It’s been a few years since we’ve looked at Ultimate Ears’ Boom speaker lineup — the company’s 2015 Boom 2 and Megaboom were both solid performers that have held their own for the past three years, so it’s debatable whether they’re even in need of an update, but Ultimate Ears certainly seems to think it’s time, and after a nice foray into the Wi-Fi and Alexa speaker market earlier this year with its even bigger Megablast, UE has returned to its roots with a new Boom 3 and Megaboom 3, successors to the Boom 2 and Megaboom, respectively (there was never a “Megaboom 2”). Today we’re taking a look at the smaller, classic model.
UE’s Boom 3 will be immediately recognizable, as the design changes are subtle and iterative, maintaining the same iconic look that UE’s speakers have now become known for. While the model we received was in basic black (“Nightblack’), UE also offers Boom 3 in Lagoon Blue, Sunset Red, and Ultraviolet Purple, along with two Apple-exclusive colors: Cloud and Denim, and a Storm version that’s exclusive to Best Buy. All of them are now made from the same durable two-toned fabrics used in motorcycle jackets and fire equipment, having a nice silky and glossy look, and borrow most of their design cues from the Blast/Megablast lineup, squaring off the edges into a more perfectly cylindrical design, and providing color choices that, while still great, are more muted and conservative than the prior models. While prior Boom speakers had a design that seemed more for the outdoor adventurer, Boom 3 has a more sophisticated look that will fit in better on your desk or living room table. Personally, we like the new design, but while it made sense in the Wi-Fi Megablast, which was clearly a speaker designed to be left at home, we can understand how some may miss the sportier look of the Boom 2.
Boom 3 also borrows an additional features from Megablast: compatibility with UE’s new Power Up charging dock, but actually incorporates a good design change along with it. While Megablast still left the Micro-USB charging port on the bottom, thereby pretty much requiring users to purchase the charging dock if they wanted to use the speaker on external power without leaving it in an awkward position, with Boom 3, the port has been moved to the back of the speaker, letting you leave it plugged in while standing in a proper, upright position. UE supplies a flat USB to Micro-USB cable for powering the speaker, but you’ll need to provide your own power adapter, as there’s none in the box — a trend that has basically become the norm for most Bluetooth speakers in this price range. The built-in battery provides the same 15 hours of playback time as its predecessor.
Boom 3 has also incorporate one other interesting design change, however, with the elimination of the front rubber strip that served as the base for the iconic plus and minus buttons on the front of the speaker. While the buttons are still there, they now simply blend in flush with the fabric that surrounds the speaker on all sides. We think it’s a nice change that evolves the Boom 3 look in an even more classy direction. Again, this is a version of the Boom that will fit in much better with most home decor, although it’s still rugged enough to take out on the road, or use in the shower, with an IP67 waterproof rating, and durable construction, plus it now floats.
What’s perhaps most interesting about the Boom 3 is that Ultimate Ears has not actually made any changes to the sound quality. In all fairness, the Boom 2 put out pretty great sound for a speaker in its class, so the argument can be made that there’s really no need to improve on an already good thing. Boom 3 features the same two-inch active drivers and four-inch passive radiators as the Boom 2, and still provides the same punchy bass, good clarity, and astonishingly high and distortion-free volume levels. That said, UE now offers and improved iOS app that provides access to a built-in five-band equalizer, offering more options for adjusting the sound from Boom 3, but you’re still basically dealing with the same speaker hardware. One thing that the app does offer, however, is direct access to Apple Music playlists, which can be called up by a long-press on Boom 3’s new “Magic Button.” While we’re not sure of how useful this is — you’ll still need your paired iPhone within Bluetooth range and the Boom 3 app has at least be running in the background — we can see a certain appeal for those who regularly listen to them same playlists; the app lets you save up to four playlists or albums, which you can call up and cycle through with a long press of the Magic Button. The button is also used to turn the speaker on and off, play and pause music, and skip to the next track, but there’s sadly no way to skip back a track.
Ultimate Ears’ Boom 3 is a worthy successor to an already great speaker, but if you already own the Boom 2, you may not find much incentive to upgrade, as you’re basically just getting the same sound quality wrapped up in a new design that is slightly more rugged. For users new to the Boom family, however, this may be the best time to jump in, and it’s worth noting, however, that Ultimate Ears is offering the Boom 3 at a more competitive price tag — $30 less than the earlier model launched at, and providing a bit of room for users who want to add on the $40 Power Up charging dock. UE’s Boom 2 was one of the best speakers in its class even at the higher price, so Boom 3’s lower $150 price tag makes it even more attractive. UE’s Boom 3 is one of the best sounding speakers you can get in this size and price range,
Company and Price
Company: Ultimate Ears
Model: Boom 3