What tech columnist David Pogue wrote about his listening experience with the Apple HomePod.
The audio quality will floor you. Let’s just get one thing straight: The HomePod sounds better than the Google Home Max ($400), the Sonos One ($200), or the Amazon Echo Plus ($150), let alone all the smaller Echos and Google Homes. This isn’t a matter of opinion; it seems to be a universal consensus among critics, and also my own reaction, based on side-by-side blind listening tests offered at an Apple suite in New York.
He then conducted his own test, with listeners from different demographics with suprrising (to David at least) results. Why did he do his own test?
An Apple rep told me that the test songs were streaming from a server in the next room (a Mac). But each speaker was connected to it differently: by Bluetooth (Amazon Echo), Ethernet (Sonos), input miniplug (Google Home), and AirPlay (HomePod), which is Apple’s Wi-Fi-based transmission system.
How is Pogue's test different from Apple's?
All four speakers would be streaming from Spotify, all four over Wi-Fi. I’d use the Spotify app’s device switcher to hop among speakers without missing a beat.
I didn’t tell them which speakers would be involved. I said only that there were four of them behind the curtain, and I’d refer to them as speakers A through D.
So what was the response from Pogue's blind panel of listeners?
Two of them ranked the Google Home Max (“D”) as the best. Three of them ranked the Sonos One (“A”) the best.
Nobody ranked the HomePod the best.
The Apple HomePod generally sounds better than any other smart speaker—but only somewhat, and only in direct A/B/C/D tests. If you listened to the HomePod, Sonos, and Google Home an hour apart, you’d never be able to declare one a clear winner. (Everyone agrees that the Amazon Echo Plus is the loser in this roundup, but then again, it’s $150 and the size of a Pringle’s can; it’s not a fair fight.)
You can get two Sonos Ones for the price of a single Apple HomePod. You can use them as a stereo pair, or put them in different rooms and control them by voice. And you can have your choice of 42 music services (Spotify, Pandora, TuneIn, etc.) — not just Apple Music. And you can use all of Amazon’s Alexa voice commands (and, soon, Google’s commands and even Siri’s commands!), meaning you can control a vastly larger range of smart-home devices than the HomePod can.
I won't be doing a listening test. I don't budget for that. But it seems to me, based on David's experiment, the feature set, and the cost, the Sonos One seens like the winner. My opinion.
Image from Sonos Presskit