ULTIMATE EARS MEGABOOM 3 PORTABLE BLUETOOTH SPEAKER

Apple, Sony, Samsung, Lifeproof, Bose, LG, Harmon Kardon and UE speakers have all at one point or another found their away across my review table over the last few years, and in that time I’ve identified very clear front runners that have made certain devices my “go-to” speaker for most situations.  I’ve also found speakers that fit a very limited and specific niche of users and situations that, while their price tags may not justify a purchase for a majority of users, they are still excellent speakers for some subset of buyers that can’t be ignored (I’m looking at you, Apple Homepod).

If you’ve read any of my audio reviews, whether speakers or headphones, you know I’m a huge fan of Bose.  Some will say that’s because I’m blessed enough to be able to afford them, while others who have experienced the full Bose package understand why I think they’re worth saving up for.  For this review in particular, though, I recognize that there is a need for segmentation in portable bluetooth speakers, beyond just size.  Almost every line of bluetooth speakers from most manufacturers has at least a “small” and “large” option, while makers like UE and Lifeproof sometimes have a “medium” size as well.  This segmentation is straight forward, as you wouldn’t compare a small Lifeproof speaker to a large UE speaker, etc.

That said, an additional segmentation worth considering is speaker shape as well–and I’m talking specifically about omni-directional versus mono-directional speakers.  More and more, as manufacturers have realized that the beauty of portable bluetooth speakers is that they don’t have to sit in one particular position within a room, we are seeing numerous 360-degree speakers that can produce great sound regardless of where you place it.  And, when reviewing a 360-degree speaker, it’s hard to compare them to a mono-directional speaker at the same price range because they are really intended for a different use case, and sound reproduction is an entirely different experience.

All this to say, I know what my favorite omni-directional speaker is that I’ve used, and it’s completely irrelevant to this review.  I also am inherently not supportive of reviews that rate exclusively based upon comparisons to other products, although I understand the tendency to do that.

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The speaker in question for this review is the UE Megaboom 3, which is not surprisingly the third generation Megaboom speaker released by UE (fun fact, UE is owned by Logitech).  My last UE product review was of the original Wonderboom, a small portable speaker that has found it’s home in my bathroom due to its size and resilience to elements, as well as its fantastic battery life.  The Megaboom 3 is in many ways similar to the Wonderboom, designed as a “tough” speaker that is waterproof, dustproof, and floats when thrown in the pool…but also in an entirely different category as the Megaboom 3 is twice the price of the original Wonderboom.

The design of the Megaboom 3 is what I would call “modernized” from previous generations, in such a way that the old “chunky” look of the Boom-series speakers has given way to a slim, tight package that makes it look like it belongs in 2018 and even 2019, while still maintaing the classic UE look with the large volume buttons on the front.  Speaking of buttons, the Megaboom 3 adds a third button to the top of the speaker, a so-called “Magic Button” that for most users is just a play/pause/track skip button (more on that in a moment).  The device itself, while being UE’s larger offering, is not really that big and blends in well in nearly any setting.

In terms of functionality, the Magic Button is the only new thing to talk about; otherwise, the standard large volume up/down buttons on the front, a power button and a bluetooth button round out UE’s standard offering.  There are two charging methods, the first being a standard micro-USB charger which comes in the box.  I question the use of a stark-white charging cable for a speaker that is largely black, but that’s neither here nor there since you can swap out the cable if it really bothers you that much…and as always, I am again disappointed that this speaker (like so many others that are being released lately) does not use USB-type C for charging.  The second charge method is via a separate accessory, the Power Up Dock that offers “wireless” charging, but will cost you an extra $40.  Side note on the dock; while it’s not included in this review, it is only wireless in the sense that you don’t have to plug your speaker into it–it does not use Qi wireless charging, as there are contacts on the dock and on the bottom of select UE speakers that allow for simple docking and charging.  And speaking of charging, the Megaboom 3 touts a 20-hour battery which seems to be about standard for the size and price tag of this unit.  I don’t make a habit of doing a full battery test for any speakers or headphones because it is always based upon personal use, volume level, etc.; that said, my need to charge the Megaboom 3 has been very limited (only once) after a week of on-and-off use.

On to the Magic Button; this supports the standard play/pause/track skip functionality, but can also be customized to scroll through your favorite playlists provided you subscribe to either Apple Music or Deezer paid services.  With a long press of the Magic Button, you can scroll through up to four individual playlists, customized in the UE companion app, without having to retrieve your bluetooth-connected device.

Sound quality and performance is next on the list.  Since this is UE’s larger offering from a speaker perspective, you should fully expect this speaker to get loud enough to fill up a couple rooms of your house, or to put out enough sound to be used during your backyard barbeque.  And, much to my surprise, this speaker gets ridiculously loud with very little impact to its sound accuracy; you should always expect speakers to get a little “blatty” on the high end a little vague on the low end at max volume, but the Megaboom 3 had no issue filling a 3-level, 2000 square foot house with sound so that no matter what room you were in, you knew what was playing.  I attribute this performance to the quality that UE has come to be known for, plus the 360-degree design, plus the fact that this is the third iteration of the Boom series speakers.

At what I’ll refer to as “acceptable” volume levels (under 75%), sound reproduction was fantastic.  Again, I feel the need to point out that it’s getting harder and harder to find bad speakers and headphones at this price range, and the Megaboom 3 delivers on the low- and high-end of frequencies extremely well.  There is almost nothing to complain about when it comes to sound performance of this speaker.

The UE companion app is among the better companion apps for headphones and speakers that I’ve used, and this is probably in part due to UE’s history in the market.  A basic equalizer with a handful of presets, any of which can be customized, the aforementioned playlist selection for Apple Music and Deezer subscribers, UE’s “PartyUp” functionality which allows you to use multiple Boom series speakers simultaneously and UE’s “BlockParty” functionality which allows for controlled sharing of your speaker to other users round out the app’s capabilities.  It’s also worth mentioning (and I’m not sure if this was available with previous generation Boom speakers) that the unit can be remotely powered on using the Ultimate Ears app.

All of this comes in a package for only $199, which is what I would consider inexpensive for a larger bluetooth speaker that performs as well as this does.  It doesn’t have an auxiliary input port, and the most functionality only comes to those subscribers of Apple Music and Deezer (which I never heard of), but even without the Magic Button’s full capabilities it’s hard to go wrong with this speaker for most users.

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