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"Apple Homepod: a Speaker to Reinvent Home Music"

RayDunzl

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soundArgument

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Today I listened to Home Theater Geeks Episode 1, which featured Tomlinson Holman as guest and was recorded way back in 2009, before he joined Apple. His fingerprints are all over the HomePod:

  • The loudness equalization used in the HomePod is similar to that used in THX processing, adjusting frequency response in accordance with the Fletcher-Munson curves.
  • The way in which the speaker steers "ambient" sounds to the rear tweeters where they are likely to be bounced all over the room and "direct" sounds to the front tweeters where they are likelier to go directly to the listener is reminiscent of the use of dipole surrounds in THX, which were intended to bounce ambient sounds around the room and ensure that no sound from the rear channels would reach the listener directly. Holman specifically mentioned his preference for dipole surrounds in the HTG podcast.
  • The HomePod's use of adaptive calibration with microphones: microphone-driven calibration of course is used in the Audyssey systems on which Holman worked before he joined Apple.
  • The HomePod's use of lots of tweeters that each reproduce different sounds. Holman's view is that more channels are always better, and he prides himself on his work on 10.2 surround sound.
I'm not making a value judgment about any of these things, but I'm sure all of them contribute to the HomePod's excellence for what it is, which is a speaker for background music played back at low to moderate levels. Many of the HomePod's features, valuable in the background context, are likely to generate distortion in the context of serious stereo listening--particularly the ambient/direct sound processing.

I am quite confident that the ATCs owned by @Sylafari will go lower than the HomePod if EQed similarly.
 

stunta

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Its the ATC SCM 7 V3, as for an early preliminary comparison, the bass on the Apple Homepod goes lower and has more heft.
The jbl lsr305p mk2 goes lower than my Atc Scm19 at half it’s size and does a good job at it, so I’ve switched to the JBLs for my living room setup. I swore I would never move away from the ATCs due their SL driver but I think they are getting left behind by active DSP speakers.

I love market disruptions like this. Dinosaurs need to evolve.
 
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The jbl lsr305p mk2 goes lower than my Atc Scm19 at half it’s size and does a good job at it, so I’ve switched to the JBLs for my living room setup. I swore I would never move away from the ATCs due their SL driver but I think they are getting left behind by active DSP speakers.

I love market disruptions like this. Dinosaurs need to evolve.
Yes the JBL LSR 30X I own does indeed go lower than the ATC SCM 7 V3s as well, I think it is just how the ATC is designed being a sealed box as well. I don't think it means the JBL or the Homepod is better, they just play lower frequencies than the ATC.
 

RayDunzl

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I did my own loudness compensation measurement of the HomePod @ 1m in my room.
Looking at the files in post#94, I think homepod sweep.mdat (10 traces) are the traces used in the other two files, with some display modifications leading to the display you showed above..

Based on homepod sweep.mdat appearance, and my inability to independently verify what I think, would you confirm/disaffirm my suspicion:

"These traces were taken at 1m and the only difference between them was the level of the sweep tone, and the HomePod did what it does on its own."

True, false, or more explanation required?
 
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Phelonious Ponk

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The jbl lsr305p mk2 goes lower than my Atc Scm19 at half it’s size and does a good job at it, so I’ve switched to the JBLs for my living room setup. I swore I would never move away from the ATCs due their SL driver but I think they are getting left behind by active DSP speakers.

I love market disruptions like this. Dinosaurs need to evolve.
I’m using LSR 305s with a small SVS sealed sub in my living room system now. Without the sub, the HomePod goes deeper, the off axis response is (much) better, the mids and highs are smoother and more natural (sorry for the subjectivist language. I don’t have a hard time imagining two Homepods beating the 305s rather handily, in every aspect but, perhaps, stereo imagjng, where omnis don’t typically excell. I intend to find out...
 

stunta

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Phelonious Ponk

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“I'm not making a value judgment about any of these things, but I'm sure all of them contribute to the HomePod's excellence for what it is, which is a speaker for background music played back at low to moderate levels”

No doubt that’s its primary market, but I think it may be so well done that it ends up exceeding its own objectives. When the firmware update arrives, and we can listen to a pair of them in stereo, we’ll know. But I’ll say one thing. One of them can play pretty damn loud without distortion. Even for movies and critical listening, I’d have no desire to run just one of them at 100%. The little thing is LOUD. Two of them cranked would be too loud for me. YMMV.

One of the things I’m enjoying most is the marketing, which is utterly un-audiophile. You want to know about the DAC chip? The pedigree of the amps, or even how they’re rated? Get your hacksaw. Apple clearly doesn’t think any of that matters. It’s a cool ocean breeze cutting through an industry full of the stink of self-importance.
 

Wombat

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I get the impression that it is limited to Apple Mac users and restricted to receiving product from the Apple store thus not a universal product. Is that correct?
 

svart-hvitt

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I get the impression that it is limited to Apple Mac users and restricted to receiving product from the Apple store thus not a universal product. Is that correct?
You need AirPlay, an Apple protocol. From airplay you can play anything.
 

oivavoi

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Today I listened to Home Theater Geeks Episode 1, which featured Tomlinson Holman as guest and was recorded way back in 2009, before he joined Apple. His fingerprints are all over the HomePod:

  • The loudness equalization used in the HomePod is similar to that used in THX processing, adjusting frequency response in accordance with the Fletcher-Munson curves.
  • The way in which the speaker steers "ambient" sounds to the rear tweeters where they are likely to be bounced all over the room and "direct" sounds to the front tweeters where they are likelier to go directly to the listener is reminiscent of the use of dipole surrounds in THX, which were intended to bounce ambient sounds around the room and ensure that no sound from the rear channels would reach the listener directly. Holman specifically mentioned his preference for dipole surrounds in the HTG podcast.
  • The HomePod's use of adaptive calibration with microphones: microphone-driven calibration of course is used in the Audyssey systems on which Holman worked before he joined Apple.
  • The HomePod's use of lots of tweeters that each reproduce different sounds. Holman's view is that more channels are always better, and he prides himself on his work on 10.2 surround sound.
I'm not making a value judgment about any of these things, but I'm sure all of them contribute to the HomePod's excellence for what it is, which is a speaker for background music played back at low to moderate levels. Many of the HomePod's features, valuable in the background context, are likely to generate distortion in the context of serious stereo listening--particularly the ambient/direct sound processing.

I am quite confident that the ATCs owned by @Sylafari will go lower than the HomePod if EQed similarly.
The direct/ambient thing has a rationale though. Not only the Apple guy, many other audio researchers have written about it lately. The idea is to recreate a larger sense of spaciousness and envelopment. In that sense, it can be said to be a way to compensate for what some people - including me - view as the inherent limitations of 2-channel stereo in recreating a threedimensional acoustic field. The advantage with separating out the ambient sounds, is that it may have a smaller impact on clarity, as the direct sound is still direct, compared to full blown omnis. Omnis can work very well IME/IMO, but they need to be placed free standing with air around them. Apple's way of doing it will probably be more forgiving of suboptimal setups, while still providing some of the advantages of omni dispersion.
 
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Phelonious Ponk

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Phelonious Ponk

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The direct/ambient thing has a rationale though. Not only the Apple guy, many other audio researchers have written about it lately. The idea is to recreate a larger sense of spaciousness and envelopment. In that sense, it can be said to be a way to compensate for what some people - including me - view as the inherent limitations of 2-channel stereo in recreating a threedimensional acoustic field. The advantage with separating out the ambient sounds, is that it may have a smaller impact on clarity, as the direct sound is still direct, compared to full blown omnis. Omnis can work very well IME/IME, but they need to be placed free standing with air around them. Apple's way of doing it will probably be more forgiving of suboptimal setups, while still providing some of the advantages of omni dispersion.
...or all of the advantages of omni dispersion if placed for that.
 

Soniclife

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The particular app doesn’t have to have airplay, your device does, so it will “see” the pod.
Roon is an app, not a device as such, it runs on windows or linux, neither or which are airplay devices, but they can send airplay data to airplay devices that receive and play that data.
 

oivavoi

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...or all of the advantages of omni dispersion if placed for that.
Not quite, I would say. The off-axis response of the direct sound will still be different from the direct sound, which means that the ambient field will not be a perfect replica of the direct sound, unlike in really well-executed point-source omnis. But there is very little systematic research on the characteristics of omni speakers, so it's difficult to say how this affects our perception of the sound. Really curious to hear how they image when in stereo!
 

svart-hvitt

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Not quite, I would say. The off-axis response of the direct sound will still be different from the direct sound, which means that the ambient field will not be a perfect replica of the direct sound, unlike in really well-executed point-source omnis. But there is very little systematic research on the characteristics of omni speakers, so it's difficult to say how this affects our perception of the sound. Really curious to hear how they image when in stereo!
I guess some of the issues you touch upon, i.e. really complex psycho-acoustical themes, are exactly the ones Apple have tried to rectify in this pod-speaker through their extensive research and R&D.

But listening is king in this case! I look forward to listening to it.
 

Cosmik

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I am guessing there is a new phenomenon arising in audio: the 'adaptive' system. For consumers it makes the devices idiot proof, and for the manufacturers it really does offer many advantages as it acts as a substitute for hardware. Have a system with high peak power but only a modest heatsink? No problem. 90% of the time you will be able to run normally and on the other occasions subtly modify the bass - with time to look ahead in order to do it optimally. Or in really hot environments you can still seem to be working normally while all the time running at reduced power. It was these sorts of things that used to be the biggest headaches for designers, and now it is literally 'just software'.

But... there is a price to pay. Just as an idiot-proof camera with automatic white balance gives slightly odd-looking images much of the time, so these systems are going to suffer from a sense of instability. You probably won't be able to put your finger on it as you listen to it, but all the time you will be hearing subtle forms of dynamic compression (like an AGC), and shifting images as the ambience extractor applies its adaptive algorithms to real audio. Bass will pull its punches occasionally, and the phantom octave harmonic generator will sound odd now and again. Extended high volume listening will begin to sound anaemic and harsh as the bass is gradually pulled. Etc.

People are already noticing that this tiny box generates "more bass" than a larger conventional speaker, but this is to some extent a mirage.

So I think there will still be a place for 'real' hi-fi for the people who care, just as there is a place for professional cameras that are less easy to use but give you a solidity that you don't get from point-and-shoot compact cameras.
 
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