Using the HomePod as an Audio Device when Watching Movies or TV

After a friend mentioned on Twitter yesterday that his HomePod could play back the audio of a movie without any lag, I decided to try it out. If you’ve tried this in the past – playing movie audio through an AirPlay speaker while watching a movie on an iPad, for example – you’ll be aware that there was always about a half-second delay between the video and audio. But now, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

(It’s worth noting that the HomePod handles this audio better than other AirPlay targets, so there must be something in its software or hardware that allows iOS devices to sync more closely. If I play video from my iPad to my AirPlay-capable receiver, the lag is noticeable, though not the half-second delay I recall seeing in the past.)

Start playing a video – a movie, TV show, or even YouTube – and tap the AirPlay icon, the one that looks like a TV screen with a triangle below it. You can then choose which audio device you want to use for playback.

Airplay

Above, I could choose Bedroom, which is my HomePod. When I do, it takes a couple of seconds, then the sound comes from the HomePod, in sync. (There seems to be a teeny tiny delay, perhaps a couple of milliseconds, but nothing annoying.)

The problem is that it sounds terrible. The overly bassy sound of the HomePod, which can work with some music, but not all, is horrible with video content. Voices are far too deep, and the lack of a solid mid-range makes them sound artificial. Add to that the sort of faux surround sound reverb that the HomePod applies, and it makes the audio sound strange.

So in a pinch, you might want to do this, but the bottom-heavy sound of the HomePod is not adapted for movie or TV playback.

14 thoughts on “Using the HomePod as an Audio Device when Watching Movies or TV

  1. I know Apple is marketing HomePods primarily for music. But I was considering using a couple of HomePods for my Apple TV audio as well as for music, at least when Apple made the HomePod stereo function available. So it’s disappointing that the HomePod’s DSP doesn’t adequately reproduce audio from a video.

    I wonder if Apple will fix this in a subsequent software update.

    • It’s possible that when they release AirPlay 2, they could include some way of detecting whether the source is audio or video. I’m seeing a number of people online thinking that they could use a pair of HomePods for audio with their TVs; of course, this requires that all the audio comes from an Apple TV, since you can’t connect the TV or an AV amplifier to the HomePod.

  2. Your experience, Kirk, may not be definitive. Last night I watched “Wonder Woman” on HBO, with the Apple TV audio playing through my HomePod, and it sounded great! Dialog was clear, music full and rich, and sound effects powerful and convincing. The situation seems more complex than to simply say “movies + HomePod = mediocre experience.” It may well depend on the specific movie and the manner in which its soundtrack is mixed and equalized.

    • Well, I just tried with another one; these are both iTunes Store rentals. It sounds just as bad as the first one.

  3. I can’t help but think Apple will deliver their own version of a speaker bar with an integrated Appletv. While the HomePod might not sound great for movies at the moment, I would also add to my speculation that when paired up with this dreampt up Apple speaker bar that it can be adjusted…maybe even customized for individual movies(by Apple of course).

    No, I have no inside info. It’s just something that seems like Apple would do.

    • A soundbar would make sense, but not with an integrated Apple TV. You would want them to be separate, because not everyone would want the soundbar.

  4. As I understand what you are saying about the Home Pod (In this and another 2 of your articles ) it can be 1. too “muddy” or too much bass on some audio only selections including lack of mid-range at the same time and 2. there seems to be a difference between the performance you observed on audio files vs video sound tracks. Do you believe this to be a software issue that can by addressed in further updates?

    Kirk it seems to me that IF the speaker does have the potential to sound VERY good – then the change from good to not good then the answer for why must be in the “acoustical adjustments” the speaker is making. You stated that you only played selections you were familiar with and sounded good (to you) on your current equipment. The reason I am interested is because I have found you to be an “open minded” analytical in your observations of sound quality in various reviews you have written in the past without being nit picky. (See some over at CA) Ergo your opinion is one I respect. Please give me your thoughts on why you find such a disparity in sound quality in this version of the Home Pod.

    Thank you

    • I think the reason is that a) the bass is EQed fairly high, to match the “Beats” sound, which Apple now thinks everyone wants, and b) there’s not enough midrange, because the woofer is pretty low, and the tweeters fairly high, so they are weak in the middle. Often, with small speakers, they are anemic in the low end, but the kids and highs are decent. By privileging the bass, they’ve left out the kids. While the overall EQ can be fixed by software, the lack of midranges can’t. This is why dialog sounds so bad; it booms because there’s too much bass and not enough midrange, which is where dialog is heard.

      Frankly, if they made a three speaker version of this – woofer, midrange, and tweeter – and gave some control over the EQ, it would sound amazing.

  5. Kirk,

    I’ll rely on your expertise for this question, can you glean any qualityes from listening to a Youtube capture of audio from a speaker?

    Because if the reality is close to the sound you hear in this review, this thing is not impressive at all:

    • Listen to how bad the guy’s voice sounds; he’s apparently recording the HomePod with the same microphone. In any case, YouTube videos don’t usually have great audio, it’s not the way to hear how anything really sounds.

  6. That’s a bummer! This was one of my reasons for getting a HomePod. I guess I’ll have to wait a little longer to see if/when Apple “fixes” this.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.