Does a $350 wireless speaker have to do more than just play music? That’s certainly its main purpose, but as we approach the end of 2023, consumers expect premium features at this price, such as voice assistants, multi-room audio sync, and a range of extras like AirPlay and Spotify Connect integration.
Review of the UE Epicboom
The new Ultimate Ears Epicboom speaker, priced at $349.99, lacks all that. Instead, it offers a rugged (and waterproof) design, delivers powerful 360-degree sound, and provides up to 17 hours of battery life. And it even has a USB-C port, a first for any UE speaker so far in 2023. Just making sure you know it’s 2023.
UE’s Epicboom shares a similar size and shape with the Sonos Move 2 but weighs noticeably less at 4.36 pounds, compared to Sonos’ 6.6 pounds. Both speakers feature dual tweeters and a single woofer. However, Ultimate Ears emphasizes broader sound dispersion to achieve its well-known 360-degree audio effect, as expected by Boom, Megaboom, and the larger Hyperboom customers. The speaker’s exterior is covered in the same fabric mesh found on other UE products, and it boasts a robust rubber base for added drop protection. On the back, there’s a carrying strap secured by a magnet to prevent it from moving around.
The front side of the Epicboom features UE’s prominent large volume buttons, along with controls for power, Bluetooth pairing, and play/pause located on the top. Additionally, there’s an “outdoor mode” button to increase the speaker’s volume when using it in open spaces like while camping or tailgating. Holding down the play button activates UE’s “magic button” feature, allowing you to play a preset playlist from your selected music service. On the back, there’s a USB-C port covered by a protective flap that securely seals to prevent water from entering if the Epicboom is submerged, as it can float. The USB-C port is solely for charging and does not support line-in audio. This $350 speaker also lacks Wi-Fi connectivity for high-fidelity music streaming but offers quick tap-to-pair via NFC for Android phone owners.
Speaker Performance and Adaptive EQ Features
When I test a speaker, I inevitably find a song that seems perfectly suited for the hardware’s tuning and drivers. There were a few instances where I actually preferred the Epicboom’s output over the pricier Sonos Move 2, but these instances were rare. Overall, Sonos’ speaker offers a more detailed, distinct, and well-balanced sound compared to the Epicboom. The Epicboom occasionally leans towards a boomy and less-defined quality, especially with certain tracks on “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” While some of the vocals on that remastered album might feel somewhat lacking (such as “Style”), the overall mix is an improvement over the original. However, the Epicboom fails to do justice to it as a speaker in the over-$300 range should. If you’re a dedicated bass enthusiast who enjoys rattling your apartment, the Epicboom may disappoint at its maximum volume, exhibiting noticeable compression and some bass crackling.
Ultimate Ears claims that the speaker offers adaptive EQ, meaning it adapts the sound profile based on your surroundings. I didn’t particularly notice significant differences when moving the Epicboom between both large and small rooms, although it performed quite well as a speaker in the bathroom. It had no trouble cutting through the noise in the shower and delivered surprisingly clear sound despite the echoing acoustics. However, spending $350 on a bathroom speaker may be a bit much for many people. You can adjust the EQ to your preference using UE’s mobile app, which also allows you to stereo-pair two Epicbooms or connect it with a group of other UE speakers in party mode.