Powerful sound with good clarity in the high-mids. Rugged build. Long battery life.
Can falter with intense deep bass. No wired connection.
- Bottom Line
The wireless Ultimate Ears UE Megaboom 3 speaker improves upon its predecessor with a sleeker, more rugged design and a lower price tag.
The Ultimate Ears UE Megaboom is finally getting a refresh, and it's skipping a number in the process. The new model is called the Megaboom 3, keeping pace with the Boom 3 launched alongside it (the original Megaboom speaker was a contemporary of the Boom 2). It features a few new tricks, like a programmable button for accessing playlists, but otherwise it's simply a sleeker, more rugged version of its predecessor. That's compelling enough on its own, but with a $199.99 price tag, it's more affordable than the original Megaboom to boot.
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Big, Sturdy Can
The Megaboom 3 looks like a slightly sleeker version of the Megablast and the original Megaboom. It uses the same large, cylindrical design (8.7 inches tall and 3.4 inches around, and weighing two pounds) as the rest of the line, with a colorful wraparound fabric cover (available in blue, gray, purple, or red) and rubber end caps. This time, the signature plus and minus volume buttons are placed in the middle of the fabric itself rather than on a large rubber strip breaking up the grille. A thinner rubber strip sits on the back of the speaker, running down the length and holding a small Ultimate Ears logo, a fabric loop for hanging the speaker on a hook or clip, and a rubber door covering a micro USB charging port.
The top of the Megaboom 3 is a flat rubber cap that holds a power button denoted by a short line that lights up, a Bluetooth pairing button with a dot that flashes when pairing and lights up when connected, and a large, programmable Magic button that can play preloaded playlists and stations you set up through the Ultimate Ears Boom app. The bottom of the speaker holds a small metal indentation that allows for wireless charging with the optional $39.99 Power Up dock. If you don't want to use the dock, the micro USB port's new position on the back of the speaker rather than the bottom means you can use the Megaboom while charging it, without it rolling around awkwardly. There is no 3.5mm or other port if you want to use a wired connection.
The speaker is even more rugged than its predecessors, with an IP67 rating. This means it's dustproof and waterproof, and can handle submergence in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. Previous Boom and Megaboom speakers were rated IPX7, which means they were tested for water but not dust. The speaker is also buoyant, so if it falls in a pool you can pick it up without needing to dive for it. According to Ultimate Ears, the Megaboom 3 can last up to 20 hours on a charge.
App and Magic Button
The free Ultimate Ears Boom app for Android and iOS enables some very useful features on the Megaboom 3. To start, it provides access to a five-band equalizer with a handful of presets. You can also remotely turn the speaker off and on thanks to Bluetooth Low Energy, and control volume using big on-screen plus and minus buttons (instead of your phone's volume buttons, which also work). Other Boom app features from previous speakers are also present, like the ability to sync two Megaboom 3 speakers to work as a stereo pair.
The app also lets you program the Magic Button on the top to play different music playlists. You can set Deezer (or, if you're on an iOS device, Apple Music) playlists in the app to start playing as soon as you press the button, without any interaction with your phone once the playlists are set (though your phone still needs to be within Bluetooth range). Button taps can pause and skip tracks, and switch playlists if you have more than one. It's a cool feature, but without Spotify, Google Play, Prime Music, or any other streaming services besides Deezer and Apple Music it feels pretty limited.
The Megaboom 3 can put out enough sound to fill a large room, even if it understandably doesn't reach quite deep enough into sub-bass territory to produce a sense of rumble you can feel. Our bass test track, The Knife's "Silent Shout," sounds loud and punchy, but the bass synth and kick drum hits come close to distorting at maximum volume levels, and lack any particular sub-bass presence to round them out. The speaker also appeared to be putting some hard brakes on the volume output with those hits, because the top volume with this song is notably lower than the other tracks we tested it with (likely a result of digital signal processing).
Tracks that rely less on very low bass sound better on the Megaboom 3. Yes' "Roundabout" is full and fairly crisp, with the acoustic guitar plucks of the opening getting plenty of texture and the electric bass seeing enough low-frequency presence to make it pop against the strums and drums. The vocals rest a bit further back in the mix than ideal, but that's common on this dense track. The customizable five-band EQ in the Boom app helps fix some of these issues, with a Voices preset that brings up the high-mids to pull vocals more toward the center stage.
Massive Attack's "Teardrop" sounds fantastic on the Megaboom 3. The heartbeat-like drum hits get enough power to stand out almost palpably, while the vocals stay at the front of the mix with excellent clarity. The strings and vinyl texture on the track sound a little distant with the flat, default EQ setting, but tweaking the treble can really bring those elements out to the front of the mix.
Boom for the Buck
The Ultimate Ears UE Megaboom 3 is an incremental upgrade over the original Megaboom, but its lower price makes it more compelling. This $200 speaker is very powerful and features a portable, rugged design, even if it doesn't have quite the bass power its name implies. For the price, the Megaboom 3 is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a relatively small, waterproof speaker that can pump out enough sound to fill a patio.
If you're willing to pay more money more power, the larger JBL Boombox is bigger and louder, but over twice the price. If you want to save some money but still want a rugged speaker, the small Anker Soundcore Flare provides solid audio and a colorful light show for just $70.
About the Author
Senior Analyst, Consumer Electronics
Will Greenwald has been covering consumer technology for a decade, and has served on the editorial staffs of CNET.com, Sound & Vision, and Maximum PC. His work and analysis has been seen in GamePro, Tested.com, Geek.com, and several other publications. He currently covers consumer electronics in the PC Labs as the in-house home entertainment expert… See Full Bio
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