Two HomePod minis vs HomePod 2 ultimate showdown: Is true stereo better than spatial audio?
Can two HomePod minis in stereo match Apple's new HomePod?
Apple’s brand new HomePod 2 is an absolute marvel. If you’ve read our HomePod 2 review, you’ll know we love it for its incredible sound profile and nifty internal upgrades, alongside some new smart home capabilities. The HomePod 2, however, remains pricey, and I’ve seen plenty of folks postulating that you might be better off saving some money and instead buying two HomePod minis for around two-thirds of its bigger brother’s price.
Apple’s new HomePod 2 costs $299 / £299, and you’re going to struggle to find a discount on that given it’s only a few weeks old. You can usually pick up a HomePod mini for around $80-$90, so two might cost you just $160, or perhaps $180. Regardless, buying two HomePod minis will save you at least $100 over the HomePod 2, but is it worth it?
I’m here to put this nonsensical idea to bed. Let me tell you why the HomePod mini, even in stereo, doesn’t offer anywhere near the experience of the larger, newer, HomePod 2.
Before reviewing our HomePod, Stephen spent more than 20 years as a musician. He also has nearly 10 years of experience using Apple's Logic Pro and Mainstage tools for sound design and live performance and has more than five years of experience as a sound engineer and technician running live events. He has conducted numerous audio and home entertainment reviews for iMore and has owned Apple's previous HomePod for several years since its release.
Size and design
The HomePod mini is small, obviously, and one distinct advantage it offers over the larger HomePod 2 is its diminutive form factor, which makes it perfect for popping on a desk or hiding on a bookshelf. At barely 10 cm, the sphere is very unobtrusive and definitely the pick if you’re at a real premium for space. Of course, you’ll need more space for two HomePod minis, and a reasonable distance between them to enjoy stereo sound. That means the HomePod mini in stereo is best enjoyed on either side of a Mac or iPad in situ, probably at a desk or workstation.
By contrast, the new HomePod 2 is substantially larger, so you will need much more space to place one down. But, you’ll only need one outlet, and the new HomePod 2 comes with a nifty detachable cable that makes it much easier to hide away and pass through small holes, a big bonus in the new design this year.
If you want a splash of color for your office or anywhere else though, HomePod mini offers five colors that include vibrant blue, yellow, and orange. The new HomePod 2 only comes in white and midnight, which is really just black.
Honestly, the choice between the two is largely aesthetic, but the difference in sound is so great that you shouldn’t let that affect your choice, so let’s get to the good stuff.
The new HomePod 2 is a sonic masterpiece. It’s a marvel of great bass, rich mids, and crisp high-end sound. I also conducted iMore’s HomePod mini review, and was likewise impressed by just how loud such a small speaker can sound, especially by the sound quality at the price point and size. However, side-by-side there is simply no comparing the two. It’s not even close. This is largely reflected in the price tag, however, and I’d push a narrative that, whilst the HomePod 2 is around $200 more expensive than a HomePod mini, and $120-ish more expensive than two in stereo, it sounds about $1,000 better.
If you imagine the sound spectrum like the floors of a building, the HomePod 2 is a 100-story skyscraper. You have a basement, and then maybe 20 floors of bass, the remaining 80 floors are a delightful section of mid-range and high-end sound. I won’t retread the ground of our review too much, but the sound is incredibly spacious and well laid out, with every instrument and element of a song given plenty of room to breathe.
By contrast, the HomePod mini can perhaps boast on floors 30 through 60 in this skyscraper of sound. It lacks all of the low-end depth of the HomePod 2 and the high-end clarity. Even the middle ranges it does put are shallow and tinny by comparison to the HomePod 2. One unfortunate side effect of my time spent with the HomePod 2 is that I can longer enjoy listening to any of our HomePod mini units because it sounds so bad by comparison. If you’ve ever listened to any of Apple’s lossless, high-quality Apple Music, you’ll know that sometimes on a shaky internet connection, the song starts out in very poor quality before jumping up to its full fidelity. That’s what it’s like listening to HomePod 2 and HomePod mini.
There is one important issue to note, however. Despite the significant work Apple has done to reduce the vibrations coming from the bass of the new HomePod 2, it does still pack a real punch. During testing, I threw one on the shelf where I used to keep a single HomePod mini and popped some low-fi Hip-Hop on. My wife, who was on the other side of that wall in her office, was immediately disturbed, and I had to lower the volume significantly to stop it. I can move the HomePod to a better spot, but one thing it is worth noting is that the HomePod 2 is a punchy and potent speaker, and even at low volumes it put out enough sound to travel through the next wall. If you need more discrete listening, a pair of HomePod mini speakers could be the way to go.
Both the HomePod 2 and HomePod mini are good smart home speakers. Both use Siri to control any smart device in your house, both have internal temperature and humidity sensors, and both have support for Thread which means you can use them as the center of a smart home ecosystem. There is one notable difference, however. The new HomePod 2 comes with the S7 chip, which handles lots of onboard processing tasks including Siri.
This means that Siri is noticeably faster and more responsive on the new HomePod 2 than it is on the HomePod mini. If you’ve owned an old HomePod or the mini and have found Siri a frustrating experience, the new HomePod does alleviate this somewhat. Overall however, I don’t think there’s enough here to differentiate the two. They’re both capable smart home speakers in their own right. However, where the HomePod mini excels as a smart home hub that can also play music, the HomePod 2 is first and foremost a quality audio speaker that also happens to work with your smart home. It’s a subtle difference, but the results are profound.
Is the original HomePod better than the mini?
Yes, the original HomePod boasts nearly all of the same advantages over the HomePod mini as the new one listed here. The HomePod 2 is a significant step up from the first one, but both are still leaps and bounds ahead of the HomePod mini in stereo.
HomePod 2, or two HomePod minis?
Given $299 of my own money, and the choice of either a single HomePod 2 or two HomePod minis, I would pick the larger, newer HomePod every time. As a pure audio and listening experience it is simply lightyears ahead of even two HomePod minis playing in stereo. That doesn’t mean the HomePod mini isn’t capable, and if you’re really on a tight budget, or you’re not too fussy about audio quality, you can certainly have an enjoyable experience with them.
However, I fervently believe that the HomePod 2 more than justifies its higher price tag, and that actually when you consider the audio performance and price pound-for-pound, the HomePod 2 is actually much better value. As I said, it costs maybe $120 more than two HomePod minis, but it sounds several-hundred dollars more expensive. Don’t choose wrong.
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Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.
Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9