I owned an Apple Hi-Fi back-in-the-day (remember those?), and it sounded much better than most of my friends’ large stereo systems at the time. The HomePod seemed destined to be on the same path. However, the sheer amount of limitations on the HomePod has been the sole factor for the lack of recognition it deserves.
Currently, I have five Sonos speakers in my house and one HomePod. The Sonos system works great; I open the Sonos app from any of my Apple devices, choose the streaming service I would like to use, choose the speakers I want to hear it from, and I’m ready to go. The HomePod is a great device to set my HomeKit scenes, ask Siri to do some basic commands, and have a call on speakerphone while I walk around the kitchen cooking. But it doesn’t play nicely outside of the Apple ecosystem.
Apple has restricted the HomePod to only use Apple Music for playing music. While you can AirPlay any audio from any Apple device to the HomePod, you can’t ask Siri to play anything like Spotify or Pandora directly to it.
Time for some good news! There is a way around the walled garden of the HomePod. It’s called BabelPod. The goal of BabelPod is to add the ability to use other virtual assistants, add bluetooth functionality, and add line in capabilities.
How to Make HomePod Work with Spotify, Pandora and Other Voice Assistants
- The project requires you have a Raspberry Pi (you can use the Pi Zero W), a USB sound card (like this one here) and of course, a HomePod.
- The first thing you’ll need to do, is set up your HomePod like you normally would and then configure your Raspberry Pi.
- From there, you’ll want to check out this tutorial. It’s a step-by-step guide on how to get your setup ready to go. It can be intimidating at first, but I was able to get mine up and running in about an hour and a half.
What Can You Do With It?
So now that you’ve got your setup going, what can you do with it? Well, the possibilities are almost endless.
- The first thing you can do is turn it into a Bluetooth speaker. Just send your music to the Pi like it’s a Bluetooth speaker and then, using BabelPod, play the audio over AirPlay.
- Next is my personal favorite, you can play your vinyl records to your HomePod! Simply hook up your turntable to the input of your USB soundcard and select the USB audio as your input in BabelPod’s software. You can use this same method for a CD player, tape deck, or an old iPod.
- However, the thing that really makes this worth the effort is the ability to use another voice assistant or another streaming service. The best way to do this is to hook up any Google assistant or Alexa devices to the 3.5mm input jack on the USB sound card and choose to AirPlay to the HomePod. Any requests made to another assistant will be routed directly to your HomePod, including requests to play Spotify or any other streaming services.
Should I Do This?
Clearly this isn’t for everyone. It isn’t as easy to configure as many other home speakers and it has a 2-3 second delay, so using this set up for video will cause some issues with audio and video syncing.
I wouldn’t recommend buying a HomePod just to use for this setup, as there are already some cheaper options out there that work just as well, if not better. But if you already have a HomePod and want to get more out of it, this is a great option for a low cost.