If you’re a consumer electronics brand, what do you do when your hit product—a best-seller and a critical darling since its debut—turns five years old? You buy it a new suit, of course.
Ultimate Ears has updated both of its cylindrical Bluetooth speakers. The Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 have a refreshed look, slightly updated capabilities, and a new lower price. The Boom 3 is $150, which is a $30 price drop from the $180 Boom 3. The Megaboom 3 is $200, a whole $50 cheaper than the original Megaboom (yes, this is only the second Megaboom, but UE has named it the Megaboom 3 to keep everything matchy-matchy). Both speakers will ship in September to the US, Asia, and the lucky parts of Europe.
The new Booms take some design cues from last year’s Blast and Megablast, UE’s pair of Wi-Fi-enabled speakers that came with Amazon Alexa onboard. The new Booms share the Blasts’ squared-off corners, and the compatibility with the Power Up charging dock accessory that debuted alongside the Blast line. Since the coupler for the Power Up is on the bottom of the Booms, the USB charging port has moved from the bottom of the speaker to the side, where it sits near the speaker’s rubber foot. This is a boon for Boom owners without a charging dock, as they can now plug in a microUSB cable to charge the speaker while it’s standing up. Of course, with the old Boom, one could just flip the speaker upside-down while it charged and leave the cable sticking straight up. If that bothered you, well, that problem has been solved (and also please seek help).
One of my favorite things about previous UE Booms was the pair of big, chunky buttons that sat in a fat strip of rubber that ran down the length of the speaker. With this new design, that strip of rubber is entirely gone. The buttons are still there, but they’re embedded directly into the body of the speaker, where they sit flush with the fabric wrapping. As such, the buttons are no longer chunky. You can still find the volume-up button with a wet hand when you want to increase the intensity of your shower-time Hendrix, but the big plus- and minus-shaped controls aren’t as easy to finger in the new design, and they don’t feel as rugged. I miss the old, wanna-mash-em buttons.
Also changed is the fabric that envelops the speakers. It’s still waterproof, but it’s finer and glossier. The fabric also now has a mysterious iridescent quality, sort of like that custom paint job your friend got for his Prelude that looks like one color when you view it straight-on, but changes subtly at the edges when you walk around it. Metallic and shimmering, but not quite sparkly. I think it’s fine, though I would love the option to pick up a matte version. The glossy fabric comes in black, purple, blue, and red. There are also some denim colored options that are exclusive to the Apple Store.
The audio quality of the smaller Boom 3 is unchanged from the previous generation. It still puts out clean, energetic, and deceptively loud audio for such a compact speaker. The Megaboom 3, however, has a new passive radiator that UE says offers improved bass response over the old design. I have an original Megaboom that I was able to test alongside the new Megaboom 3, and I found the change in low-frequency response to be barely perceptible. There’s a boost in the low end, but it’s not dramatic—at least not with the default settings. Once I opened the Ultimate Ears app and futzed the five-band EQ to nudge the bass up a bit, I could hear more of a thump. I found myself keeping the low end just a notch or two above the default, which was just enough to keep things spicy. Beyond that, the bass tended to overwhelm the sound. If you’re fanatic about customizing your audio, you’ll like using the app. And if you never open the app, you’ll still be impressed with the Megaboom 3’s rowdiness.
On the top of both speakers is a new thing from Ultimate Ears. It’s called the Magic Button, and you can use it to play and pause the music, or to skip tracks. If you open the app, you can sync up the Magic Button with some of you favorite streaming playlists, then summon them with a long press of the button.
So what playlists can you add? If you’re on iOS, you can add playlists from Apple Music. On Android, you can add playlists from … Deezer Premium. And those are your only options. You can’t add playlists from Spotify, Google, or Amazon, though Ultimate Ears says that at least Spotify is coming very soon. Until you can use the Magic Button with your service of choice, you’ll just have to launch your playlists the old fashioned way—by asking your phone’s voice assistant.