It’s not often anymore that you will find me making a point to writing anything. Most of our newest information we bring to you is in the form of a podcast or a video, nowadays. Today is a little different for me, because I want to discuss some tech on my mind, but I don’t feel it warrants the production of an alternative media, other than writing. So here we are. We are here to discuss experiences with the UE (Ultimate Ears) Boom and Megaboom Bluetooth speakers. A little under a year ago I purchased one of each model for my personal use, and after all that time, I think I have come to a final conclusion of my thoughts on them.
My original desire was to have something small, portable, and powerful; something that would fill an area with sound, without taking up too much real estate. The market is completely saturated with different sizes, shapes, and prices of speakers, and some of them can be temptingly cheap. I have heard cheap, and you are gambling your money away when you buy one without doing any research, or experiencing the item yourself. I own one of the original Anker speakers, a 4” blue cube, with a 4” speaker in it, and I actually like it, but it was never powerful enough to suit my needs at all times. That’s when I started doing research, because I knew it was time I looked into something a little more expensive.
I looked at speakers from JBL, Bose, Pyle, and a whole slew of other brands I have never even heard of. Looking at all the options, one may notice a short list of recognizable brands, and a flood of brands with all kinds of names. The fact of the matter here is, a lot of these speakers are the same speaker, and are just re-branded over and over. For anyone unfamiliar, this is a result of white labels, and are a pretty common practice.
Found on the Wikipedia entry just for white labels:
White label production is often used for mass-produced generic products including electronics, consumer products and software packages such as DVD players, televisions, and web applications. Some companies maintain a sub-brand for their goods, for example the same model of DVD player may be sold by Dixons as a Saisho and by Currys as a Matsui, which are brands exclusively used by those companies.
So, with all of that saturation, how do you know what's good and what's not? Not that long ago, watching a products reviews was the best way to know if you were getting into something worthwhile or not. That doesn't ring true so much now anymore. Reviews are often purchased or entirely faked with "bots" designed to overload a review section with glowing, but not genuine, reviews of a product. What all this means is, the only sure fire way to know is to hear it from someone you trust. It could be an internet presence such as myself, or maybe just a close friend. It was that particular method of product verification that turned me on to the UE brand, and the Boom line.
Brand names are very important, because we associate impressions, experience, and emotions to the names of the products we like or don't. A lot of people are hesitant to venture away from what they know for something knew, for fear of being dissatisfied and lose money. So when John Zander (Pants Pending's Director of Photography) told me to check out the UE Boom for my Bluetooth speaker needs, I was immediately hesitant. However, trusting John's suggestions, as he rarely leads me wrong, I looked them up. After seeing features, a website that showed they spent a lot of time and money designing it, and the massive availability of these items from so many different stores, I started to feel more up to the change. However, the big piece of information that kicked off my trust of this new brand, was when I found out that Ultimate Ears is owned by Logitech. I have trusted Logitech for many years.
Now, this didn't mean I immediately jumped on the wagon, and ordered a Boom, no. I needed to hear it and make sure the thing could properly fill a room with sound. I started looking into where I could find one of these speakers on display at a local store, and found it at my local T-Mobile store (my carrier). After hearing a couple of the different speaker options side by side, JBL and UE, I found a clear winner. And that was even before the sales gal demonstrated how sturdy the UE was by throwing it hard on the floor. I chose the UE over the JBL, and that's your first taste of my initial impression.
Let's move onto the reason we are here, let's talk about how well this thing holds up. This thing was loud, and I don't mean it was "loud for it's size", I mean it was loud compared to stereos 10 times it's size. I could set it down, on full, in the middle of the park, and get several hundred feet away from it before I could no longer hear what song was playing. Not only was it loud, it was clear sound. No rattle, buzz, pop, and no static, at full volume. I had a full sized sound system portable enough to carry with me on the go. I was very pleased.
I was so pleased in fact that I was disappointed in my purchase of the muted black color they had at the store when a fellow T-Mobile store had bright eye catching colors to choose from. I immediately exchanged the black one for a Blue and Red color akin to Superman. While I was there, I impulsively purchased a black (only color they had, sad) UE Megaboom, the bigger brother to the Boom. To this day, I don't know what possessed me to spend so much more on a second speaker that I didn't need, but I did it, and I honestly don't regret it.
The full, and beautiful sound of the UE Boom was massively enhanced with the Megaboom. The low range notes in the music were so much more full and immersive, that I am still shocked it was able to pull that off. The Megaboom is double the size of the Boom, which makes it much less portable, as it doesn't fit in a pocket at all, but the Boom isn't quite the picnic with pocket ability either. Both come equipped with a metal D-Ring screwed into the base of the speaker, and I have found that a quick carabiner makes the speaker easily belt mounted with minimum discomfort. Obviously, it's a little more reasonable to hang the Boom on the belt, rather than the Megaboom, but both are possible, and for those that carry backpacks, messenger bags, or purses, they can hang from there as well.
Smaller things of note, before we dig into longevity, is that the charging cable and blocks are some of the nicest I have ever had. So nice in fact, that I attempted to find them being sold on their own to replace all of my current MicroUSB cables. They are long, flat, sturdy cables, and I learned the glory of flat cables with these speakers.
Now let's talk longevity. Speakers are fragile pieces of technology, they wear out pretty fast with continued use, especially if left at high volumes for most of their usage. I usually keep them pretty high, due to the situations in which I need them. I use them when I am doing yard work, when I am taking care of the house, and at social gatherings where music isn't readily available. Over the course of the nearly year of use (will be a year in late August of 2016), the UE Boom has had some noticeable changes. The sound isn't as clear as it once was, when listening at the highest volume level, but not enough to be all that detrimental. The Megaboom however, it exhibited the biggest change; one of the speakers inside the unit had blown, making the entire speaker unbearably hard to use. I am pretty strict about sound quality, as you may notice from our podcasting, so I can't stand listening to music through a broken audio system.
This discovery was disappointing, and I feared I was out of luck with it. I couldn't dream of buying a replacement, and I couldn't justify trying either. I tried the only thing I could think to do, and reached out to Ultimate Ears on Twitter. They lead me to the right place to call, and I phoned in to find out what they could potentially do the help.
I went into this conversation expecting to be told that the limited parts warranty covered the speaker, but they needed to take it, replace the part, and send it back. Despite having an extremely hard time understanding the customer service agent, the conversation went swimmingly. She lead me through the required troubleshooting steps, and eventually the obvious was determined, and she started the warranty process. What I expected was to be told that I had to pay a lot of money to get it shipped and replaced. I thought this because this was my experience with Motorola when my Moto 360 broke within it's warranty period. (Which is why I will no longer purchase a Motorola product again, support is everything folks). What ended up happening was a simple mailing of a shipping label to me. I then package up the speaker and send it to them. Once the receive the broken speaker, they send off the replacement. Sure, that leaves me an unknown amount of time without the speaker, but it's useless to me right now anyway.
So, I will say I was not disappointed with Logitech's customer service on this, but because it's Logitech, I wasn't surprised by it either. They have been a long standing favorite of mine, and as you can see with my reaction to Motorola, I might be a pretty harsh critic of customer service practices.
Crisp, clean, and loud. Full range sound from a compact unit, or even more sound from the bigger Megaboom.
They rate them at something like 15 hours for the Boom and 20 hours for the Megaboom. I would say, in real life usage, I can go full blast on the Boom, and have it run continuously for about 7 hours before I kill the battery off. I have yet to kill the battery of the Megaboom unless I spend all day on it, without a full charge to start.
Sturdy. That's the best word I can use for it. Nearly the entire thing is speaker grill, and that grill is made of aluminium. I have dropped mine several times over the course of the year, and not so much as a chip in the paint. Rubberized coating for the buttons and sides, and is dust/water proof as well.
The Boom is naturally about half the weight of the Megaboom, but neither are a pain to carry for long periods of time. The weight is pretty evenly distributed, so it isn't awkward either. Real life comparison would be, the Boom is about the weight of a full can of soda. The Megaboom, twice that.
The Megaboom shines here because it has a bit more available features than the Boom, but overall they're both packed with just the right amount of features. You can connect two Booms, or two Megabooms, or one of each, and play them from the same audio source, which is the best feature I think. They have a laundry list of other small features, but the best part is that they keep adding new features with firmware updates they push through the app.
Both variety of speakers are very easy to use. Most of the operation of the devices are done through your source device, so very little operation is needed through the speaker itself, outside of just turning it on. Heck, with the Megaboom it turns it on for you, from a powered off state. There are volume buttons on the speaker, and ideally the volume will be tied to your phone's volume rocker, but not always, as mine does not sync. So I just max the speaker, and use the phone's volume to set where I want it.
It comes with what they call a "2 year limited warranty" and because of my recent experience with a component failure, I know that the warranty works. You just have to call them to get it done, as they don't seem to watch their emails very closely.
So long story short here folks, the UE Boom and Megaboom are worth the higher price you invest in them. I have yet to find anything that compares to them, and I have kept my eyes open for it. I would even venture to say that they are better than most speakers that are more expensive than either of them. So if you're in the market for a new Bluetooth speaker, or if you have suddenly decided you wanted one after hearing this story, go buy one of them. UE has recently released the sequel version for the Boom, called the Boom 2, so that will be the one you will want to grab. It will have a lot of the features the Megaboom has that the original boom doesn't.