Apple didn’t put much effort into redesigning the new HomePod but still, there are some visible changes upon close inspection. Coming onto the speaker’s touch panel is now slightly recessed like the HomePod mini whereas, in the original version, that panel sits flush with the top rim. When you ask for Siri, lighting for that panel now goes all the way to the edge too. Moving on to the power cord it is now detachable so if you will have any issue with that very necessary component, it will be easier to get a replacement (via Apple Care).
Now talking about the inside Apple made a lot of changes, looking into both versions they have an upward-facing woofer with a group of tweeters around the bottom but in the second generation, Apple reduced the number of tweeters from seven to five, angling them slightly upward where previously they were almost perfectly side-firing. Apple also reduced the number of voice microphones from six to four. The most important change internally Apple did is it swapped the iPhone 6’s A8 chip for the much more modern S7 – the silicon that powers the Apple Watch Series 7.
Software and Setup
Even with minimal changes the second-gen HomePod is a better speaker because the second-gen has all the features Apple has been improving in the HomePod mini over time. First, the company added stereo pairing and multi-room audio alongside AirPlay 2 a few months after the launch of the first generation model then there is Multi-user support and audio handoffs which were added in 2019, and the intercom feature which was introduced ahead of the HomePod mini in 2020. And in 2021, HomePod gained the ability to play any TV audio via an Apple TV 4K over eARC and both spatial audio and Apple Music lossless streaming.
You need Apple’s Home app for complete setup and control of the HomePod. First, you’ll need to add a new speaker like you would do in any other smart home device with this software, including assigning it a room or location in your home. The app allows you to set up automation and Scenes along with configuring how you’d like to interact with Siri. You have the option to disable voice cues or the long press on the HomePod’s touch panel to activate the assistant (both are enabled by default). You can also have the speaker light up and play a sound when using Siri – or do one or neither. The Home app allows you to use Siri for Personal Requests too, where the speaker can recognize your voice for things like messages, calls, and reminders so long as your iPhone is close by. The 2023 model is also equipped with room calibration as the previous generation. This detects reflections off of walls and other surfaces to determine the sound for the best performance. The HomePod room calibration works when you move the speaker as the setup leverages an accelerometer to determine when it has been moved so according to that the speaker will reinitiate the room sensing process when music is played.
There is not much of a change in sound quality compared to the 1st generation. 2nd generation still, has an emphasis on voice, so things like vocals in music or dialog on a TV show or movie take center attention. At times it’s fine though, with some genres and content, it leads to a rather mediocre experience. The HomePod 2nd generation gives you a great experience while listening to music as it provides ample bass for hip-hop beats and enough low-ends for heavy rhythms.
Sometimes the bass is a little down for metal or full-band country music but overall, it sets the standard for smart speaker sound. And the HomePod is more enhanced as a stereo pair. When you add the second HomePod to the Home app, the software asks you if you want to use them together. Once you tell it which side the additional unit is on (left or right), the app completes the setup for you, assigning the appropriate channel to each speaker.