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Portable Bluetooth wireless speakers shouldn't be delicate flowers — they're meant to be handled a bit roughly as you tote them around with you. They also need long-lasting batteries to last through the day (and into the night). Built to last, Logitech's $200 Ultimate Ears (UE) Boom is portable without sacrificing sound quality.
The UE Boom is built to be tough, but Logitech didn't skimp on style. Available in black mesh with black plastic, blue mesh/white plastic, tan/blue, pink/red, red/white and white/white, so you can find a color combo to match your personality. We tested black/black.
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The 7.1 x 2.6-inch cylindrical speaker is wrapped in mesh that helps you keep a grip while you move around — and adds a level of class that many competing plastic models are lacking. Inside the case, the UE Boom includes two 1.5-inch drivers, with two 2-inch passive radiators to help with bass. At 19 ounces, the speaker doesn't feel heavy, but it's not so light that it feels fragile.
The UE Boom's cylindrical design makes its placement a bit tricky. If you set the speaker flat, it tends to roll. We found the best sound and stability when we placed it on its end.
The UE Boom has more than just good looks. It's also IPX4 water resistance rated — meaning it can withstand a good splash of water without causing you any concern (though you can't dunk it). It's also stain-resistant, so don't worry if some salsa drops on it. Basically, this thing is ready to party.
Setup and use
The UE Boom paired seamlessly with iOS and Android devices over Bluetooth. When you turn it on the first time, the speaker goes into discovery mode to announce itself to other devices. On an Android device, you just have to go to Settings and look for the speaker listed in Available Devices. If you have an NFC-equipped Android device, just touch the speaker and the mobile device together for the fastest pairing — you'll see a pop-up on your mobile device that asks if you want to pair it with the speaker. Click Yes, and you're set. In iOS, go to Settings > Bluetooth, where the UE Boom should appear under Devices. (If you want to pair it with another device after initial startup, hold the Bluetooth button near the power button for three seconds to go into discovery mode).
As a bonus, the Logitech offers a free UE Boom app for iOS and Android that can help with setup. The app includes an equalizer to help improve sound quality based on your environment or listening preferences, like Bass Boost or Intimate for small rooms. However, we wish the app had more than four presets.
If you have two UE Booms, the app can sync them to either mirror the audio or make one a left speaker and the other a right speaker for better stereo-sound separation. You can spread the right and left speakers apart to help your ears differentiate the sound coming from each and create a fuller sound.
Logitech claims the UE Boom can be as far away as 50 feet from its source. Indoors, we found the speaker maintained a strong connection from up to 30 feet away from the source. Outdoors, with trees and other natural obstructions, we experienced more disruptions, even at 15 feet — a common problem with Bluetooth speakers.
You can control the volume on UE Boom with the large + and - buttons on the side, or use the controls on your phone or other audio source to raise or lower the decibels.
The UE Boom easily exceeds most Bluetooth speakers when it comes to sound quality. The speaker especially excels in the mid ranges and trebles tones, making it perfect for most rock and popular music.
Beck's multilayered vocals and crisp acoustic guitar on "Heart Is a Drum" rang clearly, while Lorde's message on "Teams" came across loud and clear. The UE Boom also brought out the warmth of the mellow horns that open Charles Mingus' jazz classic "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat."
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If the UE Boom has a fault, it's on the low end. While you shouldn't expect any portable speaker to produce a subwoofer's worth of bass, the UE Boom struggled to push the bass line that adds character to songs such as St. Vincent's "Digital Witness" or the Beastie Boys' "Shake Your Rump." Few portable Bluetooth speakers are up to the task, but we did find the bass response was better on the Fugoo Style and Klipsch Gig Portable Music System, which also compete in this price range.
In all cases, the UE Boom spread the sound widely, so you could hear well from any angle — perfect for sharing your sound with friends.
The UE Boom does double-duty as a speakerphone, too. The built-in microphone relays your voice clearly to the person on the other end of the call, and you get the benefit of hearing them loudly and clearly, thanks to the speaker's strong audio performance.
Logitech says the UE Boom's battery will last 15 hours, and our tests showed that number to be on a par with real-world use. After several listening sessions at low or moderate volume levels, totaling several hours over the course of more than a week, it still had a 90 percent charge. Unfortunately, there's no visual cue for battery level, but you can push the + and - buttons on the device at the same time to hear the battery level announced. (The app also shows the current battery level.)
The battery is built in and charges via microUSB. The unit ships with a wall plug, or you can charge it using your computer's USB port or any USB wall charger.
If you want a portable Bluetooth speaker that can take a beating and keep right on rocking — and you care about sound quality — the UE Boom is a time-tested choice. You can find tough speakers that offer more bass, such as Fugoo's Style, but it's hard to find the complete package in any other model in this price range. The UE Boom's combination of ruggedness, features, style and sonic excellence makes it worth the slight premium you pay.
Two 1.5-inch drivers
Two 2-inch passive radiators
Weight: 19 ounces
Inputs: Bluetooth, 3.5mm auxiliary input
7.1-inch x 2.6-inch (cylindrical)
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Michael Gowan is a freelance technology journalist covering soundbars, TVs, and wireless speakers of all kinds of shapes and sizes for Tom’s Guide. He has written hundreds of product reviews, focusing on sound quality and value to help shoppers make informed buying decisions. Micheal has written about music and consumer technology for more than 25 years. His work has appeared in publications including CNN, Wired, Men’s Journal, PC World and Macworld. When Michael’s not reviewing speakers, he’s probably listening to one anyway.