It’s a Saturday night, everyone’s gathered around the pool, and you’re listening to the birds sing and crickets chirp. It sounds lovely. After some time, you think, “Man, Biz Markie’s song Just a Friend could really turn this night into a party.” You realize whipping your phone out won’t do but, hey, you just got that spiffy new UE WONDERBOOM 2 speaker. After the first measure, everyone recognizes the song and sings along with an inebriated cadence.
Ok, it may not go down exactly like that but you get the picture: if you want to be the life of the party there’s nothing better than playing DJ. Ultimate Ears’ latest waterproof speaker makes it easy to turn a summer hangout into a memorable montage with a few drawbacks.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on November 20, 2020, to expand the list of buying options, and answer an FAQ about how it compares to the JBL Flip 5.
Who is the Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2 for?
- Summer adventurers looking for a durable speaker to accompany them on all their warm weather endeavors. The IP67 build means the Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2 can withstand dust, sand, and full submersion (up to one meter for 30 minutes). It’s drop-tested to withstand a 1.5-meter fall, too.
- Pool partiers can spice things up with this floating, waterproof speaker. While it’s not a life-saving flotation device, it will continue to play music while buoying around the pool.
- General consumers who want a versatile shower speaker. This can hang from a towel rack and can quickly go from the bathroom to the patio. The small design makes the WONDERBOOM 2 an unobtrusive pick for listeners with limited real estate.
What’s it like to use the UE WONDERBOOM 2?
If you’re familiar with the original Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM, you’ll feel at home with the WONDERBOOM 2. Its design is nearly identical save for the updated elastic loop and the “outdoor boost” button located on the bottom panel. Just like before, this tapered cylinder floats, meaning music can emanate from the middle of your pool party. It houses two 40mm drivers and two passive radiators, which is enough to make waves.
The signature plus and minus buttons retain their vertical placement along the speaker. Just like the original WONDERBOOM, pressing both buttons simultaneously emits a tone indicating battery life. It’s a nice idea, but not supremely helpful as the paperwork doesn’t specify what battery level corresponds to each tone. The top panel houses three discreet buttons: Bluetooth pairing, playback controls, power. It’s odd, you can skip tracks but can’t return to a previous one. In order to do that, you’ll need your phone.
Another strange omission: an integrated microphone. We’ve seen waterproof speakers, like the Bose SoundLink Micro, include this so it’s not a technological limitation. Sure, a portable speaker isn’t the best way to hop on a conference call, but it is useful for voice assistance. Being unable to access Google Assistant isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, though. After all, this is marketed as an outdoor companion more than anything else.
The WONDERBOOM 2 lacks an integrated microphone, meaning no access to voice assistants or phone calls.
Drawbacks aside, I love the elastic loop and used it more often than expected. What’s more, my car’s Bluetooth can be rather fickle, so I connected my phone to the WONDERBOOM 2 instead. The little speaker sat atop a cup holder and filled my sedan with sound. Battery life was a non-issue for me, but for anyone considering taking this on an extended road trip, it still plays music when charging.
Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2 vs. UE WONDERBOOM (first-gen)
The Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2 features new, dual-tone colorways: Deep Space Black, Crushed Ice Grey, Radical Red, and Bermuda Blue. Rather than receiving just an IPX7 water-resistant rating, the new model is also dust-resistant. This is great for rock climbers, hikers, and beach-goers.
Additionally, Ultimate Ears beefed up the battery to last 30% longer than before. While we weren’t quite able to reach the full 13 hours, it’s significantly better than the first model. You also get the benefit of “outdoor boost mode,” which increases the maximum output from 86dBC to 87dBC. It projects a louder sound at the expense of midrange clarity: vocals become less audible. The last difference is that you can now pair two WONDERBOOM 2 speakers for stereo listening, whereas before pairing two WONDERBOOMs just doubled the loudness.
How long does the battery last?
When subjected to a constant 75dB output, the WONDERBOOM 2 lasted 9 hours, 44 minutes. This is underwhelming relative to UE’s posited 13-hour battery life, but is a marked improvement over the first-gen model. It takes 2.6 hours to charge via the included microUSB cable. Just like the lack of microphone integration, the microUSB input seems a design oversight.
How do you connect the UE WONDERBOOM 2 to your phone, another WONDERBOOM 2?
The Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2 supports just one Bluetooth codec: SBC, which is fine since you’ll likely be taking this outside where the benefits of high-quality codecs would be rendered null. You may connect two devices simultaneously for easy alternating. What’s more, if you have two WONDERBOOM 2 speakers, or a friend with one too, you can pair them together and are afforded a 33-meter Bluetooth range.
To pair to another WONDERBOOM 2 speaker, press and hold the center button. The same button lets you toggle between mono and stereo mode. Again, doing so doubles the loudness and enables stereo listening for more realistic reproduction of sound. It also pairs with the first-gen Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM (mono-listening only) but won’t do so with the Ultimate Ears Boom, Megaboom, Blast, or Megablast speakers.
What does the UE WONDERBOOM sound like?
Objectively, the speaker is lacking in the sub-bass department. These frequencies don’t become noticeable until 80Hz, even then those notes are half as loud as 200Hz. I’m surprised UE didn’t grossly emphasize the bass more; granted, I prefer this as vocals are easier to hear. There isn’t much in the way of auditory masking. However, if you increase the volume beyond 70% clarity is reduced because the harmonic resonances become distorted. If you’re outside, this is completely fine, though, since loudness takes precedence over clarity in party situations.
Lows, mids, and highs
The de-emphasized sub-bass is apparent in Sam Henshaw’s song Church. At 0:45, the bass drops and transitions the song from the bridge to the chorus. Upon my first listen of Church with the WONDERBOOM 2, I was anticipating the drop to have some oomph to it. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to register. That said, some headphones emphasize the bass so much it renders Henshaw’s vocals, “Wake up and get yourself to church,” inaudible. With the WONDERBOOM 2, vocals are almost always easy to identify.
Treble emphasis isn’t too noticeable but in moments where there are cymbals or hi-hats in tandem with kickdrums or synthesized bass notes, music reproduction sounds strange with this speaker. It’s because of how the marked sub-bass reduction contrasts with the perceptible high-frequency exaggeration. Take the second verse (2:06): there’s a constant low-end beat carrying the song, but our ears are drawn more to the louder, metallic ringing of the tambourine hits.
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Should you buy the UE WONDERBOOM 2?
If you want one of the most durable, portable speakers available, yes: you should get the Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2. Its ability to float is a cool, functional party trick and the updated looping mechanism is great. However, if dust-resistance and extended battery life don’t matter to you, grab the original WONDERBOOM for even less. Alternatively, you could save around $20 when you buy the WONDERBOOM 2 through the Amazon Renewed Program.
If you’re willing to step out of the Ultimate Ears product line, check out what Anker has to offer. The Anker Soundcore Flare 2 is the successor to the company’s original Flare speaker, offering great 360-degree sound, dual-LED halo lighting effects, and an IPX7 build. It may not be as durable as the WONDERBOOM 2, however the Flare 2 is available for $30 cheaper. For those who are pressed for cash, but still want a decent Bluetooth speaker, check out the Anker Soundcore Flare Mini. While it lacks the buoyancy dust-resistance of the WONDERBOOM 2, its IPX7 waterproof rating, attractive LED halo, and wireless stereo feature is sure to bring life to your party—all for less than $50.
Next: UE BOOM 3 review
Frequently Asked Questions
Although the JBL Flip 5 is the technically more advanced Bluetooth speaker, the UE WONDERBOOM 2 holds its own: the UE speaker has a more accurate midrange and treble frequency response compared to the JBL Flip 5. Of course, the Flip 5 has passive bass radiators, so bass notes are louder and more present than with the tiny WONDERBOOM 2. Another reason you may want to get the WONDERBOOM 2 instead of the Flip 5 is because it's more durable and it floats. Sure, the Flip 5 is also IPX7-rated, but you'll have to dive to retrieve it from the deep end of a pool. The main reason most of us should get UE's speaker instead of JBL's: price.
The UE Wonderboom 2 and UE Boom 3 share similar features, including an IP67 waterproof and dust-resistance certification, portable design, and lifejacket-like flotation abilities. However, if you need a speaker to easily throw in a backpack for a last-minute adventure or hangout, the the palm-sized construction of the Wonderboom 2 may be for you. If you prioritize sound quality and loudness, the UE Boom 3 is a much better option, since its larger bottle-shaped build allows for more powerful drivers.
Unlike many Ultimate Ears Bluetooth speakers, the Wonderboom 2 doesn't support the Party Up feature that allows connection to up to 150 other Boom speakers. Products like the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 and Megaboom 3 support this feature.