Today we’re looking at the UE BOOM bluetooth speaker by Ultimate Ears
Main advantage: 15 hour battery life, NFC pairing, water and stain resistant, audible battery indicator
Main concern: system is best with two speakers wirelessly paired in stereo but a better system can be had for $400
Unique features: the single best companion app that I've seen with a device to date, ability to wirelessly pair two speakers
I've been on this big blue marble for 28 years... the UE Boom's website makes me feel old. Best I can gather, the UE Boom hopes to position itself as the go to accessory for the young man who keeps his sunglasses on during threesomes. If you find yourself surrounded by half naked young women casually hanging out in the desert contemplating speakers and your nights tend to end in some sort of outdoor glitter party, look no further for a wireless speaker. I don't know if it's clear, but I feel like the company is trying a bit too hard with it's marketing effort. It's a shame to see too, because all of the circumstance surrounding the device might turn a good number of people off to this very fully featured bluetooth speaker at first glance. The UE Boom has a lot of features that other speakers want for; NFC, a PERFECT companion app, verbal battery level indicator, water and dust proofing to name a few.
There is definitely a clear tone to this speaker (hehe), it's nice to see a large selection of available colors in the line and they are definitely bright and YOUNG! I actually like the flat contrasting color scheme of the Boom line, though it seems to be inspired by the trend of ultra bright fluorescent fixed gear bicycles that seem to be saturating the streets these days (which I don't care for AT ALL). Please don't write me off as a fuddy duddy, I do appreciate color, especially in electronics that have been gray and black for so long. The fluorescent orange and green bicycle is screaming at my eyeballs and that trend is just a bit infantile for my taste. Aren't we supposed to develop a little nuance as we grow up? Bright shiny happy colors are fine for Teletubbies and the Sesame Street gang but maybe the rest of us can move on?
The speaker itself looks very good and feels GREAT in the hand, very substantial. It has a satisfying weight and seems to be a rubberized hard plastic frame. The grille is a woven fabric that has a plasma coating which makes the Boom water and stain resistant to IP4 standards. The IP standard of water proofing covers everything from no protection at IP0 to continuous immersion beyond 1 meter at IP8. The Boom is right in the middle and can withstand anything at or below the direct splashing of water. The exact IP4 standard is as follows:
"Water splashing against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effect.”
The point being that the speaker isn't afraid to go anywhere with you. It naturally stands upright and is tuned to work best in that configuration with two 1.5” speakers inside and two passive radiators which enhance the bass. It's cylindrical shape means it can fit in most places a cup or water bottle can. Your car, treadmill, or shopping cart cup holders are perfect scenarios, as is a bike's bottle holder. The speaker can be placed on it's side as well, but you won't get the same full sound in most environments. The company calls this 360 sound, and it actually works in practice, this little tube will fill a room better than most speakers it's size.
Taking a tour around the device, you'll find one feature that you can't miss, two gigantic stylized volume controls. A plus and a minus symbol allow you to quickly change volume or, by holding both at the same time, you'll get a verbal playback of your remaining battery percentage, awesome feature. On the top, you'll see the physical power and bluetooth buttons, they are both sealed to enhance that water resistance. On the bottom is a micro USB charging port and a standard 3.5 AUX input. As the device is designed to stand upright, filling up the top and bottom with ports and buttons was a mistake. It looks good design wise, but in practice it's annoying. Both the charging port and AUX input are left open by default which means water is a no no. Luckily, the device does come packaged with an optional silicone cover for both ports. Also on the bottom is a metal D-ring which can be removed and reveal a threaded opening that will allow you to connect to a standard tripod mount. Thoughtful little details like this really show you that a company wants to produce a GREAT product and not just enough of a product to get by. While attached, the d-ring encourages you to attach a carabiner and hang the speaker anywhere while listening on the go. Finally, the Boom has dual microphones that allows you to use it as a pretty capable speakerphone.
The sound is why we buy speakers, (or at least why we should be buying speakers Beats by Dre fans) so how does the Boom stack up? It's a very capable speaker on it's own, The sound is full and the lows are punchy and the highs are clear, the mids can get a little muddled depending on your music, but overall a great effect. The Boom is uniquely excellent and sets itself apart from other systems while wirelessly paired with a twin. The process of pairing could not be simpler. The UE Boom companion app is available for Android and iOS and as thorough as I can be, I can't find a single issue with it. This app and the ease of pairing really is the standard for other makers to follow going forward. You Apple fans still don't have NFC, so you can't take full advantage of the effect. When it comes to pairing the speakers with your music source, android users can be playing music literally 30 seconds out of the box in an audio emergency. I literally pulled the speakers out of the box and charged them to full, downloaded the app on my Android phone, tapped the NFC spot, the device's paired instantly, I clicked the “double up” button within the app which then prompted me to press the second speaker's bluetooth button twice and that's it. The app recognizes each speaker on screen down to the color scheme and then allows you to either have them double up the sound or use them as left and right channels for stereo sound. You can also switch left and right channel assignments effortlessly through the app. As nice as Soundfreaq's Sound Platform 2 is, wireless pairing two units was a bit of a task. At $150 less for a pair though... maybe you want to put up with the inconvenience? Soundfreaq's system produces a tremendous sound in the same configuration, but it is not water resistant, lacks NFC, and is not portable by any means. Both systems definitely have individual strengths and weaknesses.
You'll find a power supply and a tangle free micro USB charging cable in the box in a blinding bright green. Logitech's own cable provides additional voltage and it did charge faster than when using a generic cable. Full charge took a little over three hours and the claimed life is 15 hours! That is unique among the market, most will show 7-8 hours. Of course none of those estimates are based on full volume. If you go full speed, you'll see a decrease in battery life. It will all depend on how you listen though.
Thank you again to Ultimate Ears for supplying their product for review.
Alternatives: Every single company you've ever heard of has a bluetooth speaker available. Check my past articles for some of the best.
What's in the box: user guide, speaker, tangle free cable, usb power supply, port cover
Is it worth buying: Ultimate Ears comes out of Logitech's camp. UE eventually made such a name for itself among professional musicians with products like their range of in-ear monitors that a smart company has to take notice and ultimately do something with that momentum. So while Logitech has to keep its slacks pressed for the business set, they can let their hair down and have some fun with the Ultimate Ears or UE brand. A brand that's currently giving us a product like the UE Boom speaker, hopefully the first in a full line of modern, conceptual, and even playful audio accessories that don't forget to wow with sound. BUY WITH CONFIDENCE
ENJOY YOUR GADGETS!