Portable speakers let us enjoy our music wirelessly at home and on the go. And with the smaller, more powerful and longer lasting models offered recently, it's no wonder everyone wants one. Back when Ultimate Ears introduced the UE Boom more than a year ago – the cylindrically-shaped $200 speaker most known for its durable svelte design and immersive 360-degree sound, the company really impressed us with its advanced portable speaker design. So much so that it was worthy of our Editors' Choice Award. The only thing that held us back from giving the UE Boom the highest score possible was that it didn't quite have enough bass under the hood. Despite that, the UE Boom was considered as one of the best portable speakers at $200. But since then many companies like JBL released drastically improved offerings that surpassed the UE Boom's once firm reign over the portable speaker market.
Fast forward to present day, Ultimate Ears used its legendary portable speaker design chops to craft the UE Megaboom, the step-up speaker for people who loved the UE Boom but wished it offered more oomph in the bass department. Its a strikingly familiar looking portable sound producing gadget that promises to deliver ridiculously amazing 360-degree worth of sound with deep bass and magical unicorns thrown into the mix. Okay, maybe the latter isn't true. But everything else is. Or so Ultimate Ears claims. So let's get to it, our full and in-depth review is waiting for you after the break!
As one of the most sought-after names in the portable speaker market, Ultimate Ears had a lot of people including UE Boom users hyped for the release of its next best thing. Naturally we were also extremely excited to get our hands on the company's new UE Megaboom soon after it was announced earlier this month. On paper, the UE Megaboom bills itself as a powerful wireless speaker capable of blasting "freakishly amazing 360-degree sound with deep, heart-pounding bass". We know that Ultimate Ears got one thing straight, which is developing great sounding portable speakers that disperse audio all around the room. But what we really want to know is if the UE Megaboom can really deliver deep sounding bass compared to its smaller sibling, the UE Boom. Spoiler alert - it can! However, there's some disappointing news too. You can find the rest of our findings under the sound quality overview down below.
I know you're thinking this looks just like the UE Boom, but what's different about the UE Megaboom internally? Not a whole lot has changed aesthetically, but there are indeed some improvements under the hood as you'd expect from a more expensive model. Although the UE Megaboom features the same durable waterproof cylindrical design (can be submersed under 1m of water for up to 30 minutes) covered in rubber and a stain-resistant acoustic nylon mesh skin, as well as the same amazing immersive 360-degree audio output, it does have a few significant improvements over the UE Boom model like longer wireless Bluetooth range of up to 100ft (compared to 50ft), extended 20-hour battery life (compared to 15-hours), and for the first time the UE Megaboom will be able to receive wireless over-the-air firmware updates whenever they're available instead of having to download a desktop app to update the speaker using the included USB cable. And that's forward-thinking convenience right there.
But most importantly, the UE Megaboom also features enhanced audio performance thanks to its larger dual 2-inch active drivers and dual 2-inch by 4-inch passive bass radiators promising "deep, heart-pounding bass". This compared to the dual 1.5-inch drivers and dual 2-inch passive bass radiators of the UE Boom. Our only gripe when we reviewed Ultimate Ears' UE Boom was that it lacked deep bass and we're very curious to hear how the UE Megaboom will fare with its enhanced drivers.
Ultimate Earshas done just a phenomenal job creating a unique and iconic design for the UE Boom, and they obviously wanted to keep that trendy design language with the UE Megaboom. Because as you can tell, the two are identical apart from a difference in size. A white strip of smooth rubber runs along the front of the speaker that coincides with the concave top and bottom portions, while the rest of its cylindrical shaped body features a woven mesh surface that wraps around the unit covering all of its internal hardware. As much as it is part of the design, it's also serves as a very functional role too.
Fans of the original UE Boom diverse two-tone and artsy color selection will be slightly disappointed to know that the UE Megaboom is offered in less color options, which aren't as flashy and colorful. The colors Ultimate Ears picked this time include more solid, single colorways including black, dark red, dark blue and plum. Something tells us more color choices will eventually be added, but for now these are all you've got to choose from.
The UE Megaboom is quite a lot larger than the original UE Boom. It's taller, wider in diameter and slightly heavier too. It's as if little Timmy went of to summer camp, later to return alarmingly all grown up. It's not going to fit into every bag like the UE Boom's 16oz Red Bull-sized form factor, and if it does it'll take up valuable space. Then again maybe having a speaker with you is more important than carrying food or a water bottle. The UE Megaboom will test your packing priorities for sure. With a larger internal rechargeable battery and bigger drivers, the UE Megaboomisn't mega-big but it is slightly heavier at just under two pounds, an inch taller (8.3-inches) and less than an inch thicker (3.3-inches in diameter) than the UE Boom. So it still keeps a fairly portable water bottle-like form factor despite that fact.
Like the UE Boom, the UE Megaboom was meant to be used standing upright to best distribute audio in a 360-degree radius. Though it can also be used laying flat on its back if you must insist. Hard to miss, are the oversized plus and minus volume controls placed at the front side of the speaker where they are seamlessly integrated into the rubbery surface as are the rest of the controls. At the top of the UE Megaboom is where you'll find the power button which lights up with a neat white LED light followed by a smaller Bluetooth pairing button which subsequently lights up with a white LED dot.
With a familiar form factor and design comes familiar packaging. And you can bet that we're glad Ultimate Ears kept its iconic packaging around. Like the UE Boom, the UE Megaboom comes packaged inside this cylindrical tube which opens almost like some time capsule to reveal the speaker itself along with neatly organized compartments where you'll find the accompanied accessories. It's one of the best complimenting packaging I've ever had the pleasure of unboxing. And that's always a wonderful experience when purchasing a product. You know very well that the company behind it spent time and effort to make something that actually has and adds value to the overall product. When you spend $200 to $300, you should expect to be amazed by even the little things. This time the cylindrical packaging is so big and unwieldy that unless you're a basketball player you won't be able to hold it with one hand. That's why it has a built-in retractable handle at the top. Nice functionally convenient touch, Ultimate Ears.
Inside those accessory compartments you will find the coolest, flat and tangle-free USB to micro-USBcharging cable on planet earth. Ultimate Ears was kind enough to also include a very useful and compact USB wall adapterwith a retractable outlet prong. I say that because most portable speakers only come with a USB charging cableand no wall adapterto help charge your device in more places. Like before, the accessories are the same as the ones included with the UE Boom and even have the same brightly colored yellow flavor.
Upon closer emanation, we did notice one difference in that the UE Megaboom comes with a significantly larger 12V USB wall adapter as opposed to the smaller 5.1V adapter included with the UE Boom, which provides more power in order to charge the UE Megaboom's larger battery quicker – in less than three hours. Another thing is that the UE Megaboom's USB power adapter is smarter in that it can switch between different power output currents ranging from 5V/2A, 9V/2A to 12V/1.5A, opening the possibility of safely and efficiently charging other devices ranging from small smartphones to large tablets.
Same impressively made speaker design carried over from the original icon
Ultimate Ears made it abundantly clear that like its UE Boom speaker, the UE Megaboom can be taken with you no matter where you go or plan on using it. One of the stand-out durability features of the UE Megaboom is that it is made using a special type of material that protects it from water and all weather elements. Of course Ultimate Ears has a name for this which is a plasma coated acoustic skin. And what it means is that this mesh speaker grille of a skin covers and protects the internal audio drivers and electronics from liquid damage without degrading or interfering with the output of the sound coming from the speaker. The texture of this acoustic skin feels like a combination of rubber and fabric. It's really something special and unlike anything we've ever seen being used on such a product before.
In addition to its water-resistant prowess, this plasma coated acoustic skin has a layer that makes it stain-resistant so it'll continue to look good with use. You can definitely feel the impressive amount of durability that the UE Megaboom has when touching the slick surface of the acoustic skin material which essentially is wrapped around its concrete-like construction. We've been using the UE Boom non stop for the past year and a half and so far it had held up remarkably well. Actually, it still looks brand new and we haven't babied it either. Suffice it to say that the larger UE Megaboom will yield very similar resilient results for excellent anti-wear and tear.
Taking a much closer look at this wondrous acoustic skin reveals its durable textured finish which closely resembles the fabric speaker mesh found on Marshall speaker amps, and the like. Touching it gives you the feeling of durability and rigidity as it isn't soft nor flexible - most likely due to the metal build underneath. We did notice when comparing the two UE speaker models side by side that Ultimate Ears changed the nylon fabric mesh that covers the speaker from the UE Boom's fish net-like pattern to this spiral pattern mesh with a little more contrast going in-between the weave as opposed to the single colored fabric mesh used on the UE Boom. It's visually appealing nonetheless, and maybe even more classier now that the UE Megaboom's fabric bits have a more realistic home theater speaker vibe going on. It's weird how such a small change detail can give an object a different prospective in its styling. We definitely like the new-ish look, however small it may seem.
Besides its protective acoustic skin, the UE Megaboom has a set of really awesome features. Pairing the unit over Bluetooth is nothing short of ridiculous easiness. Like the UE Boom, the UE Megaboom puts a smile on your face as it plays a series of instrumental and very much charming hand-drumming chimes that highlight various mode phases like power on/off and Bluetooth connectivity status updates. But Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry users can use their NFC enabled devices to effortlessly pair up with the UE Megaboom thanks to its NFC enabled rubbery surface. Tap your device up against the front edge of the UE Megaboom and it'll automatically pair. It's that easy, and it works fanatically well.
Another feature that takes advantage of wireless Bluetooth streaming is the fact that you can pair two UE Megaboom speakers in a dual-mode of awesomeness to play music simultaneously from one audio source such as an iPhone to create a dangerously powerful stereo experience. This mode is what Ultimate Ears calls Double Up. But for that to work you'll need to use the UE Megaboom app supported by iOS and Android. Currently you can only pair a UE Megaboom with another UE Megaboom. Ultimate Ears says it'll soon push an app update enabling the two models to work in Double Up mode.
Then there's the UE Megaboom's speakerphone functionality, naturally. And surprisingly, the microphone built-into the UE Boom and covered with that water-resistant acoustic skin isn't muffled, but actually clear as a sunny day. You can answer phone calls and hear the caller thru the UE Megaboom's speakers which is obviously a convenient bonus feature to have.
The feature of all features, however, is perhaps the most satisfying of them all, and one that I'm most thrilled about. The UE Megaboom's 360-degree soundscape is absolutely brilliant. It outputs audio effectively all around it thru the use of multiple speakers which are positioned to fire sound at literally all directions without it sounding uneven. More specifically, the UE Megaboom's internal hardware consists of two 2-inch performance audio drivers as well as two 2-inch by 4-inch passive bass radiators positioned at certain points in order to throw sound towards virtually all directions.
360 degree sound is such a valuable component to have when talking about small portable speakers because when wireless portability means that you can place the speaker anywhere you desire, there's most likely going to be people that surround it from multiple angles. The UE Megaboom's immersive 360 degree sound is the hand grenade sound feature of wireless portable speakers.
The basic companion app opens up more cool features like setting a custom EQ, an alarm clock that will play your music, remotely powering on the speaker from your phone or tablet, setting a different language for the on-board voice prompts, and more. You'll most likely never use this app if you have a secondary UE Megaboom, because otherwise it really isn't needed. None of the pre-set EQ settings sound better than the default tuned profile on the speaker, and if you've got an iOS device you can always see the battery status next to the Bluetooth connection symbol. Alternatively, pressing the two volume buttons simultaneously prompts a vocalized feature that actually speaks the remaining battery percentage to you in a female voice that is alluring.
While were on the subject, battery life has once again lived up to Ultimate Ears' marketing claims. The original UE Boom had fantastic battery life, and now the UE Megaboom has an even longer battery life and great battery standby time. You're looking at up to 20 hours of wireless audio streaming, which outlasts the Infinity One, JBL Charge 2, Bose SoundLink Mini, Beats Pill XL as well as a bunch of other well known portable speakers. That's also 5 hours more than the UE Boom. And the battery standby time literally lasts for months without losing a drop of power.
Facing the opposite end of the speaker are the micro-USBcharging and 3.5mm audio input ports. Again, nothing surprising here as it's the same dual port design as it is on the UE Boom. Ports are protected using a rubber flip seal that protects the ports from water, sand and dust. So be sure these are tightly sealed after charging the speaker or using the auxiliary input. Plugging the UE Megaboom to charge will also turn on a rapidly pulsating white LED light which will display the charging status. Dead center is a black metal D-ring adapter which you can actually screw to detach enabling you to carry the UE Megaboom while it is attached to your backpack. You can even screw it on a tripid head if you so desire. Although I don't see it as a useful feature, it's nice that it's inconspicuously there.
Not so mega-boom after all
Now for the moment you've all been waiting for...sound. Because after all if it doesn't sound good, then nothing else really matters. You're dying to know if you should upgrade your UE Boom, right? To put it simply, the UE Megaboom sounds exactly like the UE Boom except it has way more bass and a deeper low-end in comparison. It's also much louder. That's basically it.Bass was one of the few things we though we needed to hear more of when we listened to the UE Boom. Fortunately, that's exactly what Ultimate Ears planned on improving with the UE Megaboom, amply named might I add. That being said, we're not quite sure it truly deserves its bold name tag. Unless of course "mega" correlates with the UE Megaboom's size.
Ultimate Ears didn't do much in the way of altering its sound signature, which features plenty of treble across the mids and mostly highs. Vocals are crystal clear with a near life-like clarity and are very forward. Mids don't distort, aren't shallow or distant, but supportive and acceptably detailed with good instrument separation. And finally, lows are for the first time existent and very much satisfyingly thumpy without ever distorting at high volumes. At least when compared to the original UE Boom. The difference in bass between the UE Boom and Megaboom is without a doubt night and day. No more skinny sounding kicks and an overemphasis on highs. The Megaboom delivers a much more pleasing, richer sound thanks to its larger passive bass radiators. But that's about it. We expected to be amazed yet again, but somehow the UE Megaboom falls short when compared to other similarly priced speakers. That's not to say that it's a bad sounding speaker, because it honestly isn't.
It sounds richer, thicker, fuller, more complete. It's what the UE Boom should have sounded from the beginning. Granted this type of performance including the battery capacity to provide sufficient power does call for a bigger form factor, and that's exactly what the UE Megaboom offers along with a familiar set of features. But that's the point, the UE Megaboom doesn't sound that much better than the UE Boom, which we think should have been its $200 predecessor and not an entirely new speaker model that's $100 more expensive.
When Ultimate Ears said the UE Megaboom could blast freakishly amazing 360-degree sound it wasn't bluffing. Not can it only fill up a decently sized living room with incredible sound, but it can do so from within one of your bedrooms in your home. If that doesn't astound you, I'm not sure what portable speaker would at this size. Speaking of how loud the UE Megaboom is, it's actually about 20% louder than the UE Boom at its highest volume setting. Unless you've got a party to power, the UE Megaboom is too loud to listen to indoors at its fullest volume setting, which is a good thing once you take it outside to listen to music.
The UE Megaboom is by far and away the most powerful, loudest portable wireless speaker we have ever reviewed. This thing will blast audio like no other speaker similar to its size. Not only that but it hasn't distorted ever. We threw everything at it and it handled it all like a champ, even at really high volume levels. Unlike the Charge 2, which we noticed did distort in a certain track we tested, the UE Megaboom really shines when playing difficult tracks that have really low or high frequencies. Especially when listening to rock, the UE Megaboom significantly outshines everything we tested to this day. It's unbelievably agile.
Believe it or not, the UE Megaboom's biggest competition currently is JBL's Charge 2. This $150 portable speaker is smaller, cheaper and remarkably still holds its own against the UE Megaboom despite not having the ability to output 360 degrees of audio – so long as it's facing towards you. So it's not as immersive and powerful as the UE Megaboom, nor does it get nearly as loud; and it loses its deep bass capability at higher volumes unlike the UE Megaboom – however, it still sounds comparable in a more directional sound output with impressively thumpy bass at moderate volumes. And if you really like bass, or a much richer audio experience and you want to be blown away by the quality of sound coming from a similarly sized portable speaker, the $300 Infinity One pretty much outperforms both the UE Megaboom and the Charge 2. But again, the tradeoff to these speakers is that they don't offer the same immersive 360-degree sound that the UE Megaboom delivers.
Speaking of bass, we found out that at lower volumes, the Charge 2 actually produces slightly more punch compared to the UE Megaboom as you can hear for yourself in the sound comparison test video above - thanks to our friend Clavinetjunkie. Tip: Make sure you're using desktop speakers or put on headphones. It's still one of the best portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy at a fairly sensible price, which happens to be half of what you'll be paying for the UE Megaboom. That being said, you are getting more going with the UE Megaboom like a more durable and resilient build that's waterproof, longer battery life, a much more powerful and immersive sound, firmware updates, as well as a more consultant sound signature across the volume levels. The Megaboom's audio quality in comparison is in fact more defined and slightly more detailed. There's also more clarity throughout the highs, mids and even lows. It's really hard to compare the two when one speaker sounds different from other angles while the other (being the UE Megaboom) sounds exactly the same from all directions. We still think the Charge 2 offers a compelling set of skills for under $200. It can charge your smartphone on the go, deliver rich clear sound, and it's practically owns every other speaker under $150. It only doesn't sound as grand as the UE Megaboom, but that's understandable. And if you're looking for a speaker as compact as the Bose SoundLink Mini, the UE Megaboom really isn't the right portable speaker for you.
All in all the UE Megaboom isn't what we had in mind, but also everything we expected from Ultimate Ears. It has all the great qualities of the original UE Boom like a highly resilient waterproof build quality, awesome design, outstanding battery life, dual speaker pairing features and of course huge 360-degree sound. Those are all compelling pros, and still I can't help but feel like the UE Megaboom is what the UE Boom 2 should have been without costing $100 more. It has the qualities of a second generation speaker, not an entirely new model. Yes it's louder, has more bass, and 5 extra hours of battery life, but that's all it really has to offer that realistically matters in comparison. All improvements that should have been made with the introduction of a second generation $200 UE Boom 2. Alas, Ultimate Ears decided it would release a bigger, equivalently designed $300 wireless speaker that offered no more than a few enhancements over what should have been its predecessor.
The UE Megaboom does sound really good in that it can disperse audio around the room, but it still lacks bass considering how big it is and how costly it is by today's standards. If you want a better, more richer sound quality out of a similarly sized portable Bluetooth speaker, we recommend the Infinity One instead at $300, which offers superior bass performance. If I had to personally choose between the UE Megaboom and the Infinity One, I'd definitely pick the latter. Another superior sounding speaker for the same price is the Bose SoundLink 3, but it's much larger in comparison and not at all as resilient. The UE Megaboom once again is very much treble-heavy, but it’s also one of the clearest and cleanest sounding portable speakers we have ever heard. Sonically the UE Megaboom is a better performer than the JBL's Charge 2 despite it having a bit more bass thump. When comparing similarly priced and sized alternatives, notably the Infinity One by Harman, we start to see an even playing field where the UE Megaboom is actually struggling to stand out.
If you're hesitant about spending as much as $300 on a portable speaker, you should get the JBL Charge 2 instead. Don't even bother looking at the Ultimate Ears' less expensive UE Boom. You can buy two Charge 2 speakers for the price of a single UE Megaboom, but you won't be able to pair them both to your smartphone or tablet if you want to listen to music using two speakers at once, so that would actually be worthless. That's a feature that's still unique to Ultimate Ears as far as we know it. With all that being said, we really can't fault the UE Megaboom from an audio performance stand point. It still has a lot to offer for music and outdoor enthusiasts – as well as being one of the best portable socially driven speakers on the market. It may not offer the richest audio quality for the price, but it does make up for it with its unique features that most if not all of its aforementioned rivals haven't got. We'd still recommend the UE Megaboom for its iconic design, great battery performance, powerfully loud 360-degree sound blasting and pristine audio quality deliverance.