04
Jul
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We've covered some of the best Bluetooth speakers on the market over the last few months – everything from small and affordable to large and pricey. But I can promise you that we've never covered anything like the Ultimate Ears (UE) BOOM ($199). It's simply the best Bluetooth speaker I've ever heard, price be damned.

For those who may not be familiar with the BOOM, here's the skinny: it's a cylindrical, 360 degree, plasma coated, waterproof, stain resistant, NFC-enabled speaker. Really, it's a Bluetooth speaker that's designed for life. But the design is just part of what makes this speaker so good – it also has 15 hours of battery life, and (most importantly) it sounds incredible.

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Appearance and Features

As I've already mentioned, the BOOM is cylindrical – it's a bit taller than a soda can, and about the same diameter. Stylistically, it's simple and well-designed: roughly 80% of the unit is comprised of the 360 degree speaker (a genius design), with large volume buttons on the "front," power and Bluetooth buttons on the top, and microUSB charging port, a small clip (which can also be removed so the speaker can be placed on a tripod), and 3.5mm input jack on the bottom.

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Can shown for scale... and because I love Mt. Dew.

The BOOM may be simple in appearance, it has a couple of pretty killer features. For starters, it's equipped with NFC for easy pairing – simply tap your NFC-enabled phone or tablet on the speaker. Done. While that's neat, my favorite feature of the BOOM is by far Double Up mode. This feature allows you to use two BOOMs at the same time for either "double" or stereo audio by way of the BOOM app. This is a killer addition missing from most BT speakers (it's even better that it doesn't require the speakers to be physically daisy-chained together). UE was actually cool enough to provide me with two units to test out so I could specifically give this feature a whirl, and it works flawlessly: with one BOOM connected to your device, fire up the app, head into the Double Up option, and connect the second one. The entire process takes about 20 seconds, and then you can choose whether to put the speakers in stereo mode or just have both spit out the same sound – it even lets you define the left and right channels. It's excellent.

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The BOOM app actually detects the red/white speaker as the pink one. Boo!

While the app is still pretty light on features, that's not all it's good for. You can also change specific settings, like the speaker name, alert language, and EQ settings (only three to choose from right now), as well as check the battery level (which can also be accessed by pressing volume up and down at the same time on the speaker) and disable alert tones altogether. Considering the speaker hasn't been available for very long, I imagine more features will make their way to the app over time. Still, this offering is a good start and worth the download if for nothing more than Double Up (assuming you have two BOOMs, or know someone else who has one).

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Currently, each speaker operates independently of the other where volume is concerned, so you have to physically adjust the volume on each speaker individually. Thus, one thing I would like to see is a way to control the volume of both speakers at once, perhaps from within the app or with a widget. Alternatively, you could turn the BOOMs' volume all the way up and control them using the device's BT volume, but I tend to do the exact opposite most of the time when using a portable speaker (that, and I don't want to forget the BOOM was at max volume the next time I use it and unexpectedly deafen myself).

The most surprising thing about the BOOM is the weight. At nearly 550 grams, it's almost double the weight of the UE Mobile Boombox, and quite a bit heavier than the Jawbone Jambox, most of which I imagine comes from the speaker's large battery. It's a worthwhile tradeoff in my opinion, but I'd be remiss not to at least mention its somewhat shocking heft, especially for those who are looking for something extremely lightweight (in which case, I highly recommend the UE Mobile Boombox).

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Like many other modern Bluetooth speakers, the BOOM allows two devices to be connected at once, so audio can be played from two different sources (generally intermittently); and it also doubles as a speakerphone. The only feature I found missing from the BOOM is the ability to jump tracks directly from the speaker, which is something that could easily make its way to the unit via firmware update (double tap volume buttons to jump forward/back, perhaps?).

Sound Quality

When it comes to sound quality, the UE BOOM is the first small Bluetooth speaker I've heard that doesn't sound like a small Bluetooth speaker. It's packing plenty of punch in the low end, and the clarity is very impressive for a speaker of this size. The overall sound is very well balanced, with Play Music's built-in EQ offering the fine tuning that one may desire. It responds very well to even the most subtle EQ changes, which is nice.

Since the BOOM features a 360 degree speaker design, it sounds the same regardless of where you position it – you can be in front of, behind, or at any other angle adjacent to the speaker and still get clear, audible sound. That is the BOOM's biggest benefit over other Bluetooth offerings where sound is concerned, as you really don't have to worry about where the speaker is positioned during activities. Run circles around this thing, it always sounds great.

Another important factor when it comes to Bluetooth speakers is volume; or, more specifically, how loud it can get. The BOOM may not be as loud as the Rocksteady XS, but it's definitely capable of getting to a good level (the tech specs state that it tops out at 88dBA) while still providing good, clear sound.

Conclusion

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It's difficult to call any specific product in its class "the best" – there are too many factors that come into play, like personal preferences, price, and many others. However, if I, personally, were to apply that label to a portable BT speaker, it would easily be the UE BOOM. It sounds amazing, has a couple of nice standout features, looks great, is water- and stain-proof, and is built like a small, cylindrical tank. Really, I love this speaker.

All that said, it's twice the price of most of the competition, which might make it a difficult pill to swallow for a lot of people. Still, it's also twice the speaker in the same size package, which is a pretty big deal. For that reason alone, I readily recommend the BOOM to anyone who may be in the market for a BT speaker and doesn't want to compromise on portability or sound quality.

Buy: Amazon; Ultimate Ears

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • Casey Kline

    Was waiting on this review, and I must say, nicely delivered. Really does seem in this instance you get what you pay for.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Indeed. I think it's worth every penny.

  • Aaron

    Interested in buying...Is wattage any relevant when talking about mobile speakers?? Not many reveal the power the speaker can deliver and to me it's an important measure of how loud the speaker can be, is it not?

    • bobbutts

      wattage by itself isn't really useful without also knowing the efficiency of the speaker
      it's a more useful metric for an amplifier where the speaker isn't built in.

  • Billyt

    Can you comment as to real life battery range vs the 15 hour claim?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      I found the 15 hour claim to be basically on the money. If you have the volume maxed out constantly, I imagine it'll be a bit less (maybe 12-13), but at "normal" indoor volumes, you're good for at least 14 or more.

      • Billyt

        Awesome! Thanks. Looks like we have finally found a winner.

        • PakKing

          15 hour at super low volume, only 3-5 at high volume

          • Diabloart

            Agreed - bike ride today for 3.5 hours high volume it died.

  • Sven L.

    Those look awesome. Now if only I had the money to buy these things which I will almost never use.

  • khaled mourad

    nothing like it in the World.

    Portable speakers used in many applications like an Ultrabook speaker, tablets speaker, Smartphone Speaker/Speaker phone at home, in car, on the beach, Sports, Parties, Social with friends

  • Sean Lumly

    I really like the battery life on these in addition to the high quality. If there is no sound playing, do these speakers still drain the battery? Or can I just leave them on (like my phone/tablet) and the battery drain really only starts when they are actually emitting sound?

  • Jeremy Dougherty

    Sony made a similar form factor speaker a few years ago. It held an iPod in the case. What made it cool was you could throw it in the bottle holder on your bicycle. Any chance you guys at AP have a bicycle laying around to see if the Boom fits? It is a lot safer than riding around with headphones. Plus, it makes a nice day of a 100 mile ride or even a 10 mile commute to work.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Check out this image from the UE site. Looks like a winner to me.

  • Polyg0n

    Better sound quality than the Beats Pill or mini Jambox?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Haven't heard the Pill, and the Jambox doesn't even begin to compare. The BOOM is probably better likened to the Big Jambox, but in a smaller, more portable package.

  • Eric

    Sounds great, but personally I wouldn't pay that much for a single portable speaker, Bluetooth or wired. Get the price down to $49 (probably by a clone) and I'm there. The weight would also be a factor for me if I wanted to travel with it. Still, I'm sure there's a good market for this as it sits.

  • Joshua Hill

    This site just loves throwing around the word 'best' http://www.androidpolice.com/2013/06/12/jbl-flip-bluetooth-speaker-quick-review-this-may-be-the-best-portable-bt-speaker-on-the-market/
    Now when you guys say something is great I wonder whether it really is or just average and next week something else will be better.

    Top works guys, you are the best at using the word best!

  • dontpanicbobby

    How do they compare to the JBL Flip? $200 for a non-stereo Bluetooth speaker seems really high although that battery life is amazing compared to the 4+ hours I get out of my $100 Flip.

  • Constantine Smith

    Got the JBL Charge and it's great, loud sound indoor and out door. The only thing that I do wish it had was the NFC. It's still winning material and love it, but nice to know other speakers out there that I can recommend to friends and family.

  • Jerecho

    Any chance we could get a comparison between this and the $149 JBL Charge and if so, roughly when? I understand that the Boom's advertised battery life is ~15hrs while the Charge's is ~10hrs, but in terms of size, shape, weight etc they seem really really similar.

  • Daniel

    I love the JBL charge. It has a really really good sound and it can charge your phone or tablet with the included USB port. All of that for $150...

  • Johan Lawless

    How does it compare to the BOSE Soundlink II ? which is twice as heavy and almost twice the price?

  • Luke

    Can I charge my phone with this device?

  • DEE

    so after you hear the Bose soundlink mini, you will have to do this article all over again.

  • brutalpanther

    I would have to hear them in comparison to the bose mini soundlink.Which are also.$199.

  • Curtis Nabors

    Can I charge my iphone/ ipad with this device?

  • Curtis Nabors

    I want to use this for camping where theres no power. How does it get charged?

  • Lyonnas

    can the JBL Charge also be paired together??

  • PakKing

    I bought those two speaker, Sounds great, I love the quality and portability of the UE Boom and the Bose Mini. But I was very SAD! I had to return them speakers. Because once the the UE Boom or Bose Mini battery does not hold the charge after a few years. Then it's just paper weight because Ultimate Ears said it's designed with non replaceable battery and Bose Mini always charge about $75 and up to replace the battery, but you'll have to send it back to Bose. Bose hasn't determine if it will replace the battery for consumers. I thought you may want to know.

    • Idon’t Know

      The Bose soundlink mini has a removable battery.

      • PakKing

        No speakerphone capability...

  • DVD

    I just pick up two. Awesome!!

  • hallary

    Has anyone heard of - Azon Discount Grabber (google it)? They have a little gold box on the site that spits out any discount for any product on Amazon. Bought my Bose speakers cheaper than the discounted price. Don't think too many people know about this.

  • Kelly G

    Love the product. Have bought all the bose pRoducts as they have come out and think this sound and set up is the best.
    My only issue is that the guy at Apple told me you could Daisy Chain up to 8 of the speakers but I think he was wrong as the UE app only doubles (2) up. Might there be another way to link more booms to play off the same iPhone/pod/pad, etc?

  • James Pinkney

    Fantastic review. I've owned one for a few months and I'm so impressed with it. Not being able to change tracks directly from the speaker is also a frustration of mine though. Do you think UE will have plans to change this in a future software update?

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