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Ultimate Ears Boom 3 Review

Verdict

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Ultimate Ears’ latest Boom 3 offers adventure-ready rugged features and good, if not class-leading, sound.

Pros

  • Great rugged features
  • Loud, clean “360-degree” sound
  • Smart-looking design

Cons

  • No aux input
  • Some rivals offer deeper bass and a better soundstage
  • 360-degree sound
  • 15-hour battery life
  • 45m Bluetooth range
  • IP67 water- and dust-proof rating

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is the latest version of one of UE’s most popular wireless speakers. It isn’t too big, or too small, and can play music super-loudly.

Ultimate Ears has tweaked the design a little this time round, to make it cleaner and more stylish. And the Boom 3 isn’t only waterproof, it floats too.

If you like the look and want a speaker you can take just about anywhere, this is a great choice. Note that some others at, or near, the price just pip it for sound quality – if that’s your priority.

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

As ever, the Ultimate Ears Boom is a tower speaker. UE adopted this design when just about every other manufacturer was making brick-shaped speakers that sat lengthways. Many have borrowed the Boom’s style since.

This third generation of Boom is more stripped back than previous versions. There’s no great big rubbery section down the front, just a smooth column of water-resistant fabric.

The look edges closer to that of a smart speaker made for the living room, rather than something that has been designed for treks outdoors. However, the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is as ready for an adventure as ever. It will simply look a bit more at home when sat in your kitchen.

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

Actual ruggedisation stats remain the same as the Boom 2. This speaker is certified to IP67, meaning it will survive being submerged in water at a depth of 1 metre for 30 minutes. However, since the Boom 3 is also able to float, you’ll actually have to try to drown this speaker to get close to causing any lasting damage.

The Boom 3 is 184mm tall and 73mm wide in diameter. It isn’t a micro-speaker then, but remains compact enough to fit in most people’s holiday luggage. The Boom 3 versus that one extra shirt you probably won’t wear? No competition.

You can get the Boom 3 in black, blue purple and red; the bold two-tone style of previous versions has been dropped. The top and buttons are in a slightly different shade of the same colour, but the impression the new models leave is that of a low-key unit.

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

There are plenty of little features to this new version, however. First, the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 has a little fabric loop that lets you attach it to a rucksack easily. This would make a great camping or hiking speaker, if a smaller model wouldn’t do the trick.

As before, control buttons are also built into the main cylinder. Those big “+” and “-” symbols on the front are, sure enough, volume controls.

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

Note that the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 doesn’t have an aux input; it’s wireless only. I haven’t needed to use an aux input on one of these portable speakers for the past 18 months, but it’s something to bear in mind if you want to plug in a MP3 player. You can’t make hands-free calls, either.

In their place, Ultimate Ears has improved the wireless side. A “Magic” button on the top allows you to not only play and pause music, but link directly to playlists on Deezer or Apple Music.

The button doesn’t have those magic capabilities if you’re a Spotify user, however; it simply plays/pauses and skips tracks.

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 has two active drivers and two passive bass radiators, a similar array as seen in the Boom 2. Its aim is to provide 360-degree sound, allowing you to place the unit at the centre of the room without experiencing any awkward “blind” spots where the sound loses detail or impact.

Benefits are much the same as previous generations. The Boom 3 can go very loud for its size, and the bass is tuned to make beats sound appropriately punchy, without any leaden bloat.

This is a great speaker for social events where you may not have a better source available. For outdoor gatherings, poker nights with a bunch of people, or low-key parties where a bit of background music can hide the awkward silences in conversations, the Boom 3 is great.

And, yes, you won’t find anything much better for pool parties. But we don’t really have those in the UK.

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

However, unlike some, I’ve never considered the Boom series to be top of the class for pure sound quality, and this doesn’t change with the Boom 3.

Compared to “bar” shaped contenders such as the Jam Heavy Metal and Denon Envaya, the Boom 3 is just slightly lacking in a few areas.

For one, it still doesn’t have the deepest bass around. This is hidden by the punchiness of what bass there is, but others have a deeper bass floor, which give kick drums more weight.

This speaker doesn’t have the most engaging soundstage, either. Since the focus is on 360-degree dispersal of sound, you end up with a well-distributed mono character rather than a more distinctive view of the where the central channel vocals sit in relation to the rest of the mix.

The best performers also have slightly richer mids.

You’re unlikely to be disappointed by the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 sound until you put it next to the best-in-class alternatives, however. And most of those don’t have all the Boom 3’s portability benefits.

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is a solid follow-up to the Boom 2. Its design is a little closer to an on-trend smart home speaker, even if it isn’t one; it will float in water; plus a “magic” button adds features for Apple Music and Deezer users.

As was the case with the Boom 2, the Boom 3 doesn’t quite have standard-setting sound if you want a speaker just for one listener. The cheaper Jam Heavy Metal actually offers a more engaging soundstage and deeper bass.

The Boom 3 is great if you’ll appreciate its “360-degree” sound and rugged features, though.

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