Yes, they have a "Magic Button"

Ultimate Ears Boom 3 and Megaboom 3: Our New Favorite Bluetooth Speakers Under $200


September 17, 2018 Reviews By Photo by Hunter D. Kelley
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The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 ($150) and Megaboom 3 ($200) are the company’s newest portable Bluetooth speakers, which have several subtle aesthetic changes from last year’s UE Boom 2 and Megaboom, including a two-toned outer fabric and “magic button” on top of the speaker that’s used for play/pause and skipping tracks (and a few other things for Apple Music subscribers). The audio quality and durability of the speakers have both been improved, albeit slightly. The biggest change, however, is the price – at launch, both the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 are significantly more affordable than last year’s UE Boom 2 and Megaboom.

For clarity, there has never been a Megoboom 2 speaker. Ultimate Ears skipped that model to prevent confusion and align the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 in the same generation of speaker.

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The Good: These are arguably the best sounding Bluetooth speakers you can buy. I tested the Megaboom 3 directly against the Megablast and, despite being similarly sized speakers, the Megaboom 3 sounded noticeably better; it had better midrange separation and the overall audio sounded crisper. The “magic button” isn’t game-changing, but it’s admittedly nice to not have to touch your phone to change songs or pause tracks. Both the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 float, which is new. Also, the charging port has been moved from the bottom of the speaker to the side, so you can charge and listen to each speaker simultaneously, which was a small design flaw in the Boom 2 and Megaboom.

Who They’re For: Anybody who wants a loud, great sounding Bluetooth speaker that’s also easy to use. If you have other Boom or Megaboom speakers, you’ll be able to pair them in a “party mode” feature.

Watch Out For: No Alexa. These aren’t wi-fi speakers, like UE’s Blast and Megablast, so there’s no integrated virtual assistant. The “playlists” feature only works with Apple Music and iTunes, and for Deezer Premium subscribers on Android – sorry Spotify subscribers. The UE Power Up charging dock ($40) is convenient, but needs to purchased separately.

Alternatives: Honestly, for the price you’re not going to find a better new Bluetooth speaker. The Bose SoundLink Revolve Plus ($299), Sony SRS-XB41 ($250) and the JBL Xtreme 2 ($300) are all more expensive than UE’s Megaboom 3, but don’t sound much better, in my opinion, if any better at all.

Review: If you can get over UE’s signature and huge “+” and “-” symbols, along with the speakers’ bright and playful colors, there’s really not a whole lot to dislike about the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3. I’ve been listening to the Megaboom 3 for the better part of two weeks and, as I mentioned above, I was able to directly compare it against UE’s Megablast speaker (with is integrated with Alexa). Frankly, the Megaboom 3 sounds noticeably better. It’s smaller and more affordable, too. If you don’t care about taking to Alexa, and you want a UE speaker, the Megaboom 3 is the way to go.

I wasn’t able to test out the UE Boom 3, but it’s basically just a smaller and more affordable version of the Megaboom 3. Both have the same features and ruggedness, so it basically comes down to sound quality – and with the larger and superior drivers, I’d have money on the Megaboom 3 sounding better too.

As far as upgrades over last year’s Bluetooth speakers, the Boom 2 and Megaboom, there are really only subtle improvements. The “magic button” is simple and useful. If you’re Apple Music subscriber, you can program playlists to start with a tap of this button, too, but it won’t help Spotify subscribers and, to be fair, it’s not a feature that most people will miss. I like the fact that both UE lets the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 charge on the same wireless charger as last year, the Power Up charging dock, but more importantly, the micro-USB charging port is now on the side of the speakers so you don’t have to uncomfortably balance the speakers if you want to charge and listen to them.

Verdict: Ultimate Ears has been making some of my favorite Bluetooth speakers for years, and I’d argue that although the Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 aren’t game-changing, they’re definitely the company’s best-sounding pure Bluetooth speakers. They look good and are dead simple to use. Plus they have excellent battery life. Best of all, just because they’re brand new, doesn’t mean that they carry that “brand new” price tag.

Key Specs

UE Boom 3

Drivers: two 38mm 1.5-inch full range, 4 ohm; two 40mm x 80mm passive radiators
Frequency response: N/A
Max sound volume: 90 dB
Waterproof: IP67
Battery: Up to 15 hours

UE Megaboom 3

Drivers: two 50mm 2-inch full range, 4 ohm; two 55mm x 86mm passive radiators
Frequency response: 60Hz -20kHz
Max sound volume: 90 dB
Waterproof: IP67
Battery: Up to 20 hours

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