of HomePods and you have a complete home cinema experience.

With Apple TV and HomePods, you’ll have stunning visuals, high-class content and the most immersive room-filling sound.

I know HomePods like AirPods Max are expensive at £300 each but if you can stretch to it, having now experienced HomePods as a pair trust me, you’ll be blown away and they should last an age – fingers crossed that the earlier quality issues have been sorted out by now.

Is it the best high-end home entertainment system you can buy? No, but it is the best sound you can get with a speaker that integrates so seamlessly into your home and that works beautifully with Apple TV.

HomePod as a pair – it’s an experience you’ll want to enjoy.

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2 Responses

  1. I think Apple still has a lot of work to do on upgrades to HomePod. We suffer each time the system upgrades.

    Here’s a document I wrote about the process of testing HomePods after talking to Apple support.

    You have my permission to repeat this set of tests. Please give me credit. Creative Commons License CC-BY.

    Written by George Wood

    AppleCare 2023-05-18 (Thomas) Recommendation on HomePod and Apple TV 4K.
    Existing Equipment tested
    iPhone 11 Pro Max (First)
    iPhone 13 Pro Max (iP – Second)
    iPad Pro (5th Generation) (First)
    iPad Pro (5th Generation) (Second iPad Pro)

    Six Tests to prove that the HomePod and the AppleTV 4K are properly configured

    Purpose: Most complex test:
    Prove that user has account properly setup for Voice to HomePod to control the AppleTV

    Have customer say these commands
    ◦ Hey Siri: Turn on the Apple TV
    ◦ Hey Siri: Turn off the Apple TV
    ◦ Hey Siri: Start Netflix on the AppleTV
    ◦ Hey Siri: What are my appointments?

    Purpose: Control AppleTV from Siri on HomePod

    Prove that AppleTV 4K is logged in and sending sound to pair of HomePods using default speaker output. Proves that a AppleTV 4K and HomePods are assigned the same room in the Home app on the iPhone and iPad.

    Have customer Use Siri and AppleTV Remote Controller to do these steps:
    ◦ Setup HomePod to be default speaker for AppleTV
    ◦ Play TV or Movie on Netflix on AppleTV with sound coming out of the Speaker

    Purpose: Broadcast Music to HomePod using touch to move sound back and forth to iPhone again

    Prove that iPhone can move Music being played on iPhone to HomePod and back.
    Do this test on each of the pair of HomePods on each iPhone.

    Have Customer play song on iPhone
    ◦ Approach and touch phone to one of the pair of HomePods
    ◦ Hear music on HomePods
    ◦ Have Customer touch their iPhone to HomePod
    ◦ Click “Transfer to iPhone” on pop up display

    Purpose: Broadcast sound but not video from a video iPhone or iPad to a HomePod pair

    Prove that video with sound can play just sound from iPad and iPhone on HomePods – test each iPad and iPhone performing this test.

    Failed test if Video itself plays on the AppleTV.

    The HomePods must not be attached to the AppleTV as default speakers to make this work .

    We want just the audio playing on the remote speakers. The video continues playing on the device.

    ◦ Start video with Sound on iPhone or iPad
    ◦ Ensure that Home app does not have HomePods as default audio output, use TV audio instead.
    ◦ Open Control Center,
    ◦ Select the Music playing on the iPad (typically in the upper left corner of the Control Center)
    ◦ Click on the AirPlay icon – Three rainbows offer a triangle at the bottom
    ◦ Select Speakers & TVs section – the room with the HomePod and TV label
    ◦ Hear music play on the HomePod

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