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Ultimate Ears UE Boom review

Andrew Williams

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

7/10

Pros

  • Seriously loud
  • Attractive design
  • Solid battery life

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Socket placement ruins waterproofing

Review Price £169.99

Key Features: Waterproof speaker grille; Bluetooth; 2 x 1.5-inch drivers; Aux 3.5mm input; Multiple colour options

Manufacturer: Ultimate Ears

What is the Ultimate Ears UE Boom?

One of the few areas in audio tech to have grown over the last few years is the Bluetooth speaker. Tykes who used to annoy people by playing tunes on their mobile phones on the bus have apparently grown up into adults who like the idea of a wireless portable speaker to crank tunes out of.

The Ultimate Ears UE Boom Bluetooth speaker is one of the best you can get at this size, but the whole market is afflicted by sky–high pricing. It’s a lovely little speaker, but expensive at £170.

Ultimate Ears UE Boom 1

Ultimate Ears UE Boom – Design and Features

With a design based on a bottle of water, the Ultimate Ears UE Boom is small enough to grip in one hand and has a teeny footprint. Unlike some other portable speakers of this size, such as the Philips Shoqbox, it’s designed to stand upright, rather than on its side.

The UE Boom is also one of the better-looking portable Bluetooth speakers. Aside from its dazzling array of colours, its styling has a light, low-key touch.

It is also quietly rugged. The UE Boom's top and bottom are rubberised, and the speaker grille is tough woven fabric that’s waterproof. Droplets simply cascade off it rather than being absorbed, so you can run the UE Boom under a tap and it won’t die.

Ultimate Ears UE Boom

There is a serious problem with its approach to waterproofing, though. On the underside of the UE Boom are a microUSB port used to charge the internal battery and a 3.5mm aux input.

They are completely exposed, and in real-life use where is water highly-like to be a problem? That’s right, on the ground. Wet grass is no friend to the UE Boom, and the park seems like a perfect place for a wireless speaker like this, too.

UPDATE: Ultimate Ears has confirmed that the UE Boom will now ship with a "protective cap to cover both ports", restoring its water resistance credibility. Hurrah.

The rubbery power button sits on top, there are clear volume buttons on its side and there’s a threaded screw point on the bottom that you can use to attach to, for example, a tripod. You could probably count the number of people who will on one hand, though. Ultimate Ears UE Boom 7

The UE Boom’s battery is rated for up to 15 hours of use. This will be true when playing at reasonably low volumes but we tested the speaker at mid-to-high volumes and it lasted for a solid 8-10 hours.

Unless you’re using the auxiliary 3.5mm socket, the Ultimate Ears UE Boom uses Bluetooth. You can sync a phone with the speaker manually through its settings menu, or the Boom also features NFC that lets them hook up (once paired) with a swipe over the speaker.

However, its Bluetooth performance becomes a bit sketchy as its battery reaches its dregs. Aside from this performance is solid – with decent range and robust streaming.

Ultimate Ears UE Boom – Sound Quality

Ultimate Ears claims the UE Boom offers ‘360 degree’ sound, but what that amounts to is a 1.5-inch driver on each side of the speaker blasting out a mono signal. There’s very little ‘dead zone’, though, and the speaker is not picky about where it’s positioned.

The 1.5-inch drivers are paired with 2-inch passive radiators, which are designed to improve bass response.

Ultimate Ears UE Boom 6

For a speaker this small, bass is good. But its depth and impact are naturally still seriously limited. What’s more impressive is the UE Boom’s volume. It’s capable of going seriously, bafflingly loud – the volume [mass] to volume [dB] ratio here is immense.

It does start to sound quite strained by the 75 per cent mark, and ugly in the last 20 per cent, but at lower volumes it’s tonally pleasingly balanced, aside from the lack of lower-frequency bass. This decent sound quality means it’s a great little speaker to use in the kitchen or bedroom, rather than just when you’re out at the park.

Ultimate Ears UE Boom 4

Should I Buy the Ultimate Ears UE Boom?

Its waterproofing misfire is unfortunate, but the Ultimate Ears UE Boom is one of the better portable Bluetooth speakers. It looks good, it sounds decent and it’s seriously loud.

However, this whole product type is problematic, because all the style-driven speakers of this type are too expensive to be considered ‘good value’. The prices of speakers like this, the Beats Pill and the Jawbone Jambox feel as though they’re inflated for the sake of seeming like ‘premium’, desirable items.

The Logitech S715i dock, from UE's parent company no less, is half the price, sounds better and has a battery too. It’s not as portable, but when the most clever, cost-increasing factors of the UE Boom and its brethren seem to be surface-level things, we find it hard to recommend any of these diddy portable speakers.

Verdict

The Ultimate Ears UE Boom is a convenient, cool-looking portable Bluetooth speaker that offers superb volume for its small size. However, like most other style-obsessed portable speakers of late, it seems expensive given the sound quality and level of tech sophistication it really brings to the table.

Our Score

7/10

Abel

July 6, 2013, 12:51 pm

Can you have both speakers going at the same time from either your mobile or laptop? I have paired both speakers to mobile and laptop. But when I try to play music through one speaker and then I select the other, I get a message saying to disconnect one before I can use the other. How do I get both speakers to play?

Dean Merritt

July 12, 2013, 5:20 pm

so what less expensive bluetooth speaker would you recommend? I don't need it to look good, I just want some decent Loud sounding speaker. any recommendations?

elchepe

July 27, 2013, 8:20 pm

download the ue boom app from the app store. that will solve your problem.

VVonderwall

August 6, 2013, 11:48 pm

I have two. One sounds ok, but coupled in stereo, they sound great! Ok, if you prefer a powerful bass and music styles that need them, look elsewhere, but coupled in stereo there is a whole new dimension with these in listening to "mobile" music. Of course it all depends on how you value portability, but these are now my only speakers at home, which I can easily take anywhere in the house or garden, on training sessions, cycling, on trips to the beach, small parties, ... you get the picture.

PakKing

August 13, 2013, 9:45 pm

Hi Andrew Williams, you and your team are always on point with it's review and recommendation. But I am in need of your advice or your tap into FaceBook followers! I purchased both a Bose Sound-link Mini & UE Boom, to test the sound quality & size in my home. I fell in love with both of them in the sound quality & size. This is exactly what I'm looking for in my day to day use 100%. However sadly had to return both the Bose Sound-link Mini and UE Boom because non removable battery, plus Bose has no speaker phone capabilities like the UE Boom.

Logitech told me the UE Boom is built with non replacement part including battery. I want a device with the Sound quality & suitcase portability size like the Bose Sound-link Mini and UE Boom plus speakerphone with built in mic. A device that I can have for more than 5-8 years and not have to wonder how I can get a battery replacement to continue with my listening pleasure. What can you recommend that you have tested that would fit my needs.

I'm I the only one with these concern about the non removable or replacement issue on these BlueTooth speakers?

Thanks for any advice and have a great day.

ph

September 9, 2013, 12:47 pm

Yes. Make something I won't have to replace in 2-3 years. PLEASE!

Matthew

October 1, 2013, 2:01 am

Of the two which gave the better sound quality? Is the Bose sound link mini stereo?

PakKing

October 1, 2013, 5:33 pm

The UE Boom sounded sharper, the Bose Mini sounder buttery. Both great sound, but not worth the price for speakers that will no longer be portable after two years.

skyline0511

October 18, 2013, 6:24 pm

Soundlink mini does have a removable battery when you remove the rubber underneath

JW Mac

December 4, 2013, 2:20 pm

I just purchased this speaker for a Christmas gift tested all day yesterday love it and so will my boyfriend that the gift is for....but mine did not come with the waterproof plug for the usb port holes....can u tell me how to get this plug.? ty

Joel Freeman

December 12, 2013, 3:23 pm

Right with you. I'm waiting for a quality bluetooth speaker with removeable battery. My iPal is a paperweight and I won't make that mistake again. Shame on the industry.

CTechno

March 2, 2014, 11:14 pm

This review is very inaccurate. And some things have changed. The BOOM now comes with solidly fitting rubber plugs on the bottom for the line-in and USB sockets, so water resistance is maintained. Also, each unit, without double up, does play stereo sound, not mono. The two 1.5" drivers deliver the left and right channels. With such a small size, the stereo separation isn't obviously fantastic, but you can be creative with placement and get better stereo separation from one unit. Considering the competition, it's not expensive. It's more durable, portable, protective against the elements, and sounds the best in most people's opinions than even the Bose and other offerings. A fantastic, well thought out product.

schriss

July 3, 2014, 12:13 pm

Cons: It doesn't have aptX bluetooth codec, only A2DP.

justin

August 5, 2014, 12:00 pm

Except that when the Lithium battery within the Boom eventually degrades and breaks down (within 2 to 3 years) you won't be able to replace the battery- there by making an honestly awesome, durable, and attractive Bluetooth speaker just an expensive paper weight. If I'm spending $200 on a speaker, I don't want to be required to buy a new one every few years just because Logitec didn't think to make the battery replaceable.

James

November 18, 2014, 6:03 pm

I grabbed one of these near the start of summer to throw in my
job bag, and use when I needed music to listen to on down times. The range is great on that
little guy. Very powerful and things like vocals and instruments sound really
nice. A lot like a more expensive Sonos speaker. I originally had read about it
on Poc's Tech Blog (source:
http://pocinc.net/blog/product...
), which is what led me to give it a try. Now that I am looking at their site,
it looks like they also featured it in their Xmas ("holiday") gift
guide. I say, if you want something portable that is both loud enough for a
large room but also warm enough to enjoy the nicer genres of music, give the
Boom a chance. You will be surprised what it can accomplish with its size.

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