The UE Mini Boom was released in 2013 and touted big sound from a small speaker. Even at the time it was met with mixed praise, but still, Ultimate Ears created a well designed portable speaker complimented by user friendly software that enabled users to eq the sound and pair two for mini booms in stereo. Employing two drivers and a passive radiator, the speaker at least had the right setup to produce some quality audio. But does it deliver? Let`s find out.
About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases
I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.
The UE Mini Boom is quite definitely mini, smaller than the majority of quality portable bluetooth speakers but still large enough not to be pocket-able. It`s not something you can chuck in a bag and forget about. The speaker is well design aesthetically with a textured rubberized finish that increases grip to prevent accidental drops and ensure that the speaker doesn`t move around at high volumes. A small lip runs the perimeter of each edge, giving some drop protection. The front and back are covered by metal grills and the unit feel quite solid overall. The speaker has decent battery life you`ll easily be able to reach the 10hr claimed life at medium volumes.
The rear of the speaker has a bass port for the radiator, the 3.5mm input jack and power switch with a small led that indicates activity and remaining battery. The top of the speaker has large, easily discernible buttons to change volume and pair.
Sound Quality –
Unfortunately here lies the problem, the UE Boom attempts to sound bigger than it is, but UE achieves this using completely the wrong means. The tonality is very thick with far too much upper bass that overly warms the mids. This in culmination with a moderate roll-off in the highs results in a sound that is both boomy and veiled. There is little fine detail or refinement to the sound, perhaps the speaker`s only credit is that it can produce good amounts of mid-bass and volume for its size. The bass itself is not very extended either, for example even the UE Roll reaches deeper and the rest of the spectrum is better portrayed too. Vocals are very chesty sounding and can be hard to discern depending on the source. Using the intimate or vocal eq settings in the UE app helps, but doesn`t alleviate the issue. The speaker does sound better than pretty much any laptop speakers however and will add some low end response to a portable laptop setup. The speaker reminds me of laptop speakers, it doesn`t produce a ton of bass, it just comes on strong in the lower mids to create the impression of a big sound, the UE Mini Boom just overdoes it. Given the speakers more cuboid dimensions, stereo separation is also limited, in fact it barely has any at all. The maximum volume is very good however, almost matching the much more expensive UE Boom. I would advise that anyone interested in this speaker, even at discounted pricing look into the UE Roll or better yet save up for the UE Boom as they are much, much better sounding speakers not to mention waterproofing and other such functional improvements. For brief comparison, the UE Boom has a more balanced sound signature, it`s still very bassy, but mids are much clearer and treble is far more extended. Bass extends more with a hearty thump and 360 degree sound projection helps a lot at public events. The Denon envaya mini is even better than the Boom and can even be cheaper in some circumstances, but it is also hard to find outside of the UK.
Due to the UE Mini Boom`s relatively poor audio performance, I can not recommend it for anything but casual use. Despite my negative review, they are decent value at around $40 but at their $100 RRP it would be better to look elsewhere. The UE app is quite good and I appreciate the attention to detail put into it, but the eq`s don`t do much in the way of optimizing the sound. Many internet reviews can be quite elusive as they aren`t up to date, this speaker may have been a good choice in 2013 when it was a marvel for a small speaker to have any bass response at all, but just a few years later, the competition has come an awfully long way. If you can find this speaker for a good price, it`s not terrible for music using the intimate eq and can compliment a more expensive setup as a backup unit.
Design – 7/10, Well designed, nice UE app with the ability to pair two speakers in stereo. Rugged build with clear buttons that are easy to use.
Sound Quality – 4/10, An improvement over laptop and phone speakers, will provide you with a big volume boost, quality is mediocre, especially for the price. Using the intimate eq, the speaker sounds more balanced but it loses quite a bit of volume and there`s only so much an eq can do. Works for some music and well suited to gaming, not great for youtube, movies and vocals as it`s simply too muddy.
Verdict – 5/10, The UE Mini Boom is a case of form over function, limited audio versatility among other faults creates a poor experience.