Apple's Phil Schiller on HomePod: We Want to Create a New Kind of Music Experience in the Home That Sounds Incredible

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Over the weekend, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller did a quick fifteen minute interview with Sound & Vision, where he once again explained some of the technology behind the HomePod, shed some light on why Apple ultimately decided to create an in-home speaker, and explained how the HomePod will stand out among other smart speakers on the market.

Schiller believes that Apple is in a position to create a "new kind of music experience" that not only "sounds incredible," but is also "fun to interact with." He says that's the driving force behind Apple's work on the smart speaker. Apple's focus, though, isn't on a single product -- the company wants to design a unified experience that's the same throughout the day.

We don't think it's just about HomePod though, or any one product, it's about creating an experience that moves with you throughout the day -- so the experience you have at home, is replicated in the car with CarPlay, at work with iPad and Mac, and when you're out for a run with Watch and iPhone. You can listen to the same music, control your home accessories or ask Siri to do something for you, wherever you are.
Schiller says that Apple Music, Siri advancements in personal music discovery, and Apple's innovative audio work "come together" in the HomePod to deliver an "amazing music experience" to customers.

He went on to explain many of the technological advancements that improve sound quality in the HomePod, including machine learning to allow the HomePod to sense and adapt to its environment, the A8 chip for real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and echo cancellation, and a more advanced thinking of speaker arrays to "create a wide soundstage."

Schiller also explained in detail how the HomePod's spatial awareness features work. From the moment it's plugged in, the HomePod senses its location. The built-in microphone array listens to how sound reflects from neighboring surfaces to determine where it's located in a room and what's nearby, adjusting audio accordingly. The A8 chip beams center vocals and direct energy away from walls that are detected, while also reflecting ambient reverb and back-up vocals against the wall for better dispersion into the room.
The end result is a wide soundstage with a feeling of spaciousness and depth. This entire process takes just seconds and it doesn't stop with the initial setup. Every time you move HomePod, it uses the built-in accelerometer to detect a change in its location and continues to make sure the music sounds great and is consistent, wherever it's placed. We've also done some great things to help minimize the audible side effects of compression artifacts by developing studio level dynamic processing to optimize for rich, clean bass even at loud volumes.
Thus far, it appears Apple's efforts to focus on sound quality have been successful. While full HomePod reviews have not yet been shared, initial first impressions from reviewers who were able to spend a short amount of time with the HomePod have been positive. Many reviewers were highly impressed with the sound quality of the device, which has been described as "warm," "astonishing," "precise," and an "aural triumph."

Apple will, however, need to convince its customers that sound improvements are worth the premium price the company is charging for the device. HomePod is more expensive than competing products from Google and Amazon, but some reviewers have questioned whether the average consumer will value sound quality more than affordability.

Phil Schiller's full interview, which goes into more detail about Apple's aim with the HomePod, how voice recognition works, HomeKit integration, and more can be read over at Sound & Vision.

The HomePod, which is priced at $349 in the United States, can be pre-ordered from the online Apple Store. The first HomePod orders will be delivered to customers starting on Friday, February 9, the official launch date of the device.

Article Link: Apple's Phil Schiller on HomePod: We Want to Create a New Kind of Music Experience in the Home That Sounds Incredible
 

OldSchoolMacGuy

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Jul 10, 2008
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I think people will be surprised by the positive reviews the HomePod will receive.

Remember how people slammed the AirPods before they actually tried them, then found they loved them. They also slammed the Apple Watch and it turned into a great success too.

Calling a product a failure before it even hits the market almost always turns out to be a failed prediction. It's far easier to gauge success before release than failure. We see it time and time again.
 

Relentless Power

macrumors Nehalem
Jul 12, 2016
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Given the late release, it would have been beneficial to have more product information long before the launch. However I'm looking forward to the potential of the HomePod and I think the audio will deliver more than others are expecting. None the less, I think the HomePod will serve a certain demographic and be successful in its own right.
 
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Brookzy

macrumors 601
May 30, 2010
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I have no doubt that HomePod will sound great. So much so that I've ordered several to dot around the house.

But, my gosh, what a shambolic release.

I was hoping this interview would reveal more practical details about what the hell it can do and how.

Instead we're still - just a few days before launch - relying on drip-fed, third-hand information from journalists about things so fundamental as what types of music Siri will work with. So weird.
 

_Refurbished_

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Mar 23, 2007
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I feel like a lot people are happy streaming music to a Bluetooth soundbar that’s cheaper and multi-purpose. I know I am.

My music setup is already great, a HomePod wouldn’t add anything to my experience. In 2018, a lot of people already have their music setup to their needs. It will be successful because it’s Apple and Apple users pour money into new Apple products whether they need them or not.
 

ck2875

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Mar 25, 2009
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From the moment it's plugged in, the HomePod senses its location. The built-in microphone array listens to how sound reflects from neighboring surfaces to determine where it's located in a room and what's nearby, adjusting audio accordingly. The A8 chip beams center vocals and direct energy away from walls that are detected, while also reflecting ambient reverb and back-up vocals against the wall for better dispersion into the room.
I feel like this is going to have to be in an open area next to a flat wall to be effective. For example, how effective can the spatial awareness be if HomePod is sitting in a bookcase with side walls?
 
99% of listeners don't care. For the vast majority of users, a normal 128bit MP3 is perfectly fine.

Apple markets to the average user. They're the largest percentage of the market and the largest potential to make money.

Just look at how going after hi-fi audio has worked out for Tidal.
Ummmmm, perhaps you should reread how Apple is marketing this product. Best quality sound hardware begs for best quality sound software. Or, at the other extreme, garbage in: garbage out.

If Apple made a million dollar HP Magical Deluxe Speaker, the quality of it's sound will be limited by what it is fed.

OR, if "99% listeners don't care about audio quality," won't they be happy to save money and buy just about anyone else's much cheaper smart speaker? If they "don't care about quality," why pay more?
 

mtneer

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Sep 15, 2012
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99% of listeners don't care. For the vast majority of users, a normal 128bit MP3 is perfectly fine.

Apple markets to the average user. They're the largest percentage of the market and the largest potential to make money.

Just look at how going after hi-fi audio has worked out for Tidal.
I don't get it.. if, as you say, people do not care, why would they pay $350 for this Homepod, which according to Phil Schiller is supposed to "sound incredible" and not just any old bluetooth speaker?? In other words, why would Schiller be trying to market an incredible sound experience to 99% of people who don't give a hoot?
 

iReality85

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Apr 29, 2008
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I have to say, I am intrigued by HomePod. Could be another sleeper hit just like AirPods and Apple TV are. My significant other has already expressed interest in getting one.

My only gripe so far is the lack of color options. It’d be nice if Apple offered a color palette to choose from for the mesh fabric. Stark white and black are too limiting for a product like this, which blurs the boundaries between tech gadget and home decor item.
 
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subjonas

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He went on to explain many of the technological advancements that improve sound quality in the HomePod, including machine learning to allow the HomePod to sense and adapt to its environment, the A8 chip for real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and echo cancellation, and a more advanced thinking of speaker arrays to "create a wide soundstage."

Schiller also explained in detail how the HomePod's spatial awareness features work. From the moment it's plugged in, the HomePod senses its location. The built-in microphone array listens to how sound reflects from neighboring surfaces to determine where it's located in a room and what's nearby, adjusting audio accordingly. The A8 chip beams center vocals and direct energy away from walls that are detected, while also reflecting ambient reverb and back-up vocals against the wall for better dispersion into the room.
This right here is the make or break for me. We’ll find out soon enough if it’s just a bunch of marketing-speak or if Apple really did something amazing. I don’t trust tech sites’ opinions on audio though. I’ll be waiting for some reviews from actual audio publications. Also from my own ear.
 
I have to say, I am intrigued by HomePod. Could be another sleeper hit just like AirPods and Apple TV are. My significant other has already expressed interest in getting one.

My only gripe so far is the lack of color options. It’d be nice if Apple offered a color palette to choose from for the mesh fabric. Stark white and black are too limiting for a product like this, which blurs the boundaries between tech gadget and home decor item.
Check those size measurements: 6.8" high X 5.6" wide. This thing is tiny. You can probably put it inside of your own fabric mesh (and thus ANY color) unless that throws off how it optimizes itself.

I think the pics are somewhat misleading. Take a jumbo roll of TP and set it where you think you want this thing to go. It won't be sized much different than that. Even better: take a roll of paper towels and cut it in half. Set that where you want it to go. That's just about EXACTLY the size.