Big things, small packages, and all that jazz. The WONDERBOOM 2 is the latest portable speaker from Ultimate Ears (UE) and finds itself as a punched-up successor to an already great device.
Launched in June 2019, the unit retails for about $100 and comes in a variety of color options. Our team was sent a Crushed Ice version of the WONDERBOOM 2; it’s more or less a concrete gray with orange accents.
Having had the privilege of testing other speakers in the UE line, we pretty much knew what to expect. In other words, we anticipated a solid build with quality materials, with a sound that surprises. That’s exactly what we got here as the WONDERBOOM 2 nestles itself nicely into the brand’s portfolio.
Shaped as if someone squished a soda can down, the stubby speaker feels both light and sturdy. It’s small enough to palm and built to withstand the occasional drop. Moreover, it’s also IP67 rated for protection against dust and water. It even floats.
There’s a flexible fabric and rubber loop on the backside at the top which can be used for hanging the speaker. It’s not quite big enough to throw over a shower head but it might dangle from the faucet.
The front side of the speaker has the familiar plus (+) and minus (-) symbols for volume control which also look great to accent the design. Up top is where you locate the buttons for power, pairing, and playback. Around back, at the bottom, is a microUSB port which is protected by secure rubber door.
On the very bottom of the WONDERBOOM 2 is a button for “Outdoor Boost” mode which promises “louder, crisper audio” that adjusts the equalizer for outdoor environments.
One of the main features in the speaker is its 360-degree sound, something we’ve seen in other brands. Here, though, it’s not just a gimmick that really works best when facing a particular direction. We found the speaker puts out an excellent, full sound from any angle.
At low levels and high the sound stage is balanced with a tendency to focus on the mid range. Bass is tight and controlled but not super strong; it’s definitely not overpowering. Bass heads are advised to look elsewhere.
We’ve tested a few different genres of music, including indie, alternative, singer-songwriter, and electronic. All performed admirably indoors and we never had to maximize the volume. Filling an office or bedroom is no problem for the WONDERBOOM 2.
Going outside we were able to push the volume levels higher and saw that things stayed pretty even across the board.
Enabling the outdoor mode really opens things up nicely. Sound is more detailed and generally more robust. Toggling it on and off is noticeable and makes a bit of a difference.
It’s not just a volume boost or heavier bass. In fact, it’s the opposite. The sound is a bit more harsh and pushes out more in trebles and highs. Interestingly enough, we didn’t enjoy outdoor mode when used indoors.
Another feature that enhances the experience is the ability to pair two speakers together for true stereo. We didn’t have a secondary speaker, but we’ve gathered from other review that it works very well. We’ve done this in other UE speakers and can speak to that being an easy process and a quality one.
With up to 13 hours of battery life on a full charge, this is some 30% higher than its predecessors. This varies based on volume level and whether you use the outdoor setting. To that end, we easily topped ten hours per full charge in our testing. We depleted the battery twice to make sure.
As much as it pains us, we did drop the speaker a time or two to test its ruggedness. We also threw it into some water a couple of times. The WONDERBOOM 2 handled these situations easily. We imagine there would be nothing in our daily usage, hiking, poolside or otherwise, that would mess with the speaker.
We would have enjoyed USB C for charging if only because most accessories are going that way. It also makes one more cable to pack if you’re planning to take your speaker with you on a vacation.
Another feature we’re starting to see in speakers is adding in Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. This would have been a bonus, but not necessarily something that necessary. These are designed as the go-anywhere experience and not one that stays put in a particular room. Were this bigger or made to stay on a desk we would expect it.
The WONDERBOOM 2 is easy to set up and use, has excellent battery life, and features some cool enhancements. As a portable unit with everyday usage in mind, we appreciate the build quality, materials, and resistance to water and dust.
Although UE lists the speaker for around $130 you can find it for about $100 at Best Buy or Amazon. We think this is a great price and it’s definitely worthy of the upgrade. Find it Crushed Ice Grey, Deep Space Black, Bermuda Blue, and Radical Red.