Ultimate Ears makes some well regarded portable Bluetooth speakers. Read Ken’s review of the UE Megaboom from a few years back and you get a good idea of what to expect from the brand. UE recently sent me their latest rugged mini speaker to knock around. The UE Wonderboom is small (about the size of a coffee cup), rugged, and waterproof. It even floats. Here’s what I thought of this mini Bluetooth speaker.
Mini Size, Big Sound
Despite being small enough to easily fit in a hand, UE densely packaged the Wonderboom with components. At 15 ounces, it feels heavier than it looks, although it’s still light enough to easily carry around.
The battery is rated for 10 hours of use at 75% volume and easily hits that number. That’s a few hours more than many mini speakers and helps to explain some of the extra weight. There is a pair of 1.6-inch active drivers and two 1.8-inch passive radiators inside the 4-inch tall cylinder. They produce effective, 360-degree audio that packs a punch. There’s a definite (although far from booming) bass presence, solid mid-range, and the highs are crisp.
The speaker can produce sound at a surprisingly loud level before distortion starts to hit. I found that indoors, after hitting about 50% volume (which is still enough to fill a small room), the mid-range began to sound a little overpowering with vocals and guitar starting to dominate the mix. Outdoors—without walls to bounce the audio off—it was more forgiving. Either way, actual distortion didn’t start kicking in until near maximum volume. It’s not perfect, but for a mini speaker, I would call the audio performance very good, especially when used outside.
Bluetooth connectivity was extremely solid. UE claims up to 100 feet. I was able to leave the speaker in my office, wander around the house, going up and down floors, and the connection never dropped.
Rugged and Waterproof
UE says the Wonderboom is drop proof from up to five feet. I didn’t drop it on concrete, but it had no problem with a three-foot tumble onto my deck. It’s IP67 waterproof (rated to survive 30 minutes in three feet of water) and UE says it floats. I put it to the test, tossing the Wonderboom into a large bowl of water. And yes, it not only survives the dunking without a problem, it does indeed float. It’s not designed to play music while floating (360-degree sound doesn’t work well when half the speaker is underwater), but if you drop it in a pool you don’t have to worry about the Wonderboom sinking like a rock.
There’s also an integrated elastic cord so you can attach it or hang it.
UE backs up the Wonderboom with a two-year limited hardware warranty, double the typical coverage offered by speaker manufacturers.
A Little Light on the Extras
If you choose the Megaboom, you will give up some the extras other speakers in the UE lineup offer, but frankly, most of there are features I would seldom use—and I suspect few other people would consider their loss a deal-breaker.
You can pair two Wonderbooms to double up the sound, but there’s no left and right channel stereo. If you care enough about having two speakers with proper stereo reproduction, you’re probably going to be shopping for a more capable speaker than a compact $99 model in the first place… There’s no AUX input, Bluetooth connectivity only. And you can’t use it as a speakerphone. I’ve yet to see anyone sitting at the beach actually using their wireless speaker as a speakerphone, so again, probably not a huge lost for most users.
Considering you get a very capable little speaker that can play all day, take some rough treatment, survive a dunking in water, and even float, not having all the bells and whistles is a reasonable price to pay. This would make a pretty nice graduation gift if you have a kid who loves music but is a little tough on electronics.
Disclosure: UE provided a Wonderboom speaker for review purposes, but had no editorial input.