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Stereo HomePods for Difficult Rooms and Social Listening

I’ve seen couple of blogs (Kirkville, BirchTree) recently opining on stereo HomePod configurations and comparing them to a pair of Sonos speakers. I don’t have a pair of Sonos to compare my stereo HomePod configuration to but my experience with the HomePods stereo pair may be useful for some so I am sharing here.

A few months ago we re-arranged the furniture in several rooms in our house. The net effect was that my Vandersteens (and, as such, my serious listening space) were relocated out of our living room and into a smaller room that has become my now dedicated listening area.

We spend a lot of time in our living room and–as we have large families–often times with a lot of people. I needed a music solution to replace my traditional HiFi and Vandersteen towers that didn’t take up nearly as much space. (Note: I have in-ceilings in the living room but they just don’t sound as good as regular speakers and really don’t fill up the room without creating two very loud areas underneath that make it impossible to carry on a conversation so we never use them in that room).

So when the opportunity came to pick up a second HomePod at a discount (I got mine refurb’d from Apple store but they show up new for $200 on sale on occasion), I decided to try a stereo pair of HomePods in the living room.

For this situation they are absolutely perfect. And by this situation I mean: a large living room area with seating all over the place where you want the music to sound good no matter where you are sitting. The HomePods are amazing at delivering good sound in this environment and I would argue that they are way better than my Vandersteens for this situation.

Sure, where the Vandersteens (or a pair of Sonos) might give you good sounds with great stereo imaging and a convincing sound stage, the eight speakers in the HomePods give you a really diffuse stereo field instead.

Yes, you give up a single sweet spot with vivid imaging. That said, about 85% of the seating options in my living room get a really full stereo sound field where you hear a balanced representation of both the right and left speakers.

The HomePods are strange in this way in that you can be sitting very close to one of the pair but still not sure if what you’re hearing is predominantly coming from the speaker closest to you or the one on the other side of the room.

Moreover, as you move further and further away from the HomePods, the volume of the music does not seem to fall off quite so rapidly. Meaning it’s easier to have a conversation in the room while music is playing and the music volume always seems just about right now matter where your are sitting.[1]

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Bose 901’s featured multiple speakers for dispersion.

In this way, the HomePods remind me a lot of the Bose 901s. Say what you want about Bose but it is near impossible to beat the experience that pair of 901s delivers to a roomful of people listing to music outside of the dead center stereo imaging position that most speaker pairs mandate.

The HomePods, like the 901s before them, are for social music listening (as opposed to the lone experience of sitting dead center between a pair of towers) and they do a terrific job at that.

 

1.) This volume roll off is similar to the effect that our Bose L1 with an array of 24 speakers has in our live performances where the music seems to be a pretty constant volume no matter how near/far you are from the tower, it’s uncanny