HomePods are Better with Tidal HiFi

Posted on August 5, 2020
Updated January 20, 2021

Tl;dr

One HomePods will suffice for most people in most rooms. Dual HomePods (stereo pair) are superb speakers for most people and good speakers for casual listening for more demanding listeners. Keep them near a wall for a warmer sound, and if you can, under something. More demanding listeners will want to use high res files such as Tidal.

A little context

I’m not an audiophile ($$$), but I am a music lover and want to listen to the details of my music. I’m also on a limited budget for audio equipment. At first I had one HomePod but I quickly added another. One was good and two are great. I don’t care about Siri and use Tidal for high res music.

The basics

With most Apple products, there are other products than can get the job done for less money, perhaps in less style. But with HomePods, I’m not really sure that’s true. They can sound fantastic – in the right spot and with the right source.

Finding the right spot

When I first tried the HomePod, I was a little disappointed. It sounded extremely cold or V shaped, with very inconsistent bass that seemed to move around the room and skip whole notes.

Homepod marketing is full of references to its digital signal processing, where the HomePod will analyse its environment and output sound to suit it. As there is no EQ, if you’re not happy with the sound it may be necessary to experiment with placement. At least for my living room, which albeit is small and crowded, this was completely necessary.

The best for that room is to have them near a wall (at least 6 inches), and not too far from a corner. And for an even warmer sound, having them under something worked well to emphasise mids, which is a bit hacky I guess. See the pic below for the setup I settled on, which is working brilliantly.

While I’m happy with the sound, I am still slightly disappointed that it wasn’t as magic as advertised. Or, perhaps it is, but it’s just the sound signature Apple wanted to achieve with HomePod is not for me, so I resorted to hacking it with positioning. I guess the moral of this story is, if you like a warmer sound they might not be for you.

Getting the right source

For the vast majority of people who will buy HomePod, Apple Music is perfect. It’s integrated with Siri and sounds more than good enough to most ears. For me, I could hear some displeasing compression artefacts in the treble and also in a slight little muddying of the soundstage. Both issues were completely solved with a Tidal subscription. I’m OK with having to select music manually from my computer or phone and use Airplay to get it to the HomePods, although I wish Tidal would integrate Siri.

The HomePods work with Airplay which caps out at CD quality. Apple Music uses only around 1/4 of that bandwidth. Tidal Hifi can stream at CD quality and use all of it. There’s a big difference if I are listening to the sound in carefully, but most people won’t ever notice even if they try.

To my ears Tidal makes the HomePods, turning them from average sounding speakers into clear and spacious speakers. I also think Apple Music has issues and wish Apple would provide a Hifi option.

Join Tidal with a 60 day free trial

Use this link to get the extra month. I will also save on my own subscription costs by referring you. I recommend the Hifi if you like listening to music, and have a decent set of cans or speakers to use it with.

I think there is a lot of room for improvement in the home pod’s sound. I don’t know what kind of limits physics has placed on the engineers. Having some predefined sound profiles, if not an actual EQ, would be great. I’d love to have it flatter.