Logitech’s Bluetooth speakers have proven to offer solid performance in small, affordable packages, and the UE Boom (named for the Ultimate Ears brand Logitech acquired) is no different. At $199.99 (direct) this cylindrical speaker is eye-catching, gets pleasantly loud, and can even be paired up with another speaker for a wireless stereo experience. While pricier, it offers better sound and significantly more power than the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox. As expected for a small portable Bluetooth speaker, though, it doesn’t exactly impress on the low end and doesn’t beat the more expensive Bose SoundLink II as our current Editors’ Choice for Bluetooth speakers, despite coming close.
The UE Boom is about the size of a large beer can, like Foster’s or (if you have slightly better taste) Bitberger. It’s a 7.2-inch cylinder measuring 2.5 inches in diameter and weighing 1.2 pounds, small enough to tuck into a bag and just wide enough to stand up securely (or, if you have an S-hook or some string, you can hang it like a lantern from a metal D-ring on its end). It’s covered in a water-resistant mesh and its exposed casing is a hard, sturdy rubber. The speaker is available in multiple color combinations, including a white-rubber-and-red-mesh version that makes it look like a Libratone Zipp without the cashmere or the nearly half-grand price tag.
Controls are minimal, with large volume controls sitting on the side of the speaker, and a recessed power button sitting on the opposite end from the D-ring. The only other button is a small Bluetooth pairing button right next to it; it easily puts the speaker in Bluetooth pairing mode when pressed. The speaker makes a loud bongo drum sound when turned on, and a different bongo beat when it connects or disconnects to a Bluetooth device. The only other power indications are a power light built into the power button, and a flashing Bluetooth pairing light on the Bluetooth button.
For a portable speaker, the Boom puts out generally clear, full sound, with a notable emphasis in the low-mids. I listened to The Heavy’s “Short Change Hero” over Bluetooth, and the Western-themed instrumental intro and thunderstorm sound were both clear and ominous, seamlessly transitioning into the smooth, rounded licks of the guitar. Kelvin Swaby’s vocals lacked any real treble edge, making his almost Bootsy Collins-like singing voice sound a bit more mellow than it should have. The vocals in Daft Punk’s “Giorgio by Moroder” sounded much more natural and textured, as Giovanni Giorgio Moroder’s deeper, more raspy voice recounted tales of his career. The synth tines and the background noise of the opening of the track are both well-served by the Boom’s ability to handle midrange well.
The Boom’s can-shaped design offers what Logitech calls 360-degree sound, and to its credit the speaker seems to offer solid, room-filling imaging regardless of its placement or your listening position. It uses two 1.5-inch drivers and two 2-inch passive radiators to put out its sound, but Logitech isn’t clear on their spacing or configuration to produce the 360-degree sound. It gets satisfyingly loud, and while as a single speaker it doesn’t have much in the way of stereo imaging, it successfully annoyed our entire lab during testing with its volume. I’ve yet to find a speaker this size put out this much sound; it leaves the significantly smaller Editors’ Choice Logitech UE Mobile Boombox in the dust, and compares favorably with the twice-as-large Bose SoundLink II in terms of how much sound it can put out.
“The Stampede” by Biting Elbows didn’t fare quite so well with its frantic, punk-like guitar and higher vocals. Here, the Boom’s less prominent treble meant the riffs and shouting blended into each other a bit. The UE Boom seems best suited for instrumentals and synth-heavy tracks, and any music that relies mostly on midrange. The lack of high-end sharpness keeps the Boom clear from making treble sound tinny, even if it isn’t as defined as it should be.
Unfortunately, it didn’t score well in low end performance, either. While bass is handled well along with the midrange, the UE Boom can’t take much sub-bass. Our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” sounded significantly distorted and muffled at maximum volumes. This is a particularly low-end-heavy track, though, and the distortion issues found in this won’t be commonly seen with most other songs. Just be aware that the UE Boom, like most portable speakers, can’t handle really deep bass notes very well.
If you want a real stereo experience, the Boom can be paired with another Boom through Logitech’s free UE Boom app for iOS and Android, turning them into stereo Bluetooth speakers. This is a nice option, but it requires purchasing another UE Boom. The app can also tweak speaker settings for just one UE Boom, if you want to play with your sound. If you’re willing to spend $400 on wireless speakers, you can find larger, one-piece speakers that offer better sound like the Editors’ Choice Bose SoundLink II. Of course, if you have two, you can have a “his and her speakers” situation when away from the house and a solid stereo experience at home. Even if you’re just buying one, though, the UE Boom offers solid performance in a convenient, simple design.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc