How to Make an Apple HomePod Almost As Useful As an Echo

How to Make an Apple HomePod Almost As Useful As an Echo
Photo: Niks Evalds, Shutterstock

The HomePod (and its little sibling the HomePod mini) aren’t nearly as ubiquitous or out-of-the-box useful as Amazon’s Echos, but they are perfectly good smart speakers for those who are married to the Apple ecosystem. However, you don’t have to submit yourself to perpetual Alexa FOMO — with a few tweaks to your HomePod or HomePod mini’s default settings (and some creative thinking), you can turn it into a more useful, enjoyable device.

Reduce heavy default bass levels

Even if you’re an ardent bass-head, there’s a good chance you aren’t a fan of the excessive bass effect on the HomePod mini. The tiny speaker on the mini isn’t capable of producing the same satisfying bass as the bigger HomePod does, but the default output is the same, meaning your audio quality may be better once you reduce the HomePod mini’s bass output. After you update to version 15.0 of the HomePod’s software, you’ll see an easy way to reduce bass using the Home app.

To reduce bass on your HomePod or HomePod mini, open the Home app on your iPhone and tap and hold the HomePod icon. This will open playback controls. Scroll to the bottom; audio settings are found below the Timers section. Enable Reduce Bass under the Music & Podcasts section.

Normalize the volume for all songs

Since the music industry’s audio mastering styles differ widely, there’s a good chance some of the songs on your playlists are blaring while others are a bit too quiet. Fortunately, your HomePod has an option to normalize the volume levels of all these songs to a baseline level. This option is called Sound Check, and you can enable it through the Home app.

Open the Home app, hold the HomePod icon, and scroll to the bottom. Under Music & Podcasts, enable Sound Check.

Adjust the sound quality to your preferences

While the HomePod doesn’t have its own equaliser, you can tweak EQ settings in the Music app on your iPhone, and then use AirPlay to play that audio through the HomePod. To do this, you can unlock your iPhone and go to Settings > Music > EQ and select the equaliser preset you like. Start playing a song on the Music app, tap the player to enlarge it, and hit the AirPlay icon. Select your HomePod to send audio to the speaker. (If you don’t use Apple Music, most streaming apps, including Spotify, have their own equalizers you can use to your advantage.)

Change volume with precision

There are some things your HomePod can’t accomplish without the use of Siri voice commands, including granular volume control. If you want to set the HomePod to 62 per cent volume, using Siri is the only way to accomplish that reliably, as neither the volume slider on your iPhone nor the volume buttons at the top of the HomePod are that exact. Try saying, “Hey Siri, volume 62 per cent,” or something similar to achieve the desired result.

Disable Siri (if you don’t use it)

Speaking of Siri, not everyone is comfortable with an always-on recording device in their house. The HomePod is designed to be used with Apple’s Siri voice assistant, but if you don’t want it listening to you, you can disable it.

Go to HomePod settings in the Home app. Under the Siri section, disable the following options:

  • Listen for “Hey Siri”
  • Touch and Hold for Siri

You can also tap Siri History and select Delete Siri History to remove all of your Siri interactions from Apple’s servers. (While you’re at it, you can disable personal requests too.)

Set up useful automations on your HomePod

Setting up your HomePod play songs automatically or to always tell you when your spouse gets home from work is far cooler than asking it to do those things every time. You can set up these and other automations from HomePod settings in the Home app.

Go to HomePod settings > Automation and tap Add Automation. There are a few basic triggers you can experiment with — People Arrive, People Leave, and Time of Day. The easiest to configure is Time of Day, which allows you to play certain songs or playlists at a time of your choosing. (I’ve set up an automation that plays classical music for an hour at sunset every weekday.) You can set up as many of these automations as you like.

The more interesting automations are location-based: You can use the People Arrive trigger to make the HomePod automatically play music whenever you or people in your family arrive home. This requires location services to be enabled on both the HomePod and on your associated Apple devices, because that’s how the HomePod figures out the person in question has arrived home.

Similarly, you can use the People Leave trigger to ask the HomePod to stop playing music when you leave the house. If you’re trying to freak someone out, you could even set up the HomePod to start playing loud music the moment you leave.

Buy a second HomePod for a low-effort home theatre setup

You don’t really unlock the true magic of the HomePod’s audio capabilities until you have two of them paired in stereo mode — and this setup gets even better when you add in an Apple TV 4K. Two HomePods don’t quite give that full surround sound experience, but they’re a lot easier to set up than a bunch of wired speakers all over your room.

Log in to comment on this story!