During all of the excitement and contrasting negativity that surrounded the announcement of the Apple Vision Pro headset at this week’s WWDC, all I could think about was that here was yet another Apple event without the launch of a soundbar.
Yes, I realise that WWDC is primarily an event aimed at developers and therefore with a primary focus on software, but Apple does regularly also announce hardware at the event, as it did this year with the Vision Pro and a couple of Macs. In fact, the original HomePod was announced at WWDC 2017, so while an Apple soundbar was probably never very likely to be announced this week, it wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility.
Even so, my slim hopes were dashed yet again, and the degree to which rumours around an Apple soundbar have dried up is making me wonder if such a thing will ever materialise.
These rumours began in earnest back in 2020, when Apple merged its HomePod and Apple TV engineering groups. It seemed obvious: what do you get when you combine a HomePod with an Apple TV? A streaming, home cinema speaker, of course! And what form would that take? A bar that could sit in front of or beneath a TV would make sense, wouldn't it?
Apple has taken steps in this direction since that merger. The 2nd-generation Apple TV 4K launched with an eARC port that can receive all sound from your TV regardless of source, and this sound can be output to HomePods. I tested this feature as part of our HomePod 2 review and it works exceptionally well and delivers very impressive sound, but the fact that it requires three separate components to be done properly (an Apple TV and two HomePods) is, for right or wrong, a complexity and pricing barrier for a lot of people. It makes absolute sense to me that these three elements should be combined in one unit that’s specifically designed to work harmoniously with a TV.
At this point, you might be asking yourself why I care whether Apple produces a soundbar or not. The answer is that Apple’s track record in terms of audio as well as my specific experience with the Apple TV / HomePod set-up suggests that the company could potentially produce the best performance-per-pound soundbar there’s ever been. The Sonos Arc has been so good for so long that we recently entered it into our Hall of Fame – an extraordinary feat in a category as traditionally transient as soundbars. It needs a challenge, and I think there’s every reason to believe that Apple could provide it, not only in terms of sound quality but also because an Apple soundbar would almost certainly also contain the features of the Apple TV – hands-down the best video streamer you can buy.
I’m not saying that I want Apple to produce a soundbar that will beat the Sonos Arc because I favour one brand over the other. I have no skin in that game. But because if the Arc is finally defeated, it will spur Sonos to go away and produce an even better Sonos Arc 2. Competition is great for improving quality, and often price, too.
So will an Apple soundbar ever arrive? As mentioned, there have been no rumours or leaks of note for some time, but Apple is still able to keep a secret or two, and I still think it makes too much sense conceptually to not be on the cards at some point in the not-too-distant future. I’ll certainly be keeping my fingers crossed for an announcement during Apple’s annual Autumn event – but then I never learn…
These are the best Dolby Atmos soundbars you can buy right now
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This is what happened when I replaced a Sonos Arc with two HomePod 2s