A great Bluetooth speaker for the outdoors, and a good-looking one too. The Boom 3’s sound quality isn’t quite perfect but its versatility will overshadow its minor shortcomings.
- Great rugged features
- Loud, clean “360-degree” sound
- Smart-looking design
- No aux input
- Some rivals offer deeper bass and a better soundstage
The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is a rugged portable speaker that doesn’t look rugged. This is a great style, and the colour you pick has a real impact on the personality the thing exudes.
A black Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is a good fit for a home speaker you want to sink into the room. The red, blue and purple ones inject a bit more fun, and have a look I’d associate more with a portable unit.
Sound quality is not quite best-in-class but the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 isn’t too picky about the direction it faces. That is a big benefit if you’ll end up putting the speaker in a circle of people for park picnics or poker nights.
The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 was announced way back in 2018. It originally cost £130 but is widely available for £100 at the time of review.
That discount makes the speaker significantly more attractive, bringing the cost lower than the Bose Soundlink Color II or Sony SRS-XB43.
- Rugged cred hidden behind a friendly face
- Small enough for real portable/travel use
- Supports a charge dock (not included)
“The look” is an important part of every Ultimate Ears speaker, and the classic tower design might suit the Boom 3 better than the company’s larger models such as the Megaboom 3.
It’s 18.5cm tall, a round pillar with a diameter of around 7.5cm, and the sort of thing you might fit in your bag for a future weekend away. Ultimate Ears wants this to be the kind of speaker you can take anywhere.
The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 has IP67 water resistance, meaning it can handle submersion in water, and it will even float. Its top and bottom are rubberised plastic, the main body finished in a tough woven fabric. This stuff is popular in portable speakers, but this particular material is much less coarse than some.
A somewhat finer, slightly colour-reactive weave is crucial in making the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 look like a ‘fun’ speaker rather than a tough one. The little fabric loop on the back, which you could use to attach a carabiner (none is included), isn’t too large or heavy-duty either.
You can also get a neat little charging dock, a great addition if you’ll mostly use the Boom 3 at home. However, this is not included and costs £35, which I think is too much.
Ultimate Ears says it “wirelessly” charges the speaker, but it uses metal contacts rather than an actual wireless charging standard like Qi.
You can get the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 in four colours: black, purple, red and blue, seen here.
- Solid battery life
- A simple speaker with some neat software additions
- Intuitive design
The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is fairly simple. It uses Bluetooth, not Wi-Fi, to stream music from a phone or laptop, and is not a smart speaker designed to let you talk to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
It’s the kind of wireless speaker I use most often. It has one job, to play music or podcasts, and does it well.
Ultimate Ears adds its own slant, though. The big button on the Boom 3’s top is a “magic” button. This can act like the remote control of a pair of wireless headphones. One press play/pauses music. Two skips to the next track.
However, if you download the Ultimate Ears phone app you can programme in four album or playlist presets linked to Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music. The Boom 3 cycles through these when you press the button down for two seconds.
As you can probably, see the volume buttons have been made an integral part of the design. Such controls don’t get much clearer than this. But power/pairing buttons are cleverly hidden on the top.
The phone app also offers EQ. There are four presets and a custom setting with five EQ bands. Partyup is the final feature. This lets you group a bunch of Ultimate Ears speakers. They all play the same thing, sync’d up, for larger sound.
A full charge lasts for up to 15 hours, and the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 uses a dated microUSB port to charge. Ultimate Ears almost certainly would not use this connector if the Boom 3 were released in 2021, but this is a 2018 speaker after all.
- Dual side firing speakers are a good fit for this category
- Clear treble
- Mid-range texture and detail isn’t that great
The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 has two 2-inch active drivers. Each one is paired with a passive radiator, used by small wireless speakers like this to produce much deeper and more powerful bass than a little 2-inch speaker cone can create.
There’s one of these little driver teams on each side of the Boom 3. This isn’t quite a 360-degree speaker, as you get a little more treble when you sit with the speaker’s side pointing your way, but positioning is much less important than with a speaker that has two drivers pointing forwards.
The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 seems made for group listening, which suits its fun image perfectly.
If I were to listen to the Boom 3 in isolation I’d be entirely happy with its sound. It can go plenty loud, the passive radiators provide the bass punch a good portable speaker needs and the treble is notably quite pronounced without sounding sharp. This gives the Boom 3 a slightly bright character.
The Boom 3 is also a stereo speaker, unlike true 360-degree ones which often take a mono approach, and the way the drivers fire off in opposing directions provides a nice, wide sound dispersal. If I were to pick a speaker to take out to a gathering with friends at the park, I’d pick the Boom 3 over plenty that sound a bit better when used at home for solo listening.
So where are the problems? The Ultimate Ears Boom 3’s mids are a little flat-sounding, lacking texture, detail and general prominence compared to the best Bluetooth speakers. I’m not comparing the Boom 3 to a radically more expensive speaker either. The Jam Heavy Metal was my primary point of reference, a speaker that has been around since at least 2015 and is still available today, sometimes for as little as £50.
The Boom 3 also has lesser bass depth. These two deficiencies mean the Ultimate Ears speaker sounds less insightful and exhibits lesser dynamic range. But which would I pick for any kind of group get-together or outdoors scenario? The Ultimate Ears Boom 3.
Its sound is not perfect, but the way the speaker is built and how it projects its sound makes up for this in a lot of situations.
Should you buy it?
If you want an outdoors speaker The Boom 3 has a water resistant, rugged design and the two side-firing speakers throw out sound widely.
If you’re extremely picky about audio quality Some other speakers have greater bass depth and dynamic range, which you may notice when listening indoors.
While the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 doesn’t have the most refined and insightful sound in the world, it shines in many situations where that just doesn’t matter too much. It’s tough and small enough to take almost anywhere, and the side-firing drivers mean it effectively throws out sound in all directions.
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How we test
It’s rated at IP67 water resistance, so can play in the rain and is a good poolside speaker.
The Boom 3 includes the speaker, a charge cable and charger, but no charging dock.
This is a Bluetooth-only speaker, not a Wi-Fi one with digital assistant support or multi-room.