Whether you’re setting up a barbecue by the pool or headed out into the wilderness, adding in some of your favorite tunes is all but guaranteed to take any outdoor adventure to the next level. But with the vast array of portable Bluetooth speakers on the market, it can be tough to know which one to rely on when you’re out and about.
With 20 hours of battery life, dust/waterproof design, and loud, punchy sound, we’ve never been more confident in a portable Bluetooth speaker than we are in the Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3. With its third generation of Megaboom, Ultimate Ears wisely didn’t try to reinvent its cylinder of sound, instead making steady improvements that translate in the real world — and make it one of the best portable speakers, period.
Out of the box
No matter which color you choose (our review unit was a flashy pinkish-purple) the sleek, cylindrical Megaboom 3 leaps out of its cardboard box with practical, modern design.
Two massive volume buttons — something of an Ultimate Ears design signature — appear on the front of the device, on top of a durable light-shifting fabric material that covers the drivers, with the power and multifunction button (more on this later) on the Megaboom’s rubberized top.
A cleverly positioned loop of fabric is on the back of the new Megaboom, making it easy to hang from a carabiner, branch, or string, depending on where you find yourself jamming out. The only port you’ll find on the speaker is the in the bottom rear — a micro USB charging port that hides below a rubberized strip on the rear of the device.
Features and design
The Megaboom 3’s most important features are actually the ones that you don’t see.
First and foremost is the speaker’s durability. The speaker has an IP67 dust and waterproof rating, which means it’s good for up to 30 minutes in three feet of water and is more than fine with a trip to your closest sandy shore. In fact, though that cool fabric coating on the exterior may seem to be just an aesthetic choice, it was engineered for motorcycle jackets and fire equipment — meaning it will put up with virtually any abuse you throw at it. You probably won’t need to worry about it reaching three feet of depth, either, as the speaker is designed to float.
It will put up with virtually any abuse you throw at it.
The company claims it put the new Megaboom through 25 durability tests, including thousands of button pushes, drop tests, tumbles, and more, making sure that it would hold up to the stresses of everyday life.
All that durability is paired with a huge battery: the Megaboom 3 offers up to 20 hours of listening time, which is more than enough for a weekend of nighttime tunes during a backpacking trip, or for a couple days of poolside partying.
The big volume buttons make it easy to quickly turn down (or up!) the tunes, but the most important button you’ll use on the Megaboom 3 is on top. The multifunction button can be used to play and pause music, but with long presses (and an Apple Music or Deezer subscription, sorry Spotify fans) the button can be used to switch between favorite playlists. To do this, you just need to download the company’s Ultimate Ears app, which also allows you to link up to 150 Ultimate Ears speakers in Party Mode. The Bluetooth range has also been improved from the previous generations — now up to 45 feet. It’s also cheaper: where the original model retailed for $300, the Megaboom 3 costs just $200.
Even without the added playlist features offered by Apple Music and Deezer (we’re die-hard Spotify lovers), the speaker was an absolute joy to use, allowing us to play and pause music and adjust volume — let’s be honest, the vast majority of what anyone wants to do without reaching for their phone — with ease.
The bar for Bluetooth speaker audio quality has been steadily on the rise in recent years, but while we used to praise a speaker for simply being loud and having some semblance of bass response, there are now a number of genuinely great sounding options vying for your cash.
So, when we say that the Megaboom 3 holds its own against many non-portable Bluetooth options, that’s saying a lot.
The most impressive aspect of the speaker is just how well it disperses sound. The Megaboom projected bold and vibrant sound in all directions, allowing us to constantly enjoy our favorite tunes while meandering around a large outdoor space.
As with many contemporary speakers, the Megaboom 3 sounds best when playing contemporary pop and hip-hop. Everything from Taylor Swift to Chance The Rapper sounds tight and punchy, delivered with crisp high-end clarity and the right amount of low-end oomph.
Everything from Taylor Swift to Chance The Rapper sounds tight and punchy, delivered with crisp high-end clarity and the right amount of low-end oomph.
When listening to more classic recordings with an acoustic guitar — things like Neil Young’s Harvest or the recently Thriller-beating Eagles’ Greatest Hits album — we noticed a bit of mud in the midrange, but nothing like we typically experience on speakers this size. In fact, provided there wasn’t too much layering of instruments in the low mid-range, the Megaboom 3 did very well to showcase each individual instrument in a mix. We didn’t get the chance to pair two together in stereo mode, which is configurable via the app, but we imagine clarity would be significantly enhanced if we had done so.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the sound of the Megaboom 3. It offered a solid amount of clarity in the low and high end, and it got loud enough to fuel a beachside dance party, all without us ever worrying about it being knocked over or running out of juice. As far as portable speakers go, that’s all we could possibly ask for.
Ultimate Ears offers a two-year warranty on defects in materials or workmanship.Our Take
The Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 is a near-perfect portable Bluetooth speaker. With a superb blend of audio performance and durability — plus spectacular battery life — you’ll throw the Megaboom in a tote bag or clip it onto a backpack for nearly every adventure. After all, even the most beautiful places on earth are better with some choice tunes.
Is there a better alternative?
Those who are after a great rugged Bluetooth speaker that can go anywhere should also take a look at the JBL Charge line, which offers identical battery life and a slightly inferior IPX7 waterproof rating (for up to 30 minutes in water) at a lower price point. We think the JBL speakers are great, but we’ll be the first to admit they don’t offer quite the same musical detail you’ll get with the Megaboom, and the looks are considerably more subdued.
How long will it last?
Ultimate Ears has a history of creating durable, great-sounding Bluetooth speakers that last through years of steady use, and we have no reason to believe the Megaboom 3 is any different.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re in the market for a Bluetooth speaker that you can consistently rely on for big volume, great battery life, and go-anywhere performance, the Megaboom is one of the best you’ll find.