Over the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to the current-generation of Ultimate Ears’ Bluetooth Speaker lineup; the UE Megaboom, UE Boom2, and UE Roll. This comes after owning the original UE Boom for about two years, and listening to is almost daily in my car, at home, in my office, and in parking lots while putting on ski gear. That’s to say, I have a lot of experience with the Boom, and know how it sounds. First, the flagship of the line is the original Boom – called the Boom2 in its current generation. It’s mid-sized in the lineup, and straddles the line between portability and sound quality.
What It Is
The UE Boom2 is the latest generation of Ultimate Ears’ popular portable, rugged bluetooth speaker. It’s roughly the volume of a pint of beer, fits in cup holders, comes in bold colors, is minimally waterproof, ruggedized, and has premium, eq’d sound. From UE:
“UE BOOM 2 is the 360-degree wireless Bluetooth speaker that blasts loud, insanely great sound with deep, powerful bass. Everywhere you go.”
Find official specs here: http://www.ultimateears.com/en-us/ueboom2/specs
Who It’s For
The cool thing about the Boom2 is it’s broad appeal to a bunch of audiences. The speaker is small and portable, so makes a great travel speaker if weight isn’t your primary concern. Think travel like car camping, road trips, tour groups (the kind with rolling luggage, tour busses), etc. The speaker is rugged, coated in rubber, and waterproof – so it’s great for busy families with rowdy kids knocking things over, great to drag around the vacation house out to the edge of the hot tub or to the side of the pool. The Boom2 also has singular, handsome looks, and is right at home (in some of the colors) on the edge of the desk (where I have mine right now), on the kitchen bar, or in the middle of the cocktail table. The one place where it’s not the best is for more permanent installation – yes, the speaker can be powered and charged from MicroUSB, and has a line input port – but they’re on the bottom of the unit. So if you want to use the Boom2 while plugged in, connected to the aux audio port, have access to the top power and pair buttons, and have it in the “correct” orientation for the side-firing stereo speakers (with treble on top and bass on bottom), then you’ll have to use the tripod screw mount to elevate the speaker up a bit. Kind of weird. But anyway, the Boom2 is great for portability.
I tested the UE Boom2 in my home, in my office, and while traveling up and down to the Colorado ski mountains over the course of about a month. I listened to music on Spotify from my iPhone AND an android phone, locally stored FLAC tracks from my computer, podcasts from the iOS podcast app, audio cast from the Chromecast Audio and connected to the aux port, and took a bunch of conference calls on it.
After owning the OG Boom for two years, the Boom2 is a definite, albeit modest improvement. The units physical fit and finish are tighter – the speaker grill is a tighter weave. The buttons feel clickier. The port covers on the bottom are nicely integrated. The unit fits in your hand and feels heavy and solid. There are no weird protrusions or catches – each surface feels great. Turning it on gives a reassuring power on noise, and instantly goes into the drumbeat pairing mode. It just works well.
- The Boom and Boom 2, when Doubled Up, each act as a stereo speaker individually, playing the same audio source. That makes sense, since the Boom and Boom 2 aren’t acoustically identical, so using each as one side of a stereo pair would be weird. I assume that if I were to double up two Boom 2’s, each would act as one side of a stereo pair. I can’t try this because I only own one Boom 2.
- The sound quality is a definite improvement form the OG Boom. It’s clearer, and gets considerably louder without distorting. I noticed that as the volume is turned up, the Boom2 seems to adjust the EQ accordingly, so nothing gets distorted, but the volume increases. I’m not a huge fan of this, but it works to consistently squeeze acceptable sounding audio out of a relatively small speaker. The only way to do this without a computer controlled EQ would be to just build a bigger speaker… which is not the point here.
- The pairing process of the Boom2 is a breeze. Additionally, it pairs quickly with my iPhone when I turn it on, and has a much longer Bluetooth range than the original Boom.
- The volume of the Boom2 is controlled directly from my iPhone. This is a small detail, but important. When I click the volume buttons on my phone, the actual volume of the Boom2 changes. This is in contrast with the other, less-good method of volume control, where I change the volume on my phone, giving the speaker a “hotter” output, but the actual volume setting of the device is independently controlled on the device. With the Boom2, these two volumes are one and the same, which I like a lot.
- I love squeezing the Boom2 and hearing it tell me how much battery I have left.
- For the size of this thing, the sound is really really fantastic. Sure it doesn’t have the best most ground shaking bass, but it sounds good in almost all regards. Music sounds smooth and pleasing. Podcasts are clear. And the speakerphone function works as it should. The FLAC files I listened to sounded good too – but no better than the compressed tracks I listened to on Spotify. I’d say if you’re looking for an audiophile grade speaker that will really make your super high end audio tracks shine, this is not the speaker. But for rocking out to Spotify tracks, this thing is really great.
- In “Double Up” mode, paired to my original UE Boom, I experienced a good amount of crackling and sound dropouts on the Boom 2. In this mode, it appeared that my phone was paired over bluetooth to the Boom, and then the Boom was paired to the Boom 2, sending audio data. I’m not sure if this is an issue with the Boom sending audio data to the Boom 2, the Boom 2 receiving the audio stream, or some other linking issue between the Original Boom and Boom 2 – but it was a pain to deal with. Of note, the speakers were about 15 feet from each other, and the Boom was 10 feet from my phone, in a normal living room, both with charged batteries, latest firmware.
- The color of my Boom 1 is orange rubber and a purple grille. How horribly ugly, and unfitting in any decor. I understand that it’s fun and youthful, but for my desk space, it sticks out like an eyesore. Luckily, Logitech does sell Boom 2 in more subdued colors.
- The motion activated functions – tap tap for track skipping etc – I don’t care. I never used these except to test that they work. And even when I was using the speaker in a more “dynamic” environment.. with friends rocking out in a parking lot before skiing – my phone was never so far away that I felt I needed to pick up the speaker to change the track. It just seems like an unnecessary feature.
- On a few tracks, the super low bass does get cutoff. I know this is because of its small size, but still, I really love that deep bass in XX’s “Fantasy”.
- I wish the audio in, charging ports were all on the top, so i could keep this thing standing up correctly while charging, connecting to external audio, etc. I know it’s easy enough to turn over, but it still seems upside down when I do that.
Should you buy it?
If you’re looking for a super versatile, great sounding Bluetooth speaker that will sound great in normal rooms in your house, and have good chops for rocking small parties as well as your campsite, get this one. It’s totally usable in the widest range of situations I can imagine, and looks great doing it.
Find It Here
I’m psyched that the UE Boom2 is doing so well for Ultimate Ears – it’s really a great speaker that’s hard to be truly disappointed with in any areas. It has its flaws, but it really is overwhelmingly great and versatile. Get this speaker and drag it around everywhere.