Ultimate Ears Boom Wireless Speaker -- REVIEW
By Dave Wolfe
Music on the Course is Here To Stay
The last time that I reviewed a Bluetooth audio product, I opened the discussion about playing music on the golf course. Not all are in favor of it, but many of you reported that you enjoy listening to music while playing.
After a summer of observation, I now firmly believe that music on the course is here to stay.
Some of you will bemoan this deviation from the purity of the game, but really, that “purity” is a sliding scale anyway (see persimmon woods). The game changes, and the new rapidly becomes the new norm.
Audio tech devices (i.e. your phones) are so prevalent, and inexpensive that their presence as a part of the golf experience in inevitable. That’s not a bad thing though. Golf course music spreading is not like a nasty flu virus pandemic. It’s spreading because we, the majority of the golf-for-fun population, like to play golf with a bit of background music, and we want the music.
So the question now becomes not if music will be on the course, but rather, what are the best products for playing music on the course?
Ultimate Ears BOOM
I’m going to get right out in front of this one and say that the Ultimate Ears BOOM (UE BOOM for short) may in fact be the best speaker that I have ever used.
End of review.
Go buy one now.
I’m being a little flippant here, but I am so confident that you will be amazed by this little speaker, that sending you off to buy one without any more info is not really a credibility risk. It’s that good.
I’ve got lots more info about the UE BOOM for you, and actually a couple of minor critiques, but it you stop reading now and click this LINK to buy one, I’ll understand.
What makes the UE BOOM stand out?
So you are still here? Not yet convinced to part with your hard earned coin? I get that. We all like to have as much information as possible before we buy stuff. I’m going to hit the key elements for me that separates the UE BOOM from other wireless audio devices.
Though most devices are pretty simple to pair with our phones these days, the UE BOOM seemed simpler than most. The first time you turn it on, it searches for devices to pair with automatically, finding my iPhone in about 1 second. If you need to pair it with another device, hold the Bluetooth button on the top for three seconds and it will be ready to pair again.
This is where the UE BOOM starts to pull away from the other speakers I have used. The UE BOOM can pair with up to eight devices. That means you can pair your phone and your tablet. For my other speakers that is an or operation. Phone or tablet. My son sometimes borrows my other speaker, and I always need to re-pair it after. Not so with the UE BOOM. It remembers.
Cool Story Bro Time:
This summer my brother and I were hiking in Tahoe and we both paired to the UE BOOM. This allowed us to swap in and out of DJ duty. The UE BOOM played music from the first phone, and when that one stopped, it would play from the second without any additional setting changes or prompting.
On the course, your whole foursome could pair with the speaker, taking turns playing music. I imagine that this could quickly become part of the foursome’s house rules. Make a birdie, pick the next playlist.
Control-wise, you have four total buttons on the UE BOOM: On-Off, Bluetooth, Vol (+), and Vol (-). That’s it. When you press power, it comes on and pairs, saying hello and playing a tone to let you know that the speaker is connected.
The +/- volume buttons are huge and easy to press. If you press them both, it will tell you how much battery life have left. Mine really seems to be stuck at “100% Charge”. More on the battery life in a bit.
There is also an app that lets you enhance the UE BOOM experience even more. You can set the EQ, rename the speaker, pair two UE BOOM speakers together, and even turn on the speaker from the app.
That was my favorite discovery. Just hit power on button in the app and the speaker turns on. I don’t know why this is so cool to me, but I smile and feel like a wizard every time I make the speaker come alive without touching it.
So here is where the rubber hits the road with the UE BOOM. The sound out of this small speaker is amazing. The bass is deeper than any other small speaker I have used. Somehow they have packed deep bass into a unit the size of a tall beer can. That’s 16oz, not 24oz.
The sound quality is impressive, rich, and can be quite loud. Surprisingly loud for a little speaker. Most importantly, it does loud well, distorting only slightly when you max it out.
It can keep up with your deep bass needs on the course. It may not vibrate the cart, but it does pretty well. Running The Chemical Brothers through the UE BOOM did not phase it at all.
On The Course
There are a couple of key elements that make the UE BOOM a great music-on-the-course choice.
This speaker is compact. It fits easily into the pockets of your golf bag for transport to and from the course. It’s the perfect size to fit into the cup holder in your pushcart or your power cart.
The battery lasts for 15 hours of play between charges. 15 hours. If you left it in your bag between rounds, that’s three rounds of muni-speed golf. You’ll be bummed about the 5-hour rounds, but the UE BOOM will keep going. Total charge via USB takes about three and a half hours.
The UE BOOM is IPX4 rated, meaning that you can get it wet and it’s still going to work. Don’t let it sit in the pool, but a little rain or splash of adult soda is not a unit killer.
There are a couple of crazy dudes on youtube that have run the speaker under the faucet to show this. Here’s one of the videos:
So this doesn’t matter, right? You are all playing stock black grips and bags... I won’t give you any grief if you like the fact that you can find a color of UE BOOM to match your golf gear. That’s how I roll too. The one in the photos is the Skrillex limited edition design. It’s wacky and I dig it. Don’t worry, there are more conservative colors too.
The box/tube that the UE BOOM comes in is actually very cool too. The unit slides out of the outer packaging, opening like a clamshell. Above and below the speakers are small puck-like containers that hold the USB cord and enough plug options to find electricity for your BOOM wherever you are in the world.
Yes, it’s just the box, but I really felt like I was opening up a well-designed product when I opened it, and I was not disappointed.
Not Quite Perfect
As much as I rave about the UE BOOM, there are a couple of things that I found myself wishing for when I used it.
Track Advance on the Unit
If you want to skip a song, you need to do so from your phone or whatever is supplying the music. The UE BOOM buttons won’t do it. It was not a big deal, but it was something I expected to be able to do after using other speakers.
With the app control though, I rarely even touch the BOOM after putting it wherever I want it to play from. Maybe the on-unit track control will come in a future firmware update.
This is a bit of a weird criticism, especially after I just previously told you how loud the speaker gets. In the spirit of total honesty though, there were times when I wished it was a bit louder. I wanted the Caddyshack dance moment. The man’s a menace!
Volume was 90% of the time sufficient. I guess that there were just a few times when I wanted to run it up to 11. Enter my UE Mega-BOOM curiosity...
BOOM the BOOM
Over the years reviewing stuff for mygolfspy, there have been a couple of must have products that have come across my desk. The Ultimate Ears BOOM is definitely one of them. If you want to add music to your casual golf rounds, this is the speaker to get.
The speaker is not cheap, listing at $199 on the UE BOOM site, but they also have a “Thrift Shop” where you can get refurbished speakers for $149 that still have a 2-year warranty. There are cheaper speakers out there, but I have yet to find one that can compete with the UE BOOM. You get what you pay for is the usual line. The BOOM quality is going to cost you a bit more. You are all Google savvy though. There may even be better deals to be had.
I think that the UE BOOM is the Ultimate Ears model that is going to fit most of our golfing audio needs. Most, but not all. I mentioned that there are times when I want a little more volume. There are also some of you out there who only carry your clubs, thus lacking a cup holder to put a speaker into. Don’t worry, we are going to cover those bases as well. In the near future, I am going to bring you my take on the fairway-house-party potential of the UE MEGABOOM, as well as the shoulder-slingers friend, the UE ROLL.
Music on the course is here to stay, and the UE BOOM and cohort will make sure we like the sound of it.
Tech Specs: Ultimate Ears BOOM Wireless Speaker
· Pair up to 8 Bluetooth® enabled source devices - Connect up to two source devices at the same time.
· Wirelessly play (stream) to 2 UE BOOMs from one Source.
· Mobile range of play is up to 15m (50 ft).
· NFC (passive) enabled - (works with active NFC enabled source devices * Android Jellybean and higher).
· Maximum Sound Level: 88dBA
· Frequency Range: 90Hz - 20kHz
· Drivers: Two 1.5", 4 Ohm Drivers; Two 2" Passive Radiators
· Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery for up to 15 hours of battery life between Micro USB charges.
o Actual battery life will vary with use, settings and environmental conditions.
o Rechargeable batteries have a limited number of charge cycles.
· Charge time: 3.4 hours
APP CONFIGURABLE (iOS AND ANDROID)
2-YEAR LIMITED HARDWARE WARRANTY
· Diameter: 6.5cm (2.6”)
· Height: 18 cm (7.1”)
· Weight: 538g (speaker only) 19oz
· For Audio Playback:
o Smartphones, tablets and other devices that support Bluetooth® wireless audio profile [Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP)] or 3.5 mm audio output.
· For Phone Calls:
o Phones that support Bluetooth® Hands-Free Profile (HFP1.5)
· IPX4 RATED:
§ Ingress Protection Rating – Liquid – Level 4: Water Resistant Acoustic Skin