Name: Ultimate Ears Boom
Type: Wireless NFC-enabled Bluetooth speaker
Specifications: Click here for full specs
Price as reviewed: £169.99
An attractive and deafeningly loud Bluetooth speaker with waterproof credentials, the Ultimate Ears Boom is a neat speaker. But can it justify its high cost? Read our full review to find out!
Like the Creative Airwaves HD Bluetooth speaker that we reviewed a little while back, the Ultimate Ears Boom shies away from the standard boxy shape that most Bluetooth speaker manufacturers opt for. It’s one of the more adventurous portable speaker designs we’ve seen in recent times, and is a real looker as a result: available in a range of colours (we tried out a sky blue edition) the Boom is cylindrical in shape, designed to stand upright rather than lay on its side.
A colourful mesh grille wraps around the speaker, met in the middle by a thick white rubberised strip that houses chunky volume buttons. Rubber is also used on the top of the Boom, where you’ll find the power button and Bluetooth indicator, and on the bottom, where you’ll find the microUSB charging port and a 3.5mm aux input for hooking up a device that isn’t Bluetooth compatible. There’s also the strange addition of a screw point on the bottom, for hooking the Boom up to a tripod. Who exactly would find this useful we have no idea, and it’s the one unnecessary blemish on an otherwise lovely design.
Shaped and weighing roughly the same as a bottle of water, the Boom feels sturdy and rugged in the hand – it’s rubberised sections suggest it could withstand a drop or two without too much damage being caused. The Boom also features some waterproofing, with the wrap-around speaker grille and rubber casing protecting its innards from the elements. While the charging port and aux input are worryingly exposed on our review model, Ultimate Ears have since stated that the Boom will ship with an additional rubber cover cap to keep those exposed ports protected when out in the rain too.
Connecting the speaker to your Bluetooth device is simple. You can manually connect the speaker to your handset by long-pressing the Bluetooth button on the Boom’s top and then selecting it through your handset or, if your handset supports it, enabling NFC connectivity and then swiping the handset across the surface of the Boom to pair the two. Older devices, of course, can hook up with a 3.5mm jack cable into the auxiliary port.
Ultimate Ears claim the Boom’s internal rechargeable battery will last as long as 15 hours from a single charge, but that’s a best-case scenario when you’re using the Boom at lower volume levels. A more realistic expectation is to squeeze between eight or nine hours out of the Boom at higher volume levels, which in itself is perfectly acceptable battery performance, putting it up there with the best in this size bracket.
Once you’re connected and playing tunes, the Boom goes loud. Really loud. Considering its size, you could get complaints from your neighbours if you start blasting this out at full volume, meaning the Boom will have no problem providing the tunes in an outdoor party. It has a tendency to distort considerably near the top end of its volume threshold, but the occasions where you’ll comfortably pushing the Boom that hard are so few as to be a negligible point. Rest assured, if you need volume, the Boom can provide it.
As for the claims of “360-degree sound” touted on the box, that’s more arguable. The Boom uses a pair of 1.5-inch drivers on either side of the speaker (paired with 2-inch passive radiators to boost bass frequencies) rather than any truly 360-degree solution, resulting in a mono output signal. This set up does the job though, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a point around the speakers circumference from which the speaker’s output sounds notably inferior.
In terms of sound quality, it’s not an audiophile response range across the spectrum, but the speaker still performs admirably. Bass response is solid and, so long as you’re not going to ridiculous volume levels, it’s a balanced sound that is clear and enjoyable across trebles, mids and lower frequencies. You could argue that it lacks a bit of sparkle at the higher frequencies (and for a penny-shy of £170 it’d be reasonable to expect a really crisp sound), but as far as Bluetooth speakers go, the Boom more than holds its own sonically.
Though we’d hope for a little more depth to the sound os a speaker costing £170, as a whole package, the Ultimate Ears Boom is a wonderful speaker. It’s got an eye-catching, portable and rugged design, simple NFC pairing options and a solid battery performance, with sound quality at least a match for its rivals (if a little lacking for the price). If you’re planning a wet and wild outdoor party, the Ultimate Ears Boom will feel right at home in the heart of it.
By Gerald Lynch | August 8th, 2013