The HomePod's sound quality is very good, but not as good as competing "smart" speakers like the Sonos One and the Home Max.
That's the finding by Consumer Reports, which published on Friday the early results of a comprehensive review of Apple's Internet-connected speaker, which costs $350. The speaker went on sale on Feb. 9.
A number of other reviewers have praised the HomePods's sound quality compared with similar speakers like the Echo and the Google Home. Fortune's Don Reisinger noted in his review that the HomePod's sound was better than the Echo and Home, but he conceded that the "sound quality isn't something that can justify its lofty price tag."
In announcing the HomePod in June, Apple highlighted its sound quality in its sales pitch. It was a different sales strategy than Apple’s rivals, which instead promoted how well their respective speakers work with voice-activated digital assistants like Amazon's Alexa. People use these digital assistants for things like changing the volume and to play specific songs.
Now that the HomePod is finally for sale, newer versions of smart speakers sold by Google and Sonos are also offering better sound quality compared to older models, noted Consumer Reports. That puts increased pressure on Apple and its claim about the superiority of its HomePod’s sound.
The Google Home Max, which costs $400, and the Sonos One, which costs $200, manages to slightly exceed the HomePod's sound quality, according to Consumer Reports.
"Overall the sound of the HomePod was a bit muddy compared with what the Sonos One and Google Home Max delivered," the review said. The review also noted that while the HomePod would "serve many music fans well," there were some "flaws" like the way it projects bass sounds, which were "a bit boomy and overemphasized."
Last week, Sonos co-founder and former CEO John MacFarlane briefly reviewed the HomePod via Twitter, by praising the speaker and saying it "handily beats a Sonos One." However, he said two Sonos One speakers provide better sound than one Apple HomePod (of course, he’s hardly objective).
Got my HomePod. First impressions…
Good packaging, easy setup.
Great sound. No clipping at volume.
A little heavy on the bass (Jimmy Iovine effect).
Handily beats a single Sonos One, at full, acoustically.
Two Sonos Ones, in pair, do a superior job.
Great start by Apple.
— John MacFarlane (@JohnLMacFarlane) February 9, 2018
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