Original Apple HomePod gets a Dolby Atmos Home Theater boost

Apple is bringing a bunch of new features to its first smart speaker

Original HomePod gets a Dolby Atmos boost
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Apple took the covers off of the shiny, spherical, new HomePod Mini at its big launch event this week but that doesn’t mean that it’s curtains for the original HomePod.

In fact, the Mini’s older brother will be getting a nifty feature soon, via a firmware update, that the newer smart speaker misses out on.

As part of Apple’s new ‘Home Theater with Apple 4K’ the first-gen HomePod can be used to form an immersive surround sound experience, with virtual 2.1, 5.1, 7.1 and Dolby Atmos all on offer.

The caveat here is you only get that surround sound action when you’re watching stuff via your Apple TV 4K; you can’t just plug your HomePod directly into your TV and get Atmos action on everything.

However, with Apple TV now supporting pretty much all the major streaming services - Netflix, Prime, HBO, Disney+, Hulu and more - it’s a pretty compelling argument to make that single HDMI input switch for your AV setup.

We’re told by Apple that it works best, as the HomePod would need to create that centre stage channel, if you position your HomePod as near to the middle of your TV screen as possible.

However, for an even better and more natural sound array, you can set up a pair of HomePods as part of the new Home Theater setup.

In that scenario, it’s obviously best to put one either side of your TV.

The new feature is only possible on the older, bigger, HomePod as it packs in an array of seven beamforming tweeters; the Mini just has a pair.

Apple confirmed during a briefing with The Ambient that there are no plans yet for a Sonos-style surround sound setup where you could configure 'true' surround sound; for example having a couple of HomePods as front speakers and Minis as rear satellites.

However we did get confirmation that both big and little HomePods can play nicely in an Apple multi-room speaker setup; but you can’t mix and match when it comes to HomePod stereo pairs.

There’s more good news for original HomePod owners - a software update will bring a lot of the new features to the bigger model such as the new Intercom functionality.

Then only major thing it misses out on is the nifty looking iPhone handoff skills. That's because it lacks the U1 chip for presence sensing.

The firmware update for the original HomePod is 'coming soon' according to Apple. When pressed, we were informed it should be in the next couple of weeks.

Watch this space for details of when it lands and check out our guide to using your HomePod as an Apple TV speaker as it currently stands.

TAGGED    apple home    smart speakers

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