What to Do When Your HomePod Stops Responding

It had only been five days, but I already had a problem with the HomePod not responding. I wanted to listen to some music in the bedroom yesterday, while I was reading, and I started playing something on my iPhone, then went to stream it to the HomePod. It was playing, but no music was coming out of the device. I tried adjusting the volume by tapping the + on the top; no change.

The Home app, it showed that it was not responding.

Home app

After a bunch of attempts to fix it – restarting my iPhone, unplugging and replugging the HomePod – it still didn’t work. So I had to reset the device.

To do this, go to the Home app and find the tile for the HomePod. Press and hold its icon, then tap Details. You’ll see this:

Homepod settings1

Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see Remove Accessory.

Homepod settings2

Tap Remove Accessory, and the HomePod’s settings will be deleted.

Unplug the HomePod, then plug it in again. Wait a minute for it to start up. Back on the main screen of the Home app, tap the + icon, and hold your iOS device near the HomePod to initiate the setup procedure again. After that, it should work (at least until the next time).

HomePod-on-Table-Gate

Apple does some dumb things at time, but this is probably the dumbest. Some of you may remember “antenna gate,” when the iPhone 4’s antenna was placed in a non-optimal location, and Steve Jobs famously told people “don’t hold it that way.” That was in incredibly arrogant way of refusing to accept responsibility for a design choice.

In the latest installment, the plastic on the bottom of the HomePod can leave white rings on some furniture. Apparently this occurs with wood that has been oiled or waxed, and is caused by chemical interactions with the wood.

It’s hard to understand how Apple, a company that touts its understanding of materials and design, could have release a product that, well, damages furniture. Presumably, if you only leave the HomePod on furniture for a few days, then notice it, it might be easy to repair, but you may need to do some heavy work if it’s any longer than that.

Apple’s Cleaning and taking care of HomePod support document now includes a “Where to place HomePod” section, which says:

It is not unusual for any speaker with a vibration-damping silicone base to leave mild marks when placed on some wooden surfaces. The marks can be caused by oils diffusing between the silicone base and the table surface, and will often go away after several days when the speaker is removed from the wooden surface. If not, wiping the surface gently with a soft damp or dry cloth may remove the marks. If marks persist, clean the surface with the furniture manufacturer’s recommended cleaning process. If you’re concerned about this, we recommend placing your HomePod on a different surface.

Not unusual? Seriously? It’s highly unusual for any product of this type, used as it is intended, to damage furniture.

This is much worse than the recent iPhone battery issue, and ranks up there with antenna gate as dumb Apple problems. There should be no limitation to where you can put the HomePod; I’ve never heard of any other device of this type where there are limitations as to what type of surface you can put it on. Why hasn’t Apple used a material that doesn’t mark wooden surfaces?

Audiophile HomePod Reviewer Turns Out to Not Know Much about Measuring Audio

The much touted review of the HomePod posted by an “audiophile” on Reddit last week – and gleefully tweeted by Apple’s Phil Schiller – turns out to be a long mess of uninformed and poorly made measurements.

This reply on Reddit highlights many of the problems, notably the fact that the HomePod wasn’t measured in an anechoic room, but mainly the fact that the “reviewer” fudged the display of his graphs, making them look better than they were.

Here’s one of the original graphs:

LmAel7t

The experimenter seems obsessed with that graph which they claim shows a very flat frequency response. They even say, further down the review, that it’s an “almost perfectly flat speaker”. Mmm. I opened that same measurement in REW and here’s what I get (with the same 1/12 octave smoothing as the above image):

3nHZimq

Doesn’t look as nice doesn’t it? That’s because of the scale, you see. It’s the ages-old trick of messing with the vertical scale to make things look flatter than they really are. In the screenshot that the experimenter posted, the interval between ticks is 10 dB. That’s enormous. Almost anything will look almost flat at that scale.

This is why it’s wrong to assume that some random guy who writes 5,000 words and includes a bunch of numbers and graphs knows what he’s doing. Another comment from the comment I linked to above:

I find it absolutely hilarious that the experimenter is specifying conditions like “Room temperature was 72ºF (22.2ºC) and the humidity outside was 97%. Air Pressure was 30.1 inHg (764.54 mmHg)”. It sounds like they’ve done very rigorous measurements in highly controlled conditions, but that’s rendered moot by the overwhelming influence of the specific room in which they made the measurements.

Finally:

Conclusion: no, these measurements don’t show that “The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade Speaker”, far from it. Because the measurements were made in a reverberant room without windowing, the data is mostly meaningless. The linearity, SPL and distortion measurements are usable to some extent, but these are not the most important criteria when assessing the audio quality of a loudspeaker (unless loud bass is really important for you). Many parts of the “review” are misleading, at times egregiously so, leaving the impression that the experimenter is interpreting the data through Apple-colored glasses.

I wonder if Phil Schiller had anyone from Apple’s audio team look at the original “review” before tweeting it. My guess is no; they would have spotted the incorrect measurements, and warned him not to share it. It makes Apple look bad, because of Schiller’s sharing it, now that it has turned out to be quite wrong.

Computer Audiophile Reviews the HomePod

Chris Connaker, who runs the Computer Audiophile website, and who is a regular guest on The Next Track podcast, was initially not interested in the HomePod. It’s not the type of device he would use, he said, but given the amount of coverage it was getting, he decided to buy one and try it out. Here’s his review.

One could raise one’s eyebrows a bit when Chris mentions the reference system he uses to compare his music with the HomePod:

Speakers: TAD Compact reference One CR1 $45,000 (frequency response 40Hz–20kHz, ±3dB)
Amplifiers: Constellation Audio Inspiration Monoblocks $20,000 /pr
DAC: dCS Rossini $24,000
Cabling by Wire World and 512 Engineering ~$10,000

But he also uses:

Klipsch: The Three $499 (frequency response 45Hz–20kHz, ±3dB)

To be fair, you can’t compare the HomePod just to other, similar speakers. You need to compare it to the way music should sound. What you are trying to determine is how much is lost or gained by using that speaker when comparing it to a “real” stereo. In my testing and review, I compared it to my office sound system, which is a Yamaha receiver (£600) and Focal Chorus speakers (£200), with some cables (£6) and banana plugs (£8). So while my system was a bit less expensive than Chris’s, it’s still a pretty good system.

Here’s what he thought about the first piece of music he listened to:

The HomePod shouldn’t come close to my reference system, and it doesn’t. Let’s not kid ourselves. Apple has more money than some countries and has hired very smart engineers, but it can’t change the laws of physics. Starting with the impressive aspects of the HomePod playing Red or Dead, Randi’s vocal is crisp and clear, but has a very slight soft edge. The very fine details for which audiophiles frequently listen aren’t nearly as audible through the HomePod as they are through a true HiFi system. The HomePod has a very nice sound that will likely please most listeners without causing fatigue on tracks like Red or Dead. If I was unaware of the true sound of this track, I’d think the HomePod had done a pretty good job reproducing the vocal portion.

As he says, “If I was unaware of the true sound of this track…” That’s important; for many people, the HomePod may be the best speaker they’ve ever owned, because they simply never owned any good hi-fi equipment. They may find the sound attractive, or flattering, and, if so, that’s fine. But it’s important to put this into perspective: how it sounds compared to the music “the way the artist intended,” as audio buffs like to say.

Chris immediately highlights the main problem with the HomePod:

The HomePod is a bass monster, for better or worse. […] Thumps and booms are pretty much what the HomePod is all about and it’s very clear after a single listen to a track with very controlled bass.

Everyone who cares about how music sounds is saying this; it’s not just subjective. People who are used to the high bass of Beats headphones may think this is normal, but as I pointed out in my first impressions of the HomePod, some music sounds great, and some music sounds pretty bad, because of the excess bass.

For another song, he highlights one of the other issues I noticed:

the HomePod was nowhere near any of the HiFi system on which I’ve heard this song. Closed-in with a jumbled mess of sounds and a haze over the top is how I’d describe this track through the HomePod.

That “jumbled mess” is how a lot of more complex music sounds. Coldplay sounds great, but a string quartet I listened to sounded horrible. A jazz piano trio had no depth, no detail, and many tracks just sounded confused.

I love Metallica’s …And Justice for All album for both the music and the way it sounds. It’s not a favorite of many Metallica fans, but I just love the sounds of Lars’ Tama drum set. The track One features a nice soft-fish guitar intro. On the HomePod this guitar sounds really good and has good tone. I can see many music lovers really enjoying sounds like this. In fact, I wish the entire track sounded as good as this opening sounded through the Pod. I’m frustrated to say, the HomePod just falls apart at the 0:55 mark in the song. The drum sound that I love, that I’ve played for so many people on so many different systems including one a couple weeks ago in New York City, was totally wrong. It sounded like a huge band of upper bass frequencies was missing. I heard Lars’ kick drum, but not all of it. It’s as if there was a filter on the upper end of the drum set and an exaggeration on the very bottom end.

Exactly. A more restrained song I listened to, Brad Mehldau’s cover of the Radiohead song Exit Music (For a Film), showed how drums don’t do well on the HomePod:

“Moving to jazz, I tried out one of my standard test tracks, Brad Mehldau’s Exit Music (For a Film), a cover of the Radiohead song, on The Art of the Trio, Vol. 3: Songs. I love this track because of the subtle way it builds up, and because of the light touch of drummer Jorge Rossy, as he taps the cymbals, creating interesting polyrhythms with the piano. Unfortunately, the cymbals are too quiet, and the bass gets muddied with the piano, turning an intricate song into a flat-sounding piece for piano trio. This was also the case with other Brad Mehldau recordings.”

But, okay, that’s comparing the HomePod to Chris’s $100K system. How about his $500 Klipsch Three speaker?

It has a much more balanced sound than the HomePod. Eddie Vedder’s Society was very enjoyable through The Three as opposed to the HomePod. I A/B’d them for twenty minutes to make sure I heard what I thought I heard. I honestly expected the HomePod to put the Klipsch unit to shame, but that wasn’t the case.

Chris briefly mentions the Siri integration, but given that Siri is only half-baked on that device, even that isn’t a compelling reason to buy it.

His conclusion:

Perhaps some normalcy has now been added to the hysteria. I agree with Consumer Reports. I really wanted to like the HomePod and I wanted [it] to sound fantastic. The truth is, the HomePod is good and I’d recommend it to people who have to have Apple products. If people want a voice assistant, get a voice assistant. If people want a loudspeaker, get a loudspeaker. Splitting the duties provides much more flexibility to purchase the best of both worlds. Google and Amazon offer far better products for voice. With respect to sound quality, there are many other products I’d recommend over the HomePod, starting with The Three from Klipsch.

There are lots of great standalone speakers. The lack in functionality as “smart” devices, but it’s really not clear how many people want these devices. If you’re all in on the Apple ecosystem, it’s a good option, but if you really care about audio quality, it’s far from the best you can get for the money.

HomePod Audiophile Review: Sound Performance ‘Deserves a Standing Ovation’ – Mac Rumors

Update: The author of the review has now added an initial paragraph to his very long text, pointing out that, well, maybe, just perhaps, his measurements aren’t worth much.

EDIT: before you read any further, please read /u/edechamps excellent reply to this post and then read this excellent discussion between him and /u/Ilkless about measuring, conventions, some of the mistakes I’ve made, and how the data should be interpreted. His conclusion, if I’m reading it right, is that these measurements are largely inconclusive, since the measurements were not done in an anechoic chamber. Since I dont have one of those handy, these measurements should be taken with a brick of salt. I still hope that some of the information in here, the discussion, the guesses, and more are useful to everyone. This really is a new type of speaker (again see the discussion) and evaluating it accurately is bloody difficult.

He still doesn’t address the question of DSP affecting the sound differently when music is playing rather than a sine wave. But I think it’s clear that this whole thing is, well, a waste of time.

I wonder if Phil Schiller is going to tweet about this addendum…


HomePod reviews from the tech press came thick and fast last week, and while the smart speaker’s sound quality was consistently praised, most reviews were based on subjective assessments and didn’t take into account professional-grade output measurements. Early on Monday, however, Reddit user WinterCharm posted exhaustive audio performance testing results for HomePod to the Reddit audiophile community.

Using specialized equipment and a controlled testing environment, the review features in-depth analysis of the smart speaker’s output when compared to a pair of KEF X300A digital hi-fi monitors, representing a “meticulously set up audiophile grade speaker versus a tiny little HomePod that claims to do room correction on its own”.

I’ve been following this Reddit thread and its published results. It’s amazing that in a world of audiophiles who obsess over which USB cable makes their music sound better, that this person performed all of these measurements, and forgot to mention that the HomePod uses digital signal processing to alter all music that it plays. In other words, it is far from neutral, and audiophiles make a big deal about their equipment being neutral. The frequency response may be excellent, but the equalization alters the music from what it should sound like.

In fact, I think it’s highly possible that this reviewer has based the conclusions of his testing on false assumptions. The HomePod has dynamic digital signal processing; it alters the music based on the music. In other words, it’s not a fixed EQ setting, but one that changes as music is played (and according to the room where it’s played). As such, sending single frequency sine waves, or whatever he did, won’t show the results of the EQ.

You can easily hear this by playing some music you know well first on a stereo, then on the HomePod. For some music, the EQ is gentle; for other tracks, it’s aggressive, very bass-heavy. My speculation is that there’s some sort of algorithm that allows certain types of music – with, say, a close balance between bass and treble – to not have such a drastic effect on the bass, and others – more bass-heavy music to start with – to be more greatly affected.

In other words, this person measured the trees, but not the forests.

Source: HomePod Audiophile Review: Sound Performance ‘Deserves a Standing Ovation’ – Mac Rumors

The Best iTunes and iOS EQ Settings for the HomePod

As I pointed out in my early review of the HomePod, some music sounds very good, but a lot doesn’t. The reason for this is Apple’s digital signal processing (DSP) that tweaks the sound toward the low end, combined with the fact that the mid-range on this device is weak. You can’t change this when streaming from Apple Music or iCloud Music Library, but you can adjust the equalizer if you stream from iTunes or an iOS device.

In this article, I explain how to use the iTunes equalizer. I’ve found that the best preset to compensate for the HomePod’s unbalanced sound is Vocal Booster. This setting lowers the bass a bit and heightens the midrange, fixing what the HomePod gets wrong.

Itunes eq

On iTunes, you can further tweak this setting, as you see above, in ten different frequency bands. It’s probably not worth the trouble, but feel free to roll your own. The problem is that on iOS, you can’t create custom EQ settings; you can only use the presets. If you got to Settings > Music, then the Playback section, you’ll see the EQ menu. Choose a preset here.

Ios eq

Naturally, you may want to have that extra bass at times: when you’re having a party, or if you’re listening to music that really benefits from strong bass (hip-hop, reggae, etc.). In these cases, you’ll be happy with what the HomePod plays natively. And you may even like the extra bass the HomePod adds. But if you don’t, if you want more neutral sound, at least you can adjust it, when streaming from iTunes or an iOS device.

Using the HomePod as an Audio Device when Watching Movies or TV

After a friend mentioned on Twitter yesterday that his HomePod could play back the audio of a movie without any lag, I decided to try it out. If you’ve tried this in the past – playing movie audio through an AirPlay speaker while watching a movie on an iPad, for example – you’ll be aware that there was always about a half-second delay between the video and audio. But now, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

(It’s worth noting that the HomePod handles this audio better than other AirPlay targets, so there must be something in its software or hardware that allows iOS devices to sync more closely. If I play video from my iPad to my AirPlay-capable receiver, the lag is noticeable, though not the half-second delay I recall seeing in the past.)

Start playing a video – a movie, TV show, or even YouTube – and tap the AirPlay icon, the one that looks like a TV screen with a triangle below it. You can then choose which audio device you want to use for playback.

Airplay

Above, I could choose Bedroom, which is my HomePod. When I do, it takes a couple of seconds, then the sound comes from the HomePod, in sync. (There seems to be a teeny tiny delay, perhaps a couple of milliseconds, but nothing annoying.)

The problem is that it sounds terrible. The overly bassy sound of the HomePod, which can work with some music, but not all, is horrible with video content. Voices are far too deep, and the lack of a solid mid-range makes them sound artificial. Add to that the sort of faux surround sound reverb that the HomePod applies, and it makes the audio sound strange.

So in a pinch, you might want to do this, but the bottom-heavy sound of the HomePod is not adapted for movie or TV playback.

How to Access HomePod Settings

Setting up the HomePod is easy; just hold your iPhone or iPad near it, and a card displays on the device. You tap a few times, making some decisions, and it’s ready.

But there are a number of settings for the HomePod, and it’s good to know where they’re hidden. To find them, go to the Home app. You’ll find your HomePod in whatever room you’ve assigned it to. Tap its icon, then tap details.

Homepod settings01   Homepod settings02

You’ll see a long screen of settings. At the top are general settings about the device and its location. Below that are some settings for Music & Podcasts, then Siri settings.

Homepod settings03   Homepod settings04

And the final section covers location services, accessibility, and information about the device.

Homepod settings05

Have a browse through these settings, notably for Siri, which offers a wide range of options.

The Next Track, Episode #91 – The Apple HomePod Sounds Great, Except When it Doesn’t

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxKirk got his HomePod. He spent a couple of hours listening to music to judge the sound quality. In short, it sounds great at times, but at others it doesn’t.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #91 – The Apple HomePod Sounds Great, Except When it Doesn’t.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at The Next Track website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast, to keep up to date with new episodes, and new articles from the website.

HomePod Review: When it Sounds Good, It’s Great; But It Doesn’t Always Sound Good

It’s been a long wait, as Apple pushed back the release of the HomePod, originally announced for the end of last year. There has been a lot of speculation about what a $350 speaker would sound like, and early reviews have been generally positive, but mostly in comparison to other “smart” speakers, such as the Amazon Echo and the Google Home.

I took delivery of my HomePod this morning, and have spent several hours listening to it. As is my wont, I have played music I’m very familiar with in order to try it out. I strongly believe that using special test records to audition audio equipment is wrong; you need to play music that you know by heart, where you know when different instruments come in, how voices sound, and what sort of beat and rhythm it has.

The HomePod uses digital signal processing (DSP) on all the music it plays, whether it’s from Apple Music, iCloud Music Library, your iTunes library, or your iOS device. Unfortunately, you have no control over this DSP. It’s a one-size-fits-all algorithm, which, while it certainly treats different types of music differently, still tries to mold everything the same way. It’s almost as if the HomePod is the stationary equivalent of Beats headphones: decent sound, but too bassy; good for certain types of music, but not all.

Here are some thoughts after listening to a few dozen pieces of music.

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