If you’re headed out to a beach or the park there are a few well-known speakers that you might reach for, and one of the companies with plenty of success in this field is Ultimate Ears, or UE. It’s the company behind the UE Boom, Roll, and Wonderboom series, all of which are go-to’s for many. In the past, if you wanted something with a bigger sound, you were left reaching for something like the JBL Charge 4, but with the new UE HYPERBOOM Bluetooth speaker, that’s no longer the case. This is a giant UE speaker stretched to its limits, but does that make it any good?
Editor’s note: this UE HYPERBOOM review was updated on January 4th, 2020, to update the formatting of this post.
Who should get the UE HYPERBOOM?
- People who like to throw parties. If you throw or attend parties often, I can’t think of a better speaker to have. While it might not be great for large formal events, this will be great for the typical backyard pool party.
- Someone who doesn’t already have a soundbar. Thanks to the optical input, this speaker can be used even when you’re not throwing parties to give your TV or gaming system an instant boost.
What’s it like to use the UE HYPERBOOM?
The first thing you should know is that this thing is big. If you’ve had UE Boom speakers in the past and think you know what it’s like to use a UE speaker, just throw that knowledge out the window. You’re not going to be able to throw it in a backpack or bring it on a hike. Considering its size, the UE HYPERBOOM is surprisingly light at 5.9kg (13lbs), but it’s still not going to be too fun to carry on the trail. Instead, this is the kind of speaker you want for a backyard or beach party.
For the first time, UE decided to go with a square shape for their speaker instead of a cylinder and I think it works. You still get the giant + and – signs that the speaker is known for up top, but these are now touch-sensitive controls. They only register capacitive touch, so if you decide to place your phone on top of the speaker while using it, you won’t accidentally raise or lower the volume. This is pretty useful in practice because that flat top is a perfect table for resting your phone on.
The speaker is made of a tough plastic that is IPX4 splash and dust-resistant. I can see this speaker living poolside in the summer: not having to worry about whether it’s going to rain or get splashed is a major plus. That said, try not to submerge the speaker as doing so will fry the internals. Along the spine is a built-in rubber strap that I really like, because it makes the speaker much easier to carry from place to place. Plus, when you’re not using it you can just make it go flat against the speaker which is convenient. Under the strap, you’ll find the waterproof flap for all of the ports, one of which I’ll get into here because it really changed how I view this speaker.
To my surprise, UE included an optical input, which is a genius move. While this speaker is obviously going to get some use at summer parties be it at the beach or at the park, the optical input means it can benefit homebodies. Even though I occasionally bring a speaker to a party, most of the time I’m just sitting in my apartment relaxing. I was able to plug in my PS4 to the speaker via the optical input and reap its benefits while playing games or listening to music around the house (I have Spotify on my PS4 as well). The idea that I can use this large, loud, and fairly durable speaker in my daily life and then pick it up and bring it with me to my next family barbecue is very appealing. If you’re a home theater nut, this obviously isn’t going to cut it for you. However, I can see this being useful for people who want a quick upgrade to the sound on their TV and to kill two birds with one stone. If your TV or gaming system has an optical output, this is basically a two-for-one special.
Another really cool feature that the UE HYPERBOOM has is “One-Touch Music Control.” This is the ability to automatically start playing your favorite playlist just by long-pressing the play/pause button when the speaker. As someone with a personal playlist of almost 1,000 songs that I constantly listen to and consider my “default” playlist, this was super useful. I could come home and instead of powering on the speaker, pulling out my phone, and going to the playlist, could just long-press the button for automatic music playback. It isn’t something that’s going to change your life, but it’s definitely a feature that makes you feel like you’re living in the future (or at least in a really fancy house). Something that normally takes me about 15 seconds to accomplish now takes two, and it’s just cool.
How do you connect to it?
Even though this does have an optical input, this speaker was clearly designed for your next party. So much so, that UE engineered a solution to a party foul. You know when someone is connected via Bluetooth and playing music, and then someone else has to connect their phone? You either have to hand off the aux (which results in a weird gap of no music) or you need to re-pair another phone to the speaker which, again, results in a gap of no music. To combat this, UE included two Bluetooth inputs. So while one person is connected and playing DJ, a second person can pair to the speaker and queue up their song without interrupting the flow of the party. Even switching between the inputs is seamless since they fade into each other instead of simply abruptly jumping between songs. It’s a clever solution that I wish every speaker had and this gets the UE HYPERBOOM originality points in my book.
Besides the two Bluetooth inputs, you also get an optical input, a USB-A output for charging your devices, and a 3.5mm input. Switching between all of the inputs is simple, as there’s a dedicated button for all four on top of the speaker. One thing that’s worth noting is that the 3.5mm and optical outputs are hidden under a rubber flap along the back of the speaker, so if you’re going to be using those then just keep in mind that you’re breaking the IPX4 seal to use them so avoid water if possible.
The range is claimed to be about 150 feet and I didn’t have any issues up to and beyond 100 feet easily. Within my small apartment, I had no problems even with a few walls in the way. Lag is also non-existent when watching videos connected over Bluetooth either, which is surprising as there are no high-quality codecs to speak of here. Another thing worth mentioning is that you can also control every aspect of the speaker entirely from the BOOM app. Plus, you get a few extra features like EQ and the ability to connect multiple UE speakers together via the PartyUp feature.
How good is the battery life of the UE HYPERBOOM?
UE claims that the HYPERBOOM will give you about 24 hours of constant playback on 50% volume, and just around three full hours of playback on 100% volume. In my testing I managed to get 22 hours and 14 minutes of constant playback which is pretty impressive. If you’ve ever owned a UE speaker before, then the process of checking the battery life on the HYPERBOOM will be familiar to you. To check battery life, all you have to do is tap the + and – icons simultaneously.
How does it sound?
When speaking with representatives from UE about the speaker, one thing that I found very interesting was that it planned for big bass right from the very start, but when when the prototypes started coming in, engineers found that the bass was too strong and they had to tone it down. And given the size of the speaker and its dual 114mm woofers, I can see that.
As you can see from the frequency response graph, there is still a good amount of emphasis in the lows all the way down to about 60Hz before dropping off. This made the bassline in the song ???? by EDEN really rumble its way through the song in a way that remained easy to hear and intact even when outdoors.
When testing the frequency response of this speaker, I placed it in the middle of a large room. Normally, if you were to get this speaker and place it in the corner then the bass would be exaggerated as it bounces off the walls, but your experience should be somewhat similar to what I tested anyway thanks to something that UE is calling “Adaptive EQ.” A tiny microphone on top of the speaker hears and adjusts the EQ of the speaker in just a few seconds so that no matter where you place it in the room, it will still sound as good as possible.
This huge speaker was designed for your next party.
When it comes to the mids and highs, I didn’t have too many issues. Vocals came through well enough and the two 25mm tweeters did a good job at handling the highs too. Hi-hats and cymbals didn’t come across super loud and clear, which you can hear in You Only Live Once by The Strokes where the shakes throughout the chorus seem kind of distant and muted, but they also never became harsh which is good. You might not get the same level of clarity you’re used to from something like a soundbar, but even at high volumes, there was no distortion which you can’t say for all Bluetooth speakers that are designed for outdoor use. Of course, if you want to tweak the sound of your music more you can always just go into the app and tweak the EQ for yourself.
Should you buy the UE HYPERBOOM?
The UE HYPERBOOM is a great speaker that fills a niche perfectly, but that comes at a cost of $399. Whether or not you should buy it really depends on whether or not you have a few hundred dollars lying around. While I can’t see too many people dropping the money to pick this up (especially when you can get multiple smaller speakers for that price) I don’t see anyone being disappointed with the speaker once its blasting music in their yard.
The UE HYPERBOOM fills a void in the UE lineup, and it does it really well. It solves some of the most annoying party problems, and it’s tough IPX4 build means you don’t have to baby it. Not to mention that it sounds really good and the Adaptive EQ is a clever solution to not knowing where someone is going to place the speaker in space. Plus, the addition of an optical input means you can use this speaker everyday, even when you’re not throwing Project X style parties.
What should you get instead of the UE HYPERBOOM?
If you wanted a super portable speaker for going out on a boat or to the beach, you have the Wonderboom 2. If you’re living in a dorm or maybe just want a better sounding speaker for your next tropical getaway, you have the UE Boom 3. For even better bass response, there’s the UE Megaboom. If you want to leave the Ultimate Ears brand the Sony SRS-XB41 is a good mid-sized Bluetooth speaker with kicking bass and LED lights.