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Lifewire / James Huenink
Small and portable
Water and dustproof
Big sound with strong bass
Lossy Bluetooth codec
Between an excellent 13-hour battery life, waterproof and drop-proof design, and enough volume to cut through even the loudest background noise, the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is the perfect speaker for a backyard party or day at the beach.
It takes a lot for a speaker to distinguish itself against a crowded field of competitors, and many manufacturers will lean into one key feature to try to rise out of that undifferentiated mass. The original Wonderboom from Ultimate Ears was released in 2018 and played up its waterproof capabilities, quickly becoming a favorite for its excellent sound and rugged build.
The UE Wonderboom 2, released in June of 2019, aims to improve on the original, offering even better sound and longer battery life while maintaining its waterproof build and fun array of color options. We tested the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 to see how it holds up in the increasingly-crowded Bluetooth speaker market.
The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is surprisingly small—at just over four inches tall and 3.75 inches wide, it’s about the size of a softball and fit easily in our hands. There’s also a handy, stretchy carrying strap in an accent color with a rubbery tab that kept it from moving around when we carried it. The whole package looks cool and minimalist, even turning the volume buttons into a design feature rather than something to hide.
We took the Wonderboom 2 out in a standard sized backpack along with a change of clothes and some food and it took up very little space. It also felt secure strapped to a bag. It even fit in the water bottle pouch on the side of the same backpack, too. There are three buttons on top: a Bluetooth button, a power button, and a play/pause button. The play/pause button also doubles as the skip button when you double tap it (though it would be nice if Ultimate Ears had labelled it better). The outdoor boost button is on the bottom and shaped like a Christmas tree.
The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is the perfect speaker for a beach party, the shower, or a BBQ in the backyard.
The whole speaker feels solid, like you could play catch with it without fear, evident in how the two-tone mesh fits seamlessly into the plastic surfaces. The plastic parts on the top and bottom are heavy duty and we dropped it a couple times without much damage, even on scratchy surfaces. It’s even got a grippy plastic top and bottom that keep the speaker from sliding around on slippery surfaces.
The setup process is as simple as can be—all you have to do is pair the speaker to your phone, laptop, or wherever you stream music from.
We pressed the “Bluetooth” button on the top of the speaker and when it started flashing, we went to the device and selected “Wonderboom 2” in the Bluetooth menu. After that, we were good to go. The Wonderboom 2 supports connections with three devices simultaneously, and it can remember up to 8 devices, so it’s easy to switch back and forth.
Ultimate Ears markets the Wonderboom as a durable outdoor speaker in any situation, and it lives up to their claims. The Wonderboom 2 is rated IP 67, which indicates that the speaker is completely dust-proof, and it’s been tested as waterproof when submerged up to one meter.
We tested it both in water and on the beach without any ill effects, even when we held the speaker underwater. We also tested its claim to be drop-proof up to five feet by dropping it from shoulder height onto a wood floor. The speaker just kept going without a dent or a scratch. If you take the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 outside, you won’t have to worry about it breaking down on you.
It’s not often that a company under-promises and over-delivers, but the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 does just that. We ran it up to the 13-hour mark and it didn’t die, and continued playing it for hours. We looked at each other, asking, “When will it die?” Was it one of those vampire speakers, draining our life energy to charge its battery? Just when we had finished sharpening the stakes, it ran out of juice at the 24-hour mark.
Ultimate Ears explains that the battery life depends on volume: the louder the speaker, the shorter the battery life. After it was completely drained, we used a 5.2v, 2A charger, and it took just over two hours to fully charge.
When we started playing music through the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2, the first thing we noticed was the bass—it has a surprisingly big bass sound for such a small speaker. We played all sorts of music, from hip hop to metal to classical. The bass was driving when it needed to be, but we also were able to hear every high-end nuance in both quiet and bombastic classical works.
We did, however, notice a slight hissing sound under all the music we played, though it was only detectable when we were in close range of the speaker.
With its excellent sound quality, battery life, and Bluetooth range, the Wonderboom is easy to recommend.
The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is very loud and able to cut through a lot of background noise. When we played it in a 700-square-foot apartment, we couldn’t get the speaker above half volume before it started hurting our ears. We could even hear it clearly when it was submerged beneath a few inches of water.
We also tried it out at a park with a lot of noisy water features and the speaker cut through the constant white noise without a problem, even from relatively far away. This range comes from the speakers set of two 40mm active drivers and two 46.1 mm x 65.2 mm passive radiators. While the sound quality was amazing for an outdoor speaker, this speaker isn’t a good replacement for a home speaker system. It only supports the SBC Bluetooth codec, which is fine if you’re playing music from an MP3, an already compressed music format. If you are using a high-quality, lossless digital format, the SBC codec will downgrade the sound in transmission. While that’s a significant flaw in an indoor speaker, it isn’t as serious a problem for an outdoor one. If you’re playing music on a crowded beach, in a shower, or even in a quiet park, you likely won’t notice the dip in audio quality over the background noise anyway.
The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 uses Bluetooth SBC codec to connect to various devices for wireless audio. It was simple to connect the speaker to different devices and to switch back and forth. After the first pairing, we just went into our device’s Bluetooth menus and selected the Wonderboom 2 to connect. If we were using the same device we used before, it connected automatically.
Ultimate Ears claims that the Wonderboom 2’s Bluetooth range is 100’ or 30m, but that only works in a world without interference. We tested it in a busy city park with tall residential buildings all around with lots of signal interference. The audio started to drop out intermittently when we were 30 or 40 feet away. When we took it farther from the city, it performed a lot better—in every test it made it past 100 ft, sometimes past 140 ft.
The Wonderboom 2 can also sync up with another Wonderboom 2 to turn into a stereo speaker system with twice the sound power. We also tested the Bluetooth latency, or lag, when watching video. We barely noticed audio lag when watching TV. We pulled up a rudimentary lag tool and found out that the audio lag is less than a 10th of a second. It’s not ideal, but we enjoyed watching movies with it, and the Wonderboom 2 is a great choice for a movie outside with a projector.
The MSRP for the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is $100 (though you can often find it on sale for closer to $60). This puts the Wonderboom 2 in line with most of its competition, which tends to hover a little above or below the $100 mark. You can find waterproof/dustproof Bluetooth speakers as low as $40, but you’re almost universally sacrificing range, volume, and/or quality. With its excellent sound quality, battery life, and Bluetooth range, the Wonderboom is easy to recommend.
Anker Soundcore 2: The Anker Soundcore 2 is the low-budget (about $40) version of the Wonderboom 2. Its Bluetooth range is only 20m, 10m less than the Wonderboom 2. It also has a lower IP rating at IPX5, which means that while you can get it wet, it isn’t rated to hang out 3’ under the water like the Wonderboom 2. It also doesn’t have 360 degree sound. What it does have is a microphone for Bluetooth calling and an aux input. If you just want something cheap, go for it. But if you have a few extra bucks, the Wonderboom is a better speaker.
JBL Charge 4: The JBL Charge 4 is a fantastic speaker. The charge lasts approximately 20 hours, it has great sound, and our tester raved about some of the cool extra features, too. It charges other devices, and there’s a visible battery meter so you always know how much charge. A $150 MSRP means these extra features will cost you. If you’re looking for value for your money, the Wonderboom 2 is a much better buy.
The perfect speaker for a beach party.
The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 is the perfect speaker for a beach party, the shower, or a BBQ in the backyard. Between a battery that will outlast your phone, durability to withstand any backyard accidents, and booming bass, you can’t go wrong with the Wonderboom 2.