How do you set it up?
This is pretty sweet: As with the AirPods, all you have to do is hold an iOS device (running the latest version, of course) up to the HomePod. From there, the iDevice will recognize there's a HomePod in front of it and begin the setup process. You'll be asked (among other things) whether you want the HomePod to take phone calls, access your messages and so on. These are "personal requests," and they work only when the iOS device used to set things up is on the same WiFi network. Once you've zipped through Apple's questions, you're just left waiting for setup to complete. From start to finish, the process took about a minute.
How does it sound?
As mentioned, there's a ton of components crammed inside the HomePod, and they come together for an audio experience that's almost shockingly good. Apple ran the HomePod through a handful of test tracks, ranging from Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" to the Hamilton soundtrack, and each of them sounded remarkably warm and crisp. More impressive is how the HomePod seemed to layer and highlight different components of each song; it always seemed to emphasize vocals, but I could easily make out the attack of a pick on guitar strings and the warm, lingering sound of a bass being plucked. For me, musical quality often takes a back seat to convenience, but there's something special about picking up on fresh nuances in a favorite song or being reminded that they were always there, waiting to be heard. The HomePod is especially good at this.
And since it adjusts the way it blasts out music depending on where it is and what's around it, I was able to wander around a room hear music with the same level of depth and clarity no matter where I was standing. With most speakers, there's a sweet spot where everything sounds just right. The HomePod, however, endeavors to build a sweet zone. There are some exceptions, like when you're standing near a wall the HomePod has its back to, but the sound in those cases is still well worth listening to. This intelligent approach to audio playback isn't exactly new, though: Google's Home Max has a feature called Smart Sound that also adjusts audio playback depending on where it is in the room.