Review: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speakers
4.5Overall Score

Price (RRP): $129
Manufacturer: Ultimate Ears

Mini Bluetooth speakers abound, but for a while we’ve heard good things about the Ultimate Ears “Boom” range. The latest from the range is the Wonderboom, compact and tough models in a range of bold colours.

Features

Definitely compact. Each Wonderboom is halfway between a sphere and a cylinder, with a flat top and bottom. Even though only 102mm tall and 94mm wide, each weighs 425 grams. In each is a lithium ion battery rated to operate the speaker for ten hours (with the usual caveats applying), along with two 40mm loudspeaker drivers and two 46mm by 65mm passive radiators.

Passive radiators are like loudspeakers, except that they’re not electrically connected. They are weighted and tuned so that they will resonate at a chosen range of bass frequencies in order to strengthen and extend the bass.

These are real portable party speakers, with an IP67 Ingress Protection rating. That means they’re totally dust proof and capable of being dunked in the pool for up to half an hour (but only up to a metre, so keep them at the shallow end). Not for use in water though. Bluetooth signals don’t penetrate water at all well.

They project sound in all directions through the firm mesh with which their surfaces are finished.

They come in half a dozen bold colours: black, grey, orange, blue, light pink and mauve. Of course, those colours have got to have special names. They are, respectively, Phantom, Stone, Fireball, Subzero, Cashmere and Lilac. Each has a short cord loop coming out of the top rear (so you can hang it on things – it was a touch too small a loop for me to get my index finger into it), a “UE” logo on the top and a large symbol on the front, all in the same colour contrasting with the main body colour.

There are no physical inputs on the Wonderboom; it’s Bluetooth all the way. There’s no mention of particular codecs, so I’ll assume it’s SBC only. One special feature is the ability to link two together to double the sound, so to speak. Unlike some of UE’s other Boom models, two is the upper limit, nor is there a special app for controlling the Wonderboom speakers.

A rubber cover near the bottom at the back covers a Micro-B USB port by which they are charged. A short, bright yellow flat cable is provided to plug them into a computer or USB power supply for charging. UE says that the charge time is 2.8 hours.

One other thing I should note: if you were to purchase these speakers from the company’s US website, you’d pay $US99.95. The Australian price of $AU129 is actually better value at current exchange rates. UE doesn’t seem to apply the Australian dollar premium that we so often see in consumer electronics.

Instructions and control

One of the many interesting things that Apple did was make the packaging of quality electronic products sexy. Buy a premium phone today and the chances are it it’ll be in a box of the kind introduced by the iPhone.

These speakers’ packaging is fine indeed. Slicing the two transparent sticky tabs allows a colourful sleeve to be slipped off a black cardboard box. That box is split diagonally, but held together by another sticky tab – easily cut through, allowing the top and front to be folded back to reveal the speaker.

Apart from a tiny sheet with regulatory information in two languages and end-of-life dismantling instructions (presumably so one can remove the battery for proper disposal), and a minimalist diagram on the inside of the box there are no instructions.

For the most part I didn’t need them. When plugged in to charge, the dash at the front top lit, so that gave me a hint as to what was likely the power button. When the light went out I assumed that they were charged, so I held down that assumed power button for a few seconds and was rewarded by a tone, and a flashing light at the rear top of the unit. I took that to indicate the speaker was in pairing mode.