UE BOOM wireless Bluetooth speaker review: built for rugged use and convenient mobility

UE BOOM 1Apple’s recent launch of the iPhone 5c has created an industry of new cases and accessories to compliment the colorful look of the plastic-backed phone. If you want your 5c to really stand out, match it with a colorful accessory.

The UE BOOM from Ultimate Ears came out long before the iPhone 5c was a glint in an Apple designer’s eye. However, the wireless Bluetooth speaker looks like it was made just for the colorful new phone. The two were meant to be together…

Design

The wireless speaker is designed with a party in mind. It is cylindrical shaped and measures less than three inches high and approximately seven inches tall. You can hold it in your hand like a soda can, only it won’t make your hand cold. Even though you don’t have to worry about condensation, you could slide it into a can insulator to show off how cool you are.

The mobile speaker is durable. It was built for rugged use. There is even a D-ring attached to the bottom of it so you can clip it to your carabineer when you are going on a hike. I’ve used the BOOM while on camping trips, bike rides, and as a sound system for in-between music at basement punk rock shows. It has seen a lot of travel and doesn’t show any sign of wear other than some dirt on the bottom that I never got around to cleaning off.

The speaker inside is designed to offer 360-degree sound. Thanks to duel drivers and radiators, it really does sound just as loud from the front as it does from the back. In fact, because of its cylindrical shape, there really is no way of knowing which is the front and which is the back.

The exterior is made from water and stain resistant plasma coated mesh with rubberized plastic at the top and bottom and along the middle where the volume buttons are.

When it comes to colors, the BOOM has you covered. It comes in black with red, blue and white with yellow, green and blue with yellow, pink and red with white, red and white with gray, and white with yellow. It doesn’t matter whether you are using a colorful iPhone 5c, a “space gray” 5s, or even the new iPad Air (which I am using it with right now), the BOOM offers plenty of color options to keep you happy.

UE BOOM 2Setup and Use

As with any Bluetooth-enabled device, you must turn on the UE BOOM and then turn on Bluetooth pairing on your device. The two connect within seconds and you are ready to start playing music, or movies, or whatever you like. You can pair up to eight devices with one speaker and can have two devices paired to play music at the same time. That means you and a friend can take turns being the deejay and no one will have to reset the Bluetooth pairing every time.

Once set up, the device is ready to go. All you have to do is play audio from your iPhone to hear the power. It may be small, but it packs a powerful punch. I mentioned above that I bring my BOOM with me to basement shows. It isn’t nearly as loud as a P.A. system, but it is loud enough to be heard through an entire room full of people and, thanks to the 360-degree sound, it is heard at the same volume from any side. Plus, I don’t even have to be in the room if I want to switch playlists. The Bluetooth connection has a range of about 50 feet, although it starts to cut out a little at about 45 feet when there are multiple walls between your iPhone and the BOOM.

The device has a minimal amount of additions. The volume buttons are represented by a big plus or minus icon on the side of the speaker. The top features the on/off and Bluetooth pairing buttons. The bottom houses the micro USB charging port (USB charging cable and power adapter included) and a 3.5mm auxiliary-in jack so you can connect it to devices that don’t have Bluetooth or NFC compatibility.

I mentioned that I take this speaker with me on outings. It really does keep up with active lifestyles. When I take it camping, I set it in one of the camping chair cup holders and it keeps the party going all night – two nights, actually. The battery lasts about 15 hours. I’ve tested it and it came in at just under that with constant use. I’ve even accidentally left it outside for the bears, but they must not have smartphones because they didn’t touch it.

When I go bike riding, I will sometimes set it in my water bottle holder. That is, if I’m not using it for my water. It is a little too long and thin for my holder, but it stays in place, even though it moves around a lot.

The D-Ring on back can be used to clip the BOOM to your belt, your backpack, or anything you want to clip it to. The D-Ring can also be removed to reveal a 1/4-20 female tripod head mount. I was unsuccessful at removing the D-ring with my bare hands. I could have tried getting it off with a pair of pliers, but the effort wasn’t worth it to me.

When it comes to speaker sound, this is, by far, the best mobile speaker of its class that I have ever tested. I have not had a chance to try them all, but I can say that it is my favorite small mobile speaker so far. I take it everywhere and the audio output impresses everyone. This isn’t going to replace your Harman audio surround sound system or anything, but I think most people would be impressed with the amount of audio power that comes out of such a small speaker. It pushes music out a little bit on the high end, but like I said, it isn’t a replacement for your entertainment sound system. It was built for rugged use and convenient mobility.

To really get the most out of the BOOM, Ultimate Ears’ parent company, Logitech, made a compatible app so you can adjust the equalization settings for loud settings, intimate settings, and speakerphone or movie playback settings. Plus, you can turn off the alert sounds, check the remaining battery life, and even change the name of your BOOM to give it a personality.

I almost forgot to mention that you can connect two BOOMs together for stereo sound. Using the compatible app, you can pair two speakers together and play one song from both. That way, you can keep the party going at the 50-yard line.

UE BOOM 3The Good

I love the sound quality and audio power. I’ve tried out about a dozen mobile speaker units and this one far surpasses anything in its size category. In fact, I’d say it is on par with slightly larger mobile speakers. It can certainly hold its own in a sound quality comparison.

I also love the variety of colors you can choose from. If you are the type to stay under the radar, the black and red BOOM is subtle and classy. If you prefer to turn heads when you walk into a room, the pink and red with white model may be more to your liking.

The Bad

At full volume, the speaker loses a bit of the low end. Music can still be heard loudly from across the house, but bass heavy artists like DMX or Motörhead sounded a little papery when turned all the way up, from my experience

The price is a hard one to swallow here. It is definitely more expensive than others in its size category. You are paying for the extra power here, to be sure.

Value

The UE BOOM is available for $199.99. Size-wise, the price seems rich for something so small, but if you think about the fact that it performs more in the mid-size speaker range, it is on par with its competitors.

Conclusion

If price maters more than performance, you will be let down by the UE BOOM. However, if you are willing to spend an extra $50 to get a very powerful, yet extremely portable speaker, you will be pleased. It is rugged, specially designed for mobility, and offers a level of audio output unmatched in its class. You can purchase the BOOM directly from the company’s website, or from participating retailer like Apple and Amazon.

Do you use a mini portable wireless speaker? What is your favorite brand and model?

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