UE BOOM 3 review
It looks the same, but the UE BOOM 3 has a subtle redesign that makes it more portable than ever.
Waterproof Bluetooth speakers are all the rage nowadays, but one of the first companies to get it right was UE with its Boom series. While the original Boom and even the Boom 2 were good, we weren’t as impressed as everyone else was given the price. With the newest UE BOOM 3, though, there’s hope again: it’s actually competitively priced at around $150 USD (and often even less). So, is the UE BOOM 3 any better than previous versions?
Editor’s note: this UE BOOM 3 review was updated on June 24, 2021, to include more product information and update formatting.
Who should get the UE BOOM 3?
- Beachgoers or people in rainy climates will appreciate the IP67 rating. I lived in the Pacific Northwest for a year, and when they say it rains every day they aren’t lying. If you live in a part of the world where it rains all the time, waterproofing all your things isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity.
- People who like the JBL Charge 4 but want something more portable will appreciate the UE Boom 3’s size. While the Charge 4 is a great speaker for the price; plus, it comes with some cool features. That said, it’s also pretty large. And while the built-in stand and bulging shape make it great for the deck or the yard, it isn’t as easy to bring around as the UE BOOM 3.
How is the UE BOOM 3 built?
It may not be the best sounding speaker, but the UE BOOM 3 still gets plenty loud.
The build quality of the speaker is solid and it got an entirely new makeover design-wise as well. The UE BOOM 3 is immediately recognizable as a UE product, but there’s a few things that are different now when compared to previous versions. Gone is the soft plastic bumper down the middle of the speaker that had the plus and minus buttons. Instead, it’s been replaced with a slimmer plastic strip down the speaker’s spine.
This might sound weird to say about a cylindrical speaker, but it’s also less rounded off. The edges end sharply and the entire speaker is shaped much more like a large soda can than the previous version. That design choice was intentional, as the UE BOOM 3 easily fits anywhere that a water bottle would—whether that’s in your bag, your car’s cup holder, or even the water bottle bracket on your bike.
The UE BOOM 3 still has the characteristic plus and minus sign buttons.
The UE BOOM 3 is also wrapped in an IP67 waterproof fabric that’s tough and grippy. I had no problems keeping a good hold on it even when it was wet and knowing that a rainstorm won’t be the end of it definitely adds some peace of mind when taking it outside. Even better, the UE BOOM 3 floats just like the Wonderboom, which is a small feature that packs a ton of value. It’s not just the outside that was made to be tough either: UE claims that the speaker is drop-proof, too. While we didn’t do any drop tests off a building, it did survive a roll off my bed without a problem, which is probably a more common scenario anyway.
See: Ultimate Bluetooth speaker buying guide
The UE BOOM 3 still sports the signature plus and minus buttons for adjusting volume and three buttons up top for controlling playback and powering the speaker on/off. I had no problem with these buttons during my time with it because unlike the Charge 4, the buttons on the UE BOOM 3 are distinctive shapes. Even in the dark, it’s easy to feel around and find the one that you want. There’s also a small loop on the back to hang it but I found it too small to be useful for anything. Unless you attach a separate carabiner to it, it’s pretty much useless.
Does the UE BOOM 3 have a microphone?
No, the UE BOOM 3 unfortunately does not have a microphone either. If you tend to answer calls via your speaker this is something to keep in mind. While I doubt it’s a common occurrence for most people I’ve definitely answered calls while in the shower or while floating in a pool before, so I understand when someone says that it’s a must-have feature.
How’s the connection strength?
While we reviewed the bright blue model, the BOOM 3 is available in six colors.
Fortunately, the UE BOOM 3 doesn’t seem to have any issues with dropped connections or stutters. As long as you stay within ~50 feet there’s nothing to worry about. It even gets the job done at around 100 feet with no walls in the way. It doesn’t seem like many companies are having too many issues with Bluetooth connectivity in recent years, at least when it comes to staying connected.
Then, there’s the app which is both good and bad. It’s bad because I’m tired of downloading apps for everything I buy but good because it’s actually useful and adds functionality. For one, it has a basic EQ so you can tweak the sound of the speaker to your liking, but it also lets you save up to four EQ presets. That way, you can have one for when you’re listening to your podcasts in the shower (that can’t just be me right?) and another for when you’re at the beach with friends.
Up top are three buttons for controlling playback.
Besides that, the app is also where you go to connect to other UE speakers. You can connect up to 150 other UE speakers, and it’s backward-compatible, meaning the older UE BOOM 2 can take advantage of this. We couldn’t test this as we only had one speaker to play with, but it’s good to have the option if you and a few friends all have UE speakers. You can also use the app to turn the speaker into a musical alarm clock if you’re tired of listening to your phone every morning.
Then there’s a button that lets you switch between playlists without needing to reach for your phone. Of course, you’ll have to set this up in the app, but you’ll be able to skip between playlist by long-pressing the multifunction button in the middle for three seconds. Then controlling your music is just like anything, with a single tap pausing/playing and a double-tap skipping to the next song. Curiously, the ability to triple tap to return to a previous song is missing, which is kind of a bummer because otherwise the UE BOOM 3 would have everything.
How to pair to the UE BOOM 3
Its new shape is roughly the size of a water bottle, so you can take it wherever you go.
Pairing to the UE BOOM 3 is very simple. Just follow these steps to pair to your phone or computer:
- Quickly press the power button located on the top of your speaker to turn the speaker on.
- Then press and hold the smaller Bluetooth pairing button in order to enter pairing mode.
- Next go into the Bluetooth settings of your source device.
- In the available devices section, select “UE BOOM 3” from the list.
Can the UE BOOM 3 connect to Alexa?
Unfortunately, the UE BOOM 3 can not connect to Alexa anymore. UE speakers have been able to connect to Amazons’ assistant in the past but on its FAQ page the company stated that in an effort to make the experience better they discontinued the feature on Android. If you’re after speakers with Alexa make sure to check out our full list of Alexa-compatible speakers as you’ll likely find something there.
How is the battery life on the UE BOOM 3?
A small loop on the back would go great with a carabiner, though it’s too small for anything else.
UE claims a battery life of 15 hours, but in our testing, we got 8.3 hours which is a bummer. While it’s fine for an average day, it isn’t going to blow you away like some other, less expensive speakers that can play music for 24-hours straight. But again, UE made a slight change that I think is really cool: you can charge the UE BOOM 3 wirelessly with the proprietary Power Up dock. The caveat? It’s sold separately.
The dock has three pins that charge the speaker via a small metal divot at the bottom. I wish it came with the speaker, but it isn’t absurdly expensive at $40. Just keep in mind that if you take this speaker out with you for a long beach day, you’re going to have to throw back on the charger when you get home.
The UE BOOM 3 battery life falls very short of its listed playtime.
Another nifty feature is the ability to power up the UE BOOM 3 without touching it via a power button in the UE BOOM app. What is a little disappointing is that both the speaker and the dock use micro-USB instead of USB Type-C. It seems like UE has a bunch of great, futuristic ideas for this speaker but it’s being held back from truly being future-proof by clinging to an old port. It obviously isn’t a huge deal, but it means that if you get the UE BOOM 3, there’s a good chance it might be the only device in your life that charges via micro-USB in a few years.
How does the UE BOOM 3 sound?
The cylindrical shape means you get sound in 360 degrees.
The UE BOOM 2 wasn’t our favorite sounding speaker in the past, and that hasn’t changed here. It still puts more emphasis on being loud than sounding good, but if you’re going to be outdoors at the beach or in the park, that might be what you’re looking for. For all of our listening, we didn’t alter the EQ in the app and left it as-is out of the box.
The first thing you notice when listening to music is that this speaker definitely puts the “boom” in UE BOOM 3 (I couldn’t resist). In all seriousness, the low end is emphasized, but the drivers aren’t big enough to do bass notes any justice. Instead, the bass in the song Daffodilsby Mark Ronson sounds less powerful, almost like midrange frequencies, which means that it competes with vocals far too often and often ends up masking them.
The BOOM 3 doesn't reproduce accurate audio, but it's good enough for a get together.
Similarly, the high end doesn’t sound like there’s much holding it back, which results in distortion and harshness at high volumes. This is easy to hear in the song Horchataby Vampire Weekend; the bells and cymbals sound too loud compared to everything else. It’s worth mentioning that most of my issues seemed to be at volumes greater than 80 percent. At regular volumes, there aren’t too many issues but if you’re getting the UE BOOM 3, chances are you’re going to be pressing that volume up button a lot.
Should you get the UE BOOM 3?
If you don’t have another Bluetooth speaker or you’re looking for a quick and practical gift, then absolutely. Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with shopping around a bit.
The UE BOOM 3 isn’t the best sounding speaker by far, for that you’d probably have to go with the JBL Charge 4, but UE has made a lot of incremental improvements. The ability to link up to older UE speakers, the addition of wireless charging via the dock, and a redesigned body are all welcome changes. It seems the company took the time to think about how people are actually going to use this speaker, and that attention to detail combined with the lower price point makes the UE BOOM 3 an easy recommendation, even if it does charge via micro USB.
Next: Best Bluetooth speakers under $100
Since they launched in 2013, Ultimate Ears’ Boom speakers have been some of the most recognizable Bluetooth speakers around, and they set something of a standard for what a rugged, portable speaker should look and sound like. UE has updated a few things here and there over the years with the UE Boom 2 and the addition of the larger MegaBoom and new software tricks, but things haven’t really fundamentally changed since the original UE Boom came out. That changes now.
Today, Ultimate Ears announced the UE Boom 3 and MegaBoom 3. (UE is seemingly skipping the MegaBoom 2 to keep the branding consistent.) They mark the biggest update yet to UE’s speakers. The UE Boom 3 will cost $149 when it hits stores in early to mid-September, while the larger MegaBoom 3 will run for $199.
The changes start on the outside, where UE has refreshed the design. The rubber stripe on the front where the plus / minus volume buttons were is gone for a cleaner look and more uniform sound. Also new is the fabric, which has been updated to a lovely-looking two-tone style. (The blue / purple design is especially nice; it has an iridescent look that shimmers in sunlight. )
Visual style aside, the biggest update is a new “Magic Button” on top of the Boom 3 and MegaBoom 3. At its simplest, the Magic Button works as a play / pause / skip button, something that the UE Boom line has been sorely lacking for the past half-decade. But the button does more than that: press and hold the Magic Button, and it can turn on the speaker, connect to your phone, and start playing one of four preset Apple Music (on iOS) or Deezer Premium (on Android) playlists in a single shot. Press and hold it again, and it’ll cycle to the next playlist on the list. Services like Spotify or Pandora aren’t currently supported, but UE says that deals for additional sources are in the works.
There are a few other quality-of-life updates coming with the new speakers. There’s an integrated cloth loop to hang the speakers from, they both float (in addition to the IP67 water and dust resistance rating), and the charging port has been moved to the side from the bottom so that you can charge the speaker and still use it at the same time.
Unfortunately, that charger is rather frustratingly stuck as a Micro USB plug instead of a more modern USB-C one. UE says that the decision to stick with the older port is due to the market not being ready yet in terms of USB-C adoption, something that will likely continue to remain the case if companies keep releasing new Bluetooth speakers that cling to the old standard.
That said, you probably won’t want to use Micro USB anyway: UE has integrated support for its wireless Power Up charging base (sold separately for $39) that the company introduced with its Alexa-equipped Blast and MegaBlast speakers, which are sticking around as a separate product line.
Photography by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge
Correction: Access to Deezer Premium playlists with the Magic Button will only be available on Android at launch, with iOS support planned for the future.
SUPER PORTABLE SUPER LOUD
LOUD AND TRUE
BOOM 3 packs a sonic punch for its size. Featuring Ultimate Ears unique audio processing, it produces clear and balanced audio faithful to the music you love, and at every volume level.
SPATIAL 360° SOUND
In BOOM 3 we’ve perfected the iconic cylindrical design we pioneered to deliver immersive, stereophonic audio that radiates evenly in all directions.
DEEP ACCURATE BASS
Unlike most portable speakers, BOOM 3 gives your music a deep, rich bass texture that’s true to your music. Without exaggeration or distortion.
Learn more about Ultimate Sound
SUPER PORTABLE SUPER LOUD
HANGS TOUGH ANYWHERE
BOOM 3 is purpose built to handle life's thrills and spills. It’s passed more than 25 seriously tough durability tests, including thousands of button pushes, 100s of tumbles, multiple drop tests, and more. So party on friend. From rooftop-raging to mountaintop-shredding BOOM 3's got ya back.
HANGS TOUGH ANYWHERE
ONE TOUCH TO YOUR MUSIC
MEET THE ALL-NEW MAGIC BUTTON
With BOOM 3 you can play, pause and skip tracks directly on the speaker. Just push for convenient control of any streaming music. Or simply set up custom one-touch playlists for Spotify® on Android*, Amazon Music Unlimited, Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music® and Deezer® Premium. Match the moment with the vibes without reaching for your phone.
* Compatible with Android phones and tablets OS 6 and above
One Touch Video
ONE TOUCH TO YOUR MUSIC
STYLE MEETS PERFORMANCE
BOOM 3 is covered in a two-tone fabric that’s as tough as it is hot-damn beautiful. Engineered for applications like motorcycle jackets and fire equipment, this performance textile is built for extremes. And colored two ways by our custom dying process, it comes to life in a range of drool-worthy iridescent themes.
Listen In style
STYLE MEETS PERFORMANCE
15 HOUR PARTY POWER
KILLER BATTERY LIFE
BOOM 3 runs on the same battery technology as some of the most crave-worthy electric cars. BOOM 3 will stay powered and pumping tunes for 15 hours** on a single charge.
15 HOUR PARTY POWER
STRAIGHT UP WATER BABY
WATERPROOF & FLOATS
BOOM 3 was born to get wet and is completely waterproof. Boasting an insane IP67 water and dustproof rating, it can be totally submerged in water for up to 30-minutes. When it pops back to the surface–because it floats too–it will still be booming loud and proud.
Let's Get Wet
STRAIGHT UP WATER BABY
DOCK AND ROLL
CHARGE WIRELESSLY WITH POWER UP
Throw Power Up charging dock (sold separately) into your basket, so you can grab-and-go with BOOM 3, fully charged, to your next musical adventure.
Empower your Music
DOCK AND ROLL
MAKE BOOM ALL YOURS
CUSTOMIZE BOOM 3
Go to myBOOM Studio and customize BOOM 3 for you or someone super-lucky. Choose colors, fabric, text and more for a look that’s all your own.
DESIGN YOURS NOW
MAKE BOOM ALL YOURS
Use your BOOM app to download the features like PartyUp, Remote On/Off, Customizable EQ, Musical Alarm, Tap controls and more.
More about the App
CONNECT SPEAKERS. GET LOUDER.
Use PARTY UP on the BOOM App to pair 1, 2 , 3... and over 150 speakers and create the ultimate sound experience. You can combine multiple BOOM 3, MEGABOOM 3 and HYPERBOOM speakers or even pair them with previous generation BOOM speakers. Build a wall of sound? No problem.
MORE ABOUT PARTYUP
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Designed to keep up with life’s thrills and spills, the Boom 3 is the latest in Ultimate Ears’ line of best selling portable outdoor speakers, and it comes with an incredible IP67 waterproof and dust-proof rating, which means it can be submerged underwater for up to 30 minutes.
With an new two-tone fabric grille and refined look it certainly looks the part, but does the Bluetooth speaker to our tests? Here’s what we thought of the Boom 3:
Price and availability
The UE Boom 3 is available to buy for $129.99 (£129.99 / AU$199.95, R2,999), which is around $30 more expensive than its predecessor, the UE Boom 2.
This price puts the Boom 3 at the more expensive end of the portable speaker market – more expensive than the Bose SoundLink Color II, which offers a higher standard of audio quality, but a lower IP rating.
Like the UE Boom 1 and 2, the newest model in the portable speaker line has a cylindrical build for 360 sound, and with a height of around 18cm, it’s pleasingly compact and easy to hold on the go.
The UE Boom 3 comes in range of two-tone iridescent fabric finishes, including sunset red, lagoon blue, forest green, and night black. We tried out the forest green design, which features a two-tone khaki and gold fabric finish, which shimmers beautifully when it catches the light. This particular color palette may not be for everyone, but with so many options on the Ultimate Ears website, even the fussiest customer is sure to find a combination they like.
Aside from looking great, this fabric is designed to be super durable, as it was originally engineered for motorcycle jackets and fire equipment.
The calling card of the UE Boom 3 is it’s incredible waterproof rating, which means it can be totally submerged in water for up to 30 minutes thanks to a super tight interlocking weave and a fully protected charging port.
If you plan on taking the Boom 3 into the pool for a dip, it also floats - although for most of us, the waterproof rating will prove most useful in the shower.
On the top of the speaker you have an on/off button and a ‘magic button’, which can be used to pause, play, and skips tracks. You can also used the magic button to directly access your playlists from a select few music providers - to do this you will need to set this feature up in the accompanying Megaboom app.
Disappointingly, this feature only works with Apple Music if you’re on an iOS device, and Deezer Premium if you’re an Android user - with so many Spotify users out there, the experience would really be improved with Spotify integration.
The rubber casing that housed the buttons on the UE Boom 2 is gone, with the large ‘+’ and ‘-’ volume buttons integrated directly into the fabric grille. While this looks far more aesthetically pleasing, it does make the volume buttons a little harder to push down, particularly if you’re using the speaker in the shower.
Features and performance
With a maximum volume of 90 decibels, this little speaker certainly packs a punch, and it has a two 2-inch drivers and two 4-inch passive radiators for room-filling sound. The conical design allows for 360 degree audio, and we found the sound to be spacious, with good frequency separation.
Although bass frequencies sound good (if not lacking in a little depth) for the speaker’s size, we weren’t blown away by the mid frequencies, which feature heavily in vocals and keys - they felt slightly subdued in comparison to the bass.
Treble frequencies had the same problem, with a generally lack of clarity in the top notes - we tried out guitar heavy tracks like Belle and Sebastian’s ‘Your Cover’s Blown’ and we felt that the highest frequencies could have benefitted from a sharper kick.
If you are unhappy with the default equalizer settings, you can amend them in the dedicated app - it comes with four different presets ‘The Standard’, ‘Cramped Spaces’, ‘Voices’, and ‘Bass Jump’. Swapping between these presets didn’t have a huge effect on the audio output, although you can create your own custom equalizer settings with the adjustable tuner – simply move the sliders up and down on the bass, mid, and treble tuners until you find a sound you’re happy with.
One cool feature of the app is that you can link up two UE Boom 3s for stereo sound – although it’s possible to link up to 150 Boom and Megaboom speakers for an crazy wall of sound.
To charge the UE Boom 3, you can either connect it to a power source via the included micro-USB, or use Ultimate Ears’ own charging dock, which gives you a couple of different options depending on whether you’re on the go or listening at home.
In terms of portability, the speaker ticks all the right boxes: it’s light, easy to carry, and has an impressive 15 hours of playback from a single charge. We encountered no problems with the Bluetooth connectivity either, and found its stated range of 150 feet to be pretty accurate.
The waterproof design seems to work well, and we encountered no problems when using it in the shower. It also has a fabric hook on the top of the speaker so you can hang it up while you wash.
All in all, the UE Boom 3 is a solid little speaker that addresses some of the issues of its predecessor, the UE Boom 2. With a wireless range increase of 15 feet, and increased waterproofing, it’s certainly an improvement on the previous generation, but Ultimate Ears still haven’t quite achieved perfection in the UE Boom 3.
At this price, it’s puzzling that Ultimate Ears haven’t made an significant improvements to the audio quality which, while powerful, is lacking clarity and precision, particularly in the lower mids and treble frequencies. Having the ability to change the equalizer settings is a nice touch however.
Battery life has also stayed the same between the generations at 15 hours, which seems a little low compared to the UE Megaboom 3’s 20 hours. Still, the Megaboom 3 is a fair bit more expensive, so if you’re looking to save some cash on a portable speaker, go for the Boom 3.
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Olivia is TechRadar's Audio & Music Editor, covering everything from headphones to music streaming services. Based in TechRadar's London offices, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, Top Ten Reviews Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. In her spare time Olivia likes gardening, painting, and hanging with her cat Ethel and golden retriever Dora.
3 ue boom
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