I reviewed Ultimate Ears’ original WONDERBOOM for GeekDad in 2017, and it was a great little portable speaker. It delivered surprisingly robust sound for something that could sit in the palm of your hand, it was both rugged and waterproof, it offered decent 10-hour battery life, and it could double up with a second speaker for improved audio. A few months ago, Ultimate Ears released the second generation, WONDERBOOM 2. The company sent me a pair to try out (more on why there were two later), and I can say the new version is faithful to everything I loved about the original but offers improvements across the board.
And despite the WONDERBOOM 2 being a better speaker, the company kept the $99.99 price tag of the original.
Obviously Descended From the WONDERBOOM, But Better…
Looking at the WONDERBOOM 2 beside an original version of the speaker, there are a few visual cues that something is different. The new model keeps the same form factor but it’s a tad larger. The new speaker is clad in mesh fabric as before, but features a new two-tone knit weave. The multifunction button on top of the speaker is more obvious.
Where the original was IPX7 waterproof and floated, the new version improves on that with an IP67 rating which adds dust resistance—something that can be important if you use the speaker at the beach. As has become a tradition when testing Ultimate Ears speakers, I tossed the WONDERBOOM 2 in my dog’s wading pool and, yes, it floats. I can also confirm being submerged and in the water for 30 minutes does it no harm whatsoever. I included the speaker in my 2019 camping gear roundup after making extensive use of the WONDERBOOM 2 at the beach during this summer’s main camping trip.
The WONDERBOOM 2 updates the cable hang loop with a cloth mesh version, but if you lose your grip, it’s rated to survive a five-foot drop. Some of the extra volume in the new speaker has clearly gone to housing a larger battery because battery life gets a significant boost, from 10 hours for the original to up to 13 hours for the WONDERBOOM 2.
The same driver setup is used this time around (a pair of 40mm active drivers supplemented by two 46.1 x 65.2mm passive radiators delivering energetic 360-degree audio), but Ultimate Ears says the new speaker is tuned to deliver improved bass. There’s also a new Outdoor Boost button that brings the maximum sound level output to 87 dBC. This is pretty loud for something so small.
And then there is the “Double Up” feature which is significantly upgraded and worthy of being spiked out on its own.
Support for Stereo Sound
One of the big wins for the WONDERBOOM 2 is an upgrade in its ability to pair with a second speaker. Take two WONDERBOOM 2s, hold down the multifunction button down on each, and they will pair. This time around, the audio isn’t just doubling up, though, it’s true stereo with one speaker handling the left channel while the other is the right.
Why is this such a big deal? Listening to music in stereo sounds way better than hearing everything coming from a single unit—no matter how many drivers it has and what kind of software surround effects are being employed. A single WONDERBOOM 2 sounds pretty good, but for under $200 you can buy two and enjoy stereo sound at a fraction of the price of a single, premium portable speaker. I think that’s a steal…
Should You Buy It?
Are you in the market for an ultra-portable, affordable, virtually indestructible portable Bluetooth speaker? There’s really nothing in its price range that compares to the Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2. If you have an extra $99.99 in the budget, you really might want to consider buying a pair. That way you can have a different color speaker for different moods (or give one to your kids), with the option of pushing a button for true stereo playback on demand.
Disclosure: Ultimate Ears provided WONDERBOOM 2 speakers for evaluation but had no input into this review.
This post was last modified on August 29, 2019 6:41 pm