If you’ve already bought the bigger device, a software update - likely in the coming weeks - will enable it to function as a surround speaker - including 5.1, 7.1 or even Dolby Atmos surround.
It’ll work if you’ve only got a single speaker, but placing one either side of your TV will enable the full ‘spatial sound’ experience that you get from Atmos, where it places you as an object in the soundscape and fires the noise all around.
This can be used in an almost infinite number of speakers to create that truly surrounding sound, but the HomePod is able to simulate this - just how well, though, is something we’ll have to test - thanks to its array of drivers arranged around the edge of the device.
These are beam-forming drives, which means they’re able to sense their environment and tailor the audio accordingly - meaning it can separate out elements of sound to create that immersive experience.
Two become one
If you’ve forked out for two HomePod smart speakers over the years, placing them either side of the TV will give you a wider sound, with the pair able to connect together and partner to fill your room with Atmos-based audio.
Given Apple has been offering its iTunes movies upscaled to Atmos and 4K HDR for free in recent times, it’s likely you’ll already have content able to take advantage of this feat - and if not, you can still use nearly all streaming services to get the more basic surround sound effect.
It’s interesting that the new HomePod Mini is able connect with another Mini unit to act as a stereo speaker, but not able to do surround sound or connect as part of a 5.1 system as a satellite speaker.
Apple hasn’t confirmed when the software to enable the HomePod to act as a virtual soundbar will be deployed, but we expect it to appear in the relatively near future.
It’s also unclear why it’s taken so long to enable this feature, given the HomePod launched with the beam-forming drivers and Apple has long had a suite of Dolby Atmos content available - however, like with the AirPods Pro of late, it has been busy enabling spatial audio on a number of its devices, so this is likely another step along that path.