- Five years after its first HomePod speaker, Apple has just launched a new iteration with a similar design, but more powerful.
- In testing, the HomePod 2023 proves to be a good speaker for small spaces, or to sound a TV of modest size through the Apple TV 4K. It is compatible with the new Matter protocol to control connected objects.
- Sold for 349 euros, the HomePod will be reserved for Apple Addicts and faces fierce competition, sometimes older, which sometimes offers more ... for less.
And Apple puts the sound back! The manufacturer pulls the HomePod out of its hat. If it looks like its elder launched five years ago and retains the price, the new connected speaker has evolved, as 20 Minutes was able to see during its tests. But for music, home theater and connected home control, the HomePod is not alone in its kingdom and some older competitors, just as (or even more) powerful and more accessible, overshadow it.
The re-release: Apple's HomePod (2023)
Five years after its first HomePod, the manufacturer is back with a new iteration of its connected speaker. Few aesthetic changes to the menu. Available in black or white (168 mm x 142 for 2.3 kg), covered with the same mesh fabric that gives it its personality, the HomePod 2023 installs in a jiffy... as long as you have an iPhone (or iPad), an AppleTV 4K or a Mac. Android smartphone owners will go their way! On the one hand, the HomePod is not a Bluetooth speaker, on the other hand, it navigates the very closed universe of the Apple brand.
Inside, Apple reduces the wing: a boomer, five tweeters (instead of seven) and four microphones (instead of six) are present. Advances in audio computing would justify, according to Apple, this economy.
Dolby Atmos (or "Space Audio") compatible, but not DTS, the speaker is designed to stream music from an Apple device, and to sound movies and series through Apple TV 4K. Compatible with the "open" Matter protocol (in addition to Apple's HomeKit standard), the HomePod, which embeds the Siri assistant, can be used to control connected objects compatible with voice. 349 euros.
Our opinion: Expensive, very expensive, too expensive compared to other speaker systems, the HomePod 2023 is reserved for Apple addicts who want to complete their panoply.
First tested alone, the speaker offers satisfaction, with ample sound. Space Audio has its raison d'être, even if the immersion offered by spatialized music will never be as surprising as with compatible headphones or headphones. Be careful, if Apple Music and Deezer are in the loop, Spotify is not compatible...
In addition, tested in pairs (700 euros for both speakers!), with an Apple TV 4K (a must to connect it to a TV), the speaker knows how to perfectly replace a small soundbar. But the HomePod will quickly reach its limits with an XXL screen. Especially since it is impossible to graft surround speakers. And that Apple does not (yet) offer a subwoofer. The HDMI eARC jack of the Apple TV will however allow you to enjoy a Blu-Ray player or a connected game console: the HomePod will reproduce the sound.
Finally tested in pairs around an iMac, the speaker proved to be a really pleasant listening, with a warm, suave sound, voices put forward, and with a stereo very well rendered. In Spatial Audio, the rendering can be surprising this time, depending on the songs. Note some disconnections between our two speakers, and a certain slowness when sending sound from an iPhone, rather than asking the voice.
Finally, can only deplore the limits of the Siri assistant (always the same!), often shy in its answers, and sometimes a real slowness to execute (even with an irreproachable Internet connection).
The much more economical rival: Amazon's Echo Studio
Equipped with five speakers (three 5 cm woofers for midranges, a 2.5 cm tweeter, and a 13.3 cm subwoofer), Amazon's Echo Studio is larger than the HomePod (200 x 170 mm, for 3.2 kg). But it is Wifi AND Bluetooth. Its configuration allows it to broadcast 360° sound. EUR 199.
Our opinion: Compatible with Amazon Music, AppleMusic, Deezer and Spotify, the device is agnostic about its audio sources, where the HomePod shuns Spotify. The Echo Studio, which sends its 330 watts generously, offers good sound, even if it lacks a little brilliance. As with the HomePod, two Echo Studio can be paired to sound a TV (via a Fire TV dongle or the Fire TV 4K box). But where Apple does not have a subwoofer for its new speaker, Amazon's Echo Sub subwoofer will come as a reinforcement to the Echo Studio. As with Apple, Dolby Atmos compatibility is ensured. For its part, the TV connected to the Amazon speaker can be controlled by voice by the Alexa assistant. Alexa which remains much more zealous than Siri for the control of connected objects (here with the Zigbee protocol). Quick, a new version compatible with Matter!
The evolving competitor: Sonos One
As an anchor for a multiroom audio installation, the Sonos One speaker (black or white) is not Bluetooth, but can be combined with other speakers of the brand in an ecosystem that dominates the hierarchy. The One can work in stereo pairs, with one of the Sonos soundbars, and even be paired with two other One to offer surround sound to its home theater. Still, here too, the Sonos universe is closed. 229 euros; 435 euros per pair.
Our opinion: AirPlay 2 (lossless streaming from an iPhone), the Sonos One can play sounds from all platforms, including Apple Music. In stereo pair on either side of a TV, it can also be used in surround pair, which Apple does not offer with the HomePod (or HomePod mini). Natively compatible with Alexa to control connected objects, the Sonos One also has, recently, its own assistant. Named Sonos Voice Control, its vocation remains the control of its music and the brand's speakers, but in no case that of connected objects. Sonos has just announced the replacement of this speaker by the new Sonos Era 100 (sold for 279 euros) which is Wifi and Bluetooth. It may be wise to watch for promotions on the Sonos One, now at the end of its life.
The most complete opponent: Denon's Home 150
Compatible with Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify, Amazon Music HD and Tidal, the Denon Home 150 speaker can either work in network (Wifi) or Bluetooth. Solo or stereo, it can be paired with other speakers of the brand (Denon Home 250 and 350), but also to the Home 550 and DHT-S716H soundbars and thus be used as a front or surround speaker. The Denon DSW1H box can also join the hitch.
Our opinion: Small (120 x 187 x 120 mm, for 1.7 kg), compatible with Google Home assistants, Alexa, but also Siri (which is surprising), this two-way speaker will not offer 360 ° sound, unlike the HomePod. But it has the privilege of being able to play Hi-Res audio files (up to 192 kHz / 24 bits), which can appeal to the most music lovers. As with Sonos, its AirPlay 2 compatibility is assured. It is therefore a good partner for iPhone, iPad ...
Controlled from Denon's Heos app, this speaker also has touch controls. Bonus over a Sonos One or HomePod: three preset keys are there to access this or that preprogrammed audio source without going through the application. It is a real plus in use, which avoids manipulating your smartphone to choose its audio source. Another advantage: a USB socket and an AUX input that make it a truly universal device. 249 euros.
- 20 minutes video
- Connected objects
- Streaming music
- Dolby Atmos