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Google Home Max edges HomePod out in sound quality tests – Consumer Reports
The HomePod’s bass was a bit boomy and overemphasized. And the midrange tones were somewhat hazy, meaning that some of the nuance in vocals, guitars, and horns was lost: These elements of the music couldn’t be heard as distinctly as in more highly rated speakers.
HomePod may not have an audio quality advantage after all
It’s Apple’s HomePod vs. Google Home Max. Who’s got the sound and smarts to reign supreme! It’s a Prizefight punch-out for smart speaker supremacy.
The biggest problem with Apple’s new HomePod speaker isn’t just that it’s trapped inside Apple’s walled garden — it’s also not tied into Apple’s ecosystem very well.
It doesn’t currently support stereo sound or multiroom playback, that means if you buy two HomePods, you can’t currently play the same song in two different rooms, or pair them together to play music or audio in stereo mode.
Siri on HomePod is not the same as Siri on the iPhone. It’s limited in its abilities, so it can’t do things like look things up on the internet or place calls for you. And Siri, in general, is nowhere near as flexible or as comprehensive as Google Assistant, when it comes to connecting to your various smart-home devices and answering questions.
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Think you’re locked inside Apple ecosystem? buying a HomePod is like adding an iron ball to those chains
HomePod can’t be used to place phone calls directly, and can’t be used as Bluetooth speaker. It can’t give you recipes, order you goods from nearby retailers for delivery, or play music from anything other than Apple Music. Homepod is brazenly hostile to any hardware or service not made by Apple. If you decide to buy one, do so with the full awareness of how deeply ensconced inside the Apple bubble you will be and now you have to live within the confines of the world that Apple has set up for you. In a nutshell, Apple HomePod is full of missed opportunities.
HomePod, can’t control your Apple TV, that means, you can’t say “Hey Siri, play ‘Top Gun’ on my Apple TV.” HomePod doesn’t have any audio inputs and uses AirPlay, which only allows HomePod to connect to an iOS device. Android owners are simply out of luck. So, to get the most out of the HomePod, you absolutely must have a subscription to an Apple music service and an iOS device to set the speaker up. Actually, to even consider a HomePod you must already have at least one foot inside Apple’s ecosystem. The HomePod just reinforces the locks on the gates outside.
Did you know, with HomePod, anyone in your house can say, “Hey Siri, read my most recent text” and it will read aloud texts from the device it’s paired with, because it can’t recognize voices.
To provide further insight into what went into making the smart speakers.
Frances Kwee, an audio engineer who spends most of her time working on smart speakers in a sound studio at the Googleplex. As an acoustics engineer, Kwee was responsible for designing the sound system inside of Google Home Max. Her job was to ensure that the speaker performed in combination to create a high-quality output at high volume while minimizing distortion and other anomalies. That meant designing, testing, and redesigning every aspect, from speaker grills to software.
One of Kwee’s main goals was to create a speaker system that would adapt itself to its surroundings and position within a room while taking acoustics of a given room into account as well. Since there really isn’t any way to accomplish testing for every scenario, Kwee and her team used software to emulate different environments and then took things even further through machine learning. They effectively taught Home Max by example to recognize its surroundings through its microphones and to adjust its sound output accordingly, in search of the optimal sound.
What sets Google Home Max apart from other speakers on the market?
Though we design our audio systems in special sound labs(“anechoic chamber”) at Google, we recognize that we’re not selling speakers to operate in sound studios. They’re going into all types of living spaces, where the sounds will reverberate differently. So we created Smart Sound, which uses machine learning to adjust to whatever space the speaker is in. Since all homes are different, we trained our machine learning model to recognize thousands of different room configurations. This helps Google Home Max to adapt to the setup of your room: if you move it from your bookshelf against the wall to an end table across the room, it can evaluate its new surroundings and will automatically adjust.
How do you ensure high-quality sound in the speakers?
With Max, one of our goals was to increase volume but limit distortion. Think about when you play music on your phone’s tiny speaker at top volume. It sounds raspy and muffled—not what you expect from a premium smart speaker.
So we used a computer program to simulate the speaker performance in dozens of scenarios, which helped us predict what the speaker would sound like before we built it. We also used a 3D printer to make prototypes to test out different buckets and grills. Google created nearly 100 different 3D printed versions of Google Home Max to test out different buckets and grills before landing on the final design!
Does Homepod Audio quality performance matter?
The reason this matters is that Apple focused so much on marketing HomePod based on its audio quality. If it isn’t the best in audio quality and you can buy other premium speakers in similar range of HomePod, what is the reason to purchase the device? Other than engraving Olympic Rings on your expensive wooden furniture.
That means Apple will need to compete on other features to win the larger market and has a whole lot of catching up to do.