The Apple HomePod is back! Yes, the smart speaker that Apple discontinued back in March 2021 has returned in HomePod 2 guise for a second stab at the wireless-speaker market.
But what about the competition? What product does the HomePod 2 have in its sights? Is there actually any competition for it? Well, from our perspective, one of its closest competitors can be found in Amazon’s Echo stable of smart speakers in the shape of the Echo Studio.
It looks and feels like a rival, although there are some differences – which we will come to further down the page. Join us as we pitch these two wireless speakers against one another on paper and attempt to help you work out which one might be right for you.
Apple HomePod 2 vs Amazon Echo Studio: Price
So, the HomePod 2 was announced on the 18 January 2023 with a price tag of £299 / $299 / AU$479. That is actually a slight drop in price compared with the original HomePod, which came to market with a price of £319 / $349 / AU$499.
The Amazon Echo Studio undercuts the HomePod 2, coming in at £190 / $200 / AU$329. It launched back in 2019 so it has been around for quite a while, and we have seen occasional price drops, mainly around big sales events such as Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday. Apple price drops are quite rare, especially on brand-new products, so we expect the HomePod 2 to hold steady at its full asking price for the near future at least.
Apple HomePod 2 vs Amazon Echo Studio: Design
The HomePod 2 keeps the cylindrical shape of the original. It is also once again wrapped in a woven fabric which is made from 100 per cent recycled materials – even the power cable is covered in the same material this time around. On top, there is a backlit display with capacitive buttons that stretches edge to edge. It measures 16.8cm x 14.2cm (6.6in x 5.6in) and weighs 2.3kg (5.16lb).
Apple hasn’t confirmed the power rating of the HomePod 2’s internal amplifier, but it does drive a 10cm (4in) high-excursion driver and an array of five horn-loaded tweeters.
By contrast, the Amazon Echo Studio is a little bit bigger, measuring 20.6cm x 17.5cm (8in x 7in) and weighing in at 3.5kg (7.7lb).
It too sports a chunky, cylindrical shape and comes covered in either a charcoal or glacier white fabric.
Here, power is supplied by a 330W amplifier, which drives two 5cm (2in) midrange speakers positioned left and right, a 25mm (1in) forward-firing centre tweeter and a 5cm (2in) upward-firing midrange speaker. Bass is delivered by a downward-firing 13.5cm (5.25in) bass driver. There are physical volume buttons on the top, along with a mic mute and Alexa wake button.
Apple HomePod 2 vs Amazon Echo Studio: Features
The features on the HomePod 2 largely mirror those found on the original model. So, it is heavily centred around Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, and voice controls. And, of course, it is aimed squarely at Apple device owners. Android users can look away now (although we would prefer it if you could finish reading this page before you did).
Own an Apple iPhone? Well, you can hand off whatever it is you are streaming to the wireless speaker simply by tapping the two devices together. HomePod 2 can also transfer suggested playlists and podcasts to your iPhone when both devices are near each other. We haven’t seen the new speaker yet, so can’t comment on music app support, but the original offered Siri voice control only with Apple Music and we would be surprised if this was extended to any rival services on the HomePod 2.
On the audio front, the HomePod 2 supports Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos, plus lossless playback via Apple Music. Naturally, you can pair a couple of HomePod 2s together if you want to listen in stereo, and you can once again add a pair to an Apple TV 4K as an alternative to a soundbar.
In a similar vein, the Echo Studio is built to integrate into Amazon’s ecosystem and work with the Alexa voice assistant. Typical features such as timers, reminders and alarms are accessible through the Echo Studio and you can ask Alexa all manner of questions.
You also get support for immersive audio via Amazon Music should you subscribe to the streaming service. Content available on the service in both Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio is also supported.
Start up the Echo Studio for the first time and it will fire out test tones and adjust its output for your room characteristics. It doesn’t sound quite as advanced as the HomePod 2, which can intelligently scan its environment in real-time and optimise its sound accordingly, but we won’t know exactly how accurate the HomePod 2’s calibration is until we get a sample into our test rooms, of course.
Apple HomePod 2 vs Amazon Echo Studio: Sound
We are currently waiting for a review sample of the HomePod 2 before we can report back with sound quality findings from our test room, but we are hoping for big things, given Apple’s claims. If it can deliver weighty, authoritative sound like its predecessor we should be in for a treat. Whether Spatial Audio support will bring anything to the party also remains to be seen.
We did test the Echo Studio when it first came out and it did a relatively good job of impressing us, at the money, thanks to its open, airy presentation. We weren’t convinced over the quality of its bass delivery, though. In late 2022 Amazon announced that it was rolling out a software update to "improve stereo sound and [enhance] the clarity and bass response" and we haven’t heard this new version of the Studio so it will be a good opportunity to see how the Studio has improved (or not) while we are testing the HomePod 2. Stay tuned for all our findings.
Apple HomePod 2 vs Amazon Echo Studio: Initial verdict
We were never really sure why the original HomePod was given the chop, to be honest; it was a five-star performer and, in our eyes at least, capable of exciting and room-filling audio. But, that’s all in the past.
Now the HomePod 2 is here, and looking to regather its crown with a more powerful processor, extra smart home features and claims from Apple that it is capable of ‘next-level acoustics’. The Echo Studio is, according to Amazon, its ‘best-sounding smart speaker ever’ but it would have struggled against the original HomePod. Perhaps its latest software update has taken its audio quality to a new level. We shall see…
Read our in-depth Apple HomePod 2 review
Our pick of the best wireless speakers