Apple’s HomePods have often become a sort of a running joke, however, they are also the best of their breed. The problem with HomePod has always been one of positioning. Most people compare them with the likes of the Google Home and the Amazon Echo while the true comparison should be with speakers from high-end audio brands like Bose, Harmon and Kardon and Bowers and Wilkens. They may not be the smartest speakers in terms of a knowledge base to give you answers and do things on your behalf, but the one thing they shine at is sound. HomePod sounds incredible for a speaker of its size and shape thanks to its unique design and Apple’s computational audio technology which parses audio via the A8 chip making it highly spatially aware hence tuning the sound magically optimally for the room it is present in.
Apple also allows users to pair two HomePods together for a stereo pairing. And this sounds stupendously good for all kinds of music but also they are very good for video, providing good stereo separation, a wide soundstage and also just a balanced and clean sound for even the muddiest of mixes. But the one thing Apple officially doesn’t talk about is the pairing of more than two speakers. Actually, when one thinks of it, even a stereo pair for the HomePods can make for a very loudspeaker system. But if you’re looking for something with more speakers — the HomePods can work for you if your setup is deeply embedded in the Apple ecosystem.
Functional and affordable HomePod based home theatre setup
- iPod Touch
- Lightning to HDMI adaptor
- HomePod x 3 (minimum) but ideally you should have 4 HomePod units
- Projector or TV with HDMI out
- Long HDMI cable
Apple only recently released a new iPod touch which is the most affordable iOS-based device in its repertoire. Obviously, instead of the iPod touch, you can use an iPad or iPhone, but if you’re making a brand new setup I’d advise you to get the iPod Touch and leave it as your dedicated home-media controller.
When you have hooked up your iPod or any iOS-based device via HDMI to the TV, HDMI mirroring will be enabled. And then all you need to do is to revert the output to the HomePods via Airplay. Now when you go to the quick toggle menu to control audio on iOS, you will see the AirPlay casting option which will show all your HomePods — stereo pairs will show as one unit, while individual ones will show up separately.
I’ve done this with three HomePods but the best way to do this to have two stereo pairs and run them together and there is no lag or latency in the audio. It works like a charm with all kinds of apps for music and video — be it Apple Music, Spotify, Soundcloud, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video. There is one exception to this which is, unfortunately, Hotstar which doesn’t support AirPlay mirroring audio but even that Disney says that feature is in the works but could come in some months.
You can also listen to audio on all speakers using Siri at the same time — by saying something like “Hey Siri, play Echoes by Pink Floyd, everywhere”. You need to add everywhere at the end so that Siri knows that you want to fire up the audio on all sources. This feature has been actually designed for some Sonos-like multiroom audio capability but I use it in a very different way.
You can optimise this experience even more by mounting the HomePods on the corner edges of the room on audiophile-grade stands which could give you a wide sweet spot and great sound overall.
The one thing that I’d like Apple to change — natively allow users the choice to fire-up all speakers at the same time. At the same time, add the multi-speaker mirroring capability to macOS; right now this can only be achieved through Apple apps like Music and TV+, not even Safari.