At a minimum, a good Bluetooth speaker should deliver excellent audio and features in a very portable package. Our expectations of quality are only growing. We want more toughness, more power, more everything. With improved ruggedness and new tap controls, UE's new Boom 2 does its best to keep up — but is it enough?
The cylindrical Boom 2 is the essentially the same size and shape as its predecessor. At about 7.1 x 2.6 inches, it’s big enough to fill a medium-size room with sound, but not too large to throw in a backpack or carry in one hand.
UE offers new colors for the Boom 2: BrainFreeze, Cherrybomb, GreenMachine, Phantom, Tropical and Yeti — all of which are bright and bold. You don't have to worry about this speaker blending into the background.
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The Boom 2 features minimal controls on the speaker itself. You'll find the power and Bluetooth pairing on one end, and a microUSB port for charging and an auxiliary input for wired connections on the other. Along the length of the speaker, two large buttons control the volume.
UE addressed one key issue with the Boom 2: you can now control playback by tapping the top. Tap the top once to play or pause; tap it twice to skip ahead. You have to be holding the speaker to make this work — it can't be sitting on a table. I found the tap control to be a bit finicky, but it's still a welcome addition; you no longer need to be near your mobile device to control the music.
The new Boom ups the toughness, able to now withstand being submerged in water for 30 minutes or dropped from up to 5 feet without harm. In my testing, the speaker worked fine after being in a sink full of water for five minutes, though once submerged, it lost the signal from my phone. As soon as I removed it from the water, the sound resumed. It also survived a drop onto hardwood floor from about 5 feet without any effect or blemish.
Setup and Software
The Boom 2 paired quickly with Android and iOS devices. The speaker has a wireless range of 100 feet, up from the standard 30 feet on the Boom. I found the signal to be very strong even at the max distance.
UE's free app for iOS and Android brings additional features to the speaker. You can tweak the sound to your liking through the EQ; choose from presets such as Bass Jump or Voices (which boosts the midrange), or use the five-band equalizer to create a custom setting. I used The Standard for my testing, finding Bass Jump too weak in the vocal range.
Through the app, you can connect it to another Boom device (including the original Boom) to mirror the sound, which helps create a much more encompassing soundscape. The app also can turn the speaker into an alarm clock that wakes you up to a tune of your choice, and you can get firmware upgrades that add features over time.
UE increased the power of the Boom 2 so it can get louder. I measured it at more than 90 decibels, though it distorted noticeably above about 85 decibels. The original Boom maxed out at 88 decibels; the added power of the Boom 2 is hard to notice, but it produces enough volume to fill a living room.
The Boom 2 delivers good overall sound, especially on vocals, though it lacks detail in the bass and treble that some other speakers in this price range produce.
The vocals on Florence + the Machine's "What Kind of Man" were clear and full. On The Weeknd's "The Hills," the Boom 2 produced enough thump to drive the tune, but Fugoo's Style delivered more detail in both the treble and bass.
The saxophones on Charles Mingus' jazz classic "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" resonated richly, and Lindsey Buckingham’s acoustic guitar on Fleetwood Mac's "Never Going Back Again" sounded full, though again it lacked the crisp treble tones that the Fugoo produced.
I found the Boom 2's speakerphone to work well on calls, and it certainly got louder than the iPhone's speakerphone. But people on the other end of the line complained that I sounded muffled — the iPhone's built in speakerphone was clearer. This is especially disappointing considering that the original Boom had one of the better speakerphones among Bluetooth speakers.
UE says you'll get 15 hours from a full charge — the same as the original Boom. That's about average for Bluetooth speakers in this size and price range. By comparison, Fugoo's Style offers 40 hours.
After more than 10 hours of listening at low to moderate volume, I still had more than half the battery life left.
The Boom 2 represents an incremental upgrade over the original. The best additions are the gesture control that allows you to play and pause music without needing your mobile device, and the improved toughness.
In the two years since the original Boom arrived, we've seen many excellent competitors hit the mark. If you love your Boom and need more ruggedness, or want a second model to pair for a wider sound, the Boom 2 is a worthy successor — but other models offer better value or features. UE's own $100 Roll offers excellent sound quality and portability for half the price, and the $200 Fugoo Style has better sound detail, is just as tough and provides a better battery.