Apple HomePod (2nd-gen) Smart Speaker Review

Posted on 26th April, 2023
Apple HomePod (2nd-gen) Smart Speaker Review

Cheryl Tan is impressed by just how good this small smart speaker sounds…


HomePod (2nd-generation)

USD $299

After discontinuing the original HomePod in 2021, it was a surprise to see Apple announce the HomePod 2 earlier this year. Regardless, this might be one of the best smart speakers in the market to date. At $299 USD, these are certainly a little pricier than your standard Google Home Audio speakers and the like, but for people in the Apple ecosystem, this is definitely what you want to use to control your smart home. 

Design-wise, it’s very similar to the original HomePod. It retains the same cylindrical shape with a few nice updates. For one, the power cable is easily removable, meaning that if required, you can swap in any compatible figure-of-8 cable. Additionally, the top touch-sensitive area has been recessed into the mesh, which makes for a slightly cleaner look.

Apple has managed to shave around 200g from the speaker, but it’s still a compact yet solid speaker, although this won’t matter much since it’s not really meant to be moved around much. The HomePod 2 comes in two colours, White and Midnight. Everything about the speaker, from the mesh to the power cable, is the same colour – which is great for consistency and aesthetics. 


There have been a few changes inside. While there’s still a 20mm high excursion woofer facing upwards, Apple has reduced the number of tweeters in the HomePod 2 to five, while packing them closer together. There are also five microphones inside; a four-microphone array handles “Hey Siri” requests and automatically adjusts the sound by listening for sound reflecting off surfaces, while an internal bass-EQ microphone measures the internal pressure from the movement of the woofer and adjusts the low-frequency response in real-time. 

Apple’s ultra-wideband U1 chip has also been included, allowing for an even better hands-off experience between the phone and the speaker. To further bring home the point that this is a smart speaker meant to be a smart home hub, there are temperature and humidity sensors built into the HomePod 2, along with the ability for the speaker to listen for and detect smoke and carbon monoxide alarms if they go off. 

For a product at this price point, you would expect everything to be flawless, and from a hardware perspective, it is. The power cables sit flush and snug, the mesh covering is immaculate, and the touch controls on top are responsive and provide a very nice visual indicator of when Siri is active or when music is playing. My one quibble would be that the power cable for the HomePod 2 is a tad bit short, but again, it’s not a proprietary cable, so it’s easy to swap the provided one for a longer cable if required.


Set-up is a breeze, but the caveat is that the HomePod 2 can only be configured via an iPhone or iPad, so this is definitely not a product for pure Android users. Everything is done in the Home app, and it’s as simple as powering on the speaker and bringing your iPhone close by. If you have two HomePod 2 speakers, you can even group them into a stereo pair for music listening or to use as TV speakers in tandem with an Apple TV 4K (review here). If you’re an existing owner of an original HomePod, note that you won’t be able to mix and match between the first and second-generation models.

Before we move to how it sounds, let’s talk about usage as a smart speaker. As with anything else in the Apple product lineup, these play perfectly with other Apple devices. Set up is fuss-free, and you can use the speakers to control basically any smart appliance in your house that supports Apple HomeKit or the Matter protocol, which is a new addition. That means anything from air conditioners to security cameras, doorbells, lights, locks and more. 

My home isn’t completely decked out with smart appliances, but I do have some Philips Hue lights that work perfectly with the Home app and voice commands via Siri. Even appliances that aren’t supported in the Home app might be able to be controlled via voice commands if you can find the right workarounds. The Scene functionality is extremely handy too, with automations able to be activated based on time, location, or even information from a sensor. Surprisingly, the location tracking is much more accurate when I’m using the HomePods as a smart home hub compared to when I’m just using my iPhone’s location to automate the lights in the Philips Hue app. 

When pairing the HomePod 2 with other HomePod speakers or the HomePod Mini spread across a house, it really does add to the quality of life. For example, I can start my day with a playlist waking me up in the bedroom, then give a command to “move this to the kitchen” so I can continue listening while brewing my morning coffee, all without having to touch my phone. There’s also a Personal Update feature that gives you a quick breakdown of the weather, your upcoming appointments and news if it’s available in your country, so that’s another great way to start your day. 

Thanks to the S7 chip that powers the speaker, Siri requests are incredibly fast, and I never noticed much processing time in between my question and the answer. I also managed to try out the HomePod Mini, and I definitely noticed a bit more delay on the Mini with processing requests. I tested these in both a mono and stereo configuration with an Apple Music subscription, so I had access to Lossless as well as Dolby Atmos tracks when listening in a stereo pair.

As is sometimes the case with any wireless speakers, there are occasional connectivity issues. I did notice a few instances of the left or right speaker being slow to start, meaning music would be playing from just one speaker for a few seconds before the other one kicked in. Thankfully, there was never any audio sync issue between the two speakers in a stereo pair, but it’s something that Apple should look to improve in a future software update. 

By the way, if you have an Apple TV 4K, the HomePod 2 can be used as a TV speaker as well. This definitely can’t replace a full home theatre setup. Still, if you’re planning to get a standalone soundbar such as the Sonos Beam Gen 2, for example, I reckon your money might be better spent with a pair of HomePod 2s, particularly if you’re already invested in the Apple ecosystem.


The approach Apple has taken here is a pretty sound one, if you pardon the pun. The HomePod 2 has been tuned to ensure that vocals are forward and crisp, while bass has plenty of heft. The midband is a touch laid back, which could cause an issue if you’re planning to listen at lower volumes. These speakers perform best when playing music above a certain volume; if too low, midband detail tends to get a bit lost in the mix.

If you really want to enjoy your music, a stereo pair is absolutely the way to go - once the second speaker and Dolby Atmos come into play, wow! Vocals are still clear, but they do take a step forward, with Brendon Urie’s falsetto lines in Panic! At The Disco’s Death of a Bachelor coming through gorgeously. The soundstage opens up considerably in terms of depth and width, and tracks mastered in Dolby Atmos sound great with fantastic directionality and left-right separation. 

Vocal layering is also really well done. I listened to James Bay’s Let It Go and Ed Sheeran’s Kiss Me and was surprised to hear the background vocalisations in the songs so easily imparted by the speakers. And if you’re a bass-head, the low-frequency rumble is easily some of the best you’ll hear from smart speakers this size. Listening to Billie Eilish’s Bad GuyThe Weekend’s Save Your Tears or Flo Rida’s Low, the HomePod 2 astonishes with how well it handles the bassline. 


The HomePod 2 isn’t meant for critical, analytical listening. Instead, it performs best with fun, bassy, energetic music that can really showcase the speaker’s strengths. Best of all, though, is the convenience afforded by this product when you integrate one or more into a smart home setup with other Apple products – in this context, it is unmatched.

For more information visit Apple

Cheryl Tan's avatar

Cheryl Tan

After diving down the custom IEMs rabbit hole since she was 18, Cheryl has embarked on a long journey trying out as many audio products as possible ever since. She’s still waiting for the day a company can create a pair of true wireless earbuds that sound just as good as wired earphones.

Posted in:Applause Awards 2023 Loudspeakers Smart / Bluetooth Lifestyle Technology
Tags: apple 


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