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Apple has recently been on a roll with buzzy product announcements, from the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, to an upgraded Mac Mini featuring their latest M2 chip. But one of their most surprising by far was the announcement of the much improved-upon HomePod (2nd Gen). Available for pre-order now, this new $299 smart speaker will ship around February 3rd, making this a great gift to for the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, or as a gift to yourself to beef up your smart home audio setup.
Stacked up against the first generation of the HomePod (and the HomePod Mini), the latest model features the new S7 performance chip for better sound clarity and acoustic performance. In fact, the new HomePod has a beam-forming array of five tweeters (as opposed to seven) and a specially-designed woofer for a more immersive audio experience than the HomePod Mini. With room-sensing technology, the speaker can also adapt the sound in real time depending on where it’s placed in the room (up against a wall or as a free-standing speaker, for example). You can also create a stereo pair with two HomePod speakers, and with support for Apple’s 360-degree Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos, it’s clearly meant to shine as integrated into a home theater setup.
We had the chance to demo the audio performance at a HomePod (2nd Gen) briefing, and we were impressed by the stunning high frequencies in the vocals and raw guitar plucking on the intro of an Ingrid Michaelson track we were played. The detail and clarity in every layer is clearly more fine-tuned than the first generation, even if the Spatial Audio on demo’d tracks like “Boomerang” by Yebba didn’t exactly feel like it could fill the entire space. The bass felt prices and controlled, but may not satisfy those looking for heavy-chest rattling beats. But the HomePod’s true capabilities shine the most when they’re in a pair, especially on concert tracks like the live version of The Eagles’ “Hotel California”. The soundstage widens considerably in stereo mode, and everything from the vocals, to the guitar and percussion (and even the audience’s cheers) were distinct, yet it felt like we were standing right up against the stage.
The HomePod (2nd Gen) is also touting some snazzy new smart home features — along with Apple HomeKit, and now Thread support, the HomePod now sports Matter compatibility, the new smart home protocol that premiered at CES this year, aiming to seamlessly connect an entire network’s worth of home devices. The speaker can also sense the temperature and humidity in a room, and a new “Smart Recognition” feature means you can receive an alert when a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm is detected in your home. Create hands-free recurring actions like closing the blinds or turning on the fan automatically when a certain temperature is reached in a room with Siri, too.
The HomePod (2nd gen) is set to be the best smart speaker Apple has released to date, and if you’re looking to automate your daily routine, or just enhance your home audio setup, it’s definitely worth the upgrade. Pre-order now online here, and the HomePod will officially be available on Friday, February 3rd.