I like to consider myself a bit of an audiophile in that I'm rather particular about my speakers. I have high expectations and am often let down, especially when it comes to speakers and headphones that cost over $100 (I'm frugal as hell too).
I was offered the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 to review and pounced because Ultimate Ears has yet to let me down. Turns out that's just how they roll over there — now watch as I try to write a section on what I don't like about the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 (it's gonna be short!).
Price: $150Bottom line: The Boom 3 improves sound in a big way and adds some fun smart features that make it more than worth the price.
- Incredible bass for its size
- Excellent battery life
- Fantastic design
- Customizable EQ
- Magic Button is kind of pointless
- Boom app could be more elegant
Ultimate Ears Boom 3 What I like
Just about everything, to be perfectly honest. I had listened to the Boom 2 and was actually kind of unimpressed with its sound after colleagues had raved about it, so I was eager to try the Boom 3 but apprehensive. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised when I first fired it up and cranked it.
There's no noticeable distortion at high volumes and it has the most balanced sound of any portable Bluetooth speaker I've ever tried. The bass is what got me — I try not to expect too much in a portable speaker, but I always hope for greatness, and the Boom 3 delivers.
The bass is rich and warm without muddying up the rest of the mix, and those highs are crisp and so satisfying. Even at low volumes, where other speakers tend to get pretty muffled and indistinct, the Boom 3 excels wonderfully. I have it playing right now on my desk, next to my keyboard, and it's clean and clear (and under control).
The physical design update is spectacular. I liked the look of the Boom and Boom 2, but they had a sort of unrefined quality to them, which wasn't bad — they just looked more outdoorsy than I liked. The Boom 3 is sophisticated-looking and sleek. The flap for the Micro-USB port folds away seamlessly, and the black tones are more of a lovely charcoal gray that's sexy as hell.
I also love the addition of the charging connector on the bottom, so you can pick up a Power Up dock and charge it wirelessly. That and, if you have multiple Boom and Megaboom speakers, you can use "Partyup" to connect up to 150 of them. I'd love to see 150 Boom speakers going at once. Quick, someone spot me some cash and let's make a YouTube video.
Ultimate Ears Boom 3 What I don't like
There's nothing I straight-up dislike about the Boom 3; there are just a couple things that I'm "meh" about. The new Magic Button is the biggest one: it lets you play/pause and skip tracks, and if you use Apple Music or Deezer (which I don't), you can set up one-touch playlists in the Boom app.
I don't think many people will actually bother, since we're all so used to just controlling our music on our phones, and it's really not an inconvenience at all. Also, the Magic Button lacks the ability to go back a track, since you can only short press to play/pause or double-press to skip. I much prefer when the volume buttons let you go backward or forward, with a separate play/pause button.
The Boom app seems a little dated. The layout isn't altogether intuitive, and it sort of feels a bit clunky. To change volume in the app, you have to tap the volume button, and then tap the big + or - buttons, which just look a little simple for my taste. That being said, you can power the speaker on or off from the app, which is a dynamite feature.
If I had to nitpick one more thing, it'd be the customizable EQ. While it is convenient to be able to tailor the sound to your liking, I find that the Boom 3 is only able to do this, not by adding more of one thing to the mix, but by instead removing others. So if you jack up the bass, then the rest of the mix gets quiet. Turn up the treble, the bass gets removed. I get it, but it just makes sticking with the "Standard" mix all the more prudent. (Luckily, the Standard mix is spot-on.)
Ultimate Ears Boom 3
Coming in $50 less expensive at launch than the Ultimate Ears Boom 2, the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is an absolute no-brainer when it comes to asking whether or not you should buy it. You absolutely should. It's hands-down the best portable Bluetooth speaker I've had the pleasure of using.
With well-balanced sound, and gorgeous design, and a price that belies its quality, I can't gush enough about the Boom 3. Whatever minor shortcomings it may have are diminished entirely by everything it does well — which is damn near everything.
Mick is a staff writer who's as frugal as they come, so he always does extensive research (much to the exhaustion of his wife) before making a purchase. If it's not worth the price, Mick ain't buying.