Apple says its HomePod smart speaker is about high quality audio, and not a countertop voice assistant device. That’s not, however, stopping practically the entire internet from comparing HomePod to Amazon Echo and Google Home. Since Apple wants the focus to be on their speaker’s audio quality, we decided to look at the hardware specifications and see how they stack up against Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home.
HomePod, Echo, and Google Home Similarities
Apple HomePod, Amazon Echo, and Google Home are similar in that they’re all canister-shaped streaming music speaker systems. They all support Wi-Fi network connections and offer some form of voice control.
They support audio in from streaming music services like Spotify—in the case of HomePod, that’s only Apple own Apple Music and iTunes Match—and streaming from third-party apps. For HomePod, that’s limited to streaming from another device over AirPlay.
HomePod, Echo, Home Tech Comparison
Here’s how the three smart speaker’s tech specs stack up on paper.
HomePod: 7 tweeters, 1 high excursion woofer, 6 far-field microphones, direct and ambient audio beamforming, Bluetooth 5.0. Price: US$349
Echo: 1 0.6-inch tweeter, 1 2.5-inch woofer, 7 far-field microphones, beamforming, 3.5-inch audio out, Bluetooth 4.0. Price: $99.99
Google Home: 1 2-inch high excursion speaker with dual 2-inch passive radiators, 2 far-field microphones, beamforming, Bluetooth 4.2. Price: $129
Smart Speaker Feature Comparison Table
What is Beamforming
Beamforming uses multiple microphones to focus on audio, like someone speaking or music. For a person using a smart speaker that means their voice will be picked up and heard no matter where they are in a room, and even when they’re moving through a room, with HomePod and Echo. It also helps HomePod “listen” and optimize its audio output based on where it’s placed in a room.
What is High Excursion
Individual tweeters and woofers have a physical range of motion when they vibrate to create sound. In simple terms, if they have a very wide travel range, that’s high excursion. That should translate into better sound quality for HomePod and Google Home—again, keeping the technical explanation very simple.
Which Has Better Sound Quality?
Picking the best sounding speaker based only on technical specifications isn’t fair because a lot more than just numbers goes into audio quality. Sound is also, as Dave Hamilton points out, subjective. What sounds great to you may not to someone else.
It’s no secret that Apple put a lot of time and effort into designing HomePod. Odds are it’ll sound really good, and early reviews are backing that up. Whether or not that’s worth a $349 price tag is up to you.