Why This Former Apple Exec is Doubting HomePod Reviews


In an interesting write up over at Monday Note, former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée has shared his thoughts on some of the early HomePod reviews hitting the web, explaining why he believes they should be taken with a grain of salt. He points out the three important factors that make it very difficult to evaluate the speakers, even for the professionals.


Gassée says that first of all, things like the room and the listener’s position in it, how reflective material can make music sound brittle, and how carpets and curtains will deaden the sound, greatly influence the test. Secondly, “all speaker comparisons must be double-blind” meaning neither the person running the test nor the evaluators should know which device is on at the moment.

The third and most important factor to consider he says is the differences in output level. Since in majority of comparisons, the louder speaker will always sound better, all contestant speakers must be carefully equalized to within 1db.

While reading blogosphere articles that compare HomePod to Sonos, Amazon Echo, and Google Home, I can’t help but wonder how many setups follow Aczel’s three cardinal rules. The closest I could find was David Pogue’s four speakers behind a curtain test, a home re-enactment (with crucial improvements) of Apple’s “listening session for reviewers” that Pogue had attended.

The technical complexity and environmental subjectivity leads to contradictory statements and inconsistent results. We’ll have to wait and see what actual humans do.

To read the lengthily article in its entirety, hit up the source page. We’ll have our own HomePod review up soon, so stay tuned.



    Where are the Trolls with the smart remarks?

  • Aleks Oniszczak

    Are you saying former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée is a troll?

  • No, but he’s probably an illegal.

  • Sterling Archer

    Oh lord. So we have to have exact specifications to know whether something sounds great? Give me a break.

    Sound is subjective to so many degrees. And people aren’t going to control their spaces to the kind of degree that seems to be expected.

    Real world tests are all that matter. If your device sounds mediocre in comparison to similar speakers, that’s a valid point to make regardless of the room setting unless they’re putting them in dramatically different locations.

  • Jack Smith

    The blind review done with trained music ears the Google Home Max beat out the HomePod easily as did the Sonos 1. Not one participant liked the HomePod best.

    Consumer report found the same that the Max had better sound. My brother has a HomePod and to my ears the Max has cleaner sound.

    But then the functionality on the HomePod is just very poorly thought out. No mic mute? Have to verbally. No visual cue when mute? To un mute you have to get your phone, launch an app, drill down to the most non intuitive place.

    Apple usually comes late and just nails it. They did not even get the sound better with the HomePod.

  • Jack Smith

    Wow! Simply wow.