Minor, but worthwhile upgrades for a modern classic
If you’ve shopped for a Bluetooth speaker within the past year or so, you’ve probably heard of the UE Boom, or at least you should have. It won me over with its unmatched style, powerful audio and battery performance – plus a ton of features, thanks to its companion app.
It only makes sense that the UE’s follow-up wouldn’t mess with what didn’t need fixing.
The UE Boom 2 is here in similar – OK, nearly identical – fashion, yet there are some cool changes that have taken place under the hood. It takes on the same $199 (£169, AU$249) price point of its predecessor and, for those of you who already own the original, the Boom 2 can link up to the Boom through the app’s Double Up feature.
If you missed out on the first UE Boom, I wholeheartedly recommend the Boom 2. It’s the same size, but comes in new colors, packs in slightly better sound and introduces tap controls and waterproofing to UE’s Bluetooth speaker lineup.
On the other hand, while these additions are neat, they might not be enough to justify the cost if you already own the original model and are hoping for bigger changes.
The UE Boom didn’t need a design overhaul, and thankfully, UE recognized that. There are slight changes, which I’ll dig into along the way, but check out my review of the original UE Boom to get a good sense of its design ID and what makes it so special.
Running across the unit that UE sent to techradar for review, I noticed a few, welcome changes that deserve a mention. First off, the mesh fabric here looks less porous and feels more durable than what is wrapped around the original Boom.
The controls of the UE Boom 2 are unchanged, and at that, still remarkably simple to use – even if you’re using the speaker for the first time. But, if you’ve got a sharp eye for detail, like yours truly, you’ll notice a few cosmetic adjustments around the unit.
For a cleaner look, UE decided to omit the Bluetooth logo from the pairing button, and the power button looks a little different. Even with these changes, new users shouldn’t have too much trouble at all figuring things out.
On the bottom of the Boom 2, UE has touched up the port flaps, making them sit flush with the base. More importantly, they are easier to flip open and access because of this change. Just like the last model, the flap door can be removed entirely if you’d rather not mess with it each time you need to charge.
Performance and features
The UE Boom 2 builds upon a strong foundation put forward by the last model, making noticeable strides in its 360-degree sound delivery, one of my biggest gripes about the first. Its room-filling capability frequently leaves me struck by how powerful this small, cylindrical speaker sounds.
Just like the last Boom, there’s an impressive set of features inside the speaker, but you’ll need the companion app to unlock them. The UE Boom app allows you to adjust the equalizer effect and Double Up, UE’s way of linking two of its speakers together over Bluetooth to, you guessed it, double the sound. The app can also set alarms to wake you from sleep, but the older Boom can do that, too.
As mentioned earlier, the UE Boom 2 has some new tricks up its sleeve. First off, the app for the new speaker supports Block Party, a feature that allows up to two people nearby to connect to it via Bluetooth and play a track.
The best part? The Boom 2 owner has the power to boot either of the DJ wannabes if their suggestions stink.
Next up are the tap controls. Through the app, you can activate them, which allows you to change the song by simply picking up the speaker and tapping it. Just like the remote you find embedded in most headphone cables these days, the UE Boom 2 mimics this familiarized input.
You can also tap twice to skip songs or three times to go backwards. This might seem like a superfluous addition, but this extra level of control was sorely missing from the original model.
In addition to kicking out the jams, the UE Boom 2 also makes for a competent speakerphone. You can pick up and hang up calls by giving the Bluetooth pairing button a press. I found that this speaker can pick up multiple voices speaking at low to medium volumes without any trouble.
The icing on the cake, and the feature that could tempt owners of the original the most, is the waterproofing. Improving over the IPX4 rating of the UE Boom, which couldn’t safely handle more than a splash or two, the IPX7-equipped UE Boom 2 can be submerged in water up to a meter deep for 30 minutes before you run the risk of leakage. This also means that you can leave it out in the rain without the worry that you’ve just flushed 200 bucks down the drain.
Owners of the previous UE Boom may find themselves tossed about whether they should upgrade. It might help to think of this as a supplement, rather than a replacement, as you can pair up UE’s latest with the original model. Just make sure you remember which one is waterproof if you take them outside.
The UE Boom 2 offers the same ease of use that I loved about the original, and improves both the audio profile and 360-degree soundstage effect. Battery life remains unchanged from the 15 hours that the original put forward, but it still meets, if not exceeds, the industry standard.
And to think that the UE Boom 2 accomplishes all this while packing in more features, like tap control and waterproofing. If you’re deep in the search for your next –, or first – Bluetooth speaker, you can stop looking now.