Back in 2013, I had a strong relationship with Logitech because I was reviewing most of its pioneering Bluetooth speakers. Somehow, likely due to a change in personnel, I regrettably lost touch with the company. My first impressions of its products were highly positive, and I followed their progress online as the firm re-established itself as Ultimate Ears. Recently, I made contact with them again, and I’m happy to review the Wonderboom 2, the smallest Bluetooth speaker in the manufacturer’s line-up. At $99.99 (all prices USD), it’s an attractive, affordable companion for outdoor activities.
In the box
The Wonderboom 2 is packaged in a black lift-top box, encased in a colorful cardboard wraparound. The packaging is unique in that the quick start guide, normally a separate booklet, is printed on the inside of the lift top. In the box are the speaker, a 24″ USB-to-Micro-USB charging cable, and the warranty and safety information.
The speaker is a squat, bevelled cylinder measuring 3 3/4″ in diameter by 4 1/8″ high and weighing 15 ounces. Its body is covered with fine-mesh grille fabric, and its endcaps are made of what appears to be a hard rubber-plastic compound. Color choices include Deep Space Black, Crushed Ice Grey, Radical Red, Bermuda Blue, and Just Peach. It contains two full-range 1 1/2″ drivers and two 2 1/2″ oval passive radiators. The Wonderboom 2 has a dustproof/waterproof rating of IP67. It carries a generous two-year warranty and has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 13 hours, depending on the volume level you play it at. Charging time from a USB port is about 5 1/2 hours (if you’re charging it using a USB/AC power adapter, you can figure on about 2 1/2 hours).
It’s hard to miss the volume control buttons on the front of the speaker, which are marked with huge plus and minus signs. On the top, you’ll find the power button, a Bluetooth pairing button, and a button for play/pause and skip forward. The power and Bluetooth pairing buttons are backlit. On the bottom is a button you can push to activate Outdoor Boost to enhance the volume when you’re using it outdoors.
There’s a cute little rubber hook on the top bearing the Ultimate Ears logo that you can use to hang the speaker from a hook or a carabiner, or fasten to a belt or backpack. On the back of the bottom endcap is a port that, when opened, reveals the Micro-USB charging jack. This port must be sealed tightly to make the Wonderboom 2 waterproof. Ultimate Ears claims the speaker can be submerged up to 3′ for 30 minutes and that it will float if dropped into a swimming pool or any other body of water.
Two Wonderboom 2s can be paired for dual mono or stereo sound. The Wonderboom 2 can be paired with the original Wonderboom for mono only. The speaker automatically shuts off after 15 minutes of inactivity. There’s no auxiliary jack. The Wonderboom 2 is strictly a Bluetooth speaker.
Wonderful, serendipitous simplicity is the word here. The Wonderboom 2 paired instantly with my Apple iPod Touch, and when I started it again on a different day, it remembered my device. It was easy to transport. Being just a little bit larger than a softball, it easily fit into the palm of my hand. Bluetooth range was very good, about 40′ in my cluttered house, which is a record.
The controls all had a good click action to them, and the unit sat confidently on a flat surface. If you do not have a flat surface available, it’s reassuring to know the hook is there. I got in the shower, splashed it thoroughly with water, and it survived with ease.
The one and only issue I had with it was the charging port. The jack is recessed quite far back, and I had a little difficulty getting plugged in. I hasten to add, though, that I have aging fingers. Those with younger ones might not find this an issue.
The Wonderboom 2 pumped out an amazing amount of sound for such a little fellow. I had music playing in the background while I was typing in the office, and when I went into my main listening room, I was surprised it was the Wonderboom 2 that was playing and not my main speakers.
Its sound was rather brash—it could sound a little too bright—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a speaker intended mostly for outdoor use. Consequently, it sounded better from a distance of several feet or more than up close. The midrange had lots of presence and the midbass had punch, and although the highs had punch as well, they could become a bit congested at times. The bass—or, more accurately, the illusion of bass—was quite amazing coming from a speaker so small. It was reproducing upper bass and lower mids, true, but it’s tuned to sound rich, full, and well focused. I could drive it into distortion, using maximum volume on heavily scored music; this seldom occurred and was easily fixed by backing off the volume one or two clicks.
Though you might like it, I found the Outdoor Boost feature was not to my taste. This equalization mode pumps up the midrange and the highs but diminishes the bass. I found that the Wonderboom 2 had quite enough punch in the regular mode, as well as better transparency.
“Crying in My Sleep,” from Jimmy Webb’s Archive (16-bit/44.1kHz ALAC, WEA), might well be the ultimate country-rock-blues song. It came through very well on the Wonderboom 2. Vocals were easily understood, and the accompanying guitars were pithy, the drums had snap, and the upper bass was tight and sharply focused. Only the very highest frequencies were a bit blurred.
“Ruby Baby,” from Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly (16/44.1 ALAC, Warner Bros.), has a fairly complicated yet transparent structure—there are drums, piano, Hammond organ, sax, and brass riffs, and multipart backing vocals, all supporting Fagen’s upfront vocals. It sounded pretty darn good on the Wonderboom 2, with everything clean and well balanced.
Classical music? The finale of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with Ernest Ansermet conducting l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (16/44.1 ALAC, Decca) was quite thrilling. The blazing brass, pungent strings, and palpable timpani strokes were all reproduced with surprising fidelity. The only thing missing was the low bass, so well captured by the Decca engineers. I imagine this would sound really dandy with two Wonderboom 2s pumping in real stereo.
The Wonderboom 2 is a great little speaker that can easily travel with you on your outdoor adventures. It’s simple to set up and control, and has very good sound—bigger sound than you would imagine, given its size. It’s also quite affordable. For a speaker with Bluetooth operation only, it scores high marks. You can obtain a carry case for about $12 on Amazon.com. Its main competitor, the JBL Flip 5, costs a little more at $119.95 but does include a carrying case. I like the JBL a little better for indoor listening, but for outdoor listening, it’s hard to beat the Wonderboom 2.
. . . Rad Bennett
- Portable music player: Apple iPod Touch (sixth generation)
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 Bluetooth Speaker
Price: $99.99 USD.
Warranty: Two years, limited.
Logitech International S.A.
7700 Gateway Blvd.
Newark, CA 94560 USA
Phone: (510) 795-8500