karmicdragonfly: (Default)
You know...I really like the HomePod...it has worked out very nicely for me and allowed me to get rid of the old stereo system with all the wires and speakers. Frees up space in the living room...looks and sounds good.

But sometimes...sometimes.....Siri just grates me, lol!


I mean, I could give it to him if I were speaking Portuguese -- since I'm not a native Portuguese speaker. But in English really, there's no reason whatsoever he shouldn't have understood my instructions this morning.
karmicdragonfly: (Default)
After my previous first use post, and now that I've had a week and a half of use of the HomePod and have had friends over to play around with it, I thought I would do a follow-up.

Overall -- I like it. I'm glad I bought the device.

I saw some commenters online stating that they thought that Apple should have waited for a while -- I guess until when? Until the device was perfect before releasing it? I don't agree with that -- I like owing it and I'm glad it was available when I bought it!

I have never used any of the other speakers, although I have seen an Echo in use. So I'm not the person to judge between them. I do know that from the point of view of sound quality, the Echo would not have been the speaker for me. And I think that's not the point of an Echo.

My primary goal was a speaker to play music, so the quality of the sound matters. And in this, the HomePod meets my exceptions. I've never heard the Sonos or the Google Max, so I can't judge them.

HomePod Hits

  • Sound quality
    I'm pleased. This is no audiophile level system but for day-to-day listening pleasure, it's good. It has a decent amount of base, and I don't notice distortion when it's playing. Some reviewers have said they 'never heard such and such sound' in a song until they listened to it on HomePod, and that is not something I have experienced. But I'm pleased overall with the sound.

    This album is an example of songs that I think sound very nice on the HomePod:
    https://itunes.apple.com/ca/album/sway/965066035

  • Sound volume
    Also totally good for me. My ears are pretty sensitive, so I can't stand very loud music. Even though age has taken its toll on my hearing, I still generally only listen to the HomePod at 1/2 volume.

    If you say 'Hey Siri, full volume', he responds with "That's very loud. Are you sure?" Case in point, a friend was over and we were listening to Beethoven. He made the comment that "this shows the limitations of a small speaker", because he thought it was as loud as it would go. But I was like....well, I only have it at 1/2 volume, so he was like 'well, turn it up!'

    So I stood up and started walking towards the other room. I said, 'Hey Siri. 100% volume.' He responded that that that would be very loud, and was I sure? I said 'Yes' and kept walking to the other room -- to avoid hurting my ears.

    Even in the other room, it was a bit loud for me!

  • Setup
    Easy peasy. And it's really nice that the device itself updates it's sound projection to the shape of the room each time you move the speaker -- no need to wander around with an app like with Sonos. HomePod requires no action on your part.

  • Every day use
    Nice to just walk in the house and say, 'Hey Siri. Play.'

  • Integration with Apple Music
    Works as expected!

  • Airplay
    Easy to stream music from an iPhone, iPad, Mac -- Spotify, Apple Music, Podcasts, Recordings, etc.

Generally Successful Commands

  • Play [some artist] -- Donna Summer, Enigma, The Verve, Vanessa da Mata, Rita Lee, Perfume Genius, Banks
  • Play [some title] -- Sweet Jane, Priestess, Take a Letter Maria
  • Play [some album] -- The Theory of Everything
  • Play happy music
  • Play Netflix and Chill music -- although I'm not sure I agreed that those were songs I would play during, um, that particular activity!
  • Play [some classical composer]
  • Play [some classical piece]
  • Play more songs like this.
  • Create a station from this song.
  • Stop
  • Play
  • Play [playlist]
  • What's playing?
  • When was this released?
  • What's the weather tomorrow?
  • Louder
  • Softer
  • 50% volume
  • 100% volume
  • Next
  • Skip back 30 seconds
  • Back
  • Play Podcast [podcast name] -- but see the list in 'less successful' below.

Less Successful Commands

  • Play [anything that is not English]
  • Play really depressing music. Thanks, Nh!
  • Play movement 3 in [some concerto] Thanks, J!
  • Play Podcast [podcast name] Number 145 -- I haven't figured out if I can or how to get Siri to play a particular episode of a podcast.
  • Some titles are harder than others. For example, 'I See Fire' always wanted to play some song about a lake?????? But if I said 'I See Fire by Ed Sheeran', it worked fine.

HomePod Annoyances

  • Pronunciation
    I know this is an odd lead off...but Siri's pronunciation annoys me. I mean, even when he says the word 'HomePod', it sounds odd! I would say the word with a short o in 'Pod' - ɒ -- like in rock or odd or Tom. But I swear, Siri says 'HomePard'. Stuff like that and emphasis on wrong syllables annoys me.

  • Lack of context
    Siri doesn't have context. It's best to supply the context with each request -- "of this song", "of this piece", etc. Otherwise, Siri might end up reading Wikipedia to you!

    Also -- no context like you can't say 'Play the last album I listened to.'

  • Stops responding.
    Sometimes, Siri will stop responding. The most annoying time when this happens is when he's playing a song that you don't want to listen to! And he won't stop!

    I have said 'Hey Siri, stop!', and the music dims like he heard me...but the song continues. Maybe if I waited longer, that might correct itself, but after like 10 seconds, I get frustrated. After 15 seconds, I'm done!

    I have unplugged the HomePod twice since I have owned it after Siri became unresponsive.

  • Low hanging fruit commands
    Some expected commands didn't work. For example, he can add a track to a playlist, but can't delete a track. Seems odd to be able to do one of the CRUD commands, but not another.

  • Play [song title]
    He plays just.that.song...and stops. I'm not sure what I expected, but I kinda wish he would ask after a while if I want to hear something else, lol. Now, I'm just nit-picking.

Bottom line

-- so far so good. Glad I bought it. But can't speak for other manufacturer's speakers! But I stick by previous post -- it's only for folks who subscribe to Apple Music!

karmicdragonfly: (Default)
On a whim this past week, I decided to use a bit of tax refund to buy an Apple HomePod. Since I'm a planner I usually take time to consider purchases a while, so it's a bit unusual for me to pull the trigger so fast on a purchase.

I also usually hang on to electronics until I have gotten good use from them. I currently had an 18 year old stereo with 5 speakers in my living room. Note that the system was NOT an audiophile system -- just a system I picked up at Circuit City all those year ago to play CDs and cassette tapes (!!!) and listen to the radio.

The only thing I currently use the stereo for is to stream music from an old iPhone. I have the headphone jack on the phone connected to the stereo, and I just play music -- sometimes from my library, sometimes from Pandora...but mostly from Apple Music.


So I wondered if the HomePod could take the place of that system with all the speakers and wires.

***And the answer is -- not quite yet.***

But my first impression: the music sounds great from such a small device!



Placement and Testing

I tried it in 3 different positions, settling on my mantle. You can see that it is not a large item, but it is much heavier than you would think from its size. That's my first partner, Matt, with the puppies in that photo :)


In preparation for the delivery, I had prepared a 'HomePod Test' playlist. I included various types of music, from Nina Simone's I Put a Spell on You to the theme from the horror movie Halloween, to some classical tracks to Pop, with some older, some newer, some English, some Portuguese, some with more bass, some with less.


When I received the package yesterday, I set it up and spent a fair amount of time listening to songs in the playlist. And it was this song below that made me realize my older speaker system has the slight edge.

I think it was just the percussion sounds and the 'atmospheric-ness' of the music that gave the edge to the speaker system.

But in testament to the HomePod.... I had to listen to several songs before I could decide. Although my old system was not high end, it did have 5 'surround sound' type speakers, which is what gave it the edge I think.

Adjusted for inflation, I spent more on the 18 year old system than I did on the HomePod. And basically the HomePod is just a great little speaker!

Instructions for set up were easy --


I did run into 1 issue -- I had the phone in my hand as I was starting setup, and maybe I moved it too far away after the initial Configure screen had shown up. And the screen disappeared! And I didn't know how to get it back!

So I restarted both the HomePod and my iPhone, and the configure screen came back. And all went well.

I also tested playing from various AirPlay sources (this one is from my Mac). Worked great with no issues at all.


One thing that surprised me about Airplay was that I can play both on the source and on the HomePod. Here is me playing from my Mac speakers upstairs and from the HomePod downstairs -- same song playing on both at the same time.


Delivery

Packaging was impeccable. I had brought a butter knife in from the kitchen into the living room to use to cut tape, but I didn't need it!

On the cardboard outside package, there was a tab to pull to remove the tape.


Once you were inside, the white package came out easily, and then the plastic around the white box peeled off in 1 piece with no effort at all.


Physical Control / Siri

There's an area on the top that lights up and where you can tap once to start/stop, twice to skip forward, etc. And there are 2 spots on top where you can change the volume.

Siri has performed pretty much flawlessly! She's limited though: for example she can't add an entry to my calendar, and she knows it. She responds that she can't do that.

When addressing her, I can use my normal, inside voice -- even full of oatmeal as I gobbled down breakfast this morning. And she can hear me from another room, although I did have to raise my voice when I was in the kitchen.

An unusual turn for me is that HomePod is only English now. And that's ok. On my iPhone and Mac, Siri understands my Portuguese just fine...EXCEPT I can't say English names in a way that he can understand. Even if I say a song title or an address with a 'Brazilian' accent, he doesn't get English names. But if the song title is in Portuguese, he understands me just fine. So from the point of view of voice control for mostly English titles, having English only is good.

I had forgotten how comfortable it is to speak in English to a device -- in Portuguese, I prepare in my head what I'm going to say before I say it -- in the way you have to do when you are just learning a language. One enjoyable (because I like to play around) aspect of this is that I can get Siri going on both my HomePod ("Hey Siri") and my iPhone ("E aí Siri") and give instructions to both. As in "Hey Siri. Skip" and "E aí Siri. Abrir Notas."

Another limitation for me -- because my phone is in Portuguese and the HomePod in English, she can't send a text. She told me that I would need to change my phone to be the same language as HomePod before she could do that.

On the phone, the Home app is where you'll find HomePod settings. Here is Minha Casa--


And some of the typical settings, more or less the same ones as on any device with Siri --


Only English available, but with the US, Great Britain and Australian varieties.

This second item below is important to note, and was part of the initial set up also. Basically, I chose that anyone in the house can control the HomePod, and anyone on the network can have access to my phone messages, mails, etc. But since I use my other devices in Portuguese, I think that is a moot point for me :)


All in All

All in all -- I'm satisfied. Although I think my old speaker system has the edge, I have still placed HomePod in my living room and have been using it exclusively with no issues.

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karmicdragonfly

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"O seguro morreu de velho, mas o desconfiado ainda está vivo." -- "The safe one died of old age, but the suspicious one is still living."





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