I had the chance to review the Ultimate Ears (UE) Boom speaker recently. The UE Boom speaker is the go-to speaker for convenient wireless on-the-go music listening, while offering good sound quality in a sleek portable package. There’s a coming Megaboom to be launched later, but that’s bigger and about double the volume of the original Boom, which might appeal to a different audience.
The UE Boom is about 1.5x the size of a typical drink can, which makes it easy to fit a carry on bag and bring around. There are a number of nice bright colours to choose from, which gives off a cool sporty vibe. All of them uses the same rubber material, which they termed it an acoustic skin. It feels really durable, the rubber material feels strong enough to withstand light knocks and scratches. The UE Boom is also water resistant, so you can safely take it to the outdoors, on your camping trips, and it would be able to withstand them. There are great convenient features like the D-ring clip on one side so you can hook it up to an external bag or mount it a central location at your party. Such touches really add to the value and specific use case for the UE Boom.
Besides Bluetooth, it also supports the traditional 3.5mm connection. In fact, up to eight Bluetooth devices can pair with the UE Boom at one time, so your friends can all get to play their favourite music easily. Might get a little messy when everybody is vy-ing for some air time though. The battery life is rated at 15 hours. The Boom can be upgraded to the latest software, which now allows the speaker to be turned on and off remotely. Although there’s a caution on impact to battery life, my experience is that it is extremely marginal. After a week, it was still reporting the same battery percentage (in steps of 10). You can easily check the remaining power by pressing both the vol up / down buttons together. It’s quite convenient and a small but useful feature that other manufacturers do leave out.
The UE BOOM is extremely LOUD. That’s a good thing. It easily fills up a mid size room at around 60-70% volume and can easily scale to handle an outdoor location. No problems about playing your music on a camping trip or at a beach party. It handles loud volumes well too – no crackling or distortion.
After using it for a couple of weeks, I found the UE Boom to offer a surprisingly good aural experience. The sound was surprisingly crisp and was able to distinguish the different musical instruments or the guitar and close mic combination of Jose Gonzalez ‘Heartbeats’. I think the UE Boom handles both mids and highs well. The bass could have been a bit deeper and stronger, but maybe that’s asking a bit too much from a portable speaker. Haven’t really heard one that stood out for me.
I also like that the UE Boom is a 360 degree speaker. This gives you the same listening experience, from any angle. I was reading online on the UE Boom and I thought this might be a little underrated. It’s especially great for outdoors and parties, and considering how loud the UE Boom is, you could get away with just one speaker supporting a mid-size outdoor party. If you need to cater to a larger crowd, one more feature is the ability to connect two or more UE BOOMs together through the app and you can play them in either stereo-to-stereo mode or traditional left/right stereo mode.
The UE Boom impressed me with the many well thought out design features, such as the remote on / off, multi-pairing, audio cues, durable casing, etc. Sound quality to me was above average for portable speakers, but it is subjective. So it’s really up to your ears to distinguish if it appeals to you. However, I do think the UE Boom is one that I would recommend to put on your comparison list. If you are at the IT Show 2015, you can check it out. It’s currently selling there at S$249. There’s also the UE Mini Boom on sale to check out – which won the best portable speaker from Wirecutter – it beat quite a few other notable competitors.