SAN FRANCISCO — Ultimate Ears could have borrowed the iPhone 6s tag line to market its new UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speakers.
Like Apple’s latest smartphones, which Cupertino hypes with the clever catchphrase “the only thing that’s changed is everything,” UE’s second-generation Bluetooth speaker is almost indistinguishable from its tubular predecessor — at least on the outside. But upgraded specs and a few pleasant surprises give the Boom 2 a welcome boost.
“There’s something magic about this design,” said Diego Gabathuler, head of brand and global marketing for Ultimate Ears, as he showed off the Boom 2 during a demo at the Cult of Mac offices. “It would have been a shame to take that magic away.”
Ultimate Ears speakers, which the company calls “life-proof,” are built for taking anywhere. They’re rugged yet playful, clever yet simple. As the world moves toward streaming music on services like Spotify and Apple Music, Bluetooth speakers make it easier than ever to enjoy ear-tickling music wherever you go. While mobile speakers come in a seemingly never-ending variety of shapes and sizes, few sound as good or look as cheerful as the ones in UE’s lineup.
UE Boom 2 brings new features
While the casual observer might mistake the UE Boom 2 for its lookalike older brother, the new speaker got a top-to-bottom refresh where it counts most: delivering shimmering 360-degree sound.
“What we have kept is the award-winning design,” Gabathuler said. “We have completely re-engineered the inside.”
The new speaker brings 25 percent more sound, 100-foot range, added clarity and IPX7 waterproofing (like its sibling speakers, the UE Megaboom and the UE Roll), Gabathuler said. The company rates the speaker at the same 15-hour battery life as its predecessor, even with the potential for louder playback levels.
There’s also a built-in accelerometer, which enables an entirely new feature: After you pick up the UE Boom 2, you can simply tap the top of the speaker once to pause a track; tap twice to skip to the next song on your playlist.
“We wanted to keep it simple,” Gabathuler said.
The tap feature is called Gesture Control in the useful app that accompanies the Boom 2, allowing you to remotely turn the speaker on and off or pair it with other UE speakers.
Subtle tweaks in UE Boom 2
Gabathuler said Ultimate Ears’ engineering team faced a tough challenge as they sought to boost the sound quality and volume in the same 500-gram speaker case that fits in a bicycle’s water bottle cage.
“Everything we do with this product was hard because we have a lot less space,” he said.
During the engineering process, UE’s lab team eliminated 15 screws as they improved the UE Boom 2 assembly.
“The engineers have used every millimeter,” Gabathuler said. “It’s fully packed.”
While the form factor is nearly identical, there have been some subtle tweaks. The super-durable fabric cover on the UE Boom 2 comes in a tighter weave, which gives it a different feel and allows for better printing and dyeing. Gabathuler said they’ve tried putting photos on the fabric, and the test prints came out sharp and clean.
The UE Boom 2 costs $199 and will be available this month in six vibrant color schemes: Cherrybomb, Yeti, Phantom, GreenMachine, Tropical and BrainFreeze. Limited-edition colors and artist editions, like the Skrillex X UE Boom, should come next year.