UE Boom Wireless Speaker Review

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This post is sponsored by Logitech. For more details, click here.

I travel around a lot, and I like my music.  I absolutely hate the sound that comes out of my laptop speakers, and so I carry around earphones that many would call overkill, and I would politely disagree with them.  But the thing is, I like to share, and that includes music.

We’ve tried many travel speakers in the past, but none quite like the UE Boom.  It’s one that actually sounds pretty good.  I spent two weeks putting it through the paces, from the TMA offices, to the basketball court, and a camping trip.



The Device

The UE Boom is a wireless speaker with a difference, one where sound quality actually means something in a relatively small package.  You might be wondering who/what “UE” means.  UE (Ultimate Ears) is a audio company that accessory maker Logitech purchased a few years back.

Interestingly enough, there is no mention of Logitech anywhere on the packaging or the device… UE is their higher-end brand for portable audio.

The UE Boom weighs in at 538 grams (~1.2lbs), and looks like a taller (18cm / 7.5”), skinnier can.  The design is nice and minimal, with a big power button on the top, a smaller Bluetooth button beside it, and two oversized volume buttons down the side.

On the bottom you’ll find a hook for hanging the device that screws into a tripod mount, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro USB port for charging.

The top, bottom, and side have a soft-to-the-touch rubber feel and feels secure when you put it down.  As a whole, the UE Boom feels solid and secure.  You can choose the color that matches your shoes, as they are making them available in red/white; blue/white; white/yellow; & black/red.

UE Boom Colors

Tip: Press both volume buttons together for a few seconds and a voice will tell you how much battery power you have left.  Logitech says you’ll get 15hrs out of the built-in battery, and it’ll take about 3.5 hours to charge it up.

 

Connecting Your Music to the UE Boom

UE Boom NFCGetting your music to play out of the UE Boom is pretty easy.  I found that pairing the device via Bluetooth was a snap with Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 smartphone, Nexus 7 tablet, and my notebook computer.

The device remembers up to 8 devices that you have paired with, and keeps two in kind of a quick-switch memory (which we’ll come to a little later).  You’ll hear a little bongo sound when you are connected.

Though it’s not a well documented feature, you can also connect your phone / tablet and the UE Boom together using NFC on an Android device (and others).

First, make sure that Bluetooth and NFC are both enabled on your device, then place it around the volume buttons for 2 seconds.  This took quite a bit of trial and error for me to get working at first, searching out the sweet spot on the UE Boom that I needed to place my phone against, but once I got that hang of it pairing the devices was very simple and quick.

Lastly, you can also connect via headphone cable if you want to connect your old Sony Walkman cassette player I guess.

In terms of wireless range, we found it to max out around 10-15 meters between the UE Boom and the music device.  It reconnected automatically when we came back within range.

 

Social Features

They’re really pushing the social features with this UE Boom.  You can see by the look in the ads that this is a priority for them, but to be honest, I don’t get it so much.

Along with connecting up to 8 devices to the UE Boom, the last two devices can swap in and out.  So if you’re playing music on both devices, and pause one, the music from the second device will play from the UE Boom.  An interesting way to make sure there is never a moment without tunes while you’re looking for the next track or YouTube video to queue up I guess.

You can also connect up to two UE Boom devices to the same source for even more sound (and true stereo).

If you’re going to have a big party with a bunch of friends, you’ll probably have something a little larger to rock the party than this.





Bonus Traveler Features

UE Boom CampingFor the traveler, there are a couple of neat features that the UE Boom puts forth.  Not only is it a speaker, but it also has a mic built in, so if you’re listening rocking out the summer to the new Daft Punk album, and a business call comes in, no need to fret.  The music will pause while you take the call.  Hang up, and your tunes come back.

The UE Boom is also water resistant and stain resistant.  Sandy from the beach, or a little sooty from the campfire?  Just rinse it off.  Make sure you have the rubber port cover in place that covers the bottom ports before you give it a bath though.

If your UE Boom didn’t come with one, Logitech will send you one if you fill out this form.

 

The App

UE Boom AppAvailable for both iOS and Android, the UE Boom app is well designed, if basic.  Inside, you’ll can rename the speaker, check the battery level, and pair up to a second UE Boom speaker.

The nicest touch is the built in EQ settings.  Though there are only 3, it’s a quick and easy way to shape the sound for your environment or audio.  The “Out Loud” setting is probably fine for most situations, while the “Vocals” setting sounds best with podcasts and audiobooks.  Finally, the “Intimate” setting softens the highs for a more subdued sound.

While a neat example of an app done right, it’s not necessary to have to use the UE Boom.

 

But How Does the UE Boom Sound?

Now that we’ve gone over all of the gadgety features, what’s the sound actually like?  As I alluded to earlier, it’s pretty good.  Even at high volumes the UE Boom rarely distorts, and the 360 sound design means that everyone gets to listen.

Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush” sounded warm and well rounded, while the piano stylings of Chilly Gonzales’ “Solo Piano II” album made the best case for the Intimate EQ setting by far.  The more electronic sounds of Photek’s DJ Kicks also held their own, keeping the details of the highs and mids along the way.

UE Boom Ports

It’s worth mentioning that you shouldn’t expect hard hitting low end from the UE Boom.  While it’s light years ahead of smaller wireless speakers and the dreaded laptop speakers, it’s no boom box.  It sounded good as the sun came up on the campground, and pumped out a decent amount of sound on the wide-open court as we shot some hoops.

Like any decent speaker, if the quality of the music is low, you’ll definitely hear it. Garbage in, garbage out.

 

The Verdict

When compared to the average wireless speaker being used by travelers, it’s clear that the UE Boom is several steps above.

The weight, while not overly heavy, is going to likely limit this to flights where you have a checked bag, or it would make a great companion on a road trip.

Pros:

Solid, durable build

All-day battery life

Easy setup (particularly with Bluetooth / NFC)

Great sound quality and volume from a portable wireless speaker

Cons:

Basic instructions included are too basic

Turning the volume up to max briefly mutes your music to play an annoying tone

NFC connection is trial and error at first

Lack of bass

 

For more info on the UE Boom, check out the Ultimate Ears website, and to pick up one for your next trip, check out the list of retailers here (or buy direct from Amazon).

 

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7 Responses

    • Dustin Main

      By the looks of things, the UE Boom may be a little better suited for travelers with its more durable design, micro-usb charging and longer battery life.

      I haven’t heard the Bose Soundlink to compare unfortunately… and as with any audio product, that’s obviously a big deal! If I come across one (either on the TMA desk or in store) I’ll give it a test and let you know here in the comments.

      Reply
  1. Benny

    While it’s nice that Logitech gave you a UE Boom to review in a sponsored post, don’t you think it’s a little pricey to seriously consider as a ‘travel speaker’?

    Those things are nearly $250 online, and between $340-$500 in Australia.

    The portable aspect looks appealing, but I can think of a dozen ways I’d rather be spending that sort of cash than on a fluoro tube with poor bass response.

    But maybe that’s just me. *Plugs headphones back in*

    Reply
    • Dustin Main

      Hey Benny, thanks for the comment. Value is always subjective, particularly when it comes to audio. What some people think sounds like nails on a chalkboard, others will be loving and rocking out just the same.

      Compared to the DBEST speakers we reviewed in the past ( http://toomanyadapters.com/review-dbest-portable-travel-speakers/ ), the UE Boom has sound quality (and loudness) that is several magnitudes better. It’s also larger and heavier, and roughly twice the price.

      For some, a $2000 macbook is overkill when you could use a netbook to surf the same internet. A smartphone is crazy expensive compared to a $25 feature phone for sending a text message. Or back in the audio world, some would say that the $350 headphones I carry are insane when you could be listening to $10 earbuds.

      So while the UE Boom won’t be joining me as I head back to Myanmar next month, it really was brilliant for my camping trip last weekend. And if I was hitting up apartments around the world (like Dave is doing these days), the UE Boom would be a no brainer, doing double duty on the beach and in the living room.

      So as with anything, it’s what you value. There is no doubt though that it is a travel speaker, and for $200 (in Australia), it’ll make a great audio companion for some for sure.

      BTW, where did you see it for $250-$500?

      Reply

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