Apple HomePod 2023: a small but mighty sonic marvel



Apple HomePod (2023) REVIEW

PAT PILCHER checks out Apple’s new HomePod and finds that its leading-edge tech smarts mean superior audio capabilities.


The new iteration of Apple’s celebrated HomePod smart speaker is getting plenty of plaudits, so the good Witchdoctor just had to hear a pair. This small but mighty widget is crammed with cutting-edge tech, and our ears were itching with anticipation ramped up by the prospect of putting two HomePods through their paces.


Would you like to support our mission to bring intelligence, insight and great writing to entertainment journalism? Help to pay for the coffee that keeps our brains working and fingers typing just for you. Witchdoctor, entertainment for grownups. Riveting writing on music, tech, hi-fi, music, film, TV and other cool stuff. Your one-off (or monthly) $5 or $10 donation will support and help us keep producing quality content. It’s really easy to donate, just click the ‘Become a supporter’ button below.


When it comes to design, our expectations were high. After all, this is Apple gear. Sporting a squat cylindrical shape covered in seamless, acoustically transparent fabric, they exude an understated elegance. Their build quality is impeccable, and they feel satisfyingly solid with a reassuring solidity that lets you know they’ve been built to last.

Getting the HomePods set up was crazily easy: Plug them in, connect to iPhone, confirm that we want to use them as a stereo pair. After just a few minutes, we were good to go.

The single most notable feature of the HomePods is their phenomenal audio performance. Under their hood, they have advanced spatial awareness technology that maps out their audio environment, so they can optimise their output to deliver room-filling sonics. Their sound was balanced, crisp, warm, and complemented by deep and punchy bass.  With our eyes closed, we could almost swear that the audio was being belted out by a significantly larger pair of speakers, or that there was a fairly good-quality sub tucked away. In short, their audio is improbably good.

Much of the sweet sonic goodness comes from its custom-engineered 4-inch woofer, which boasts a diaphragm with an astonishing 20mm of travel. Add to this some cutting-edge computational audio capabilities and you’re literally cooking with gas. These include real-time bass-EQ via a dedicated mic and a beamforming array of five tweeters around the HomePod’s base. The tweeters offer precise directional capabilities that beam direct as well as ambient audio, resulting in an immersive soundstage, crystal-clear vocals and layers of instrumentation.

Apple kitted the HomePod out with their custom S7 silicon which works with some clever software and system-sensing technologies. This combo allows it to deliver highly optimised audio thanks to room-sensing adaptive technology and four far-field mics. These allow the HomePod to analyse sound reflections from nearby surfaces and tweak its audio output in real-time. The results are impressive, and they handled every genre from Bach to Motorhead with surprising and pleasing finesse. All told, their output bordered on astonishing.

Of course, no one will invest in a pair of HomePods just for their impressive audio chops. Most people will want access to smart homes and smart assistant capabilities. To this end, Apple’s digital assistant, Siri, is fully integrated and provides near-seamless voice control for music playback and other compatible smart home gear. Suppose you’ve been smart enough to install smart home gear that supports the Matter connectivity standard. In that case, your gear should play nice with Siri, significantly enlarging the smart home ecosystems and gadgets Apple HomePod will play nice with.

The other compelling feature likely to put the HomePod on the shopping list of many is its ability to work with Apple TV. If you’ve invested in Apple’s shiny black set-top box to do your streaming but find the audio from your TV’s speakers less than stellar, pairing two HomePods with the Apple TV will transform movies and TV shows beyond recognition. This is further helped by the HomePods taking up less space than a soundbar and being far less fiddly to set up.

With security and privacy being a huge concern for a growing number of people, Apple made sure that the HomePod uses on-device voice recognition and end-to-end encryption. Hence, your data is going to be largely useless to hackers, and far less data gets sent back to Apple in the first place.

While the HomePod is an exceptional speaker, it does have two minor drawbacks. Ironically, its first also happens to be its biggest strength – its Apple-centric design. While setup and use with Apple gear is effortless and utterly bomb-proof, streaming music to the HomePod with non-Apple gear can be tricky as it uses AirDrop, which isn’t supported outside Apple’s ecosystem. While it worked seamlessly with my iPhone/iPad/Mac, Android was a different kettle of fish. However, fixing this was far less difficult than I anticipated. I downloaded the Cloudpayer app from the Android app store, and with it could stream music from my Google Drive or play radio stations over the HomePod. It isn’t quite as seamless as using an iPhone/iPad, and Cloudplay has a limited 30-day trial before you need to cough up some moolah, but it works. The other issue is Siri. While it’s come a very long way in a very short amount of time, comparing her to Google’s Assistant shows her to be wanting, as many queries left her floundering. Still, for basic tasks, she performed flawlessly. Just don’t expect anything close to conversational AI.

As expected with any Apple product, the HomePod (2023) commands a price premium. That said, the flipside of the coin is that you get what you pay for and then some with Apple. With the HomePod, this translates into great audio, seamless integration with your existing Apple gear and a beautiful design. Still, $529 is a lot of cash to splash on a smart speaker.

Apple’s HomePod (2023) raises the bar for audio quality and offers improved smart home integration. Its design is impeccable, as is its build quality. If you are in the Apple camp, the HomePod’s seamless integration into the Apple ecosystem and Siri makes it a no-brainer.


Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Support Witchdoctor!

Give a little to support Witchdoctor’s quest to save high quality independent journalism. It’s easy and painless!

Just donate $5 or $10 to our PressPatron account by clicking on the button below.

Witchdoctor straight to your inbox every 2nd week


Previous Story

1001 albums you must die before you hear: The Clash crap out

Next Story

40 years ago: Grammar Boys

Latest from Gear

Go toTop