HomePods + Apple TV: Fun, but I Had to Move On
This was going to be a very long post, but I got bored reading my own post, so I threw it away and here’s the super-short version 🏃♂️
I Replaced My HomePods
For the past 4 years I’ve have 2 HomePods next to my TV. They played music, performed Siri things, and acted as speakers for my Apple TV. In 2021 Apple made it so I could have them be the audio output for everything plugged into my TV, which I really liked. Mostly…
Problems Here and There
Due to the completely wireless connection, and there were sometimes issues. Sometimes sync would get off and I’d have to reboot the HomePods, and other times the eARC connection would die and I had to reboot the TV/console/HomePods/etc. until it worked again.
This lead to my wife asking me to unpair the HomePods from the non-Apple TV things because it was too big of a pain to have audio just not work sometimes.
Due to some deals and holiday gift cards, I was able to get a Sonos setup going with a Sonos Beam (gen 2) and two Sonos One speakers. These all link up to create a surround sound setup in my living room.
The Beam connects directly to the TV via HDMI and the Ones are connected wirelessly, but not over Bluetooth like the HomePods, over some ad hoc network that seems more reliable. The result is zero issues so far.
The two HomePods sound a bit better when it comes to music, and they have move bass compared to the Beam and Ones.
The Sonos Beam on its own is not better than the HomePods, but when you add the Sonos Ones as well, it wipes the floor with the HomePods for TV, movies, and video games. The sound is fuller with more speakers working on it, and the real surround experience is just something a stereo pair of speakers just can’t replicate (no matter how much speaker companies, including Apple, try to convince you they can do surround sound from one sound source). The setup supports Dolby Atmos, so basically everything just works. I’ve watched the highway scene in The Matrix Reloaded and the most recent Book of Boba Fett episode with them and good lord, it’s incredible.
Do I Hate the HomePod?
Absolutely not! I think the HomePod was a good product with bad market fit, and based on the fact owners love theirs but Apple decided it wasn’t worth keeping around, I think that’s a reasonable assessment of them.
But with them being discontinued by Apple, leaving their future uncertain, and the fact that their job as general purpose TV speakers didn’t quite pan out for me, I had to move on to something else.
Well, you can’t buy HomePods anymore, so I can’t really do a “which should you buy” section, but I can talk to those of you who have HomePods as TV speakers right now; should you change over to the Sonos system?
First off, it’s a lot of money. They Beam is $450 and the Ones are $220 each, so if you buy it all at once and for full price, it’s $890, which ain’t cheap (again, I didn’t, but I was still probably $400 out of pocket). You’re already down at least $600 for two HomePods, so that’s not a trivial thing to swap out.
So with the money thing out of the way, I would consider two things: sound quality and reliability.
- Sound quality of the Beam on its own is good, quite good, but it’s not as good as the two HomePod setup. If you wanted to spend half as much and just get the Beam, then I would expect to get a slight dip in audio quality. With the Ones around you though, I think it creates a better sound experience than the HomePods.
- I’m only a few weeks in, but so for the reliability has been noticeably better than my HomePods. It’s a wash when it comes to playing Apple TV audio, but it’s worlds better when it comes to things like my PS5, which always had about a half second lag at all times (since you can’t buffer ahead when the user is controlling what happens on screen), and it’s perfect with the Sonos setup.