The Apple HomePod is becoming much more useful as a home theater speaker for Apple TV 4K owners. Apple confirmed On the edge that the upcoming software update will allow the speaker to output Dolby Atmos audio as well as 5.1 and 7.1 channel sound from Apple’s streaming box. This feature will work best when you have two paired HomePod speakers, but only works with one. However, the new HomePod mini for $ 99 will not support the new home theater functionality.
Dolby Atmos support is arriving as Apple repairs the way the HomePod works with its streaming box. For starters, tvOS 1
The HomePod also gets new surround sound functionality, using its spatial awareness features to offer virtual sound for surround sound. As noted on Apple’s website, the Apple TV 4K home theater feature is only supported by the more expensive HomePod, as the $ 99 HomePod mini does not have its own spatial awareness or beamforming technology. The HomePod mini can still be used with Apple TV 4K using AirPlay 2, however.
Apple’s upcoming update means that the HomePod will catch up with Amazon Studio, which has been able to provide Dolby Atmos audio for Fire TV streaming devices since its release last year. However, if implementing the Amazon feature is something to go for, then HomePod and Apple TV 4K owners can enjoy it. When my colleague Dan Seifert tested this feature last year, he found that Amazon’s speaker offered sound quality comparable to the larger and more expensive Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
Updated October 15, 6:49 AM ET: Updated to clarify that setting the HomePod as the default speaker on Apple TV 4K currently requires a non-public beta.