How to Connect Apple HomePod to TV

Apple HomePod
image credit: Apple Inc.

Apple has positioned HomePod as a competitor to the wireless audio systems offered by Sonos. In addition to playing music, Sonos speakers can be networked together to form a surround-sound home theater system pretty easily. Since the HomePod delivers room-filling, clear sound when playing music, like Sonos it must also be a great option for playing your TV audio, too, right? Maybe. Connecting the HomePod to TV is very simple, but the speaker has some limitations that may give you some pause.

What You Need to Connect HomePod and a TV

homepod with siri
image credit: Apple Inc.

In order to connect HomePod to a TV, you'll need a few things:

  1. A HomePod.
  2. 4th Generation Apple TV or Apple TV 4K, with Bluetooth enabled.
  3. Both devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
  4. Both devices using the same Apple ID.

You can't connect the HomePod to just any TV. That's because you can't stream audio to the HomePod over Bluetooth and there are no input ports—like an RCA jack or optical audio connection—for an audio cable. That limits you to the only wireless streaming technology the HomePod supports: Apple AirPlay.

AirPlay isn't built into HDTVs. Instead, it's a core part of the Apple TV. In order for the HomePod to be able to play audio from your TV, it needs to be routed through an Apple TV.

Playing Apple TV Audio Through the HomePod

connect apple tv to homepod, step 3

Once you've set up your HomePod, you need to make it the audio output source for the Apple TV. With this done, the video  from the Apple TV plays on your HDTV and the audio is sent to the HomePod. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. On the Apple TV, click on the Settings app.
  2. Click Video and Audio.
  3. Click Audio Output.
  4. Click the name of your HomePod. When the checkmark appears next to it, the Apple TV will play its audio through the HomePod.

A Shortcut for Playing Apple TV Through HomePod

change apple tv audio to homepod

There's an easier way to send audio to the HomePod than using the Settings app. Not every Apple TV app supports this shortcut, but for those that do—usually video apps like Netflix and Hulu; for playing music, you'll need to stick to the previous instructions—it's quick and easy:

  1. Start watching video in a compatible app.
  2. Swipe down on the Apple TV remote to reveal the Info Subtitles Audio menu. (If you don't see this menu when you swipe down, the app is not compatible with this option and you should use the other instructions.)
  3. Click Audio.
  4. In the Speaker menu, click the name of your HomePod so that the checkmark appears next to it. The audio will start playing through the HomePod.

The Limitations of HomePod and Apple TV

image credit: Apple Inc.

While connecting the HomePod to a TV is pretty simple, but it may not be ideal for great home-theater sound. That's because HomePod is designed primarily for audio and doesn't support some key surround sound features.

For the best audio experience with TV and movies, you want a speaker, or speakers, that offer surround sound using multi-channel audio. In multi-channel audio, sounds are designed to played from multiple directions: Some sounds are played on the left of TV (corresponding to things happening on the left of the screen), while others play on the right. This can be done with a speaker on each side of the TV or with a soundbar that has speakers that work independently. That's how Sonos' speakers work for home theaters.

But that's not how the HomePod works (at least not yet). HomePod doesn't support multi-channel audio, so it can't deliver the separation of right and left audio channels needed for surround sound. 

Besides that, two HomePods can't coordinate right now. The multiple speakers in surround-sound systems each play their own audio to create an immersive sound. Right now, you can't play audio to multiple HomePods at the same time and, if you could, they wouldn't work as separate left and right audio channels.

Later in 2018, when AirPlay 2 is released, the HomePod will be able to play stereo sound through multiple speakers. Even when that happens, though, Apple has only touted this feature as being designed for music, not home theater. It's certainly possible that it will support surround sound, but in the meantime, if you want true surround sound, HomePod is probably not the best option for your TV.

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