Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 review

Is this small wonder still a winning formula? Tested at £90 / $100 / AU$149

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3
(Image: © Future)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Wonderboom 3 remains a crowd-pleasing, wallet-friendly portable Bluetooth speaker, but its performance is overshadowed by stronger rivals

Pros

  • +

    Cohesive, enjoyable presentation

  • +

    More dynamic, detailed sound

  • +

    Excellent portable, waterproof design

  • +

    Easy to use

Cons

  • -

    Still uses outdated micro USB

  • -

    Newer rivals have more nuanced, engaging sound

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The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 is the latest portable wireless speaker from a brand known for making colourful, feature-packed, great-sounding Bluetooth speakers. It’s also a direct replacement for the accomplished, Award-winning Wonderboom 2

The UE Wonderboom 2 took the trophy for the best wireless portable speaker under £100 at the What Hi-Fi? Awards in 2019, so we’re coming in with high expectations for the long-awaited next-gen model.

In terms of updates, however, the news isn’t quite the big leap we were expecting after a three-year wait: you get longer battery life (by one hour), longer Bluetooth range (by 10m) and the use of more eco-friendly materials. The Wonderboom 3’s drivers have been updated and we’re expecting an improved sound, but is it enough?

Price

Bluetooth speaker: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3

(Image credit: Future)

The new UE Wonderboom 3 looks similar, has similar features and even retains the same price as its predecessor. At £90 / $100 / AU$149, it’s the same launch price as the Wonderboom 2 (in the UK, at least) and the sub-£100/$100 price point is as attractive as ever. 

Unusually, if you do find the Wonderboom 2 listed at UK retailers online, it’s at a higher price than the Wonderboom 3 – making the latter the better deal now.

In terms of competition, the superb five-star JBL Flip 6 launched at £130 / $130 / AU$200 in early 2022, but it’s creeping into Wonderboom territory now as you can find it for under £100 / $110 if you shop around.

Build

Bluetooth speaker: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3

(Image credit: Future)

The Wonderboom design formula – colourful, buoyant, portable – is one of the best of its kind, so the 3’s unchanged design is no bad thing at all. It’s small and light, you can carry it with you into the garden or to the beach, pack it in a backpack, and place it on any surface in the home.

The bright colours with contrasting buttons are also appealing in a sea of all-black products. Our review sample is a bright pink, but there are also blue, black and grey finishes.

Where Ultimate Ears has made a big fuss with this new speaker is the use of more environmentally friendly materials. The Wonderboom 3 uses “a minimum of” 31% post-consumer recycled plastic (i.e. plastic sourced from end-of-life electronics). The nod towards sustainability is always good to see, and it’s to UE’s credit that the speaker’s build quality is still of a high standard.

The fact that the Wonderboom 3 still uses a micro USB charging connection, however, feels very outdated in 2023. Where brands such as JBL, Tribit, Sony and more have long migrated to using USB-C, we’re puzzled as to why Ultimate Ears didn’t take this chance to update the connection on the newer model. The required micro USB cable is helpfully provided in the box, though.

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 tech specs

Bluetooth speaker: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3

(Image credit: Ultimate Ears)

Finishes x4

Bluetooth 5.2

Battery life 14 hours

Dimensions (hwd) 10.4cm x 9.53cm x 9.53cm

Weight 420g

Connections Micro USB for charging

App? No

Features 360-degree sound, Waterproof, Dustproof, Fast Pair, Double Up, Outdoor Boost 

Other elements of the design are oh-so-familiar: there’s the stretchy rubber loop for hanging the speaker and the IP67 rating means the speaker is ultra-durable. Not only is it waterproof and can survive dust, sand and being dunked in water, but it will also float just like previous Wonderbooms.

The Wonderboom 3 is incredibly easy to use from the second you get it out of the box. This is as straightforward as a Bluetooth speaker gets: simply power up and pair it with your device (it makes friendly noises to indicate its status). The connection is swift and stable. We used the Wonderboom 3 for nearly a month during testing in various settings, and we found that it reconnected to our phone every time automatically, instantly and without fail.

There’s no voice assistant control or speakerphone functionality, so you won’t be waylaid by random button presses. There’s no app and we never felt the need for one, either.

Features

Bluetooth speaker: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3

(Image credit: Future)

The speaker’s already-long battery life has been extended by an hour: the Wonderboom 3 now lasts for an impressive 14 hours (previously 13). Another change is that the Bluetooth wireless range has been extended to 40m (131 feet) instead of the previous 30m (98 feet).

Both are small but useful changes: during our time testing, we only had to charge the speaker once every two weeks. We didn’t experience any dropouts or glitches, even when our connected phone was at the opposite end of the house from the speaker. You can also connect two smartphones to the speaker at the same time. For those using the Wonderboom 3 as a party speaker or taking it with you on a weekend trip, these will no doubt be attractive features.

The lack of USB-C means no fancy fast-charging capability; the Wonderboom 3 can be charged up to full battery in under three hours (2.6 hours, to be exact). You can find out the battery status by pressing the large volume buttons – different tones will be emitted according to battery level, although it’s hard to decipher what they mean at first. We do wish there was a visible indicator for a quick-glance check, like the LEDs found on the JBL Flip 6 or the cheaper Tribit Stormbox Micro.

Other features that have rolled over from the Wonderboom 2 include Outdoor Boost mode (this reduces the bass frequencies so highs and mids can be heard more loudly outside) and Double Up (which pairs two Wonderboom 3s in mono or stereo modes for bigger sound).

We didn’t have a second Wonderboom 3 to try out this feature, but we did have the older Wonderboom 2. Sadly, this double-up feature isn’t backwards-compatible with older models and only works with new Wonderboom 3s, which is rather a shame for existing UE owners.

Sound

Bluetooth speaker: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3

(Image credit: Future)

The Wonderboom’s 360-degree sound delivery returns, and inside the speaker are two 40mm active drivers and twin passive radiators. Ultimate Ears has confirmed to us that “the driver configuration has been updated based on the most updated chipset” being used in the Wonderboom 3. 

With music streaming from Apple Music and Tidal, the Wonderboom 3 delivers a cohesive, detailed and substantial sound that still impresses at this price. There’s an even balance to the tone, and the volume it emits from such petite dimensions is always surprising. It’s an enjoyable, crowd-pleasing listen.

We’ve been using the Wonderboom 3 in various spaces – bathroom, kitchen, home office, garden – alongside our dedicated test rooms, and we never found it sounded too boomy or too bright. 

There is a marked difference compared with the older model: Wonderboom 3 has a leaner sound profile. It’s also more spacious, more dynamic, times better and offers up a tad more detail. The edges of notes in Alt-J’s Breezeblocks are more definite, basslines go deeper, and the speaker manages to eke out more harmonies surrounding each instrument.

This leaner character doesn’t sharpen any edges; it just shines a light on the treble, laying bare more high-frequency notes than the previous model. Some might prefer a more full-bodied presentation to their songs, especially with voices – Lizzo’s vocals on Truth Hurts sound fuller and richer through the older Wonderboom 2, for instance. But that new extra helping of detail and clarity is appreciated, with the Wonderboom 2 sounding a tad boomy and congested in comparison to Wonderboom 3’s snappier, roomier presentation. 

The competition has moved forward in the intervening years, though, and the Wonderboom 3 has to face a newer, more formidable rival in the shape of the five-star JBL Flip 6. And the JBL speaker offers up even greater subtleties in detail and dynamics, along with delivering more depth and warmth to the sound. It isn’t difficult to recommend the Flip 6 over the Wonderboom 3 in sound quality terms alone, especially with the few pounds or dollars of difference in price between the two products.

Verdict

Bluetooth speaker: Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3

(Image credit: Future)

If you already own the Wonderboom 2, there’s no need to rush out and upgrade to the new model. While the Wonderboom 3 has improved its sound and features in increments, both versions of the speakers are well-designed, are long-lasting and perform admirably for their size and price.

However, for those in the market for a brand new portable speaker in the £100 / $100 region, the similarly portable and feature-packed JBL Flip 6 offers better audio performance overall. 

As a well-designed portable Bluetooth speaker at this price level, the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 certainly has its appeal, but it’s not the only – or the best – option worth considering now.

SCORES

  • Sound 4
  • Features 5
  • Build 4

MORE:

Read our review of the JBL Flip 6

Also consider the Tribit Stormbox Micro

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