Since they launched in 2013, Ultimate Ears’ Boom speakers have been some of the most recognizable Bluetooth speakers around, and they set something of a standard for what a rugged, portable speaker should look and sound like. UE has updated a few things here and there over the years with the UE Boom 2 and the addition of the larger MegaBoom and new software tricks, but things haven’t really fundamentally changed since the original UE Boom came out. That changes now.
Today, Ultimate Ears announced the UE Boom 3 and MegaBoom 3. (UE is seemingly skipping the MegaBoom 2 to keep the branding consistent.) They mark the biggest update yet to UE’s speakers. The UE Boom 3 will cost $149 when it hits stores in early to mid-September, while the larger MegaBoom 3 will run for $199.
The changes start on the outside, where UE has refreshed the design. The rubber stripe on the front where the plus / minus volume buttons were is gone for a cleaner look and more uniform sound. Also new is the fabric, which has been updated to a lovely-looking two-tone style. (The blue / purple design is especially nice; it has an iridescent look that shimmers in sunlight. )
Visual style aside, the biggest update is a new “Magic Button” on top of the Boom 3 and MegaBoom 3. At its simplest, the Magic Button works as a play / pause / skip button, something that the UE Boom line has been sorely lacking for the past half-decade. But the button does more than that: press and hold the Magic Button, and it can turn on the speaker, connect to your phone, and start playing one of four preset Apple Music (on iOS) or Deezer Premium (on Android) playlists in a single shot. Press and hold it again, and it’ll cycle to the next playlist on the list. Services like Spotify or Pandora aren’t currently supported, but UE says that deals for additional sources are in the works.
There are a few other quality-of-life updates coming with the new speakers. There’s an integrated cloth loop to hang the speakers from, they both float (in addition to the IP67 water and dust resistance rating), and the charging port has been moved to the side from the bottom so that you can charge the speaker and still use it at the same time.
Unfortunately, that charger is rather frustratingly stuck as a Micro USB plug instead of a more modern USB-C one. UE says that the decision to stick with the older port is due to the market not being ready yet in terms of USB-C adoption, something that will likely continue to remain the case if companies keep releasing new Bluetooth speakers that cling to the old standard.
That said, you probably won’t want to use Micro USB anyway: UE has integrated support for its wireless Power Up charging base (sold separately for $39) that the company introduced with its Alexa-equipped Blast and MegaBlast speakers, which are sticking around as a separate product line.
Photography by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge
Correction: Access to Deezer Premium playlists with the Magic Button will only be available on Android at launch, with iOS support planned for the future.
UE Boom Review: How does the original hold up?
The UE Boom was one of the first Bluetooth speakers to go mainstream, helped by the fact that it was one of the first to have water-resistance. Though it has been quite a few years since the initial release and there are newer versions of the UE Boom speaker, let’s take a look back at the original and see how it holds up. Is it worth your cash today?
Editor’s note: This post was updated on July 20th, 2020 to include links to helpful information and to update formatting of the review.
Who’s it for?
- People who want a portable speaker. While there are now more portable options, the original UE Boom is still not a bad size and can easily fit in a bag.
- Anyone that listens to music outdoors. Whether you forget it out on the rain or accidentally spill a drink on it, the water and spill resistance of the UE Boom means you won’t have to worry about it getting destroyed. Hopefully, since there is no official IP rating.
What’s in the box?
The UE Boom and all of its accessories come in a cylindrical box.
In a fun twist, the box is cylindrical, just like the speaker. Open it up and you’ll find everything tucked inside a piece of plastic that is either a lightweight carrying case or overly-sturdy packaging. Inside you’ll find the speaker, USB wall charger, a micro-USB cable, and the manual.
How’s the build quality of the UE Boom?
This isn’t the first cylindrical speaker we’ve looked at. The JBL Flip 2 which came out more or less at the same time of the UE Boom also has a cylindrical shape and it made a pretty good impression when we initially reviewed it. While the speakers are obviously quite similar in shape and size, the UE Boom is definitely the flashier looking of the two. Part of this is the sheer amount of colors it comes in: Red, White, Aqua, Blue Steel, Citrus and Night Blue represent only roughly half of the options available. If you have a favorite color, chances are there’s a UE Boom to match.
The UE Boom is wrapped in a soft plastic and fabric covering.
The UE Boom is on the upper side of portable, measuring just over 17cm tall and weighing in at 538 grams. It’s basically the size of a large water bottle, and if you’ve ever tried to fit one of those in your pocket, you’ll know that isn’t an easy option here. Still, it should fit in a backpack easily enough and bringing it with you on your next excursion outside shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.
Logitech claims that the skin is coated, giving it water and stain resistance, though as far as we can tell, it hasn’t received any sort of certification. The speaker itself has giant plus and minus signs on the front and there’s also two buttons up top for power and Bluetooth pairing.
How to connect to the UE Boom?
Pairing to the UE Boom is simple as it thankfully has NFC capabilities. While it isn’t as easy as the pairing process with Apple products and their built-in H1 chips, NFC is definitely the next best thing. If your device doesn’t support NFC then all you have to do is hold down the Bluetooth pairing button in order to enter pairing mode. Then you just find the speaker in your Bluetooth settings as you normally would. One other nice thing is that the original UE Boom has a 3.5mm input so you can hardwire in non-Bluetooth devices which isn’t a thing you can do on the newer UE Boom 3.
Up top are two buttons: a power button and a smaller Bluetooth pairing button.
As far as range goes during testing, we got around 40 feet away from the speaker with no issues at all, but anywhere beyond that the music began to stutter. In a nice touch, Logitech allows you to pair two separate UE Boom’s for stereo sound using the UE Boom app. The app also allows you to change the EQ using either presets or a five-band equalizer.
Looking at the buttons, you get a total of four: the power and Bluetooth buttons are on top, while you’ll find the + and – buttons on the side. These only control volume, and can’t be used to skip tracks as no playback controls are present.
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How’s the battery life on the UE Boom?
The Ue Boom speaker has a 3.5mm input on the bottom as well as a micro-USB for charging and a small hook.
Logitech claims up to 15 hours of constant playback for the UE Boom, which is impressive. In our testing, we consistently got closer to 11, which is pretty far off from the claim, but still good nonetheless especially if you just want this to last you a day at the beach. Battery life can be checked either by using the UE Boom app or by holding the + and – buttons down. Charge time was roughly 2.5 hours using the included charger.
How does the UE Boom sound?
While wired headphones are usually tested with the best signal possible, when it comes to wireless devices we do the majority of testing in the manner the speaker will be used most of the time. In this case it means Bluetooth, though we did try the 3.5 mm jack during testing as well.
The UE Boom only has volume controls, but it does get pretty loud thankfully.
Logitech is honest, stating the UE Boom’s frequency range as 90 Hz to 20 kHz instead of claiming more range than is possible in this size. That honestly doesn’t help when it comes to the lows though, which are simultaneously weak and lacking in clarity.
Lower mids tend to be underemphasized, making it difficult to hear guitars in some songs. Higher mids are a bit better, but not much and snare drums sound uniformly weak.
On most material, the highs come through as harsh, though they don’t hide details. Cymbal bells cut through nicely as well there just isn’t a strong enough dropoff in the high frequencies to stop these from becoming piercing at times.
One thing the UE Boom does well is telegraphed by it’s name: it gets loud. This speaker pumps out much more volume than many speakers its size, though I found something about the sound to be fatiguing, even at lower volumes.
Should you buy the original UE Boom?
The Logitech UE Boom does a lot of things right. The battery life is decent, 360 sound is a plus, and it has got a ton of extra features. Unfortunately, the sound just doesn’t hold up to many other speakers out there, especially for the price. If you’re in the market for a speaker this size, there are plenty of other options now available and for the price, the original UE Boom does not stand up to the test of time.
What other options are there?
It’s new shape is roughly the size of a water bottle, so you can take it wherever you go.
Since the release of the original UE Boom, there have been numerous other speakers. Many of them a far better choice than the UE Boom. If you’re a fan of the original and are looking to upgrade or just want something similar, then just get the newest option, which is the UE Boom 3. This speaker is in the shape of a typical water bottle and can be stashed in all the same places such as cup holders and water bottle mounts on a bike. Plus, it’s actually waterproof and sounds way better as well.
The Anker Soundcore Flare isn’t too big and can be easily carried around.
For something a little less expensive but just as good, you should take a look at the JBL Flip 4 or even the Flip 5. Both are IPX7 waterproof so you won’t have to worry about water damage and for the money, you’re paying you get a really good sounding speaker that you can toss around without too much worry. For the wallet-conscious, one of the best bang for your buck options is the Anker Soundcore Flare which is one of our favorites seeing as it sounds good, is small and portable, has an IPX7 rating, and also has a colorful ring of LED lights that just make it fun to look at. If you want to stick with UE they also have the ultra-portable Wonderboom 2 or the giant party-pleaser Hyperboom which is a massive speaker built for your next get together.
While the UE Boom was definitely a trailblazer, it can’t contend with some of the newer Bluetooth speakers out right now. Even Sony started making tough outdoor speakers and it’s better than the original UE Boom in every way. Unless you find this somewhere for less than $50, I wouldn’t recommend picking one up without first checking out some other options.
Still looking?Best Bluetooth speakers
UE BOOM is an application developed by Logitech Europe S.A. for Ultimate Ears speakers and with everything you need to make the most of your UE speaker. The application allows you to associate music that you select on your smartphone to be played by all connected speakers.
UE BOOM is an application that allows you to access all your favorite features for all BOOM and MEGABOOM loudspeakers. It also works with BOOM, BOOM 2, BOOM 3, MEGABOOM and MEGABOOM 3. In total, the app allows you to connect up to 150 speakers of the brand to organize your parties anywhere and anytime . But, it is also used to:
- Use the app to activate their Ultimate Ears portable speaker. It will play your favorite songs, activate your Spotify playlists, Pandora stations and more;
- Use and set up fully customizable EQs to adjust midrange, treble and bass to fit your playlist;
- Customize your speaker name, EQ preferences and preset playlists (BOOM 3 and MEGABOOM 3 only).
Recently updated, the application presents a lighter overall design. Most of the features have been maintained except for a few (including the alarm functions and the connection via Amazon Alexa).
BOOM & MEGABOOM by Ultimate Ears
The BOOM & MEGABOOM app by Ultimate Ears has everything you need to get the most out of your Ultimate Ears speaker. From #PartyUp to customizable EQ, unlock even more awesome ways to use your BOOM, MEGABOOM and HYPERBOOM speakers.
+ Supports Ultimate Ears HYPERBOOM.
+ #PartyUp lets you connect up to 150 speakers to take your parties to a whole new level - wherever, whenever, whatever!
+ You Control the Sound: All about that bass? In a tight space? You control the atmosphere with our custom EQ settings.
+ Remote On/Off: you’d never walk all the way to your TV to turn it on and you shouldn’t have to with your wireless speaker either. Use the app to turn your speaker on/off from afar.
+ Much more: personalize your speaker’s name, EQ preferences, and preset playlists (BOOM 3, MEGABOOM 3 and HYPERBOOM only)
+ Subscribe to updates so you never miss a thing. A simple tap in the app updates your speaker with the latest features in no time.
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