I was surprised when none of the HomePod 2 reviews I saw included blind tests of the new HomePod compared to the old HomePod. It is now fixed.
The Most Remarkable Thing About Apple’s 1,550 Words Press release announcement of the new model is that, not once the company said it was better than the original. This from a company that likes to proudly proclaim that “this is the best iphone so far” every year…
The first reviews did not enlighten us, saying above all that the the audio quality is similar to the originalwithout going into real direct comparisons.
“Audio quality wasn’t an issue with the first-gen HomePod and it’s still excellent here.”
“Sound signature stays true to the original HomePod”
“The updated HomePod looks a lot like its discontinued predecessor and also sounds the same.”
Blind listening tests with a group of people, ranging from audiophiles to casual listeners, would be ideal. I haven’t seen anyone do this yet, but macworld editor David Price did his own blind test with the help of his wife.
The speakers were set up close together in the same room, and the reviewer (me) sat in the sweet spot while an assistant reviewer (my wife) played a playlist of tracks matched to each speaker. To be fair, she mixed up the order and I wasn’t told which speaker was playing when until I gave my verdict.
He listened to six songs across classical, pop, rock, electroclash and jazz. After initially finding them hard to tell apart, he later found he was able to – although his verdict depends on the song.
Surprisingly, given that the new HomePod has fewer tweeters than the old one, the main difference he identified is that the original model has deeper bass, while the 2023 model has more top end.
The results were surprising and surprisingly close. The new HomePod wasn’t always better to my ears, though it definitely sounded different. On some genres of tracks I’ve listened to, the new model was significantly better, but on others, especially those with a dominant bass component, the original was better.
With John Coltrane LocomotionFor example:
This jazzy tune should test the speaker’s capabilities across the spectrum, but the heavier bass muscle of the original model proves essential. With more at the lower end, the original HomePod delivers a wider, deeper sound that I preferred. There’s a bit more detail up top with the new speaker, though.
So the verdict comes down to what genres you listen to and whether you prefer more bass or more treble.
While its six-song comparison was a 3/3 draw, overall it gives the new model the win.
There are noticeable improvements, and the new model is a worthy (if lighter) successor to what was already a great speaker.
As for why I haven’t taken the test myself… that’s too scary a prospect: I have six original HomePods, and I’d hate to find that I prefer the new one!
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