Of all the portable speaker manufacturers around (and there are many), Ultimate Ears is surely one of the brashest when it comes to its branding. With garish colourways, funky advertising campaigns and a proclivity for speakers that prioritise big, bold sonic brushstrokes, the company’s products are not hard to spot. Only Ultimate Ears could produce something called an “Epicboom” without blushing.
The point of Ultimate Ears, though, is to be fun, the company aiming its products predominantly at the young, on-the-go end of the audio market who want their music to be portable, punchy and party-ready. These are products designed to be pulled out at pool parties and student shindigs, and they usually have the confident, fun-loving sonic profiles to match.
That’s no bad thing. We love fun-orientated products as much as the next publication, and we’re just as willing to gush over a funky piece of lovable tech as we are an austere set of multi-thousand-pound speakers – just take our reviews of the many UE products over the years as proof, from the original Boom to the Megaboom, to the latest Wonderboom 3.
The aim of the Epicboom then, surely, should be as a speaker that’s as sparky and enthusiastic as its ridiculous name suggests. It also has to be as rugged and portable as price rivals such as the Sonos Move 2 or the Award-winning Dali Katch G2. Let’s see if Ultimate Ears has brought the boom.
Ultimate Ears’ latest comes with a rather substantial price tag. The Epicboom will set you back £300 / $350 / AU$500, making it the second most expensive product in the company’s range after the colossal Hyberboom (around £400 / $400) and almost identical to the five-star (but ageing) JBL Xtreme 3 (tested at £300 / $350 / AU$400).
Compared with contemporary products of a similar ilk, UE’s effort does start to look like a smart(er) choice, especially when you place it side-by-side with the Sonos Move 2 (tested at £449 / $449 / AU$799). That said, the exceptional, Award-winning Dali Katch G2 is only a little more at around £330 in the UK (US prices are much steeper), and while the Katch may be a smaller unit, it’s certainly capable of sonically competing with the biggest and the best in town.
Build & Design
The chunky, pill-shaped Epicboom is hard to miss. At a similar size to the Sonos Move 2, the Epicboom is a robust mini-monolith that pushes the boundaries of what you’d consider portable without entirely straying from its brief. Could you take it out on a walk? Yes, but it’s better suited as a semi-stationary speaker that can be carried to a location and then set down for the day, rather than as a handheld that quite literally goes wherever you go. Think picnics, parks, pitchside warm-ups, outdoor Zumba classes, that sort of thing.
Not that the Epicboom isn’t willing to join in on the action. Like much of Ultimate Ears’ portable gear, ruggedness and durability have been placed high on the agenda. With an IP67 rating and the ability to float in water, this is still very much a go-anywhere unit, with the Epicboom surviving a dunk in our office sink without fizzing like a malfunctioning toaster or ominously smoking at the edges. That said, we did notice that the unit retained just a little water for a few minutes after it had been for its impromptu swim, so maybe err on the side of caution before you start dunking your new toy with gleeful abandon.
Bluetooth Yes (5.3)
Mains-powered or battery-powered: Battery-powered
Battery Life: Up to 17 hours
Features 360-degree sound, Party Up speaker pairing, Outdoor Boost, Adaptive EQ, IP67 rating
Connections USB-C (charging)
Dimensions (hwd) 24.1 x 11.9 x 16.2 cm
Finishes x2 (Cotton White & Lipstick Red, Charcoal Black & Lime)
Sink-based dips aside, we took the new model outside the confines of our testing room into the great wide world, exposing it to garden fitness sessions, a patio meet-up, even a pitchside cameo at a hockey match, and not once did it feel fragile or even particularly cumbersome as we hauled it around like a newborn infant.
With that solid rubber bass and some pleasingly taut polyester speaker fabric, we’re confident that our pill-shaped companion could have weathered anything we threw at it for many, many more outings had we been given the chance. Although, you might want to opt for the black and lime colourway option as opposed to our easily-dirtied white and red test model in order to hide a hard day’s grime.
If we had any real gripes, they would be that the Epicboom actually looks a little restrained for an Ultimate Ears speaker. Yes, those distinctive ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ signs (used for adjusting the volume) are proudly emblazoned upon the front of the unit, but if anything this latest speaker feels just a smidge conservative to our eyes. Maybe we’re used to the bolder colourways of the Boom, Megaboom and Wonderboom models (the latter resplendent in pink and green), but this latest addition to the family isn’t quite as funky as we’d have liked.
Ultimate Ears’ latest is satisfyingly made overall, though, and we’re pleased that this model can be charged via a USB-C connector, especially after the disappointment of the Wonderboom 3's reliance on an outdated micro USB port.
For north of £300 / $300 we’re expecting a portable speaker that’s well-furnished with features, and to be fair to the Epicboom it does a good job in earning its high-end price tag. That aforementioned IP67 rating obviously adds to the speaker’s usability as a durable outdoorsman, with a handy Outdoor Mode further boosting the Epicboom’s roaming capabilities by offering up an extra 1dB of power via a less bassy, more forthright sound profile.
This gearing of the Epicboom towards outdoor play doesn’t stop there, as a Bluetooth range of 55 metres should ensure you don’t lose connection from your source player. Speaking of source players, a useful one-touch NFC feature (available for compatible Android 8.0 smartphones, sorry Apple fans) allows you to pair your device with a single tap. Handy.
Battery life, meanwhile, is okay, but it’s certainly beatable by some similarly-priced rivals. Seventeen hours of playtime sees the Epicboom score a win over the chunky JBL Xtreme’s 15 hours. However, the Sonos Move 2 will furnish you with a rather impressive 24 hours of listening time, whereas the more diminutive Dali Katch G2 (also around £300) will take things further to a whopping 30 hours.
What you do get with the Epicboom is compatibility with other Ultimate Ears products. Accessing the app lets you pair up with multiple other UE models such as the Boom 3, the Megaboom 3, the Hyperboom or even another Epicboom. The app itself provides a pleasingly simple platform through which to connect with other speakers, navigate your Epicboom’s settings and adjust your EQ, and while it’s not as in-depth or as feature-laden as the Sonos app, it will do the job for the Epicboom’s Bluetooth-only speaker. It’s simple, uncluttered and a breeze to operate.
No, it’s not quite on the Sonos Move 2’s level when it comes to offering a truly refined ecosystem or as many wireless streaming options (the Move 2 provides AirPlay 2 and Wi-Fi 6), but the Epicboom still fulfils its brief with a raft of features that focus predominantly on outdoor use, ruggedness and intuitiveness.
Much of Epicboom’s flashy marketing has placed a heavy emphasis on big, basic sonic claims that make a point of loudness, intensity and overuse of the word “epic”. What UE does promise is 360-degree sound fired through two 45mm transducers and a single 12cm woofer, but the overall MO of the Epicboom, clearly, is loud and proud.
It certainly achieves that first aim without too much bother. Push the volume up to the higher echelons and you’ll enjoy a robust, confident presentation that suffers little from the shameful ignominy of obvious distortion at the higher ranges. It carries well, too, and first-hand experience of taking the UE pitchside for a pre-game warm-up at the local hockey club attests to the size of the new model’s considerable lungs. Put Outdoor Mode on, and that sound carries with greater exuberance, even if it’s a little harsher and more industrial-sounding as a result.
Being loud and being truly musical, however, are two different things, so how does the Epicboom cope as a speaker for more discerning listeners who still want their music to retain a sense of tone, cohesion and nuance? You certainly receive a decent degree of sonic punch, particularly in the bass, with rock and hip-hop (Notorious B.I.G’s Hypnotise and Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back In Town) benefitting especially from the Epicboom’s broad, expansive sound presentation.
We have our doubts, though, as to whether this speaker really offers that dynamism and musicality to make it a viable proposition as a true class leader. While it’s clearly capable of producing a wide, powerful sound, the Epicboom has a slight inclination towards an artificial tone that can be hard to disregard. Listening to the UE side-by-side with the (admittedly more expensive) Sonos Move 2 reveals more richness, tonality and depth within the latter’s presentation. The former, sadly, feels somewhat synthetic by contrast.
It’s also not the peppiest, most rhythmically adept speaker we’ve come across, something that comes as a disappointment considering the brand’s pedigree for lively, likeable products. Stevie Wonder’s irresistibly funky earworm Superstition doesn’t quite pop as it does when played through a JBL Charge 5, say, while OutKast’s Hey Ya! could do with a greater injection of liveliness and rhythmic drive to really convey the track’s infectious sense of fun.
That isn’t to say that the Epicboom in any way sounds bad, far from it. Rather, we’d like to be treated to a little more richness and depth across the speaker’s sonic spectrum, as well as a little more spark and dynamism to really give our test tracks some pep. For partygoing teens and undiscerning loudness junkies, it does a fine job, but if you’re keen on using the Epicboom as your predominant speaker of choice for daily listening both in the home and outside, you may find these shortcomings wearisome after a time.
Like so many of Ultimate Ears’ portable products, the Epicboom is an undeniably likeable and well-made performer that will please anyone looking for big sound and rugged build quality wrapped up in an attractive, personable package. In terms of fulfilling that particular brief, the Epicboom is a worthwhile companion.
Our real issue from an audio perspective is whether UE’s latest can justify its still-considerable asking price when compared to similarly-priced alternatives. The Sonos Move 2 offers more substantial and authentic sound for an increased outlay (not to mention a whole raft of streaming features), whereas the likes of the Dali Katch or cheaper JBL Charge 5 will both reward you with a much more sophisticated sonic performance from smaller and more truly portable units. If such considerations remain a priority, the Epicboom may struggle to earn a place on your wishlist.
- Sound 4
- Build 4
- Features 5
Read our Dali Katch G2 review
And also check out our Sonos Move 2 review
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