+ Siri voice control works flawlessly
+ offers smooth, warm, rich sound
+ wide panorama when 2 units used in stereo
+ perfectly integrated into the Apple world
- Non-Apple users face significant limitations
- max SPL restricted
Sound: Tonal balance / Transparency7
Sound: Bass / Dynamics6.2
Ease-of-use / Connectivity9
Apple´s HomePod Mini may be a luxury product. But at a quite reasonable prices. Apple´s small smart speaker comes at a surprising 99 Euros. In the portfolio of the most valuable company in the world, for less than 99 bucks you get nothing than a strap for your Apple Watch. Even the smart pencil comes at 135 Euros. And you can be quite sure: a HomePod Mini is significantly more expensive to manufacture.
Obviously Apple is trying to conquer a quite competitive segment. Or to be more precise: two of them at the same time, home entertainment and voice control. A direct competitor of astonishingly similar shape being Amazon’s Echo Dot. Amazon might also be ignoring manufacturing costs here, demanding 70 Euros for the smart ball. We have compared one against each other and came to a clear verdict: Apple´s HomePod is from hi-fi point of view by far superior.
Its big sibling might have sounded even better, but Apple has removed the original HomePod from the catalogue. Too expensive, not quite successful enough. To make it clear: A Homepod Mini is no competitor to any hi-fi combo, but a ticket for entering living rooms offering smart features plus voice recognition technology. So the name of the game is rather Siri vs. Alexa or Siri vs. Google Assistant.
What the Apple HomePod Mini is capable of
Before we talk sound quality, let’s imagine the benefits of using a homepod at… home. To cut long story short: I am using an Android phone – meaning i should actually get off at the end of this paragraph. The HomePod Mini is created for Apple´s own environment.
Connectivity options are surprisingly multifaceted: both Wifi and Bluetooth can be used to stream music. Example: I get home after a hard day’s work. Listening to music via Apple´s own inear phones all the way from the station. Once at home, I want to befree my ears: let your iPhone approach the HomePods, and the ongoing playlist is automatically rerouted to the little speaker balls. A great experience. This also works the other way ´round: After breakfast, get your iPhone near the Airpods, and listen to the continous playlist via inears. That´s both elegant and clever.
Now the Siri moment. Sitting on the sofa and feeling the desperate need to increase air temperature just a little bit – simply make that request and Siri takes control of your smart home devices. Likewise about the light or the blinds. Feels like magic but is simply powerful software behind it.
Bonus feature: If I happened to install several HomePods in different rooms, I can use them all for announcements to the whole family: “Dinner is ready, please proceed quickly to the table”. Works fabulously and effectively. And another important message: on many pictures the Homepod in different colours is shown as a speaker solely. Don´t forget: it needs a power supply. Which, of course, is included – but do not forget about that necessity.
We were amazed when listening
For the main living area there is one thing left to do: connecting two Apple HomePod Minis to form a stereo combo. And that´s pretty easy using your iPhone. As easy as connecting them to an Apple TV, improving the somehow disappointing sound quality of many TV sets to an enjoyable level. Because the small speakers sound surprisingly good, significantly better than the everlasting Alexa rival.
It might happen that listening to them for the first time your jaw might literally drop. My goodness, these tiny things are just 3.5 inches high – and yet they provide you with an amazingly wide stereo image. As if Apple was optimizing mainly loudspeakers for decades. Of course, it is possible to listen to a single one monaurally. But at this price point, we strongly recommended to double the effect.
There must be some enormous knowledge of psychoacoustics behind that. There is some upper bass, which our brain is somehow completing while percepting. Feels really like deep beats, which in the real world of frequencies and wavelengths are not existing. At its best, the entire experience and the sound characteristics could be described using solely one word: smooth. Tonal balance is quite harmonious, offering a slight tendency to warm side, guaranteed to be free from stress and fatigue.
Unless we turn up the volume using the virtual knob. The Apple HomePod Mini does not high SPL. The attempt to do so makes it sound somewhat pressed, losing its lush elegancy.
Conclusion and alternatives
In summary: perhaps the most versatile prodigy in the current Apple catalogue. Definitely to be declared a best buy in case one has joined the Apple universe anyway. To those who are thinking about leaving Siri or even switching to the Alexa world: you won’t find anything in the other A-world that offers a sound quality even close to that for 99 Euros. A similarly flexible concept at most with the Sonos Roam, and this one is more expensive, less tiny and heavier (but offering battery mode!). And at 99 Euros, even Android users like the author of these lines might consider defecting.
- Retail price: 99 euros
- Dimensions (H x W x D): 8.5 x 9.8 x 9.8 centimetres
- Weight: 345 g
- Special features: Stereo pairing, Apple Music subscription included for six months, Siri , voice control built-in
- More at: www.apple.com