Published on September 11th, 2013 | by Patrick Doyle0
TECH REVIEW: UE BOOM Bluetooth Speaker
Summary: The UE BOOM is a great little speaker but I think it may be hampered by the price.
The UE BOOM is a portable Bluetooth stereo speaker from Ultimate Ears, or UE for short. It’s aimed at festival goers and people who generally just want to bring the party with them wherever they go.
The BOOM has a none too shabby top volume level of 88dBA – although, for reasons I’ll get into later, you’re unlikely to play it that loud – and 360° sound dispersal around its cylindrical body. A buddy of mine described it as being the same size as a tall can of beer, which is roughly right. It comes in a number of colour combinations and UE claim it’s stain and water resistant. It certainly looks and feels rugged. At the €199.95 recommended retail price, for a portable speaker, you would expect high quality.
The packaging the BOOM comes in is very smart. The black tube shaped container looks like a time capsule and is ideal for storing away the speaker when you’re not using it. As well as the BOOM itself, you get a micro USB charge cable, USB AC adaptor with two alternative plug connectors for different regions should you wish to bring it on holidays, and you also get a quick guide and a rubber protective stopper for covering the jack and USB ports. I only had two minor gripes with what came packaged with the BOOM.
First, seen as there’s a 3.5 mm jack input on it, I think it would have been nice if they bundled even a short 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm jack for connecting devices directly when there’s either no Bluetooth connectivity built in or for when there’s wireless interference. At the price it is, I don’t think that would have been a hard thing to add.
My second gripe was around the instructions. Which were very minimal. You can find more detailed instructions in the free smartphone app but, from what I saw, there are no directions to go get the app. I only discovered one existed when I searched online for instructions. In any case, these are minor gripes and really didn’t impact my experience with the BOOM that much.
As mentioned earlier, the UE BOOM is roughly the size and shape of a tall beer can – about 7 inches. It has a very high quality fabric mesh grill on the front that’s on par with speakers of a much higher price range. If you stand the speaker horizontally as it’s designed, the grill extends around most of the cylindrical body apart from one horizontal section that has two large volume buttons on it. These control the volume of your connected device’s output if you connect wirelessly or, when you use the 3.5 mm line-input on the base of the speaker, the output volume. When you press the two buttons together, you get a voice prompt telling you the battery level.
As well as the line-input, the base of the BOOM is where you’ll find the micro USB port for the charger, a charging indicator LED and a metal D-ring – presumably for hanging the speaker inside a tent or a similar location. You can remove this D-ring to reveal a ¼ inch tripod mount. On the top of the BOOM, there’s a power button in the middle that glows white when it’s on and turns red to indicate a low battery. Beside the power button is a Bluetooth “sync” button.
Connecting the speaker wirelessly via Bluetooth is extremely simple. In my case, I used an iPhone 5 but a friend used a Samsung Galaxy and connected with no hassle at all. When you first turn on the BOOM, after it gives a pleasant “conga flourish” indicator noise, it’s available to discover in the Bluetooth settings of your device. For connecting to additional devices, you need to press the sync button at the top for 3 seconds before it’s discoverable. The speaker tells you it’s connected with another little conga flourish – these audio indicators are a nice addition and I’m glad UE didn’t just go with bland “beep” sounds. The Bluetooth button also glows for a short time to show it’s connected.
The BOOM will remember up to eight paired devices and you can have two devices connected at once. UE claim the BOOM has a range of 15 meters, though it probably works best at no more than 10 meters direct line of sight in most locations.
Being a stereo speaker, the BOOM has two 1.5 -inch drivers mounted in either side as well as two 2 -inch radiators to add better bass response. It certainly has a big sound and the bass sound is incredible for a speaker of its size. The bass end extends down to an impressive 90Hz. While audibly there’s no real sub bass presence, the low end does sound very pleasant and “tight”. Kick drums and bass sounds are reproduced very clearly.
The midrange and treble are also quite pleasant, although the BOOM does tend to distort in the top middle (around 800Hz – 2KHz) slightly at very high volumes. I found it really didn’t like “Video Games” from Lana Del Ray when played at full volume! It may be down to the default “loudness” EQ profile over-driving those frequencies. That said, you’re not likely to drive the BOOM at its highest level in most cases. For me, using the iPhone 5 at a third to half way up was perfectly sufficient. At that level range, the BOOM sounded really clean and detailed.
FREE APP & SETTINGS
On its own, you can’t really change any settings within the BOOM itself. Name and EQ profile settings (separate from your device’s EQ settings), as well as a more precise battery indicator for the BOOM, are handled by the free app which is available on iOS and Android. When you’re connected via Bluetooth, just launch the app to “get inside” and make adjustments. You can also adjust the voice prompt language and silence notification sounds.
In addition to settings, the app gives you a more in-depth manual and the ability to pair a second UE BOOM speaker as either a second mirrored stereo output, or you can have one speaker output the left channel while the other outputs the right channel.
The UE BOOM is a very impressive speaker for the size. The audio clarity and build quality are surprisingly good. At reasonable listening levels, it produces a very clear and detailed sound. It does everything it’s supposed to do and it’s very easy to use. I can’t really comment too much on the battery life as, the whole time I had the BOOM, I only charged it once.
UE claim it has a 15-hour battery life but that’s dependent on usage. All I’ll say is that the battery is more than sufficient and, in all likelihood, your phone, MP3 player or tablet will die way before the BOOM does.
My only concern about it is the price range. The UE BOOM is a luxury item but, at €199.95 RRP, is in direct competition with the Dr. Dre Pill and I can’t help feeling it may struggle against the Beats name. If UE had priced the BOOM at €150, I think it would sell better among those who think the Pill is just a tad too expensive.
For more information on the UE BOOM, visit the official site here.