Ultimate Ears, owned by Logitech, makes my favorite portable speaker ever: the UE Boom. The cylindrical powerhouse of a speaker is rugged, stylish, and easy to use.
Category: Portable Bluetooth Speakers
Works With: iOS, Mac, Any sound source
Price: $99.99 per speaker
Imagine my utter joy when I received Ultimate Ears’ latest entry into the portable speaker market, the UE MiniBoom, and found them to be even tinier and equally rugged and easy to use. Oh, and they sound fantastic, too.
The sound profile of these itty bitty speakers, each the around the size of a small-ish DSLR camera, or a six-inch sandwich from Subway. They’re that small. The Mini Boom is sold as a single unit, but if you purchase two of them, you can sync them together for either stereo sound or just double the mono signal. The manufacturer promises up to 50 feet of wireless range and a ten hour battery life.
I was able to get a good ten hours of moderate volume usage from each mini boom, though a bit less when using them in stereo. I had a bit of audio stuttering and intermittent disconnect at about 15 feet in my house, which may be cluttered with lots of other devices, but which never troubles the UE Boom cylinder I own.
The stereo or audio doubling feature can only be accessed via an iOS app, so that leaves Mac use limited to a single Mini Boom at a time, unfortunately. When using an iOS device as a source, though, the stereo separation and audio quality is stunning. There’s got to be some fancy sound engineering inside these rugged little speakers to produce such a well-balanced sound in such a minuscule package. While not as ultimately loud as the UE Boom cylinder, the Mini Booms in concert are easily able to fill a normal sized room. They do fairly well outside, as well, letting me keep a recent outside BBQ well supplied with music at a livable volume.
The outside casing of the Mini Boom is a nicely grippy rubberized material, while the front and back speaker grilles seem to be made of an almost indestructible and stain-resistant plasticized metal. Tossing one or two of these bad boys into a backpack or trunk of a car is eminently do-able, with no worries about damaging them.
The UE Mini Boom speakers charge quickly via the included micro-USB cable, and pairing them is amazingly easy. When powered on, they emit a pleasant little guitar chord tone that lets users know they’re on, and then a separate and distinctive audio cue when they are placed into pairing mode with the Bluetooth button on the top of the speaker case. There’s a large, UE-style plus and minus volume button set on either side of the pairing button, making for an attractive look. The speakers are powered on or off with a sliding toggle in the back, which provides a valuable “is this thing on?” visual cue for a speaker with no lasting light on it. The tiny blue LED does come on when powering on the speaker, and it flashes when it’s being paired.
The speakers are NFC capable, for devices that can do that, and each unit can be used as a speakerphone for folks who require the ability as well. There’s also an audio jack on the rear panel of each speaker, allowing users to attach a sound source via wire.
When using an iOS device as a source, though, the stereo separation and audio quality is stunning.
The only issue I have with the tiny audio cubes is the distance issue. Neither unit could sustain the audio source from much more than 20 feet or so indoors, and only a bit more outdoors. The mention of up to 50 feet seems a bit generous, or my review units aren’t final product. Either way, though, if users need more distance, they might be better served with the original cylinder from UE. At $99.99 per speaker, too, they might be a bit much to grab two speakers, but the stereo effect is fantastic, especially as a minimalist office desk speaker system.
All in all, the Ultimate Ears Mini Boom is a great sounding, rugged, easily used mini speaker that looks great doing it. They’re super loud, and have a balanced sound that works well with all kinds of music, never too bassy or tinny.
Product Name: : Ultimate Ears Mini Boom
The Good: Loud, attractive, rugged, easy to use mini speakers that can pair as stereo or audio doubling devices.
The Bad: Distance topped out around 25 feet in our testing, pricey for two, can’t sync two speakers via Mac.
The Verdict These are fantastic sounding and looking speakers, on their own and as a pair. While they might be expensive in twos and not quite live up to the distance hype, they’re ideal for situations where loudness and portability are at a premium.
Buy from: Ultimate Ears
Buy from: Amazon