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Apple HomePod vs Sonos One vs Google Max in Blind Tests

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Technology writer David Pogue, who gave out his initial thoughts on Apple’s HomePod last week after attending Apple’s special listening session comparing its smart speaker to Google Home Max, Sonos One and Amazon Echo, set up his own blind listening test at home using the four speakers, in order to find out whether Apple did a perfectly fair test or not.

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Pogue hid the speakers behind a sheet of thin, sheer fabric that wouldn’t affect the sound. All four speakers were set up to stream from Spotify over Wi-Fi. He’d use the Spotify app’s device switcher to hop among speakers without missing a beat. He chose five songs, each with different styles, instrumentation, and sonic demands. He then volume matched all the speakers as best as he could by ear.

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The next day, the Yahoo film crew arrived. Our sound recordist, Dave, used level meters to help me volume-match the speakers more precisely. I didn’t tell them which speakers would be involved. I said only that there were four of them behind the curtain, and I’d refer to them as speakers A through D.

I handed out their score sheets and began the test. Five songs, 20 seconds each, free replays when requested. For each song, I played the speakers in a different order (A to D sometimes, D to A sometimes).

Pogue says that at the end of the test, while most of the panelists ranked the HomePod as first on some of the songs, they did not do so on all of them, suggesting that you’d never be able to declare one a clear winner if you listened to the HomePod, Sonos, and Google Home an hour apart.

For more detailed results, click here.

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  • Aleks Oniszczak

    The overall finding was “Nobody ranked the HomePod the best.”

    I think Pogue did a much better job than most in testing the speakers, but there are still problems with his method. The winning speakers (Sonos and Google) were always placed first and last in the listening sequence. There is a little thing called the “primacy and recency effect” which can bias participants when listening to something, guess when, first or last. That’s why slimy politicians like to make sure they speak first or last during a debate or be listed first or last on a ballot. Pogue should have moved the speakers around for each test.

  • Kris

    totally agreed, and a very good point, positional play also makes a difference.

  • aRhyno

    I thought about waiting for the HomePod, then I realized I will never know the difference between that and sonos and I put 200$ in my pocket and got a sonos one. Love the thing.

  • Got Game? Get Game! ???

    Wouldn’t Apple’s HomePod be optimized to play Apple Music just like all of their stuff is optimized to work better together under the same ecosystem? Any perceived premium that Apple charges is made up for through the longevity of their products. That Sonos One will probably end up in the trash long before the HomePod will.

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    Not so sure about the longevity given that Apple doesn’t include an Aux jack (due to courage I guess) and you can’t even use it as a Bluetooth speaker – (due to even more courage?) so once Apple drops support to the “early 2018” speaker – it’ll be an expensive paperweight that leaves white rings on wooden surfaces.

  • Got Game? Get Game! ???

    Why would you need a headphone jack on a speaker? Doesn’t iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch all stream to the HomePod as part of their eco system? Isn’t the Google Speaker more expensive? And doesn’t Google drop support for products faster than anyone in the industry?

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    Not a headphone jack, an Aux jack for input. Let’s say 6 years from now when Apple drops support, you could still plug in a Chromecast or some future device that hasn’t been invented yet – that would future-proof the device. But you can’t. You’d have to throw away a perfectly good speaker. Can’t even use it as a simple Bluetooth speaker.

  • Got Game? Get Game! ???

    6 years support is about 4.5 years longer than Amazon and Google would support anything.

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    Google Home Max has an AUX jack so it doesn’t matter – it won’t be garbage once it’s no longer supported. Amazon’s Echo doesn’t have one, but at least it can be used as a Bluetooth speaker once it’s no longer supported.

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