Apple may have stopped the initial HomePod earlier this year, but the company still gives useful new features.
If you have a HomePod and the new Apple TV 4K, your speaker will be a better home theatre companion than it was previously. According to MacRumors, the new Apple TV 4K supports the ARC (Audio Return Channel) and eARC (enhanced ARC) HDMI standards.
In practice, this means that the Apple TV 4K can wirelessly transfer all audio from your TV to stereo pair of HomePod speakers. Previously, the HomePod could be used as an audio output device for the Apple TV, but the Apple TV 4K can now wirelessly send all audio from a TV to the HomePod.
The audio from your cable box, console, or other set-top boxes can then be worked back through the HomePod, making it a much better home theatre companion.
To enable this, go to your Apple TV’s audio output settings and make sure the HomePod is selected as your output source. You’ll also enable the Audio Return Channel setting here (which is, somewhat strangely, marked as in beta). You’ll be fine as long as your TV (or receiver!) supports eARC.
While the HomePod didn’t work well as an audio output device when it first debuted, Apple has gradually improved its usability by pairing it with an Apple TV. Apple officially added Dolby Atmos support to the HomePod last fall, though the feature does not work with the smaller HomePod mini speakers.
These new ARC-based features will also not work with the HomePod mini. That’s not surprising given that the small speaker is noticeably quieter than the original HomePod, rendering it unsuitable for a home theatre setup.