Looking at most Bluetooth speakers, how they work, where the buttons are and how you charge it up are all pretty obvious from the get go. This isn't the case with the UE Boom. This might seem like a weakness, but being elusive is only this speaker's first act.
Coming in at $199 (£169, AU$199), the UE Boom isn't cheap. But it more than makes up the difference with its second and third act: a wealth of surprising and impressive features.
Splashed in a variety of colors that Ultimate Ears charmingly calls "superhero", the Boom we received for review does its best Superman impression with a vibrant red and blue.
The Boom's cylindrical frame is coated in a single piece of deep blue mesh fabric. This completely covers the guts of the unit, including the multi-directional speaker, the battery and microphone.
Adding some nice contrast to the build is the red rubber spine and end caps. Here, we finally get to unearth some of the understated functionality of the Boom. On the top cap, the center is stamped with a power button that lights up with a subtle LED when turned on. Next to it is a Bluetooth pairing button, which is fairly self-explanatory. You won't need it again once you're connected.
Running down the cylindrical body, the volume controls stand out as its most prominent design feature. You literally can't miss them. These buttons each offer a satisfying click when pressed, and if you hold them both down for a second, the speaker announces the charge remaining in the battery.
Once you reach the bottom, a rubber flap covers up a 3.5mm port for wired listening and the micro USB charging port. It's optional, meaning that you don't need to have it on if you so choose to remove it. But keep in mind, without the flap, the Boom loses a bit of its water-resistant capabilities.
Specifically, the UE Boom has a water resistance grade of IPX4, meaning it can withstand splashing water. Don't deliberately spray a focused stream of water at it or submerge it. Adding to that, the mesh fabric is safe and easy to wash should you splash red wine or a little bit of mud on it.
This speaker comes in an appealing package. Matching its cylindrical qualities, the casing cracks open like a time capsule and cleverly packs in a neon micro USB cable and wall charger.
The UE Boom's design not only makes a fun, colorful visual statement, but its materials are integral components to its durability and resistance to the elements.
The UE Boom is as power-packed inside as it is vibrant on the outside, with capable sound and a long-lasting battery. This speaker sounds quite vivid out of the box, but if you don't have the companion app, you're really missing out on some interesting functionality.
Available for free on Android and iOS devices, the app, simply called "UE Boom," is what makes the investment shine. That's far more than what the competition in its size range can say.
In the app, you can tweak simple settings, such as the speaker's name as it appears on the list of Bluetooth devices to connect. You can also set up an alarm that wakes you to the noise or song of your choice.
Digging in a little more, you can adjust the equalizer of the UE Boom through the app, if the stock settings aren't doing well in your listening environment. Options to give bass, vocal clarity, and the mids and highs a clear kick in the rear are available on the fly. If those don't do it for you, you can create a custom EQ.
Lastly, through the app, you can link up with another Boom or a UE Mini Boom to bring the party to two (adjacent) rooms at the same time or to create a surround sound effect.
Regardless of any tweaks in the equalizer, the sound offering is impressive. Bass performance is responsive and tight, but not explosive. Most genres sound evenly balanced with lows, mids and highs all playing along nicely. Spoken word in podcasts sounds just fine too, if that's your audio of choice.
The UE Boom claims to fire sound in 360 degrees, which would make the sound "viewing angle" crisp no matter where you're positioned around the speaker. While the effect is closer to a full 360-degrees than what's pumped out of the TDK TREK Flex, I still found that there is a small dead spot right where the rubber spine is located. It's a minute gripe that shouldn't change your mind on the purchase, but it pokes holes in the feature's validity, which is prominently featured on the packaging.
To utilize this speaker's speakerphone capabilities, you'll have to answer the calls on your phone. It feels a little antiquated for its new-age sense of style, but again, it's no deal-breaker.
Lastly, this speaker can easily groove for its advertised battery life of 15 hours. It accompanied me without issue during a few all-day fits of spring cleaning before requiring some juice.
If you've been shopping t for a Bluetooth speaker for a while now, you already know there are plenty of cheaper options available. But unless you're looking at the UE Boom's little bro, the $99 (£79, AU$99) UE Mini Boom, you'll be hard-pressed to find this impressive breadth of functionality and pizazz in speakers even twice its cost.
Sure, the price of admission is arguably steep. But for the extra scratch, you're getting a very capable Bluetooth speaker that will deliver awesome audio to the longest of house parties.