HomePod (mini) woes with default and experimental audio drivers

Some other folks and I have been discussing issues related to the experimental audio driver here but I figured it would be worth it to make a HomePod-specific topic about both audio drivers in the appropriate sub-forum.

I'm currently running the latest TestFlight app on the 2021 Apple TV 4K with a HomePod mini stereo pair set to default audio systemwide and ARC turned on, but historically I've seen the same issues in the App Store version. I submitted some diagnostics from my Apple TV earlier today.

  • Default video and Default audio drivers: The audio slowly starts to get out of sync with the video as the video micro-stutters. The video delay is very noticeable after 2-3 minutes. No app freezing.

  • Experimental video and Default audio drivers: The video delay doesn't seem quite as bad but there are constant micro-stutters and the entire picture is visibly jittery. This is most evident on 60fps feeds with tickers on the bottom of the screen like CNBC. No app freezing.

  • Either video driver and Experimental audio driver: No video stuttering or delay, but app performance takes a nosedive. As the audio cache increases with time spent on a single channel, the app will freeze when you exit the video feed or change a channel. Audio from the channel being exited will also continue playing. Either action can take anywhere from 5 seconds to 30 seconds.

In all of my testing, the stats show zero dropped frames so the stuttering doesn't seem to be from the feed. I'm sticking to the experimental drivers for now but the app freezing is very frustrating. If the devs want to improve performance with HomePod/AirPlay 2 output, it seems like either the default audio driver needs to be tweaked to eliminate the video stuttering or the experimental audio driver needs to have its freezing issues sorted out. The experimental audio driver works quite well if you are switching between channels frequently, but sticking on the same feed for 5+ minutes and then switching to anything else isn't a good experience.

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This accurately captures the issues I exhibit with my (regular) HomePod audio setup.

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This is very frustrating, and tarnishes what would be a great app and user experience. I had an unusual scenario recently where I thought the developers may have rectified the homepod experience with channels. I wanted to utilise the auto PIP function on live channels, but due to the horrible support for HomePods resided to switching this feature off. I would find when PIP mode activated under the default audio driver that the sound dropped and echoed. With the experimental audio driver on the PIP video feed would freeze and generally not be useable.

I decided to switch this feature back on after many month of not using it, switched back to the default audio driver and everything worked perfectly. No lag, or sync issues. Audio stopped immediately when stopping a channel or switching to another. I was overjoyed by what I thought was a release fix, although not documented as a fix anywhere.

For a good week or so everything worked great, until I did a restart of my Apple TV. After restarting all the terrible audio behaviour resumed! So back to using the experimental audio driver and PIP mode switched off.

Upon thinking about why the experience would switch from bad, to great to bad again, the only thing I can come up with is that immediately after my APTV updated from TVOS 14 to TVOS 15 the audio experience seemed great. Then after a restart of the device a week or so later it was back to the usual poor audio on HomePods.

This all makes me wonder if the issue has got anything to do with system cache or files that were cleared until the restart.

It’s very frustrating not fully understanding why my personal situation was great between the TVOS update and then a restart of the APTV.

I think there is something in my previous post. Out of curiosity and because I have the day of work, so had the time! I thought, what would happen if I do a complete reset of my ATV. So I did. After getting the ATV back up and running and fully configured, I downloaded Channels, and low and behold, with the default audio driver, experimental video driver pairing everything works perfectly. Audio is in sync, audio instantly stops when swithching channels. No lag or jittery audio, just perfect. PIP experience also works perfectly. Now, I suspect that if I were to restart the ATV, then all the old issues would come back. This seems very strange, but in line with my previous post about everything working fine, immediately after the TVOS 15 update. I'm going to leave this for now and just be happy that it's working great, but this does prove that the experience can work fine, albeit after a complete reset of the ATV, hassle!! Really hope the developers can identify what is causing these problems.

Interesting! I would maybe do this but would hate to redo the wireless audio sync for nearly every framerate option since I have "match frame rate" turned on. Please report back if you start having problems again.

Indeed, I also have match frame rate switched on so had to wireless audio sync all picture formats! Takes a long time to get everything just right again. But in my case, channels audio with stereo paired HomePods works flawlessly after a full reset. Unfortunately I suspect once I need to restart the APTV, which occasionally I do after updating channels app, to fix top shelf not displaying correctly, then I will probably be back to square one. But as it stands all audio is perfect in channels, with the default audio driver. There must be something in this, hope the DEVS can maybe look at this again and experiment along the lines that I have to reach this conclusion. I’ll keep you posted on any changes, but for now channels works a dream.

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On a whim I switched back to the default audio driver today. Totally unusable for me as the warbling occurs 10 seconds in as previously noted by others, but then shorter warbles happen throughout streaming. If it was just the one warble near the beginning of playback then I might learn to live with it.

I don’t know if any devs are following this issue closely but if you’re reading this, a reply that you’re at least aware of this poor performance would be nice. I don’t expect an instant fix but these issues are well-documented and have been impacting multiple users.

We are following along and also trying to understand what is going on.

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From my point of view everything is still working perfectly after performing a full reset on my ATV. I’ll keep you posted if the situation changes.

I've got two TVs using HomePods...

One is a gen 1 ATV4K paired with HomePod Minis. I'm using the experimental Deinterlacing, Audio and Video drivers. This seems to work very well. There is a slight period when ending a stream that the speaker buffer drains. But, other than that there is nothing about this setup for me that needs improvement.

The other TV has a gen 2 ATV4k with the original HomePods. In this setup I using the Experimental Deinterlacing and Video, but the default audio drivers. This works pretty well except for the warble that occurs about 5-10 seconds after changing a channel or the volume. The experimental audio causes the app to freeze while the buffer drains and also causes serious (30 seconds) of audio out of sync with video. FWIW, the HomePods work flawlessly with any other app (ATV+, Netflix, Hulu, NFL Sunday Ticket, etc.)

I will soon be swapping the original HomePods for a current gen Sonos setup. Mostly because of the issues getting the audio sorted out with Channels, but also because, since switching to HomePods, there's been a significant increase of either my wife or I saying, "what did they just say?" when watching just about anything. There's also the fact that the HomePods were discontinued shortly after I purchased them and they have a high resale value to help offset the Sonos cost. Hopefully, the Sonos setup will performa as well or better than the previous gen of Sonos that we had.

@tmm1 If there's any diagnostics or such that you'd like from either setup that would help you let me know and I'll get it for you.

A quick update on my situation. Audio on Homepods reverted to glitchy experience again today. No changes made to anything.

On this occasion I was not prepared to do a full reset of my ATV, but thought I would restart the grouped HomePods via the Home Application which has fixed the issue.

So back to perfect audio in channels, using the Experimental deinterlacer, experimental video driver and default audio driver.

Not sure what anyone can take away from this really, but if I have to restart the HomePods once a week or so to rectify the issue then I’m not too bothered as it takes a minute to do this.

Still, it would be great to understand what the heck is going on here.

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I returned to the default video and audio drivers (still experimental deinterlacer) and for the last 2 days performance has been good. No audio sync glitches like I was seeing a few weeks ago. I have no idea if anything has actually changed in the app.

Experimental video + Default audio still gives me issues. Lots of micro-pauses and jittery video that is only fixed with a quick pause and resume.

Edit: the one downside to default video and default audio drivers seems to be lip sync issues with 4K HDR content. Not ideal but I'll live with it for now.

I realize I sound crazy the more I post, but I'm now seeing less and less sync issues and "warbling" with the default drivers. My current theory is for some reason, sending and syncing audio with HomePod minis from Channels is more dependent on good WiFi than other tvOS apps that use the default player. This might also explain why @Mutts1974 has better luck when they restart or reset their devices... Wi-Fi may be the culprit rather than some tvOS stability issues.

I've seen improvements after the following:

  1. Disconnected the Wi-Fi on my LG TV in an attempt to minimize any wireless interference between my Apple TV and HomePod minis.
  2. Made sure my left and right HomePod minis were connected to the same access point. Previously one of them would connect to my upstairs eero while the other connected to the physically closer eero.
  3. eeroOS 6.5, which just released last week, is generally much more stable than 6.4. I've been very happy with my eeros over the last two years but 6.4 was a low point. I had intermittent connectivity issues on multiple devices, although my Apple TV is hooked up via ethernet.