Second-Generation HomePod Adds Spatial Audio, Temperature/Humidity Monitoring, and Sound Recognition

Originally published at: Second-Generation HomePod Adds Spatial Audio, Temperature/Humidity Monitoring, and Sound Recognition - TidBITS

Apple has unexpectedly revived the full-size HomePod, releasing a second-generation model that adds support for spatial audio, includes a temperature/humidity sensor for home automations, and promises a Sound Recognition feature to detect alarms.

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…and even at $299, it didn’t compete well against much cheaper smart speakers from Amazon and Google. That prompted the development of the $99 HomePod mini and the discontinuation of the original HomePod.

So is there an argument why sales should now improve? Isn’t it much rather so that if they had trouble selling these at $299 before, they now—in an inflationary environment with a recession looming — stand to see even less success? The article does a good job of illustrating how Apple trimmed down the BOM so they could increase their profit at $299, but I see very little to argue that this thing will now sell well at the exact same price point it failed to sell before.


As I pointed out a while back (and again today, on the internal TidBITS Slack), the price is not necessarily out of line. High-end audio speakers are not cheap: back in the late ’70s when I bought my old Rogersound Lab mini monitors, they cost about $80 each—they would cost $284 each in 2023 when the price is adjusted for inflation. The mini monitors were pretty good (good enough for a home recording studio) but my original HomePods have somewhat better sound for roughly the same price: and I can talk to them! :wink:

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According to the specs (footnote 2), the first generation can also do Spatial Audio.

I did try testing this with my HomePod pair that sit on top of the left and right tower speakers in my living room. However, my tin ears cannot really distinguish between stereo and Spatial Audio (Dolby Atmos) unless the surround speakers become active. So, the only thing I can say is that if the stereo Home Pod setup is trying to simulate a full Dolby Atmos setup, the surround simulation is very weak. Of course, that’s hard to do with speakers only in the front of the room.

For price comparison, cp. for instance these Genelecs.

Is the accelerometer new?

Well, that was news. Apple released an updated Homepod (2nd gen).

Anyone find where its compatible with Gen1 ?
Anyone else think $299 is still out there in price? ($199 ok, or 2 for $300 would make them sell).
Soundbars with Airplay are around $300 and up so…

I think the point that I perhaps failed to make sufficiently clearly in the article is that presumably the HomePod sold well enough to be worthwhile as long as Apple could increase the margins.

Apple cares about revenue, not volume of sales. In contrast with Amazon, apparently. :slight_smile:


Meh… Too little too late. I already invested in Sonos and that is what I want. I don’t care about voice response and disable it in Sonos and I don’t care about HomeKit stuff either. All I want is a quality set of wireless speakers with ease of use and reliability. Something Sonos truly delivers.

Let’s say instead of a TV sound bar, I get a HomePod. Is the HomePod a good sound bar replacement?

A top quality sound bar can be $250 (for a budget one) to $700. I can buy two HomePods for that. Even a single HomePod might out perform a midrange TV sound bar which can range from $150 to $300.

So, can I use a HomePod as a sound bar replacement for a non-Apple TV even one that offers Bluetooth connectivity? Even if I happen to have an AppleTV, how does a HomePod sound compare to a typical TV sound bar? How does a $99 HomePod Mini compare?

If I can replace a sound bar with a HomePod or a pair of HomePods, it might help justify the $200 price.

Also, why in the heck don’t they just combine the HomePod with an AppleTV? Could they offer a combo for that $99 price?

Are people here seriously considering a HomePod to be equivalent in sound quality to high-end studio monitors?

It sounds good compared to other consumer products, but I would never consider them a replacement for any high-end product.

Are they comparable, for example to Bose hardware? That would seem to be their target market (or rival market) in terms of price. They’re not high-end speakers, of course, but they do sound good (in the store) and the first gen. got quite good reviews for sound reproduction.

One reason I would consider something like the HomePods or a sound bar is my wife, who is very non technological. I currently have an Apple TV connected up through a receiver and 7.1 speakers. Of course I had to configure everything to be able to use the Apple TV, Blu-ray (and my Wii and Switch). But as I am getting older I am looking at my entertainment system (as well as my computer system) and wonder if it will be able to be used if I wasn’t around to configure it. She thought it was easy when we had our Harmony remote, though that actually took some programming from the computer to get working.

Though I relish good sound, a way to remove the receiver from the system and simply things may be “good enough”.

Of course HomeKit does not make anything easy when a device will stop responding or like last week when my Linksys disabled my HomeKit, but that is another story.

For my home theater, I wrote a document describing what each device (TV, receiver, etc.) needs to be set to in order to use each connected media source.

But most recently, I’ve found less of a need for this, at least with my HDMI-connected devices, thanks to CEC support by the receiver and TV.

For instance, when I push the power button on my Apple TV remote, the receiver powers on, switches to the ATV’s input, and then sends a power-on signal to the TV. Similarly, that button powers off everything. The ATV’s volume control adjusts the receiver’s volume, without any special configuration (beyond enabling CEC).

The Blu-Ray player’s remote is similar - powering everything on/off and its volume buttons adjusting the receiver volume.

And the TV remote will power-off the receiver and currently-selected device (but will only power-on the receiver). Its volume buttons adjust the receiver’s volume. It’s play/pause buttons work on the currently-selected input device.

I realize that older equipment doesn’t implement CEC as well (or at all), but when all the pieces come together, the result is wonderful.

A downgrade to Wi-Fi 4? Shame! I know these things are Internet-tethered right now, but I do wish Apple would think about more utility offline with local, home-shared libraries like Apple TV. If Siri is going to define the capabilities, why should the new model do any better than the previous? Do they really believe the current combination of expensive, requires subscription, uses Siri, and chugs along at Wi-Fi 4 speeds is really going to make sense to anyone? Perhaps they should just release a dedicated Siri device that hooks up to existing audio equipment and has the microphones and sensors, in the style of Amazon Echo Input. The Mini can be for everyone else. Or am I just being totally unreasonable?

I would, if they measured as well or better than those 3" Gennies, and for all I know they do, given all that Tom Holman processing magic inside them. Let’s keep an eye out for the data . . .

Although the original HomePod sold for $300 from 2019, originally it cost $350. As @ace says, it could be that at $300 Apple simply wasn’t making enough profit to justify producing in the volumes it was selling at. If it was designed as a $350 product but the market forced them to cut $50, the equation of whether to go on is very different than for a product designed to be sold at $300.


The Apple I know does not sell at a loss. They would never have lowered that price if that meant they would no longer be making a profit.

If they found a way to make profit at $299 in 2019, they can be expected to make profit at that same price in 2023 after stripping the BOM. Perhaps they stripped that BOM down so well, they will now be making more profit thus making it worth their while. Entirely possible.

But the question remains why they believe they will now sell more of these, when back in 2019 they could hardly move them beyond the warehouse.


Further to this, here’re some measurements for the original HomePod and here is what Genelec puts out for their 8010As. Without getting too far into the weeds (lack of integration with external devices like subwoofers and dedicated EQs, for instance), I’d say that if you’re looking for a stand-alone, Apple friendly speaker the new HomePod will likely be the better value for money.

A friend has a Fosi audio DAC/amp that does bluetooth, and connected to a pair of HS5 Yamahas. Also has another pair off a reference amp for his music room. He jokes that the speakers are too good for bluetooth (he can hear the compression on some tracks, I cannot)

I wouldn’t use Homepods for reference. I use them for music in rooms like my kitchen but the house isn’t made for “audiofiles” (outside noises, wood flooring, etc).

I am very glad I got my pair of Gen 1 Homepods when I did. Yet, if I have to add more Apple devices, the minis just might be good for a spare guest room.

As it happens I am reading this article while listening to Beethoven for Three via stereo original Homepods and an Apple TV 4K. This is my main home entertainment system and I am very happy with it. I was dismayed when Apple dropped the original Homepods, knowing that I couldn’t replace it if one broke. Now I have a solution.
BTW IMHO Spatial Audio is impressive with these Homepods - Abbey Road sounds like you are in the studio!

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