The Ultimate Ears (UE) Wonderboom 3 is iterative rather than innovative. It’s essentially a Wonderboom 2 with minimal upgrades.
Yes, the battery lasts a bit longer, and the connectivity range has improved – but is that enough after a three year gap between devices?
For owners of the Wonderboom 2, I would say no, it isn’t. The design is the same, the audio quality is the same, and some features we’ve come to expect in a speaker released in 2022 – like a companion app – are lacking.
But for someone looking for a Bluetooth speaker who doesn’t own a Wonderboom 2, the Wonderboom 3 is undoubtedly a good option. The audio quality is very good, the battery life is above average, the design is ultraportable and sturdy, and the Outdoor Boost feature – which enhances the sound when outdoors – is genuinely useful.
It isn’t flawless, though. The biggest issue here is the micro-USB charging port which is a weird misstep by UE, that and the dual-device connectivity isn’t compatible with older UE speakers.
- Impressive sound/volume capabilities
- Sturdy, compact design
- Outdoor Boost mode
- It floats
- Micro-USB charging port
- Can’t sync with other UE speakers
- No companion app
The Wonderboom 3 costs $169. This is a reasonable price for what the Wonderboom 3 offers.
As a comparison, the Sonos Roam costs $340, and the JBL Clip 4 costs $100.
So, what’s new?
If you own a UE Wonderboom 2 and want to upgrade, you might be a bit disappointed by the third iteration of the speaker. After three years, almost nothing has changed.
The design is practically identical, and while the sound quality is a little fuller on the newer speaker, it isn’t a standout upgrade.
The only enhancements here are the battery life, which is an hour longer, and the wireless range, which has increased.
Like its predecessor, the Wonderboom 3 adopts an orb-like shape. It’s unique and can be easily placed anywhere due to its ultraportable 104mm tall, 95mm wide design. It’s great, the speaker is stylish and functional, and I had no problem with the lack of changes here. Why change a winning design?
This is a light speaker weighing only 420g, and it’s sturdy. It will survive drops up to 1.5m based on UE’s stress tests.
It comes in four colours, Performance Blue, Hyper Pink, Joyous Bright and Active Black. This is a good range. There are options for flashier, vibrant colour schemes, and also more subtle ones.
Its IP67 resistance rating means it has complete protection from dust and sand and is waterproof. It will last 30 minutes submerged in water. You can take this speaker to the beach or in the shower without worrying about it. It also floats, which is nice for days around the pool or lake.
It has a built-in hang loop. This is only just big enough to fit my index finger through, but it was helpful when putting the speaker on things like a hook in the shower.
The speaker is covered with a mesh fabric material, synonymous with most UE portable speakers. It also has the familiar large volume up and down buttons on the front. On the top, there’s a Bluetooth connection button, a power button, and a middle control used for pausing/playing and skipping tracks. One press pauses, and two presses skips. Frustratingly there’s no input for the previous track here.
On the bottom, there’s a button for Outdoor Boost mode, and there’s also a cap that houses the micro-USB charging slot (more on these below).
The Wonderboom 3 boasts impressive sound capabilities for a speaker so small.
The Wonderboom 3 is a 360° speaker, meaning sounds are projected equally in all directions. Everyone can hear the audio clearly no matter where they’re located. Impressively it also doesn’t suffer when putting the speaker up against a wall or surface. It sounded fine.
Sporting two 40mm active drivers and two 46.1 x 65.2mm passive radiators, the audio quality is very good, even at high volumes.
I was most impressed at how well it handled bass frequencies. Hip Hop tracks like Kaepernick by King Green and How Can U Sleep by Brain had a good bounce to them. Longer drawn-out subfrequencies struggled, but I expected that in a speaker this small. Overall, it was impressive.
It’s not just bass that it does well, though, other genres like rock and country sound full and vibrant. Operator by Jim Croce sounded large, and I was able to pinpoint every instrument in the mix without specific frequencies over-bearing others. Similarly, I’m Scum by Idles sounded good.
Often with smaller speakers like the JBL Clip 4, pushing them to higher volumes makes the audio tinny and shrill. The Wonderboom 3 excelled here. You can turn it up fully, and it still generates a good sound.
I was also impressed at how loud it can go with a maximum level of 86dBc (decibels relative to carrier) indoors and 87 dBc outdoors. You can easily have the speaker playing at a gathering without it being drowned out by chatter.
The Wonderboom 3 is compatible with dual-device connectivity. With a long press of the middle button, you can pair the Wonderboom 3 with another Wonderboom 3, and if you double press, you can create a stereo sound with one speaker playing the left side of the mix and the other playing the right. Unfortunately, neither of these are compatible with other UE speakers. If you own a UE Wonderboom 1, 2, Boom, Megaboom, or Hyperboom, this feature won’t be available, which is disappointing.
The Outdoor Boost mode works well. Turning it on, boosts the audio output by upping the bass, amplifying what you’re listening to. This is best when used in noisy areas like a beach or a park. It made a difference. It sounded odd when using it inside, but when I went outside, it worked well. It’s a nice touch.
It has a 40m Bluetooth range which is decent, and you can connect two devices to the speaker simultaneously.
Unfortunately, there’s no companion app to adjust the speaker, meaning you can’t EQ the sound to your liking, which is a shame. It’s been three years since the Wonderboom 2, and I would’ve expected some sort of companion app allowing sound customisation.
The Wonderboom 3 boasts a 14-hour battery life which is only a slight improvement from the 13-hour capacity of its predecessor. This will change depending on usage – higher volumes use more battery – but it’s above average.
This is better than the 10-hour capabilities of the JBL Clip 4 and the Sonos Roam but isn’t quite as good as the JBL Charge 5’s 20 hours.
The biggest problem with the Wonderboom 3 is it uses a micro-USB port for charging. This is a connection that’s rapidly being phased out, and its presence here is genuinely disappointing. It’s another charging lead you need to remember when you go away, and it’s an annoying misstep by UE.
It takes just under three hours to charge the device fully.
If you’ve owned a previous Wonderboom device, there isn’t a lot to get excited about here. The Wonderboom 3 is almost identical to its predecessor. Besides a slightly extended battery life and an increase in connectivity range, the Wonderboom 3 is a no thrills speaker that does what it says on the tin, much like the Wonderboom 2.
This is fine, however, after a three-year period between devices, I expected more. A companion app is sorely lacking here, and most disappointingly, the latest speaker still uses an ageing micro-USB port for charging. If you own a Wonderboom 2, there’s no reason to upgrade to the newest version.
With that said, if you don’t own a Wonderboom 2 and you’re looking for a small portable speaker that will resist the elements and produce high-quality sound, the Wonderboom 3 is hard to beat.
For its size, it produces impressive audio, it has a winning design, Outdoor Boost mode is genuinely useful, and it floats! For $169, it’s significantly cheaper than similar competitors and is easy to use.
While it might not have all the advanced features of other speakers like the Sonos Roam, the Wonderboom 3 is an easy way to listen to your music, simply connect via Bluetooth and away you go. It’s easy and effective.