Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 review

More life-proof, better looking, better sounding, cheaper… is the latest Megaboom the ultimate portable Bluetooth speaker?

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T3 Verdict

It's perhaps not a giant leap forward from the last Megaboom, but with small but significant improvements in multiple areas, this is easily the best totally portable, fully waterproof speaker you can buy

Reasons to buy

  • +

    Waterproof, dustproof (IP67 rated) and also floats

  • +

    Improved controls and charging port

  • +

    Excellent value for money

  • +

    Loud, clear, bassy audio performance

Reasons to avoid

  • -

    If we're nitpicking, the sound is still good rather than great

• Buy Megaboom 3 exclusively at John Lewis (until October)

The Megaboom 3 improves on the winning formula of its waterproof, cylindrical predecessor, and is an excellent speaker. It's actually only the second Megaboom, but as Ultimate Ears is also putting out a new Boom (a smaller sibling to this) and it its the third Boom speaker, it's taken the decision to rationalise the naming of its products by calling them both '3'. 

Yes, that is a little confusing, but we can get through this if we try. It's certainly an evolution of the Megaboom DNA rather than anything radically new, but on the other hand, just about everything has been slightly improved, while the RRP, at £169.99, has gone down compared to the original Megaboom's. You can add a Power Up wireless charging base for £34.99 for even greater flexibility in use, but that's not essential.

Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3: design

The Megaboom 3 in its 4 core colours

Megaboom 3 keeps the same basic look as all the Boom speakers to date – ie: like a drinks can with a big cross on it (they're actually the volume buttons, not the religious symbolism they initially appear to be. However, it has more buttons, and is slicker in appearance, with a finish made using 'high performance fabric, engineered for applications like motorcycle jackets and fire equipment', which has a subtly iridescent finish as well as being very tough. Colour options are Night (black), Sunset (red), Lagoon (blue), and Ultraviolet (purple) at launch, with some mysterious, limited edition options to follow.

The headline design improvements are that the Megaboom 3, as well as being waterproof, now  floats. This is a feature Monster has had in its portable speakers for a while, and means you can use them not just by your swimming pool but actually in it, without it sinking to the bottom. It even sounds okay while floating although clearly, this is not an acoustically ideal scenario.

It's dustproof too, with a rating of IP67. This means it can survive 30 minutes immersed in water, but as it floats, it's hard to see how it would even become submerged. It's hard to kill, to put it in layman's terms.

By greatly reducing the size of the waterproof seal – it used to be a great big strip running down one side – the Megaboom also gives more fully 360º sound. The Megaboom 3 is also dustproof as well as waterproof – another first – and remains a robust kind of thing, which you can pretty much throw at walls and expect to survive. The Bluetooth range has been improved to 45 metres.

There are various other little improvements – it's really impressive how UE has listened to feedback from users and gone and buffed up so many aspects of its speakers – but perhaps the most important are that the charging port is now on the side rather than the bass, which is so much less hassle, and that the buttons now give limited control over skipping forward (never backward) between both tracks and playlists. In the latter case, only on Apple Music and, er, Deezer Premium, but it's a start. UE hopes to add more streaming services in future. 

Dimensions remain very portable (87mm diameter x 225mm height, 925g weight), and there's now a little loop on top for hanging it from things.

Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3: audio

Like these fetching inflatable swans, the Megaboom 3 floats

There's two ways of looking at this. Viewed purely as an audio product, like I was writing for some kind of hi-fi magazine, the Megaboom 3 sounds merely good rather than great. It's made for party-friendly, poppy/dancey kind of sounds and as its name suggests, it is 'all about that bass' – how's that for an ultra-contemporary musical reference, hipster kids! 

Or, to put it another way, the bass and lower mid-range are pumped, the treble screeches a bit at higher volume, and there is not a lot of nuance at times. There's no support for AAC or aptX, but arguably they would not be much help in a speaker of this kind anyway.

However, when you take into account it is fully waterproof, submersible, easily portable and just £170m, it becomes harder to quibble about any musical shortcomings. 

When you think what waterproof speakers generally sounded like before Ultimate Ears came on the scene, it's hugely impressive what they manage to wring out of a waterproof box about the size of a can of Tenant's Super.

The sound is all but indistinguishable from the original Megaboom, but Ultimate Ears reckons it has pushed the bass response even further and improved overall clarity, and who am I to argue?

The sound of one Megaboom 3 is satisfyingly loud (up to 90dB) but via its app you can use 'PartyUp' to chain up to 150 (!) of them into a hellish, poptastic cacophony that will have everyone else on the beach hoping you get eaten by a shark. There's also the option to conjoin just two as a stereo pair. 

Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3: what's it like to use?

Megaboom 3's 'Magic Button' is the large one on top

The Megaboom 3 is very satisfying to use. It's big enough to be loud but small enough to take most places without any problems. Maybe if you're travelling and luggage space is tight you might consider something even smaller, but it's still nicely compact.

The new, 'Magic button' is very useful if you don't want to get your phone out of your pocket to control playback. It's not as tactile or instantly responsive as you might ideally want, but it works.

There's also the full gamut of modern Bluetooth tricks, with instant pairing to previously used devices on powering up, easy user switching, two connected devices at a time, and so on. The PartyUp mode works really well, which never ceases to surprise me, and the long Bluetooth range means you don't need to worry about your phone being anywhere near the speaker – which if the speaker is floating in the middle of a swimming pool is probably a very good thing.

Battery life is a very solid 20+ hours, fully charging takes under 3 hours, and the aforementioned Power Up wireless charging base makes it even easier to transition between home and outdoor use. Not, to be fair, that there is anything terribly hard about just untethering it from its USB cable instead, especially now it's in a sane position – ie: on the side – rather than a crazy location on the base, as in previous Ultimate Ears speakers.

Overall, it's a fun speaker that lots of people have clearly spent an awful lot of not-very-fun time really thinking about and honing. Because of their hard work, you can power it up, chuck it in the pool, party down and 'get your shine on' in no uncertain terms. Thanks, guys.

Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3: verdict

Megaboom 3: Yeah! Comin' atcha! Woo!

Ultimate Ears has done a superb job of taking an already excellent product and improving it in nearly every way. With its improved looks it'll be just as at home in a suburban kitchen as at the beach parties and festivals that Ultimate Ears clearly sees as its natural domain. Why else would John Lewis stock it? They're not exactly thrusting, young rave kids.

The only caveat to that is there are certainly better sounding Bluetooth speakers available for home use at about the same price. I don't know if I'm being entirely fair marking it down to 4 stars on the basis that the audio is not, objectively, amazing, but there we go. 

However, if you want a go-anywhere, life-proof speaker that sounds much bigger than its price and size would suggest, there's nothing to touch the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 – unless you require something smaller and even more portable, in which case there's the Boom 3.