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Musician’s Corner: Turn Music Into A Social Occasion With UE BOOM – Accessory Review

It’s time for another episode of Musician’s Corner. We’ve got a decent supply of working musicians around here and love to talk about apps and accessories that we think would be cool for music fans out there. Last week, we told you about IK Multimedia’s new iPad and iPad mini mounts and stands that are specially designed for musicians. Today, we go hands-on with a new Bluetooth speaker from Ultimate Ears. The same company that created some of the best quality headphones on the market has turned music into a reason to get together again with the UE BOOM connectable portable speaker.

The Facts

Company Name: Ultimate Ears Product Name: UE BOOM Price: $199.99 Compatibility: Any Bluetooth-enabled device. Website: www.ultimateears.com Date Reviewed: May 27, 2013

The Basics

Ultimate Ears’ BOOM is a Bluetooth compatible portable speaker that lets you link up two speakers together for the ultimate social experience. If you are in the backyard while your buddy is in the living room, you can both listen to the same songs at the same time with different speakers. Take the UE BOOM with you on bike rides, floating down the river, or on your next camping trip. The tall-can shaped speaker can fit in your cup holder or clip to your belt loop. It is portable enough to go anywhere, but loud enough to be heard over the bustle of a busy beach party.

What’s in the Box

The cylindrical shaped box opens up to reveal the UE BOOM in one of six different colors. Each color includes two additional accent colors. For example, the model I am reviewing is fuchsia with red and white. On the speaker itself is a small metal D-ring so you can clip it to a Carabiner or other hooking device. You can then connect the UE BOOM to your belt loop, lanyard, or anything you want to clip it to. In addition to the speaker, there is a USB-to-micro USB connector and a USB wall plug adapter. The wall plug adapter is a nice bonus since you aren’t always near a computer when you are blasting your favorite tunes and you may need a quick charge up to continue rocking out.

Setup

Once out of the box, touch the “On/Off” button on the top of the speaker. An LED light will appear to let you know that the speaker is on. The speaker automatically pares with your device the first time it is turned on. However, if you want to pare it with a different device, press the Bluetooth button on the top, next to the On/Of button. While the light is blinking, turn on Bluetooth on your device and pare your iPhone to the speaker. Once they are connected, you are ready to go. As long as the speaker is on, your music will automatically transfer to the UE BOOM from your device. This system allows you to pare two UE BOOM speaker units together for the ultimate stereo surround sound. I only had one speaker to review, so was unable to determine how to link two devices. However, based on information from the company’s website, it appears that the process is similar to connecting your device through Bluetooth. However, you would use a iOS compatible app instead.

The Speaker

The UE Boom measures approximately 7-inches tall and 2-inches in diameter. It is literally shaped like a tall can of beer. The entire device is wrapped in a water resistant cloth mesh. The mesh acts as the speaker cover, allowing music to go out while protecting the delicate sound system from damage. The speaker has a soft rubber top and bottom with a strip of rubber that connects from one side to the other. The rubber strip houses the volume controls, which are nothing more than a plus (+) and minus (-) symbol set flush on the device. To increase or decrease the volume, push the corresponding symbol. The On/Off control and Bluetooth discovery button are at the top of the speaker. These controls are also flush with the device so that there are no protruding buttons anywhere on the entire speaker. The D-ring on the bottom of the speaker is the only item that sticks out from the device. The mini USB jack and a mini headphone jack are also on the bottom of the speaker. Conveniently, the EB BOOM is designed to stand upright on either side, so you can still charge it while standing it up. The UE BOOM only weighs 19 ounces. For those keeping track, that makes it nearly as light as a tall can of beer, which is 16 ounces. Because of its shape and weight, you can walk around with it at a party and not feel like it is too bulky or heavy. The only problem you’d have is where to put your drink while holding the speaker. Luckily, the D-ring makes it possible for you to clip it to your belt and walk around with it for hands-free music listening. It is water resistant, so you can keep it with you while participating in a good old-fashioned water fight. The UE BOOM is not waterproof, so don’t dive into the lake with it, but if someone decides to squirt you with a water pistol, you don’t have to worry about ruining the music experience.

The Sound

The UE BOOM is not just shaped like a surround sound speaker. It actually has multiple internal speakers for a true stereo sound. I played “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash and the split speaker audio came out of two different sides of the speaker. Both sides are packing 1.5” 4 Ohm Drivers with 2” passive radiators, so you get the exact same sound no matter which side of the device you are standing on. I turned the UE BOOM to its maximum level and the audio was so loud it hurt my ears. Thanks to the dual-speakers, you can really fill a room with this device. The sound quality is just as good from the front as it is from the back. While the speaker is unbelievably loud for such a small device, it performed less than perfect at full volume. I turned up both the speaker and my iPhone to full volume and there was some distortion on songs that were bass heavy and guitar heavy.

What’s Hot

The best part of the UE BOOM is its portability. I love that I can hold it in one hand and it is comfortable and easy to carry. Thanks to the design, you can put it in the drink holder of your camping chair, your water bottle holder on your bike, or even a drink koozie. Because it weighs less than 20 ounces, you can clip it to your belt loop and not feel weighed down by it.  Because it is water-resistant, you can keep it with you while enjoying water play. Just don’t dunk it into a pool or anything. The stereo speakers make the UE BOOM great for overpowering other noises. If you are out at the beach, the sound of the waves won’t drown out your tunes. Because the audio output happens all around the device, you can be in front or behind the speaker and still hear everything just as clear. Although I was unable to try out the UE BOOM speaker link up, I’m sure this is the best feature. Not only can each, individual speaker put out a massive amount of sound, but two of them together could really blow a crowd away.

What’s Not Hot

Because the speakers are so small, they are subject to audio distortion when pushed to the max. Once I turned the volume on my iPhone up about three-quarters of the way, the speaker started to distort. This happened with both guitar and bass heavy music.

Our Advice

At $199.99, this is a fairly pricey speaker. However, it is definitely a powerful source of audio. Thanks to multidirectional speakers with identical output capabilities, you can hear music from anywhere in the room at the same volume. If you’re buddy has one of these bad boys, you’ll be able to create the ultimate surround sound for all of your music listening needs. If you are looking for a portable speaker, the UE BOOM is worth the extra money considering other comparable speakers, like the Jawbone Jambox don’t even have speaker connection capabilities. Buy now: Get it directly from Ultimate Ears for $199.99. Thanks for stopping by Musician’s Corner. If you have any suggestions for apps or accessories you think we should feature, just drop me a line or leave a comment below. This week’s question: How do you socialize with your music? Do you have record listening parties? Do you share your Spotify feed on Facebook?
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