There comes a time when the speaker on your smartphone or laptop just doesn’t cut it. Carrying a portable speaker with you used to mean sacrificing a large amount of space in your bag. These days, there are more small, portable, bluetooth speakers than you can shake a stick at. Several friends turned me on to the new Bose Soundlink, Big Jambox and Sony’s SRSX5 speakers. Fortunately, all of these are available at your local electronics store, so off I went. I must have spent a good hour listening to all three as well as several others on display. All of the units were working (shocker) and the staff even allowed me to bring them into one of their sound rooms.
In order to properly test them all, I needed to play the same tracks across all of the devices. I loaded up some Bob Marley, Steve Miller Band, Frank Sinatra, Ice Cube and Miles Davis. Those five would tell the tale for any good audiophile if you ask me. Each device presented their own ups and downs, but in the end there was one clear winner, the Ultimate Ears BOOM.
The first thing that turned me on to the UE BOOM is the size. It’s roughly the same diameter as a bottle of beer (2.6D x 7.1H) and fits perfectly in any cupholder or backpack side pocket. It feels solid in your hand with a decent amount of heft to it. To me, this is the proper size for a portable speaker.
Opening up the cylinder the speaker comes in reminded me of the old drive-through bank teller tubes. You know, the ones you would shove your cash and checks into then place it into a machine that sucks it along to the teller. The same pneumatic air systems were are also used in large factories to move documents from one office to another. Before everything was digital. Two small hockey puck shaped containers above and below the speaker hold the charging cable, instructions for use and water plug cover.
The speaker can be charged with the included USB-MicroUSB cable via any USB port or with the included wall adapter. I’ve been charging it off my laptop with zero issues. A white indicator light lets you know when its charging, fully charged or needs to be charged. I spent a weekend in Vegas and didn’t need to charge it for 3 days using it when I was in the room. The battery life is listed at 15 hours and I’d say it has surpassed that. The device will also turn itself off after a few minutes of non use.
The power button is clearly in the center on one end, but I have yet to touch it with my hand. More on that later. There is also a metal hook to hang your UE BOOM from your hammock line. If you want to hardline into the speaker, there is a auxiliary 3.5 input as well.
One of the other reasons I chose the UE BOOM is it’s IPX4 Water Resistant Acoustic Skin. Not all of my travels involve a hotel room like the one I shot this in. I’ll be bringing the speaker with me camping and knowing it will be okay with a little rain or the occasional splash offers peace of mind. A small rubber cap as shown in the image below ships with the unit protecting the charging/aux ports.
The reason I haven’t touched the power button is because the UE Boom iOS App (Android App Link) does it all for me. Once I pair my iPhone with the speaker, the app will turn the device on for me from across the room. Genius. From within the app I can do everything but update the device. That requires you plugging it into your computer of course.
If you have two UE BOOM speakers, you can pair them together with the app to create a surround sound environment.
A built-in equalizer lets you fine tune your music however you wish.
Use it as an alarm clock or speakerphone.
Change the language anytime and be alerted when the device has a new update available to download. Ultimate Ears did a really wonderful job with the app. It works great and does everything a portable speaker should. Cheers.
While I enjoy this beer, let me get into the final factor that brought the BOOM home, sound quality. I’m going to break down my thoughts on each of the speakers I tested so you can conclude for yourself which is ideal for your travels and why I choose mine.
Big Jambox – This speaker is the loudest and largest of the group I tested. It normally runs for $299 but I have just noticed they dropped the price to $199 because speakers in the under $200 range are blowing it away. The Jambox is built like a tank, big and square, almost like a small shoebox. The bass is nice and deep and the while the mid tones were still good, the highs fell off quite a bit. Listening to rap sounded like I pulled up next to a teenager with a set of 12-inch Cerwin Vega’s bumping in the backseat (I know because I was that kid once don’t judge me!). The main issue I had with this speaker is connectivity. As soon as I moved more than 7-8 feet from the device, it started to crackle. My friend Mike has the same issue with his when we use it in his backyard. In the end, it was too large for my needs and I don’t trust its reliability.
Bose Soundlink – I had my eye on this guy for quite some time. The pair of Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones that were stolen from me are missed every time I set foot on an airplane. Bose is a big name in sound so of course the Soundlink needed to be considered. The BS presented a lot of great features and sounded great in the highs and mids. The bass wasn’t anything spectacular and I felt like the design was just plain ugly. As I stepped away from the Soundlink I felt like Bose just cheaply put something together to get into the lower cost market. It wasn’t the Bose quality I am used to with their headphone offerings.
Sony SRSX5 – The Sony unit sounded the worst of the bunch. I’ve recently fallen in love with Sony’s A series cameras, so I wanted to see how their speakers stacked up. Unfortunately, it failed to meet my expectations in every category in comparison. It sounded okay, had good features, but nothing really stood out. It didn’t get very loud and I had trouble connecting to its Bluetooth several times. Don’t worry Sony, you still have some amazing cameras and of course the Playstation.
Ultimate Ears Boom – If you’ve actually read this review you already know why I chose the Boom. It’s water-resistant, the perfect size for my needs, the app works great and 15 hours is more than enough time between charges. So, how does it sound? I’d put money on it that you would be amazed at how loud and clear this small speaker sounds. It also features 360º sound, something none of the others do. I can place it in the center of my poker table and everyone gets the same listening experience. The Big Jambox definitely hits harder in the bass and the Bose highs sound more crisp, but the overall sound of the Boom was very, very good and clear at all volumes.
I did the work for you so you don’t need to go to the store and listen for yourself. It also took me 4 stores to find one that had all of their units working and powered on. Does that irritate anyone else, especially over the holidays? Choosing a speaker is much like choosing a tire, very subjective. If my needs align with yours, get yourself a BOOM and don’t look back.
You can do me a solid and purchase it through our Amazon Link here ($199). Thank you for sharing!
The UE BOOM features great 360-degree sound, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity, portable size, water-resistance and a great compatible iOS and Android App. Everything you want in a speaker to-go and then some.