Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 review: a portable speaker that causes buzz

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

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

The connection is still as poor with a single micro-USB port dedicated solely to charging, which is a real aberration when the entire market has moved to USB-C. This outdated connection has a big impact on the recharging time: count a little less than 3 hours to fully charge this Wonderboom 3.

Wonderboom 3 is still floating on the surface.

Wonderboom 3 is still floating on the surface.

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

Since the user experience is identical to that offered on the previous model, we invite you to see 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 one detail to know about this third version, and not the least. In fact, we noticed a strong distortion (creating a kind of resonance, a very unpleasant “hum”) that manifests 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 speaker is called upon to reproduce certain specific signals at low frequencies (between 77 and 118 Hz) and at a certain sound intensity (speaker volume placed at level 13/14, no more or less). It’s like some random internal signal processing caused it to lose control. The effect also happens gradually, reaching a peak after a handful of seconds.

We have been able to observe this in particular bad guy by Billie Eilish, with particularly awkward and pervasively unwanted vibrations replacing the synth line and kick, effectively preventing appreciation of the entire track. Naturally, this extremely strange phenomenon prompted us to order two other Wonderboom 3s to confirm that this was not an isolated case. Alas, our three test models are affected.

Strong points

  • Robust and nice design.

  • Good power reserve.

Weak points

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

  • Obsolete micro USB connection.

  • Numerous ergonomic shortcomings (backtrack, built-in microphone, mini-jack, multipoint, etc.).

  • Autonomy under the previous model.

How does grading work?

Despite a three-year wait, Wonderboom 3 does not innovate at all compared to the previous version. It’s the exact opposite. In addition to the disappointing autonomy, this third iteration suffers from a strange distortion problem that makes it uncomfortable. And then, the micro USB connection in 2022, that’s the pom pom!

Leave a Comment