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Apple developers debuted their new home device which features Siri and Apple Music at the WWDC Conference in San Francisco, California.
USA TODAY

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Play it loud and let it rip.

Apple’s new HomePod speaker, coming at the end of the year, has deep rich sound that blows the Amazon Echo and Google Home out of the water.

After spending time listening to several songs on the HomePod at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference here, I was wowed. But that doesn’t mean Apple will have an easy time of it. Sales of high-end audio have never been a consumer electronics topper. Apple is clearly aiming at the high-end, premium consumer with a speaker priced at $349, twice as expensive as the Echo and about three times more than Home.

The HomePod is targeted towards the sort of folks who once frequented big box electronics store in the premium home audio section.

Remember multiple speakers, amplifiers, sub-woofers and the like to get lifelike sound?

Cut to 2017, and the HomePod is a one-piece unit for the wireless generation, just like Sonos and Bose Wi-Fi speakers that can go in every room in the house sans wires playing streaming music. Plus add in the Siri digital assistant for news, weather and sports updates, navigating the music selection and operating your home automation.

The wild card is Siri–will consumers really care? The digital assistant is widely derided as inferior to Google, and best just for basic tasks like setting calendar dates, alarms and dialing phone numbers for you. Will we really use Siri to announce our song choices? Based on one of the handful of popular use cases for the Echo, the answer is probably yes. But would the addition of Siri make us that more likely to buy a great sounding speaker? Who knows?

I feel bad for Sonos. The scrappy company has pioneered the Wi-Fi speaker with great sounding speakers that also are premium priced. While many of us expected Apple to target Amazon and Google with its Siri speaker, it in fact seems to have its eyes clearly set on Sonos.

Based on listening to HomePod here, and songs by Sia, the Eagles, Norah Jones and Stevie Wonder, against a Sonos Play3 speaker ($299) and Echo ($179), the competitors were no match.

The HomePod was rich, loud, crispy and in a word, stunning, with the Sonos, which always sounded great in my home, actually kind of dull, like a better than average FM radio, and the Echo like a tinny AM car speaker.

Then Apple plugged in two HomePods and you got the idea. Apple hopes you will buy two speakers — just like we used to do at the high-end audio store (left and right) — and the $700 (two HomePods, at $349 a piece) sound was music to the ears of an audiophile.

The reaction from many I spoke to at WWDC was similar. Apple always puts on a great presentation.

Apple Stores are a loud, busy place, and it’s unlikely consumers will get the same treatment many of us at WWDC did unless they build private audio rooms.

But let’s give it to Apple. The company revived itself thanks to music: iPod put 1,000 songs in your pocket. By the time of the iPhone in 2007, music was an afterthought to the device, and its Apple Music subscription service is a distant No. 2 to Spotify.

With a Wi-Fi speaker with amazing sound that also has a built-in digital assistant, Apple is forging new ground. Yes, Amazon and Google already have a talking speaker. But they are kitchen radios compared to the mega audio produced by the HomePod.

HomePod goes on sale in December.

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