Ultimate Ears is joining the portable speaker revolution with the Boom, a cylindrical speaker that does more than just play back your tunes. It can also survive in more places than your average soundmaker.
Ultimate Ears has been making sound devices for a while, ever since one of Van Halen’s touring engineers came up with a better in-ear monitor for the band’s members, and eventually expanded into making earphones for anyone who could afford them.
That was some time ago, and while Logitech now owns the brand, Ultimate Ears is still working at creating the best sound it can in small spaces.
The next small space the company has been working on isn’t your ear, though, and in the Boom speaker, we’re seeing a different type of engineering: one where the social impact of sound has also been thought of.
Called the Boom, this speaker packs in a maximum 88 decibels of sound designed to spread the music in every direction inside a 18cm tall cylinder, with a weight of just over half a kilogram (538g).
Bluetooth is built into the speaker, but devices can also be connected using the 3.5mm stereo jack at the bottom, and devices sporting Near-Field Communication can pair more quickly as that’s included in this device.
Music is obviously what UE has designed the Boom for, but there is a microphone built into the body, making it possible to use this as a big speakerphone if needed.
One rather interesting feature is the water-resistance Ultimate Ears has provided for this speaker, with IPX4 rated resistance, meaning it’s splash resistant, though not totally immiscible.
Another neat differentiator is that the Boom speaker can be paired with a secondary Boom. Apps to do this can be found on iOS and Android, though Ultimate Ears assures us this can happen on the hardware level if you lack a compatible device.
While the reliance for the Boom is obviously on wireless control, you will find a few buttons here, with a power button and Bluetooth button up top, and a volume up and volume down button on the side.
The battery is rated for up to 15 hours.
Some speakers are all about keeping the professionalism: metal frames, speckled grill, and a look that says “I’m a speaker” that any audiophile can recognise.
UE’s Boom isn’t really that speaker.
Drawing design inspiration from a water bottle, the Ultimate Ears Boom reminds us of a drink receptacle, and strangely not the bottle it was crafted after. Rather, this reminds us of a particularly tall can, and weighs about as much as a 600ml bottle of soft drink before you crack it open and consume the contents.
Don’t try to drink the Boom, though; you won’t get anything out of it, and we don’t normally recommend consuming sound products.
What you can do is pair it with a smartphone and start playing music.
Pairing is easy, and you merely need to switch the speaker on and either wave your NFC-equipped device over the barrel to start the pairing process, or press the Bluetooth button to put it in pairing mode and get your device to look for it.
Once the two are connected, it’s time to jam.
Upon first paying music from the Boom, it’s next to impossible not to see just how clear this is from all angles. It doesn’t matter where you are in the room, the UE Boom delivers sound at every angle, dispersing it in what we can really define as close to 360 degrees as it gets.
That means if two people are sitting on either side of the speaker, they will hear the same sound, an effect that is excellent, and perfect for parties and open environments.
It’s also rather useful if you’re listening in a small room at home, with excellent mids and highs, all playing with distinct separation. Whether we were listening to classic rock, electronica, hard rock, hip hop, or jazz, this is a speaker where even the little nuances in the track can be heard, and from any part of the room.
The other thing that you’ll find out quickly is that this speaker is loud.
It’s not just a speaker with a decent amount of volume, but rather one that turns it up past Spinal Tap’s 11, with an immense amount of sound capable from the slim and light cylinder that makes up its design. We suspect we’ve irritated the neighbours in testing this, but it was sure worth it, pushing it close to 100dB in our tests.
That’s a serious amount of volume, and one without a heavy level of distortion, making it a speaker truly designed for outdoor use.
You don’t have to go outside with it, though, and the UE Boom app available for Android and iOS makes it easy to change the internal equaliser to something more fitting of indoor activity, outdoor activity, or movies.
It also comes with the bonus of being able to pair two Boom speakers, either turning them into a proper left and right channel, or making the music louder by sending identical sound streams across the cylindrical Boom speaker, a very cool function, and one that really heightens the suggestion that this speaker is designed for a social activity like heading to the beach, picnics, or having a pool party.
If you’re looking for strong bass, though, look elsewhere. You can certainly hear the lows without distortion, but the bass can feel a tad empty, with no real thud behind it.
In Rage Against The Machine’s “Take The Power Back,” the instruments sounded excellent and clear, but the bass just didn’t have much oomph, at least not the sort you expect from a powerful track like this. Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Going Down” had the same response, the poppy rock lacking the pushy bass we’re looking for.
This effect seems to present itself more in rock, exhibited also in The Dear Hunter’s “Girl” and Dave Matthews Band’s “Crush,” the latter of which sounded clear across the bass and drums, but still was a touch too hollow for us.
Electronic music improves the bass provided you turn up the volume, though it’s still clear that the Boom is designed with mids and highs more in mind.
One of the coolest features of the Boom has to be its water-resistance.
Essentially, the IPX4 resistance includes a hydrophobic coating used in its construction, making it splash-resistant and perfect for taking down to the beach, pool, bath, or even using while your hands soak in a tub of warm dishwater.
You’ve probably been in a situation where, while by water, someone throws a splash and the water stream inadvertently hits a gadget, making you rush out of the water to inspect the damage immediately.
In the case of the Boom, that hurried investigation appears to be unnecessary, and with every splash, the Boom didn’t stop playing, making it suitable for sitting right by the water at a party.
One thing we’d suggest would be to put the rubber water stopper in underneath, something that requires you to unscrew the tripod mount screw (and subsequently screw it back in to keep the stopper in place).
The rubber here will block the two ports underneath from being damaged by water, which is useful since these allow you to send audio to the Boom using the 3.5mm stereo jack, while the other port — a microUSB — will let you charge the speaker.
Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen these days, but the Ultimate Ears Boom shines, partly due to how unique some of its features are, but also because really it’s a speaker that sounds great and looks eye-catching when sunlight hits water drops sitting on its surface.
If you’re looking for an immense amount of sound and the ability to survive more than just a desk, the UE Boom delivers, and for a price that’s easily worth it.