Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 review: a portable speaker that's causing the buzz

Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 review: a portable speaker that’s causing the buzz

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Ultimate Ears will have waited three years to renew its Wonderboom portable speaker in a third version, which is very lacking in new features. The Wonderboom 3 is so close to the Wonderboom 2 that we strongly recommend that you read the review of the second version before it.

The Wonderboom 3 therefore takes the design of the Wonderboom 2 line for line. We thus find the same mesh fabric surmounted by the large “+” and “–” buttons characteristic of Ultimate Ears, the same rubbery coating and the small elastic wrist strap. The excellent impressions of robustness remain, as does the resistance to water and dust (IP67 certification).

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Connectivity is still just as poor with a single micro-USB port solely dedicated to charging, which is a real aberration when the entire market has moved to USB-C. This obsolete connection greatly impacts the recharging time: count a little less than 3 hours to fully power this Wonderboom 3.

The Wonderboom 3 is still floating on the surface.

The Wonderboom 3 is still floating on the surface.

Ultimate Ears announced a gain in autonomy, but we unfortunately noticed a significant loss compared to the previous model. We measured an operating time of 12 hours at 50% of the maximum volume, against 14 hours at 75% of the maximum volume on the Wonderboom 2. This measurement was verified on the three models in our possession.

The user experience being identical to that offered on the previous model, we invite you to refer to the Wonderboom 2 test for more information. Stereo pairing with another speaker is still in the game, but this time only with another Wonderboom 3 model.

In terms of aesthetics and functionality, the Wonderboom 3 is an almost perfect copy of the Wonderboom 2. The sound performance is also equivalent between the two versions, and still more than correct.

Frequency response measurement (calibration at 79 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1 m).  Without Outdoor Boost (black), with Outdoor Boost (orange).

Frequency response measurement (calibration at 79 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1 m). Without Outdoor Boost (black), with Outdoor Boost (orange).

There is still a detail to know about this third version, and not the least. Indeed, we noticed a strong distortion (creating a sort of resonance, a very unpleasant “buzz”) manifesting itself in the low frequencies. The presence of this phenomenon is already surprising, but it is its occurrence that is all the more so. This problem only occurs in special cases, when the loudspeaker is called upon to reproduce certain specific signals at low frequencies (between 77 and 118 Hz) and at a certain sound intensity (loudspeaker volume placed at level 13/ 14, no more no less). It’s as if some haphazard internal signal processing made it lose control. The effect also happens gradually and reaches a peak after a handful of seconds.

We have been able to observe this in particular on Bad boy by Billie Eilish, with particularly awkward and pervasive unwanted vibrations that replace the synth line and the kick, effectively preventing the appreciation of the whole track. This extremely strange phenomenon obviously prompted us to order two other Wonderboom 3s to verify that this was not an isolated case. Alas, our three test models are affected.

Strong points

  • Robust and neat design.

  • Good power reserve.

Weak points

  • Big problem of distortion in the low frequencies at a certain volume.

  • Outdated micro-USB connection.

  • Numerous ergonomic shortcomings (backtrack, on-board microphone, mini-jack, multipoint, etc.).

  • Autonomy below the previous model.

How does grading work?

Despite three years of waiting, the Wonderboom 3 does not innovate at all compared to the previous version. It’s quite the opposite. Beyond the disappointing autonomy, this third iteration suffers from a strange distortion problem that makes it unsavory. And then, the micro-USB connection in 2022, it’s the pompom!

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