Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 15th Feb 2018 11:13 UTC
Apple

David Pogue has some reservations about the smart speaker comparison test Apple subjected the tech press to.

Still, when I tweeted about the test, a couple of people were suspicious of the setup, which of course was entirely controlled by Apple. What was the source material? What was the wireless setup?

An Apple rep told me that the test songs were streaming from a server in the next room (a Mac). But each speaker was connected to it differently: by Bluetooth (Amazon Echo), Ethernet (Sonos), input miniplug (Google Home), and AirPlay (HomePod), which is Apple’s Wi-Fi-based transmission system.

Since the setup wasn’t identical, I wondered if it was a perfectly fair test. (Bluetooth, for example, may degrade (compress) the music it’s transmitting, depending on the source and the equipment.)

So I decided to set up my own test at home.

I'm not really interested in the HomePod or Google Home Max or any other "smart" speaker, but I love how Pogue basically laments much of the technology press for not questioning Apple's test and test setup. A good read.

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Does the curtain effect the sound?
by cranfordio on Thu 15th Feb 2018 13:44 UTC
cranfordio
Member since:
2005-11-10

I am no audiophile, or an audio engineer, but I do wonder if the way the HomePod analyzes sound if the curtain being right in front of the speakers may have affected the sound in some way. Pogue says it didn't, but that's all he says, "It didn't." It may not have, and Pogue may be correct, but I would be interested in the same blind test without a curtain.

Reply Score: 3

embryo Member since:
2018-02-15

Well, I *am* an audio engineer and I can tell you that it does!
The weave of the material is crucial to the frequencies that will be cut-off (because they will cut-off).
If no research is been made, the easiest solution is to use a veil-like material to let most of the high frequencies pass but that would be revealing the shape of the speaker for this test.
Of course you never do that at any audio test!
Its much better to close the eyes of the judges..
They didn't hear the high/ultra high frequencies of the speakers, and that high range is responsible for the "clearness" of the sound.
Its where the famous "Harmonic distortion" is taking place.

Anyway, the Apple's test was worst...

Reply Score: 3

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13


They didn't hear the high/ultra high frequencies of the speakers, and that high range is responsible for the "clearness" of the sound.
Its where the famous "Harmonic distortion" is taking place.

Anyway, the Apple's test was worst...


The audiophile myths never seek to amaze. No adult can hear those high frequencies. By middle age typical hearing loss is very noticeable. At 65 most men can't hear anything above 8Khz.

Reply Score: 5

daedalus Member since:
2011-01-14

People are different. I walk into my apartment and I can hear from the doorway if there's a CRT turned on in another room, purely from the 15.75 KHz whine it gives off. My wife, a professional musician, cannot, and neither can most of my friends of a similar age. So it could well be that certain people who are good at their sound engineering job, happen to have an advantage over others of a similar age by being able to hear "more" than average.

Reply Score: 0

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

People are different. I walk into my apartment and I can hear from the doorway if there's a CRT turned on in another room, purely from the 15.75 KHz whine it gives off. My wife, a professional musician, cannot, and neither can most of my friends of a similar age. So it could well be that certain people who are good at their sound engineering job, happen to have an advantage over others of a similar age by being able to hear "more" than average.


Our minds play tricks.

In properly conducted blind tests professional violinists can't the difference between a Stradivarius and decent mass produced instruments. This fact was demonstrated accidentally on a televised audition I watched about 20 years ago. A young woman played beautifully and the judges (all world class orchestral musicians) waxed lyrical about her performance - until she told them her violin was a Suzuki model worth a couple of thousand dollars. The judges all immediately backtracked and decided the violin actually sounded like a buzzsaw.

High pitched sounds (over 12kHz) are generally considered extremely unpleasant.

Young(ish) people can often hear 18-20KHz sounds. By around 45 males typically have a 20-30dB deficit at 8kHz. Above that range they are often essentially deaf.

The irony is that musicians often have severe hearing loss (when professionally tested) but frequently claim to have 'golden ears'. The sounds are simply their imagination.

Edited 2018-02-16 11:30 UTC

Reply Score: 7

darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

"People are different. I walk into my apartment and I can hear from the doorway if there's a CRT turned on in another room, purely from the 15.75 KHz whine it gives off. My wife, a professional musician, cannot, and neither can most of my friends of a similar age. So it could well be that certain people who are good at their sound engineering job, happen to have an advantage over others of a similar age by being able to hear "more" than average.


Our minds play tricks.
"
Not in this case. I know instantly if there is a CRT on anywhere near me before I even get close to it, without even having to see it. It's no trick of the mind, and I am always correct. But go right on thinking that just because you can't do it, none of the rest of us can. It's typical of most of your comments, so at least I'll give you that you're consistent.

Reply Score: 1

Megol Member since:
2011-04-11

"[q]People are different. I walk into my apartment and I can hear from the doorway if there's a CRT turned on in another room, purely from the 15.75 KHz whine it gives off. My wife, a professional musician, cannot, and neither can most of my friends of a similar age. So it could well be that certain people who are good at their sound engineering job, happen to have an advantage over others of a similar age by being able to hear "more" than average.


Our minds play tricks.
"
Not in this case. I know instantly if there is a CRT on anywhere near me before I even get close to it, without even having to see it. It's no trick of the mind, and I am always correct. But go right on thinking that just because you can't do it, none of the rest of us can. It's typical of most of your comments, so at least I'll give you that you're consistent. [/q]

I think you missed the point of the post - which is correct. The mind play tricks and the myth of "golden ears" is a myth as proven every time it have been attempted to be verified. That's the reason AB testing should be the bare minimum for testing audio.

That people can hear CRT whine is another thing, I'd probably be able to hear that (though my hearing is worse than it used to be) but it's hard to say: The CRT monitors I've used recently have been high-tech Trinitron systems with >30kHz horizontal update. IOW impossible to hear even for a human with supreme hearing in his/her youth.

Reply Score: 7

Hmmm
by Mx9001 on Thu 15th Feb 2018 15:30 UTC
Mx9001
Member since:
2016-12-12

Pretty cheeky of apple to give Sono's the best connection.

Reply Score: 2

Fact-Checked?
by avgalen on Thu 15th Feb 2018 16:48 UTC
avgalen
Member since:
2010-09-23

It is called blind-trust.
Real journalists all know about having at least 2 independent sources.
Scientists all know about reproducibility.
So when journalists report on a scientific topic you would expect some checking.

Of course everyone should know by now that bloggers aren't journalists and that "not biting the hand that feeds you" is the mantra among many of these bloggers.

So big kudoos for somebody doing actual research and doing so while the iron is still hot.

Reply Score: 8

It's not bad for what it is
by wocowboy on Thu 15th Feb 2018 22:02 UTC
wocowboy
Member since:
2006-06-01

I bought one, and it does sound light-years better than my tinny Amazon Echo that has absolutely no bass or high frequency sound at all. It plays music from my iPhone and Apple Music service just fine and SIRI works as good as can be expected, especially in music matters, it's a good fit for my home office, so I'm happy. I have my HomePod for music and Amazon Echo for the complicated stuff and that's just fine for me.

Reply Score: 2

No stereo anymore?
by Lobotomik on Fri 16th Feb 2018 09:21 UTC
Lobotomik
Member since:
2006-01-03

"Audiophiles" indeed, listening to music on a single 2Kg speaker for which not even the power output is quoted anywhere. But there is talk of "great spatial image" Ha!

Come on, one of these tiny loudspeakers may sound a little better than the others, but let's tone down the epic language, they are all crap compared with an inexpensive HiFi stereo system.

But then there would be Wires, horror!, and you could not talk to Siri on one of those. But hey, if that is what you care about, please, assume high-quality audio is not at the top of your interests and cut the bullshit.

Reply Score: 9

RE: No stereo anymore?
by ebasconp on Sun 18th Feb 2018 04:32 UTC in reply to "No stereo anymore?"
ebasconp Member since:
2006-05-09

I cannot agree more on this assert! ;)

A real audiophile does not care on the "good quality" of a monoaural speaker like it, because she/he has an actual good audio equipment with speakers of a good size to honor the basses. "Good" perception of basses in small speakers is because of resonance being higher in the lower frequencies they work and because of bass harmonics themselves, not because they can accurately reproduce 20Hz+ sounds.

Reply Score: 3

Meh...
by gan17 on Fri 16th Feb 2018 13:16 UTC
gan17
Member since:
2008-06-03

They should have included a Devialet in the comparison, to give the listeners proper perspective. At least that way, the effin journos would realize what's actually out there and tone down their hyperbole.

Edited 2018-02-16 13:19 UTC

Reply Score: 3

Atari Speaker Hat...
by leech on Fri 16th Feb 2018 18:55 UTC
leech
Member since:
2006-01-10

I think I'd rather own an Atari Speaker Hat than anything by Apple. Just saying ;)

Reply Score: 1

Comment by ilovebeer
by ilovebeer on Sat 17th Feb 2018 00:51 UTC
ilovebeer
Member since:
2011-08-08

Just two quick comments.. First, sound quality is an extremely subjective topic. "Reviews" are borderline pointless and the best advice will *always* be to go have a listen for yourself because `your` ears unique and what you hear is unique to `you`.

Second, probably a solid 95%+ of everyone I've ever talked to or read text from, who claim to be an "audiophile", are anything but. To an untrained ear and inexperienced person a lot of them can seem convincing but that's all it is - an illusion. And again, the best advice you will ever get, especially from real professionals, is to go try the equipment for yourself and let your own ears be the judge.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by ilovebeer
by Carewolf on Sun 18th Feb 2018 00:11 UTC in reply to "Comment by ilovebeer"
Carewolf Member since:
2005-09-08

No, it is not subjective, you can actually measure the fidelity of a speaker.

Edited 2018-02-18 00:12 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by ilovebeer
by ilovebeer on Sun 18th Feb 2018 17:22 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by ilovebeer"
ilovebeer Member since:
2011-08-08

Yes, you can. You can precisely measure many aspects of a speakers performance under a vast number of circumstances and environments. And it largely doesn't matter because it's not the speakers that vary, it's the source material you play on them, and it's the peoples ears that vary greatly. This is exactly where all these self-proclaimed "audiophiles" get it wrong. They refer to specs, charts, and measurement - and it means little but they lack the true knowledge & experience to know that.

So, reading speaker specs and looking at performance charts won't tell you how the speakers are going to sound to you. Like I said, anyone with any real knowledge (or sense) will *always* tell you to go listen to the gear yourself and come to your own conclusion about how it sounds. Because it's completely subjective whether you like that fact or not.

Edited 2018-02-18 17:25 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by ilovebeer
by Carewolf on Sun 18th Feb 2018 22:25 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by ilovebeer"
Carewolf Member since:
2005-09-08

No audiophiles are the people who thinks expensive equipment can improve on the sound, and blind testing is somehow misleading. Getting good fidelity is not very expensive.

Reply Score: 4

RE[4]: Comment by ilovebeer
by ilovebeer on Mon 19th Feb 2018 02:53 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by ilovebeer"
ilovebeer Member since:
2011-08-08

That's generally true but there are other factors to consider such as your use case. There is also a distinct difference between true pro-grade and consumer-grade (including "pro-sumer" AKA overpriced consumer-grade). Much more so with consumer-grade but in both cases there's a point of diminishing returns at the lower and higher end of the price spectrum.

If you ever want to put an "audiophile" to the test, ask him if he would rather have a quality speaker in a tuned enclosure or a quality flat speaker & EQ. It's funny how many people answer that and provide an explanation when the only credible answer is that it's a nonsensical question.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Comment by ilovebeer
by zima on Sun 18th Feb 2018 23:57 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by ilovebeer"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Because it's completely subjective whether you like that fact or not.

Yes it is subjective, as in highly influenced by placebo and the like - to say anything of relevance, blind testing is required.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Comment by ilovebeer
by unclefester on Tue 20th Feb 2018 02:55 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by ilovebeer"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

Many years ago an Australian magazine wrote a story about the home sound systems of a number of leading musicians from various genres. None of them had expensive (or even mid range) system. Only a couple spent more than $500. None over $2000. One had a clock radio.

The story also featured an audiophile (with no musical training) who had a $250,000 music system in a custom built studio.

Edited 2018-02-20 02:57 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Comment by ilovebeer
by ilovebeer on Tue 20th Feb 2018 17:13 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by ilovebeer"
ilovebeer Member since:
2011-08-08

That's what happens when people make purchasing decisions based on spec sheets and internet koolaid rather than what their own ears would've told them prior to their "audiophile" indoctrination.

Reply Score: 2

Eww
by Poseidon on Sun 18th Feb 2018 12:09 UTC
Poseidon
Member since:
2009-10-31

They could have just said that it has really good sound for lossy files. Apple has been investing in processing lossy sound and making it sound better than the competition, which is probably what the Spotify crowd is raving about.

I don’t know about hat device, but their lossy mastering is really good on any speaker (iTunes mastered files played flin iTunes), although I do have a decent sound card and a decent speaker setup to test that only specific case.

That being said, it doesn’t beat uncompressed CD audio or 5.1/7.1 Uncomoressed sprouts either.

Reply Score: 1

Autoplaying video on the text review page...
by torp on Mon 19th Feb 2018 10:44 UTC
torp
Member since:
2010-08-10

With no pause button. Insulting.

Reply Score: 2