KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 — “I’m sorry.”

Hearing that from not an ex-boyfriend but my Android-based smart speaker wasn’t what I wanted to hear in the morning.

My speaker was a fun novelty that I would ask to play music, for what I had on my calendar but what I enjoyed most was getting the latest news headlines.

It would however periodically get amnesia and forget how to connect to the internet thus requiring a hard reset.

It was fortuitous that the day after my speaker had gotten forgetful Apple sent in a set of HomePods for review.

There was a pair of HomePod 2nd-gens and one solo HomePod mini for me to evaluate and for the most part, they’ve been fun but missing one particular facet I’ll get to later.

iPhone required

Now let’s get to the bad news upfront: if you don’t have an iPhone or iPad don’t bother getting HomePods.

You need an iOS device to set up the devices and the process isn’t exactly fast but then perhaps I’m just spoiled by instant Bluetooth pairing.

What you need to do first is install the Apple Home app if it’s not on your device already then use it to add to your related devices.

Then you need to position your iPhone/iPad over the top of your HomePod, much like setting up your FaceID.

If you have a matching speaker, you will be prompted to pair it as a stereo pair. So far you can only install stereo pairs though you could play multiple speakers, paired or not at the same time.

You can use the HomePods, including the HomePod Minis as remote walkie-talkies and play multiple speakers, in multiple locations as set on your Home app. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni
You can use the HomePods, including the HomePod Minis as remote walkie-talkies and play multiple speakers, in multiple locations as set on your Home app. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

In my case I had a pair of HomePods set up in the Bedroom location (which I designated on the Home app) and one HomePod mini I placed in the Living Room, that I could play separately or together with Apple’s AirPlay standard.

I could even choose to play music on a nearby MacBook Pro simultaneously if I wanted but that would be overkill and the laptop’s speakers aren’t that good.

So how do they sound?

I wasn’t quite prepared for how bass heavy the speakers could be.

If you love bass, you will enjoy the surprisingly deep bass experience and how speakers that are relatively small create a decently reverbative experience which will probably suit songs mastered in the last five or 10 years.

My music tastes are fairly eclectic so I tried the speakers on classic rock, easy listening pop, rap, hip-hop and even some keroncong for flavour.

(Note to Apple execs: Being made to listen to the Eagles’ Hotel California in a closed room should be on the Geneva convention of war crimes)

Modern K-pop sounds great on HomePods as the speaker build does suit itself better to more peppy tunes especially when there’s bass involved.

I have mixed feelings about more guitar-focused tracks as I think Faith No More’s Remastered Album of the Year sounded muddier on the HomePods with less distinction between the parts and this is an album I listen to at least once a year, ever since my college days.

The Weeknd’s Starboy was a different story; if there was a song made for HomePods it’s this one.

With a steady buzzing bass with the interlacing of piano, and the HomePods tweeters going overdrive on the vocals and keys, the track does come alive on the speakers and it’s great to get your house party started with.

Ditto Dua Lipa’s fun Houdini, K-pop girl group IVE’s Love Dive and the David Guetta remix of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Murder on the Dancefloor sound sonically full even in the confines of a small bedroom.

I also listened to an old remastered recording of Japanese tenor Fujiwara singing addio, fiorito asil from Madama Butterfly and if you’re a listener of opera or old-timey recordings, it’s not quite as satisfying an experience as say, a vinyl player connected to analog speakers.

It was the same with the recording of Op.20, Act 1 of Swan Lake conducted by André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra, where I didn’t feel quite as immersed into the sound and I suspect I’d enjoy the track more on my open-back planar headphones.

However it was surprisingly fun listening to Indonesian singer Hetty Koes Endang singing the classic keroncong tune Kuda Hitam.

It’s a song that plays to the HomePod’s strengths — clarity when it comes to sounds or tones that can make use of Apple’s tweeters and another good example of that is Sam Smith’s “live” performance of Latch in Madison Square Garden.

Smith’s voice is front and centre in the recording, with its natural warmth coming out in the sound alongside the intro piano and later, the appearance of electric duo Disclosure mid-way through.

The HomePods bring enough clarity and definition to help you feel like you’re right there in Madison Square Garden minus the flailing person in front of you blocking the view.

As for the HomePod mini, I would say the sound is “all right”. With the cheaper price of course means you won’t get the addition of extra tweeters that the larger HomePods have but they are smaller and useful if you want to use them in the living room or multiple locations.

You can, for instance, use a walkie-talkie function to speak from one HomePod to another one in a different location.

I mostly found it a novel way to bother my pets or to prank my brother but I guess you could also use it to call the kids down to dinner or wake up your napping spouse without having to physically go to the bedroom.

Yes or no?

One of my favourite things about my Google-friendly speakers was being able to ask for news updates or answers to questions.

Every time I tried to ask Siri something that wasn’t about the weather, time or schedules, I would get: “Here’s Apple Music. Sorry, you have no unplayed episodes.”

Siri couldn’t even read out answers for internet searches to me instead telling me to go look at search results on my iPhone.

If all you need your HomePods for is music, they will do just fine. They are not, however, good “smart” devices as they’re rather stupid compared to Android counterparts.

Perhaps they would be more useful in tandem with other Apple HomeKit-supporting devices or if you use Shortcuts to use your HomePods as alarms or If your television supports the ARC/eARC standard, you can hook up your HomePods to your Apple TV set top box and then use your HomePods as speakers and I can confirm they work fine with my PS5 (after some twiddling with my Apple TV and Sony TV settings).

Note: you will need an Apple TV box for this to work. As to using them as karaoke speakers, sadly you will need an extra mixer system with HDMI support, which Reddit tells me works though is also slightly fiddly.

This is due to HomePods not being able to function as separate standalone Bluetooth speakers so you can’t just hook them up to your Android phone.

Sadly I could not test this because I am not spending another few hundred ringgit on a karaoke mixer system but just a note in case you were wondering about using the HomePods with anything besides an Apple TV.

The Apple HomePods are available now; the HomePod 2nd gen retailing from RM1,549 and come in either Midnight or White and the HomePod minis cost RM529 with the colour choices being Space Grey, Blue, Yellow, White and Orange.

You can check out the tracks I used to preview the speakers below:

Apple Music