All posts in Audio

It took me a long time to realise that the HomePod’s mains cable was actually plugged into the HomePod – I thought it was a permanent part of the HomePod.

But this story – https://9to5mac.com/2018/02/10/remove-homepod-power-cable-video/ – debunked that belief, with a good YouTube video to boot!

Our HomePod arrived in the first batch sent out by Apple – in other words on Saturday February 9th.

I will not bother you with unpacking details – but go straight to the first impressions :

– Siri now works very well, comparable to the Google Home (there is one of those in the house as well)

– The integration with Apple Music works flawlessly (almost)

– The setup procedure is extremely good

– The Homekit integration is not up to scratch.

– Airplay works,

– The sound quality is good for it’s size, but not to audiophile standards.

Siri

Siri works a lot better than I’ve ever seen it work on any other device. To be honest I’ve been unimpressed with Siri until I got the HomePod. I’ve quite possibly been spoiled by the Google Home speaker, where voice recognition works extremely well. I have to add that I have a reasonably strong Norwegian accent – enough to make working with various voice recognition systems (except for the Goole home) has been a bit of a hit-and-miss affair on occasions.

But as long as the HomePod is not hidden behind anything it works every time, even at quite a distance (12 foot) and even when playing music. Very impressive, especially seeing some of the artists I ask for songs by have weird and wonderful names.

Sound quality

I used to design and build professional sound studios and speakers for a few years – and have decent speakers at home (QUAD ESL and REL Sub). So iI have a fairly good idea of what makes a audiophile quality speaker.

And the HomePod is not bad, and even fairly good for it’s size. It beats most small speakers, and among these I count the Google Home speaker and the Amazon Alexa speaker. And it’s very dependent on positioning. Putting it in a corner makes it produce surprisingly good bass, but it then struggles with the midrange.

Make no mistake – it’s built for background musing around the home or office where the convenient access to your Apple Music library trumps HiFi listening, and it does this in spades.

It makes me listen to more music than I have for a long time (I’m not allowed my HiFi speakers in our living room (understandably) – but the HomePod can be used – as it looks good, and is smaller than you would guess from the pictures I have seen.

We have a lot of speakers around the house, and have over the years had various solutions to let us centralise as much as possible of the storage into one place, and still be able to listen to all the music in different rooms and places.

We are predominantly a Apple household, so it is no surprise that we store all of our music in iTunes, and also use Apple Music quite a bit.

We now have a decent solution with the combination of

– iTunes running off one server

– Using a combination of AirPlay and Chromecast (courtesy of AirFoil) to send the music digitally around the house.

– And Airplay running through some Raspberry Pi zeros directly to attached speakers.

– Controlling it all from any of the Macs/iPads/iPhones

Our loudspeakers are among others:

– Quad Electrostatics running from a Analogue Amplifier (with a REL Subwoofer for extra bass) via a AppleTV as a DAC

– JBL monitors driven my JustBoom amplifier Phats on top of Raspberry Pi zeros

– Soundbars running off Apple TV’s

– Google Home speakers

– Headphones directly from IOS devices

– Speakers on our treadmill driven by a iPad

Airfoil and Airfoil satellite

Airfoil runs off a central server, with Airfoil satellite running on Mac’s and IOS devices, plus a open source version running off Raspberry Pi Zeros.

On the Mac it looks like this

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This gives every Mac and IOS device the ability to control which devices are fed sound from the central server, and the volume.

 

The Raspberry pi zero has drivers from JustBoom installed, and a good controller (Alsamixer) controlling some of the basic parameters of the JustBoom amplifier through a rather neat terminal based interface (which means the RPI can run headless, and letting it be controlled from anywhere. Just by typing “alsamixer” on the command line of a terminal session.

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The source for the Linux version of Airfoil satellite can be download directly from Rogue Amoebas website and run from the command line.

And the sound is not bad as long as it’s not driven too hard – and as long as a decent power supply is used, and connected directly to the PHAT board, ie. not using the 5V from the Usb interface.

Have a look at my Airfoil Speakers list :

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And halfway down you will see “Library” – with a different logo in front, compared to the others. It’s a Google Home speaker. So in other words Airfoil can now play Apple Music. Not too bad a solution while we’re waiting for the Apple HomePod.

While looking for a audio amplifier for a Raspberry Pi zero I found a reference to Room Labs, and had to look them up

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Unfortunately the website is fairly useless – it’s herd to see what they actually sell. 

I will persevere and try to find out what they really do. (-;