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!

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.

Ultimate Ears speakers’ get voice upgrade that lets you ‘say it to play it’

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With the UE Boom 2, Ultimate Ears makes a great speaker even better.
A firmware update lets you bark song requests at your Boom 2 speaker. But you'll have to push a button first.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

A firmware update to Ultimate Ears’ Bluetooth speakers lets you use simple voice commands to make song requests.

After you install the over-the-air update, just tap the Bluetooth button on the top of your paired Boom 2 or Megaboom speaker, then say something like, “Play ‘Iron Man’ by Black Sabbath.” Soon the track will play as if by magic.

UE Boom 2 gets Block Party mode so you can blast friends’ tunes

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The UE Boom 2's new Block Party feature makes it easier than ever to share music with friends.
The UE Boom 2's new Block Party feature makes it easier than ever to share music with friends.
Photo: Ultimate Ears

SAN FRANCISCO — A slick new feature coming to Ultimate Ears’ Bluetooth speakers will let you stream your friends’ music from the palm of your hand.

Called Block Party, it lets up to three friends connect to the same UE speaker. Then the self-appointed DJ can pick and choose from each person’s tunes, pulled from streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. The DJ can skip songs and jump from playlist to playlist, and it’s all shockingly smooth and simple.

UE Boom 2 speaker brings more of everything (except for screws)

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The UE Boom 2 is pretty on the inside, too.
The UE Boom 2 is pretty on the inside, too.
Photo: Ultimate Ears

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.”

With its little life preserver, UE Roll is the perfect summer speaker

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The UE Roll didn't float, so  it comes with an itsy-bitsy life preserver (if you order direct).
The waterproof UE Roll doesn't float, so it comes with an itsy-bitsy life preserver (if you order direct).
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — Not content to conquer the Bluetooth speaker market with tubes and bigger tubes, Ultimate Ears made its latest portable audio device look like a lily pad. They made it waterproof, too. The only problem was, the UE Roll sank like a stone.

“As life would have it, it doesn’t float,” said Rory Dooley, Ultimate Ears’ senior vice president, during a visit to the Cult of Mac headquarters.

The solution? Create a tiny life preserver for the UE Roll, and give it away to anybody who orders the hottest speaker of the summer directly from UE’s website (while supplies last).

Best of CES 2015: Get a glimpse of the fantastic future

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Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Anything goes at International CES, the world's largest consumer electronics show. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
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LAS VEGAS — Walk the halls of the massive International CES trade show and you’ll be bombarded by an outrageous number of pitches for products with radical new features.

Cult_of_Mac_CES_2015 You can glimpse the shiny happy future of consumer electronics at the show, although some of the innovations on display are clearly destined for the dustbin of gadget history.

At the biggest booths, reps for big companies like Sony and Samsung — but, sadly, not Apple — talk up the latest additions to their product lines. At smaller booths, inventors show off prototypes for products that may not ever roll off an assembly line. There’s a nonstop blitz of “world’s first” products.

It’s impossible to see everything, but it’s a blast trying. Here are Cult of Mac’s picks for the best of CES 2015, from Lightning-enabled headphones and massive TVs to drones and self-adjusting belts.

UE Megaboom speaker takes a licking and keeps on kicking out the jams

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The UE Megaboom Bluetooth speaker brings the noise in a nearly indestructible package.
UE Megaboom bluetooth speaker. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s easy to see how the UE Megaboom could become your favorite way to listen to music. The new Bluetooth speaker packs great features into a rugged cylindrical package that won’t go tits up if you drop it or leave it out in the rain.

The UE Megaboom is bigger and louder than its predecessor, the similarly shaped UE Boom. It delivers glittering, precise highs and satisfying bass. It’s lightweight and boasts a 20-hour rechargeable battery. All in all, it’s a perfect device for the way we listen to music in the streaming era.