PartyUp turns dozens of Ultimate Ears speakers into distributed sound system

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PartyUp Ultimate Ears
Ultimate Ears' new PartyUp mode is capable of seamlessly linking "more than 50" of the company's brightly colored Bluetooth speakers.
Photo: Ultimate Ears

A free software update for Ultimate Ears’ popular Boom and Megaboom speakers lets you connect dozens of the Bluetooth devices to create a massive wall of sound.

The over-the-air update, coming today to the “life-proof” speaker line, enables a new feature called PartyUp that can connect “more than 50” of UE’s popular tube-shaped speakers. “More than 50” is the party line, but UE product manager Jim Saraco said his team connected 130 of the speakers at the company’s HQ.

“In reality, we’re still trying to find a cap,” Saraco told Cult of Mac.

PartyUp mode is the latest innovation from a company that builds great-sounding audio gear and then continuously adds new features via firmware updates. PartyUp mode marks the first time any Bluetooth speakers have been able to pair more than two at a time, according to UE.

A previous software update for UE’s speakers enabled voice commands, allowing Boom and Megaboom owners to use Siri (or Google Now) to play songs.

Another update enabled Block Party mode, which lets multiple smartphones connect to a single speaker for easy playlist sharing.

PartyUp similarly encourages a group music experience, but this time it’s linking multiple speakers so a whole room (or field or parking lot) full of people can listen to the same tracks simultaneously.

PartyUp links ‘more than 50’ Ultimate Ears speakers

Got some friends with their own UE speakers? Have them bring them to the party and you can quickly pump up the volume by adding multiple speakers to the mix.

When UE started exploring the concept for PartyUp, the company knew it wanted to break the two-speaker barrier. The UE team batted around ideas, said Saraco.

Should they do four speakers? Or eight? The Bluetooth wizards at UE eventually decided to shoot for the moon.

“Let’s just go as big as we can go,” Saraco said, explaining their thinking at the time.

It’s UE’s latest Bluetooth innovation, and it can quickly turn dozens of UE speakers into a super-portable sound system that should be perfect for tailgating, pool parties and the like.

“We’ve been working on this for a while,” Saraco said. “This is our special sauce.”

How Ultimate Ears PartyUp works

To use PartyUp, one phone gets established as the host. All the other speakers get identified as guests. One smartphone connects to the host speaker. Then the other speakers connect to the host.

Each speaker appears on the updated UE app’s PartyUp section, with small images that bear the color schemes of the various speakers. To add a speaker to the party, just press and hold its image, then drag and drop it onto the party scene in the app.

As shown during a demo at the Cult of Mac office in San Francisco, a guest speaker will turn on in a matter of seconds and instantly sync the audio with the jams pumping out of the host.

PartyUp will work with all Boom and Boom 2 speakers, as well as the larger Megaboom, once the devices’ firmware (and the smartphone app) get the free update. It does not work with the smaller, disc-shaped UE Roll speakers.

To go with the new feature, UE is selling Party Packs of its speakers. Shop on the Ultimate Ears website to mix and match UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom speakers in any color in sets of two, five and 10 at a discounted rate.