The 2nd-gen HomePod has only been on shelves for a week, yet many shoppers might believe it’s been out for years. Even though the original full-size HomePod was discontinued in 2019, the new model is almost identical to the old one, leaving it unclear how Apple expects the HomePod 2 to do any better this time around. To test this, we put the two models head to head in a blind audio test. The speakers were set up close together in the same room, and the reviewer (me) sat in the sweet spot while an assistant reviewer (my wife) streamed a playlist of assorted tracks to each speaker. She mixed the order and I wasn’t told which speaker was playing until I had delivered my verdict.
The results were surprising—and surprisingly close. The new HomePod wasn’t always better to my ears, though it definitely delivered a different sound. On certain genres of the tracks I listened to, the new model was clearly better, but on others, especially ones with a dominant bass component, the original was preferable. For example, on “Horse and I” by Bat for Lashes, the new HomePod was rich and immersive, putting me right there in the recording studio. I had never been dissatisfied with the old model, but by comparison with its successor, it sounded slightly flatter. On the other hand, “The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd sounded better on the HomePod 2, as there was simply more to the sound—it surrounded me and drew me into the music.
On the electro track “Supernature” by Cerrone, I firmly voted for the original HomePod. The bass was hard and punchy and sounded fabulous through the old model. By comparison, the new HomePod plays it slightly cool with the bass end, as if it’s worried about overwhelming the listener. On “Prelude & Fugue 03 in C#” by J.S. Bach, played by Glen Gould, the first speaker I heard offered superb detail and a pleasing, balanced sound, while the second was thinner and a touch flatter. This was another vote for the new HomePod. Lastly, “Emerge” by Fischerspooner was better on the 1st-gen HomePod, as the bass muscle of the original model proved key. With more at the bottom end, the original HomePod delivered a broader and deeper sound.
The 3-3 draw between the two speakers showed preferences varying according to the genre. On classical, most pop and rock and some jazz my preference was for the 2nd-gen HomePod with its richer and more detailed sound; but on dance/electro and bass-heavy jazz the original HomePod wins out. For most of us that will translate into a win for the new model more often than not. It didn’t seem like Apple had changed a great deal in the full-size HomePod’s external design and internal layout, but the company has got results. There are noticeable improvements here, and the newer model is a worthy (if bass-lighter) successor to what was already an excellent speaker.