Thursday, July 6, 2017

HomePod technology analyzed by audiophiles on Reddit →

Update 1/30/18: since this post has become popular over the last week, be sure to see what another member of Reddit’s audiophile community thinks of HomePod after spending an hour with it.

The linked Reddit post is an interesting read from Reddit’s picky1 audiophile community. They seem largely impressed with HomePod’s underlying technology, bringing highly advanced audio engineering to a consumer device. HomePod is starting to sound like a bargain after you read this.

Here’s one specific analysis in the thread from user Arve:

They’re using some form of dynamic modeling, and likely also current sensing that allows them to have a p-p excursion of 20 mm in a 4″ driver. This is completely unheard of in the home market. You can read an introduction to the topic here. The practical upshot is that that 4″ driver can go louder than larger drivers, and with significantly less distortion. It’s also stuff you typically find in speakers with five-figure price tags (The Beolab 90 does this, and I also suspect that the Kii Three does). It’s a quantum leap over what a typical passive speaker does, and you don’t really even find it in higher-end powered speakers

Sounds like classic Apple. Bringing high-end, unheard of performance to the masses.

The speaker uses six integrated beamforming microphones to probe the room dimensions, and alter its output so it sounds its best wherever it is placed in the room. It’ll know how large the room is, and where in the room it is placed.

This is the coolest feature of the HomePod to me. Typically, you’d want a speaker of this size to be placed about one foot from a wall in order for the sound to project better towards you. With HomePod, you should be able to put it anywhere in the home and have it sound good.

The room correction applied after probing its own position isn’t simplistic DSP of frequency response, as the speaker has seven drivers that are used to create a beamforming speaker array, so they can direct specific sound in specific directions. The only other speakers that do this is the Beolab 90, and Lexicon SL-1. The Beolab 90 is $85,000/pair, and no price tag is set for the Lexicon, but the expectation in the industry is “astronomical”.

This is truly amazing and goes hand-in-hand with room sensing. The HomePod will be able to direct specific frequencies to different parts of the room in order to produce better sound.

I wouldn’t call myself an audiophile per se, but I definitely appreciate better quality music. Audio quality is a largely subjective thing. What may sound good to me might sound bad to you and vice versa. Either way, there definitely is a threshold where people can agree here is where audio quality starts to sound like shit. It’s whether or not they care that determines what they purchase. Apple has got to get people to care about their audio quality in order to buy HomePod. They did a great job with the AirPods, which sound noticeably better than EarPods, in addition to offering a great experience.

We’ll see if they can go 2 for 2.

  1. Redundant, I know.