In the deathwatch of the ballyhoo over Apple’s new HomePod apostle (and afterwards I wrote a few accessories about its sonic capabilities), Google arrive me out to Mountain View for some “transparency” about its own high-end acute speaker, the Google Home Max. They additionally sat me bottomward in a complete alcove for a dark alert analysis (more about that later) pitting the Max adjoin the HomePod.
Google’s $400 Home Max apostle came out four months afore the $350 HomePod, and has a actual altered access to bushing apartment with sound. The Max is a directional apostle with two 4.5-inch drivers and two .7-inch tweeters adverse out from a animate box enclosure. The HomePod has a 360-degree design, with a distinct 4-inch disciplinarian acicular beeline up from the top allotment of the device, and a arena of seven tweeters adverse out (and hardly up) in all admonition from the basal part.
Without anytime adage the words Apple or HomePod, Google Home Max artefact administrator Chris Chan compares the two companies’ altered approaches to tastes in wine. “There is subjectivity to wine tasting but there are actual cold components. You apperceive what bad wine is. There is baby wine. But there is this atramentous average area business can affectionate of do a lot to inject confusion.”
Chan and his aggregation are agnostic of the HomePod’s 360 design, which they say doesn’t fit with the way best bodies abode acute speakers in the home. “In every distinct case they’re putting their speakers abutting to walls,” Chan told me. “They don’t appetite it on the coffee table as this array of centerpiece in their home that bodies affectionate of accumulate about like a fireplace. It’s on your nightstand, it’s alongside your kitchen appliances.”
From a authentic audio perspective, Chan says the 360-degree apostle architecture has its ups and downs. “When you’re outputting the aforementioned ability in every administration there is a greater adventitious of a constant complete from every space,” he said. “But you additionally get that because it’s a address apostle and it’s the aforementioned affair from a assertive point and that’s not necessarily valuable.”
Walls are a botheration for both the Max and the HomePod. Imagine low-frequency complete as ample after-effects of baptize abounding out from the speaker. As they emerge, they anon hit the bank and appear aback on themselves. This causes the bass to become abstract and out of admeasurement with the blow of the sounds in the music.
Both the HomePod and the Max accommodate arrays of microphones to ascertain that, again accelerate advice to their corresponding processors, which atone by altering (or “tuning”) the bass achievement of the speaker. But the Max’s drivers and tweeters are directional; they can face abroad from a adjacent wall, physically afar from it by their animate apostle enclosure. The HomePod’s are not, so it’s acceptable it charge do a little added compensating than the Max.
The HomePod goes abundant added than acclimation for contrary bass sound. Apple suggests the HomePod tunes its complete achievement to actualize a constant alert acquaintance throughout the allowance behindhand of area the adviser is standing. (In Apple’s words, it creates “an all-embracing faculty of space—and consistent, high-fidelity audio everywhere in the room.”) This involves application some actual adorned audio processing technology to tune aerial abundance sounds in the allowance as well.
Apple says the HomePod places “direct” sounds that are primary to the mix (like a advance vocals) in the average of the room.
Chan says the wavelengths of low-frequency complete after-effects are large–often a beat or two long. So, he says, low abundance sounds complete appealing abundant the aforementioned behindhand of area the adviser is continuing in the room.
The HomePod diffuses college (“ambient”) sounds throughout the room. (Again, in Apple’s words: “. . . ambient complete is diffused into larboard and appropriate channels and bounced off the bank . . . so your music sounds amazing, wherever you are in the room.”)
Chan says he and his aggregation are agnostic that equalization can be acclimated to actual for allowance furnishings with acute sounds. “In agreement of the aerial abundance ranges, there is no way for us to apperceive area you are, so there is no way to actual with that stuff. And anyone that’s claiming there is, is, well…”
High abundance complete after-effects are, by nature, a bit chaotic, Chan told me. “The wavelengths are so abundant shorter, they animation about everywhere, depending on area you are, depending on what altar are there, and so there are so abounding barriers to aerial frequencies aural constant aural your position.”
The Google engineers bought a HomePod and did some testing “out of abandoned curiosity,” Chan said. Still, it was bright to me that Chan and his aggregation accept account for the HomePod. He’s additionally quick to point out that the architecture access the Apple engineers chose has its able points.
It was my consequence that Chan and his aggregation accept alike abstruse from the HomePod. “You accept to bethink all of this being [the Max technology] was developed in an ambiance after HomePod,” Chan said, “in a time aback we were defining a new category.”
After I batten with Chan I was taken into an closed allowance for the dark complete test. The Google bodies sat me bottomward in advanced of a atramentous ache blind ambuscade a Google Home Max and a HomePod. They gave me a clicker accessory so that I could about-face aback and alternating amid the accessories at will.
In this test, the Max compared actual able-bodied to the HomePod. But there were affidavit for this. I was sitting anon in advanced of the Max at ear level, so that all its achievement was advancing appropriate at me. And remember, the Max is a directional speaker. Also, the allowance was dead; that is, the walls were covered with complete lath to blot as abundant complete as possible. This may accept been a bad ambiance for the airy, ambient allowance complete the HomePod is advised to create.
So, my honest opinion: If you can allow a brace of Maxes to abode on a shelf a acceptable ambit afar in the room, you will get a actual acceptable stereo experience. However, if you can allow alone one device, I abide to accept the HomePod does a arresting job of bushing a allowance with complete and recreating a stereo effect–largely with software.
And finally, it’s fair to acknowledgment a brace of audio-enabling appearance that the Max offers and the HomePod doesn’t. The Max has a 3.5mm anchorage that can be acclimated to affix a turntable or CD player. And, importantly, the Max lets you affix your smartphone or book via accepted Bluetooth, so you can comedy advance from your own music account or music library. The HomePod requires a proprietary AirPlay affiliation that excludes non-iDevices.
Correction: A antecedent adaptation of this adventure said Apple’s HomePod places bass sounds in the average of the room. Actually it directs primary sounds like advance vocals and abandoned horns to the middle. Those sounds aren’t necessarily low-frequency sounds. Added generally they are mid-range or college abundance sounds.
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