A good Bluetooth speaker needs to do three things: sound great, provide good enough battery life, and not look embarrassing. The Boom 3 from Ultimate Ears definitely hits those marks.
At $149.99, the Boom 3 isn’t a huge bargain, but you do get what you pay for. This is a swanky-looking Bluetooth speaker with plenty of customization options, simple setup, and, well, booming sound.
Incredibly cool • customizable look • High quality • 360-degree sound • Lengthy battery life • Simple setup
Needs a flat surface • Mobile app can only link to Spotify on Android
Ultimate Ears has delivered a powerful music tube with a bevy of customization options, excellent sound, and an all-day battery.
Purple tube of sound
The Boom 3 is unique among Bluetooth speakers in that its appearance might be the most distinctive thing about it. It’s a perfect cylinder, standing at 7.8 inches tall with bases that measure 2.8 inches in diameter. There’s a clear top and bottom side, with the top including a Bluetooth pairing button, what Ultimate Ears calls the “Magic Touch” button for playback controls in the middle, and a power button. Astoundingly massive volume controls sit on the speaker grill itself, while a microUSB charging port is hidden near the bottom side.
There’s also a little loop behind the top side that’s theoretically for hanging the speaker from things. That’s about it for physical features, as the Boom 3 is remarkably stripped down and straightforward. Its speaker grill wraps around the entire cylinder, beaming out sound from a pair of two-inch drivers and a couple of two-by-four-inch passive radiators.
Ultimate Ears sent me an almost entirely purple unit, which I am way into. This is a pretty awesome looking speaker, all things considered. It can get even more awesome with a frankly absurd amount of customization options on the company website. You can order a Boom 3 with a cheetah-print speaker grill and different colors on every individual element, from the bases to the volume buttons to the spine on the back.
It’s rare for a Bluetooth speaker to be a conversation piece, but if you want to show up to the park, beach, or pool with the most ludicrous speaker in town, that’s what it’ll be. I love that.
As for setup, there isn’t really much to say. It’s almost as simple as can be: Hold the Bluetooth pairing button, find the Boom 3 in your device’s Bluetooth menu, and you’re all set. You also have the option of working through an Android and iOS app for some bonus features like equalizer controls for audiophiles, but it’s not strictly necessary. From there, you can also check battery life and rename the speaker.
I paired the Boom 3 with my iPhone via Bluetooth, and when I opened the app for the first time, it instantly recognized that and didn’t ask me to do any additional setup. It’s about as frictionless as you can hope for.
There is one more use for the app, and it involves the Magic Touch button I mentioned earlier. The large circular button in the middle of the top base is used for playback above all else, as a quick press will pause and play, while a double-press will skip ahead to the next track. However, using the app, you can link accounts from a small handful of music streaming services, queue up individual albums or playlists, and hold the Magic Touch button for a few seconds to cycle between said playlists. The services include:
That’s a disappointingly brief list, and Spotify being locked to Android sucks. It’s not a ruinous exclusion, to be fair, as the ability to cycle between playlists with the Magic Touch button is a cool-but-not-necessary feature. It’s just as easy to pair via Bluetooth, open the Spotify app, and control your music from your phone. Regardless, OS exclusivity for linking Spotify to the Boom app is a bummer and shouldn’t have happened.
The most useful application of that playlist cycling feature is probably situations where your hands are wet and you don’t want to touch your phone. It’s worth noting that the Boom 3 has an IPX7 waterproof rating, which means you can fully submerge it for up to half an hour without the speaker breaking. I don’t know why you would ever possibly do that, and I don’t think I want to know, but hey, do you.
All sides considered
A couple of years ago, while at the beach with my friends, someone brought out a Bluetooth speaker and put on their beach playlist (as one does). That particular speaker only played sound out of one side, and because of where I was sitting, I barely got to hear any music that day.
Could I have moved? Sure, but that’s not relevant. I bring up this anecdote to assure you that the Boom 3, with its wraparound speaker grill, will never give you the same problem. Ultimate Ears is selling it as a 360-degree speaker and that’s accurate. No matter which way it faces, the sound quality and volume level doesn’t change much at all.
The only issue with this is that you can’t really lie it down horizontally, since all the sides are rounded. It doesn’t sit with much stability that way either, and you’re partially covering the speaker grill so it does affect sound output. If you don’t have a solid flat surface to set the Boom 3 on vertically, you’ll probably have a bad time with it.
With regards to sound quality, there’s nothing to worry about with Boom 3. Appropriately, it booms, outputting sharp and percussive audio even at less than 50 percent volume. High and low elements of songs emerge as they should, without the speaker flattening things out at high volume. Sam Hunt’s shockingly good pop-country album Southside from last year made for good testing material, with a unique mix of normal country elements like acoustic guitar and regular drums along with the occasional trap beat making up its sound. The Boom 3 was acceptably respectful to the material, and it will be with just about anything you throw at it.
That’s regardless of environment, too. The Boom 3 sounded equally great on my bedroom desk, enclosed in the living room bookshelf, or out on my stoop surrounded by neighborhood noise. Even with someone blasting music out of their car stereo across the street, I was able to peacefully enjoy my music without interfering with theirs.
If I had to name the single best aspect of the Boom 3, it’d be the battery life. Ultimate Ears rates it for up to 15 hours on a single charge, and I’ve gotten close to that out of one charge while regularly using it during a work week. It would be nice if it charged via USB-C instead of microUSB, given that’s how the wind is blowing technologically, but that’s small potatoes. As long as you remember to plug the speaker in the night before, you’ll almost certainly get a full day’s worth of activities out of it.
Tough to beat
In terms of Bluetooth speakers in that $100 to $200 price range, you won’t find many that are straight-up better than the Boom 3. Some competition includes:
Sonos Roam ($169), with equal-or-better sound quality and voice assistants, but worse battery life
JBL Flip 5 ($119), with a similar 360-degree speaker grill and 12-hour battery
Bose SoundLink Mini II ($179), with a speaker grill on one side and microphone for voice assistants
Having not personally tested the latter two, I can only say with confidence that the Sonos Roam is neck-and-neck with the Boom 3. It sounds excellent and can sit both vertically and horizontally, making it more truly portable. That said, I love the Boom 3’s look and its battery life outpaces the 10-hour (at best) battery in the Roam. You can’t go wrong either way, but the Boom 3 might win in my eyes.
Brings the boom
It only takes a handful of moments for the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 to go from being a paperweight to being the life of the party. Pairing is easy, the mobile app knows when to help and when to stay out of the way, and the sound quality is excellent. Not only that, but nobody nearby will feel left out thanks to its 360-degree sound.
All of that adds up to an excellent hangout companion, with truly outstanding battery life. There are some caveats, as the mobile app can only link to Spotify on Android and horizontal placement doesn’t do the Boom 3 any favors. But whether you’re gathering around a fireplace in the winter or expending all your pent up energy at the beach during the summer, the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 speaker won’t disappoint.