The UE Boom is one of those tech products that a lot of audio geeks have been talking about. For those unfamiliar with Ultimate Ears, the niche headphone manufacturer put themselves on the map by producing high-end and excellent sounding in-ear monitors and earbud style headphones. Since they were acquired by Logitech, we’ve seen a number of consumer oriented products come from the slightly rebranded “UE.” We’re all about companies that bring quality to the masses and with Ultimate Ear’s latest portable Bluetooth speaker system, the UE Boom, they have done just that. Consider it the anti-Jambox. It’s shaped like a cylinder, cranks out hi-fi quality 360-degree sound and can be ganged up to another UE Boom to provide stereo sound, compliments of the free iOS and Android App. The UE Boom is a speaker that looks like it wants to go out and play. Read on to find out more about this funky offering from Ultimate Ears.
Main Features and Specifications:
- Portable Bluetooth speaker system
- Bluetooth and 3.5mm audio input for universal compatibility; NFC (passive) enabled, pair up to two devices at the same time; pair two UE Boom’s for stereo sound
- Maximum Sound Level: 88dBA
- Frequency Range: 90Hz - 20kHz
- Drivers: Two 1.5", 4 Ohm Drivers; Two 2" Passive Radiators
- Diameter: 6.5cm (2.6”); Height: 18 cm (7.1”); Weight: 538g (speaker only) 19oz
- IPX rating 4 (water resistant)
- App configurable (iOS and Android available at no cost in Apple’s App Store and Google Play)
- Comes USB wall charger and cable
What We Liked
Great packaging: It may sound silly, but the way a product is packaged does add to the level of perceived quality and overall user experience. The UE boom comes in a unique tube, encased in a paper sleeve and pops open like a small treasure chest. Inside, the UE Boom sits sandwiched between two pullout discs, each containing the various included accessories. It’s a package design that would make the folks behind the original iPod packaging nod in approval.
Unique design: There are no other portable Bluetooth speakers on the market that look like the UE Boom. Instead of the traditional rectangular design with the speaker grill in the front, buttons up top and connectors on the rear, the UE Boom is a cylinder. It is used in a vertical position, which UE claims enables a “360-degree sound.” The small 1.5-inch drivers are lined up opposite one another, as are the 2-inch passive radiators. On the bottom, you’ll find a removable hook, 3.5mm mini-jack input and the micro USB charging port. The hook lets you attach the UE boom to a lanyard and hang it off any number of things. The cylindrical shape also fits nicely in the water bottle holder of a bike. The unique nylon mesh wrapped around the circumference of the speaker looks really cool. Ultimate Ears calls it Water Resistant Acoustic Skin and it’s IPX4 rated. This means it can withstand splashes and light rain – it cannot go into the pool with you. Overall, the design is truly unique and the small footprint gives you extreme flexibility in placement.
Fun to use: On the front, two large “buttons” give you the ability to control volume. We use the term buttons with hesitation because they are fully integrated with the device. If it weren’t for the iridescent red lines signifying their purpose, you wouldn’t know they were there. The power button sits up top next to a dedicated Bluetooth pairing button. One click of the power button brings the UE boom to life. We like that UE opted against the long presses i.e. hold down the power button for 3 seconds to turn it on and off. The same goes for Bluetooth pairing, one click and you can begin setup. The sounds UE choose for the power on/off and pairing are completely fitting for the device’s acoustic capabilities. They are tribal sounding drum patterns and when played through the 4-pack of drivers on the UE Boom, sound extremely cool. What’s more, a free app is available for iOS and Android that lets you change the EQ settings and device name, check battery life stats and even gang up two UE Booms for stereo sound.
Hi-fi caliber sound on the go: The first thing you notice about the UE Boom is its incredible mids and highs. From the moment you hear the drum beat after powering up you know Ultimate Ears made this speaker with the critical listener in mind. However, it doesn’t stop there. The output levels the UE Boom is capable of producing are seriously impressive. Ultimate Ears claims a max output level of around 88dBA and we would believe it. To put that into perspective, an average blender clocks in at about 82dBA and a gas-powered lawnmower at around 90dBA. To achieve that type of output from a device smaller than a 16.9oz water bottle is incredible. Adding to the excellent listener experience is the 360-degree layout of the drivers. There is no bad seat in the house with the UE boom. You can have two listeners standing on opposite sides and more or less hear the same high quality music being played. This gives you a high degree of placement options, whether on a coffee table, in a bookshelf or outside next to a campfire, the soundstage is uncompromised.
What We Didn’t Like
Lack of bass: The 2-inch passive radiators added some excellent quality mid-range, but the low end was lacking. This isn’t an issue for most music types but if you listen to genres with heavy bass, like rap and electronica, you may find yourself wanting more.
The Ultimate Ears product line extension into the Bluetooth speaker market is a wonderful thing. When a company that knows hi-fi enters new markets they typically have the right priorities in mind when it comes to sound quality. Not only did UE succeed in developing an excellent sounding potable speaker, the unique design is impressive and functional. We loved almost everything about the UE Boom, from packaging to sound quality to its app-powered configurability - there isn’t much missing from this small speaker, except for a slight lack of bass. However, the overall high quality sound outweighed this minor shortfall. The UE Boom is a speaker worth hearing.