Our Sony soundbar has been playing up for a while but I decided we needed to replace it when the speakers started to stop working well at low levels. The infrared had already broken so it was time.
I looked around and without spending £600 Plus I just couldn’t find something that I liked. It hit me whilst looking, why don’t I just use the HomePod from our kitchen. One prerequisite here is the Apple TV mind you. We have been using one for years so was ok in that department.
So the way this works is via AirPlay. Put your HomePod to where it’s going to live under your TV then head into settings on the Apple TV. You need to look for audio settings and select the source to be the name of your HomePod. Also deselect the HDMI, which seems to be the default.
What’s it sound like with one HomePod?
I put the HomePod near the centre of the TV. On listening to Star Wars, New Hope I was immediately impressed with how clear the voices and effect music was. I heard sounds in scenes I’d never heard before and I’d been watching Star Wars since the 80’s. Where it fell down for me was in scenes with a lot of music. Star Wars has a great score and the orchestra plus voice and effects was a little too much. I found the score to be put to the back and drowned out a little.
What about two HomePods?
This is were it was a game changer for me. I grabbed my HomePod from the office and put them in a left and right configuration. The first thing you need to do before using is create a stereo pair. You can do this by using the Home app and tapping create stereo pair. Once you’ve created a stereo pair that’s it.
I fired up the same scene from New Hope (escape from the Death Star in the Falcon) and wow, what a difference. A few things stood out. First the speech was clear but I could now hear the music clearly too. Second the width of the stereo effect was unlike anything I got out of my soundbar. Wide and even background sounds were audible. In this scene I could still hear the tie fighters flying around the Falcon whilst the scene was set inside on Han or Luke. Lastly the bass, two homepods make for a massive increase in bass even over the subwoofer in the soundbar. I moved forward to the final battle against the Death Star and I realised I could now hear the engines of the X-Wings whilst inside with the pilots, it’s going to be great rewatching the entire series before Episode 9 comes out.
Would you buy a HomePod over a traditional soundbar?
This is an interesting one. The issue with using a HomePod is that you can only stream to it if it supports AirPlay. So as an example I can’t listen to my PlayStation 4 on the HomePod. This means that the solution isn’t entirely fulfilling my needs at home unfortunately but I’m definitely using it to enjoy movies for now until I see the need to replace to cover my gaming. I’ve started to use my PlayStation with headphones anyway so I’m going to try to stick with this setup and see how it goes. If you have one or two already then I’d say set them up with your Apple TV ASAP. If you are in the market but don’t have one I’d say stick to the traditional route and get a soundbar. This gives you the most flexibility.
Please Apple can you make a soundbar with the HomePod tech in it pretty please.
After using it again now the power has been off all night I’ve realised something really basic that’s not happening. Whenever you restart the Apple TV forgets the output and defaults to HDMI. This is going to get annoying real fast, I’ll raise a radar.