Apple discontinued its original HomePod after four years. It is said that it will continue to produce and focus on the HomePod mini that was introduced last year. The larger HomePod offered a more powerful sound space, but the Mini was very well received and clearly does many of the tasks that the larger version was tasked with. The sound is super solid (especially for the size) and offers access to Siri, Apple’s assistant function.
The original HomePod was a masterpiece of audio engineering that Apple developed over five years. To accomplish its development, the Apple team built a full development center near its headquarters in Cupertino with a world-class development environment with a dozen anechoic chambers, including one of the larger anechoic chambers outside of academic use in the US. I visited the center prior to its release and found that it took Apple the extra mile to get the incredibly complex series of tweeters and woofers that built the soundspace:
But above it is a pile of typical Apple Extra Mile jelly. Apple says its largest test chamber is one of the largest in the US, on a pad that is suspended from the outside world and has nothing to pollute its audio purity tests. In addition to testing the speaker’s acoustic properties, these chambers allowed Apple to dig its way to account for and mitigate the problems typically posed by a high excursion subwoofer in such a small enclosure. In addition, there are smaller chambers where they can isolate the hum from electronic components (after all, there is a computer on board) and try to isolate and control that sound so that it doesn’t show up in the final output.
I found it to be one of the best speakers ever made for the home when I reviewed it in 2018. From the booming base and shapely nature of the tweeter assembly inside; the fabric cover, which is specially shaped so as not to affect the sound quality in any way; the way it perceived the way audio was shaped by walls and other obstacles and adjusted its output to compensate for this. It was the speaker’s department’s definition of “no expense spared”.
The biggest gripe for the speaker at the time was its $ 349 price point, which was on the high end of the home speaker market, especially those with embedded home assistants. A drop in price to $ 299 mitigated this somewhat, but still placed it at the top of the price bracket for the class. Apple’s HomePod mini, which launched last year, has been well received. Our Brian Heater said it had “remarkably big sound” for the price of $ 99.
Apple gave TechCrunch a statement on the hiring:
The HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, bringing amazing sound, smart assistant, and smart home control to its customers for just $ 99. We’ll focus on the HomePod mini. We’re discontinuing the original HomePod. It will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will offer HomePod customers software updates, service and support through Apple Care.
Existing HomePods will continue to be sold, but the Apple website is already no longer Space Gray. It will continue to provide support for existing HomePods. Apple seems to be banking on the Mini in the future, which could indicate a desire to fill every room with “good enough” sound instead of focusing on the living room with “really incredible” sound. The HomePod itself has never reached the level where it could function as a complete home theater replacement, despite being paired with multiple speakers in its configuration.
The research and manufacturing efforts of the HomePod are in some ways continued through Apple’s advanced audio rendering systems that have resulted in things like spatial audio in AirPods. I really enjoy those in my house and haven’t added minis to the mix yet. Maybe a last minute hunt is in order.