Apple HomePod 2nd generation review

Apple HomePod 2nd generation review: back from the dead


Less than two years after the original was discontinued, the Apple HomePod 2nd generation is here and looking almost exactly the same. At $479, it’s one of the more expensive smart speakers out there, but is it worth the money? And, most importantly, does it sound any good? Well, that depends…

Details: Apple HomePod 2nd Generation

Price (RRP)$479
WarrantyOne year (in addition to your Australian Consumer Law rights, which should make that warranty stretch much longer)
OtherRead more sound reviews on GadgetGuy

First Impressions: Apple HomePod 2nd Generation

My first impression is that this HomePod looks exactly like the old HomePod, but the Midnight colour is a little blacker than the old Space Gray. The cord is detachable now, which is handy. But otherwise, it’s the same speaker I used to know and love on the outside, and that’s wonderful. It really didn’t need to have any changes to its appearance.

Of course, though, it’s not the same. Internally, it has a fancier processor (S7 vs A8), fewer tweeters (five instead of seven), four microphones (down from six), 802.11n Wi-Fi (which isn’t as good as the first generation’s 802.11ac), a new humidity and temperature sensor, Thread with Matter support, and it’s ever so slightly smaller and lighter.

Apple HomePod 2nd generation side view
Source: Alice Clarke

If you asked Apple why they took some of the fancier guts out, they’d probably say the processor made up for it. I would probably side-eye that response, because I’m getting Wi-Fi dropouts in the far corner of my living room, which I don’t get on the 1st gen HomePod or my Amazon Echo Dot, and I can notice the lack of tweeters.

But, it hasn’t taken me long to fall back in love with the big HomePod. The convenience of having Siri and Apple Music so readily available is hard to go past. Plus, who doesn’t want a loud cylinder on their desk?

Does the new HomePod sound good?

Yes, mostly. Am I going to cast my current Sonos speaker system into the sea? No, but the HomePod still sounds good for its size. It can go pretty loud, certainly louder than my neighbours would like, before I start to notice significant distortion on the bass. And, for such a small speaker, there is a lot of bass in this HomePod, way more bass than I would expect on a speaker this small. This is at the cost of the higher registers, which can sound more grounded than I would like.

To take it through its paces, I tried all my usual test songs, plus a few new ones.

“Full Heart Fancy” by Lucky Chops is an instrumental track that soars but can be let down by speakers and headphones with too much emphasis on bass. That’s what happened with this HomePod, the bass just overwhelms all the instruments on the upper register and grounds it too much. Even on the bridge, it was hard to make out the little hi-hat flourishes, and the bass was taking over all the instruments that were supposed to be in the foreground.

“Chasing Twisters” by Delta Rae has fewer instruments, and thus a bit more space for different features to “breathe”. The floor toms still overwhelmed the piano in places, but her voice sounds unencumbered in the verses. However, the reproduction of the song is missing so many details that I would normally expect to hear. The song sounds pretty good until you try to pick out individual pieces, like the growl in the pre-chorus, the resonance of the cymbals, and so on.

“Animal” by Pvris is a much more bass-heavy and chaotic song. There are still details that just aren’t there on HomePod, but this seems to be the kind of music the HomePod was made for. Same with “Paralyzed” by Conquer Divide. It’s technically a very detail-heavy song, and again I’m missing those intricacies, but boy howdy does it get the emotion and general vibe across, and that’s enough for casual background listening.

All up, the Apple HomePod 2nd generation isn’t a speaker you would sit down to listen to an album on, but it is something that would have you dancing around the living room while you tidied up.

Pairing in stereo with a second HomePod improves the experience significantly, and they can also connect to Apple TV to sound better than your built-in TV speakers.

Old big HomePod vs new big HomePod: Fight

On paper, the old HomePod sounds way better than the new HomePod. Better Wi-Fi specs, more tweeters, etc. But, in reality, most people probably aren’t going to notice, because they won’t have them side by side. However, I do have them side by side, and I can tell the difference, but the one that’s better is going to depend on what style of music you listen to.

Going back to “Full Heart Fancy” on the original HomePod, I can really hear those two extra tweeters in the crispness of the cymbals, the soar of the brass instruments and how bright it all sounds. It’s not hugely noticeable unless you’re looking for it, but it does sound a lot more like the song I know and love. Same with “Chasing Twisters”, those piano notes in the intro ring out more cleanly. On the 2nd generation, the floor tom is the hero of the intro, while on the 1st generation, it’s the piano. Here, the difference is more pronounced, and I vastly prefer the 1st generation. I got more details, like some of the growl in the pre-chorus. However, I do slightly miss that bass, because, on the 1st gen, there isn’t quite enough bass. It’s a difficult line to walk.

Apple HomePod 2nd generation top view
Source: Alice Clarke

On “Paralyzed”, the vocals sound more beautiful on the 1st generation, but the chorus is missing the impact of the bass, sounding distorted and fuzzy.

Bringing a third speaker into the mix, the Sonos Move, it’s lacking bass even more than the first generation and the “Paralyzed” chorus sounds much more like fuzz, but her vocals stand out a bit more in the verses.

I guess the takeaway from this is that if you listen to rap, metal or dance, then you’ll be much happier with the 2nd generation, while lovers of country, classical and brass instruments will wish they had the 1st generation.

Plus, audio quality aside, the new temperature and humidity sensor is super helpful if you’re wanting to set up automations with a smart air conditioner or dehumidifier, and having Matter support means it’ll work with new smart home devices. It is now far more of a smart home hub than the first generation, and that’s the main thing HomePod is supposed to be.

Why would I buy this instead of a HomePod Mini?

It depends on your living room setup. There aren’t many smart speakers around this same price that sound better, and certainly none that would have Siri. If you’re wanting music and smarts, then the big HomePod is the best option. The HomePod Mini sounds good for its size and is objectively adorable, but it’s a smart speaker first, and a music speaker second. The big 2nd generation HomePod is able to do both with great skill. Sound needs room to move, and the HomePod Mini just doesn’t have that.

Would I buy it?

Yes, I think I would. I probably wouldn’t get it to be my main sound system, because I am a snob. However, I used to use the HomePod in my office for music, maths and thesaurus questions every day, and I’m enjoying getting back to that. I like that Siri is a smart assistant designed to assist, rather than sell my data to advertisers, the easy integration with iPhone and Mac is superb, and it’s just the easiest thing to use.

If I still had a TV in the bedroom with an Apple TV, I would absolutely have a HomePod on each bedside table to act as the speakers, that would be an ideal setup. I just wish it had a separate subwoofer it could connect to (like the Sonos Sub Mini with Sonos One speakers), so it didn’t have to have such an overwhelming subwoofer built in, because then it would be perfect.

Apple HomePod 2nd generation
The Apple HomePod 2nd generation is still the best Siri-integrated smart speaker, but not a good fit for audiophiles.
Value for money
Ease of use
Sounds pretty good as long as you’re not looking for details in the music
Siri is a reliable smart assistant that isn’t trying to use your data against you
Looks good
Strong bass
Slight downgrade from the discontinued HomePod
I wish it came in fun colours like the HomePod Mini
Music reproduction lacks clarity and details