UE Boom 2 review: Bluetooth speaker gets cheaper

£170
Price when reviewed

Deal update: Over on Amazon, the Ultimate Ears BOOM 2 Wireless/Bluetooth Speaker – which is waterproof and shockproof – is now at the lower price of £85. Considering that it cost £170 when we first reviewed it, this new reduced cost is an absolute bargain. 

Jonathan’s review continues below.

Bluetooth speakers have become an essential smartphone companion, and the UE Boom has been a popular choice over the past couple of years. Its funky looks, decent sound quality and weatherproofing garnered it a cult following. Now the UE Boom 2 is here, and it adds a number of handy new features.

It’s designed to play louder than the original Boom, comes with touch-sensitive gesture controls in addition to its physical buttons, and is now completely waterproof – rated to the IPX7 standard – rather than simply splashproof. If you leave it in the garden in a rainstorm, it’ll survive no problem. You can even use it in the shower, if that’s your thing. In fact, it’ll survive being fully immersed in up to a metre of water for 30 minutes, so heck, you can kick it into the bath by accident and it’ll live to tell the tale.

In design terms, the Boom 2 is almost identical to its predecessor, which is no bad thing, either. Its cylindrical form is available in six different colours, it’s clad in tough-feeling rubber, has tightly-woven cloth wrapped around the speaker grilles, and its compact frame feels sturdy and well-made.

This is a speaker you can chuck in a bag with all your gear and not have to worry about damaging. However, I’d advise against choosing the white version: the one we were sent got grubby pretty quickly.

UE Boom 2 review: Features

It’s also replete with handy features, most of which are accessed via the companion smartphone app. Download it (both iOS and Android versions are available) and you’ll be able to pair it with another UE Boom for stereo output, and use the “DJ” mode to give up to three people the ability to queue-up tracks.

In the settings, you’ll find a selection of EQ presets and a custom mode, so you can tweak the sound profile to your tastes. It’s also possible to set up the speaker as a bedside alarm. With a rated 15 hours of battery life at moderate volume, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about it running out of juice overnight, either.

Under a flap in the base of the speaker is a 3.5mm analogue audio input, but although there’s support for extended Bluetooth range with certain modern smartphones (up to 33m) and NFC pairing, you don’t get support for the more advanced aptX audio codec.

UE Boom 2 review: Sound quality

For a speaker this small and compact, the UE Boom 2 really does sound good. In the mid-range and at the top end of the sound spectrum it delivers music with great clarity and detail. Its two 1.75in active drivers and twin 3in passive bass radiators drive sound at a surprisingly high level of volume, and it doesn’t suffer too badly from boom.

As with many Bluetooth speakers of its type, the UE Boom 2 has its weaknesses, though. There’s audible distortion at top volume, and very little bass at the bottom end. That isn’t surprising. The problem for the Boom is that, when compared with speakers of a similar size and price, it lacks warmth.

The UE Boom2 costs £129 on Amazon UK (or on Amazon US it is $129) I compared it with the Beats Pill+ (£20 more expensive) and the Ministry of Sound Audio S Plus (£40 cheaper) and both speakers produced a fuller, more listenable sound than the UE Boom 2. No speaker this small has a chance of reproducing the deep, thumping bass on Trentemoeller’s “Evil Dub”, but at least the Beats and Ministry speakers sound like they’re trying. On the UE Boom 2, there’s very little there at the bottom end.

UE Boom 2 review: Verdict

Despite these niggles, the UE Boom 2 is a decent Bluetooth speaker, with plenty of things to recommend it. It’s tough, looks great, goes very loud and, for casual listening, the sound quality is fine. The speaker is packed with features, too.

There are, however, better value speakers on the market when it comes to all-out sound quality, not least the cheaper Ministry of Sound Audio S Plus and the slightly more expensive Beats Pill+. Unless you desperately need the waterproofing, I’d consider those two first.

Also read: Ministry of Sound Audio S Plus review

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