UE Boom 3 crams ‘magic’ new features into iridescent package

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The UE Boom 3 Bluetooth speaker packs great new features into a sophisticated package.
If you like Apple Music, this is the Bluetooth speaker for you.
Photo: Lewis Wallace/Cult of Mac

Like a cute iMac G3 blossoming into a “simply breathtaking” iMac G4, Ultimate Ears’ Boom and Megaboom speakers just morphed into something even more wonderful.

Sporting an updated design and loads of advanced features — including a new Magic Button that puts Apple Music playlists at your fingertips — the best Bluetooth speakers around just got even better. And, surprisingly, they also got cheaper!

Announced today and arriving in stores next month, the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 look similar to their cylindrical predecessors. But they come wrapped in an advanced fabric from schoeller Switzerland, maker of advanced, highly durable textiles used in motorcycle jackets and firefighters’ gear.

New iridescent colors for Boom 3 and Megaboom 3

The UE Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 color names -- Sunset, Lagoon and Night -- could be more straightforward but whatever.
The colorful names — Sunset, Lagoon and Night — could be more straightforward, but whatever.
Photo: Ultimate Ears

The tough-as-nails exterior looks iridescent like a beautiful beetle (although this multicolored effect proves more obvious in some of the speakers’ six colors than others).

Reminiscent of sporty designs used in some Nike Flex shoes, the iridescent color combos “bring the fashion forward into the speaker,” said Christina Gregor, Logitech’s global communications manager, during a demo of the new speakers for Cult of Mac. (Logitech owns Ultimate Ears.)

Apple exclusive colors include Denim (left) and Cloud.
Apple exclusive colors include Denim (left) and Cloud.

The speakers come in four standard colors — Night (black), Sunset (red), Lagoon (blue) and Ultraviolet (purple) — and two colors exclusive to Apple stores: Denim (dark blue) and Cloud (light blue).

The new design brings other changes, too.

Gone is the thick, rubbery stripe on the front of the tube-shaped speakers. (That’s where the giant plus and minus symbols lived on previous versions.) Instead, a thin contrasting strip runs down the back.

Ultimate Ears moved the micro USB charging port from the bottom of the speaker to that strip to facilitate use during charging. Plus, a new fabric loop sits at the top of the strip.

Size-wise, the new speakers come in about the same as their predecessors. The Boom 3 measures 7.24 inches high and 2.87 inches in diameter (about the size of a 16-ounce pounder), while the Megaboom 3 comes in at 8.86 inches tall and 3.43 inches in diameter (like a 24-ounce tallboy).

New features in Boom 3 and Megaboom 3

The new Magic Button doesn't make the Boom 3 float. But float it does!
The new Magic Button doesn’t make the Boom 3 float. But float it does!
Photo: Ultimate Ears

Magic Button

The most obvious new feature is the Magic Button, a fat, physical button on the tops of the new UE speakers. William Johnson, Logitech’s senior product manager for Boom and Megaboom, calls the speakers’ “hero feature.”

The Magic Button powers the new One Touch to Music functionality that puts up to four of your favorite playlists at your fingertips. This feature currently works with Apple Music on iOS and Deezer Premium on Android. (If you were hoping for Spotify support, you’ll need to pin your streaming dreams on UE’s boilerplate response about always being open to working with new partners.)

After you select your four favorite playlists in the redesigned Ultimate Ears app (which will work with both Boom 3 and Megaboom 3, as well as older speakers), you just tap the Magic Button to start or stop the playlist. A double-tap fast-forwards to the next track on the playlist; a long-press cycles you to the next playlist in your lineup.

An almost indestructible Bluetooth speaker

Previous UE speakers proved nearly indestructible, but the new lineup goes a step further. Rated IP67, the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 add “dustproof” to previous generations’ drop-proof and waterproof ratings. Plus, the new speakers actually float!

Bluetooth and battery life

Bluetooth range gets a boost to a maximum range of 150 feet (up from 100). Battery life remains the same, with Boom clocking in at up to 15 hours and Megaboom at 20, according to UE’s optimistic estimates. (I’ve never gotten that much time out of previous UE speakers, and haven’t had time to test the Boom 3. Safe to say, the louder you play your music, the shorter your battery life will be. Still, the speakers’ battery life is generally good.

Redesigned Ultimate Ears app

As mentioned, the Ultimate Ears app is getting a definite upgrade. For one, no longer will you need two separate apps if you have both Boom and Megaboom speakers. Everything’s folded into one.

The new app still enables powerful features like PartyUp mode, which can turn up to 150 Ultimate Ears speakers into distributed sound system, and Block Party, which lets friends connect and play DJ.

PartyUp did not work perfectly for me, but we’re talking about beta software here. I’m certain Ultimate Ears will get things sorted prior to next month’s launch.

The new, streamlined Ultimate Ears app also packs a custom equalizer and remote on/off controls, which worked great.

UE also killed a few “less-useful” features, Johnson said. The alarm is gone, as is Alexa Tap to Talk. The new speakers don’t work as speakerphones, either.

PowerUp support

Power Up! The most exciting thing about this picture might be the white, puck-shaped wireless charger sitting underneath the speaker. (Nope, it's the champagne.)
Power Up! The most exciting thing about this picture might be the white, puck-shaped wireless charger sitting underneath the speaker. (Nope, it’s the champagne or whatever that is.)
Photo: Ultimate Ears

The speakers also work with Power Up, UE’s $40 charging dock previously reserved for the company’s Blast and Megablast speakers.

Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 pricing

Despite all the new features, UE actually dropped the price on its latest, greatest speakers. The Boom 3 lists for $149.99 and Megaboom 3 will cost $199.99.

Hands on: A quick Boom 3 review

I’ve listened to a lot of Bluetooth speakers over the years. The UE speakers cost more than many of their competitors, but they consistently outperform the competition. They sound better, look better, work better and take a beating better than their rivals. The Megaboom in particular sounds awesome.

The Boom 3, which I’ve been using for a few days, seems every bit as good as previous UE speakers. And the new features — especially at a lower price — make it even more attractive.

The new Magic Button really does seem magical, making playlists easier to find and navigate. Add a dynamic Smart Playlist and this feature really pays off. Not needing to dig around in the Apple Music app to start listening to music I actually want to hear proves surprisingly liberating.

Having one app for Boom and Megaboom speakers, rather than separate apps for both lines, makes a lot of sense for owners of multiple UE speakers.

And adding Power Up support eliminates one of UE speakers’ only annoyances — plugging them in to charge them up. This $40 accessory is well worth the money if you favor keeping your speaker charged at all times (and who doesn’t?).

The best Bluetooth speakers just got better

In short, the new UE Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 look and sound beautiful. They deliver clear highs and beefy lows (especially the Megaboom) with no distortion, even at max volume.

They really are rugged, so they will last years. And Ultimate Ears continues to add thoughtful features through software updates, making its speakers even better over time.

If you want a rugged Bluetooth speaker you can pop in your bag and take anywhere — from seashore to mountaintop to poolside or even an office party — these will do the trick quite nicely.

Ultimate Ears provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more stuff we recommend.