You can't use two HomePod minis as stereo Mac speakers despite AirPlay and it's madness

Homepod Mini
Homepod Mini (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • HomePod mini might seem perfect for people who want to connect two of them to their Mac for stereo output.
  • Unfortunately, you can't actually do that.

Now that HomePod mini is here you might be thinking the same thing I was thinking – these would make great desktop speakers for connecting to a Mac. And they would if it wasn't for the fact that they won't actually work.

You heard that right.

Let's back up a minute. HomePod mini is a device that can be used in a stereo pair, just like the chonky boi HomePod. You can ask a HomePod mini to play music and once the two speakers are paired you can get stereo audio out of them. The same goes for AirPlaying to them via something like an iPhone, iPad, or even an Apple TV. It works fine. It's great. And you'd expect that you would be able to do it from a Mac, too.

And you can. So long as all you want to do is use Music, nee iTunes, or the TV app. You'll get glorious stereo audio and all will be right with the world – that's a lie. It's still 2020, after alll.

But if you try and select that stereo pair of HomePod minis from a Mac's menu bar you're going to be stuck because the audio will instead come from one HomePod mini or the other. No stereo. No fun. No sense as to why.

That means no system sounds in stereo. No YouTube in stereo. No Netflix in stereo. No games in stereo.

Apple HomePod

Apple HomePod (Image credit: iMore)

There is, however, a way around all this but it's got to be one of the most ridiculous ways to make something as simple as stereo sound work. The steps are over on MacRumors but there are drawbacks. Starting with the fact it'll use AirPlay 1, rather than AirPlay 2. The result? Audio drift and an irritating delay in reaction to pressing play, pause, or whatever on-screen.

Another option might be to use the excellent AirFoil but we shouldn't need to spend $35 to make macOS do things iOS can already do. tvOS can do it! But not macOS – the same system that can take x86 code, recompile it on the fly, and make it run faster than it would natively.

But stereo audio to a pair of speakers made by Apple? From its own computers? Who would want that?

The fact macOS still doesn't support AirPlay 2 is madness. If there's an Apple audio engineer reading this, I'd absolutely love to hear from you. I'm very easy to reach.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • No different on the full sized Homepods. That's been known for a while, but it is no less stupid.
  • Yup. More people are going to run into it at the HomePod mini price point though.
  • Maybe it will light a fire. Not sure if I've read that this is a software issue on the Mac or hardware limitation. I just know I don't see the HomePod group in the Mac's system options, like I do on the iPad or phone. They are displayed as two seperate items.
  • As stupid as this is - and yes, it is VERY stupid, bordering on pathetic - the even worse part of Apple's alleged "speakers" is that a single Apple speaker cannot do stereo. Seriously. I have $300, $180, $90 and $40 bluetooth speakers that do stereo. Alone. Pair them with another exact model (which I have for all of them. Yes, I like music) and they of course do much better stereo. Note that this is stereo with anything that can connect to them. Phone, iPad, Mac, PC, whatever. You connect to one, the speakers themselves handle the stereo bit alone or when paired. They all also have an audio in plug, so you can connect anything to them via cable, without using bluetooth. An old iPod for example. Or anything with a headphone plug - radio, TV, whatever. Again, all in stereo. Alone or when paired. None of these outstanding speakers are from Apple, of course. This is the sole reason I never bought the Homepod. I am not interested in a $300 speaker that plays in mono. 1960 was a LONG time ago.
  • What do you mean, it doesn't do stereo? Are you saying it only plays either the left or right channel? It decides and throws the other side on the floor? I don't believe that's the case. I think it does a pretty darn good job of producing rich sound from a single location. There is certainly more than one speaker in the device. Don't know if some are dedicated to left vs right, but it sounds every bit as good as other single device speakers that do. You just aren't going to get outstanding spatial separation from a single location unless you position the left and right speakers appropriately. Then it matters where you sit. The HomePod is designed for 360 sound. Pair two of them and they are quite impressive.
  • Is this still the case? Because this just seems totally STUPID that you can't 1) Easily connect this easy to use speaker to your Mac, and 2) Easily connect a stereo pair to them without having to have Music constantly open. Hopefully, macOS Monterey will help resolve this issue. (Cuz if THAT doesn't do it, that would be BEYOND stupid...)