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Short version: These two battery-powered bluetooth speakers are the first modern boomboxes designed by the newly created subsidiary Logitech UE. Acquired in 2008, Ultimate Ears is well-known for its in-ear monitors used by many musicians in concert, not for its speakers. Even though the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox is limited, it is no surprise given the entry-level pricing. The real surprise comes from the big brother, the Logitech UE Boombox.
Logitech UE Boombox
- Two woofers, two tweeters and four passive radiators
- Bluetooth (A2DP profile) and 3.5mm audio output
- 6-hour rechargeable battery
- 4.4lbs (2kg)
- MSRP: $250
- Logitech UE Product Page
- Precise and very enjoyable sound
- Incredibly powerful performance for this size
- Bass-heavy sound profile, perfect for partying
- Bass-heavy sound profile, exhausting with some tracks
- No audio cable in the box
When it comes to picking the right speaker for your needs, it’s often a very personal choice due to sound profiles, music tastes and other side niceties. The Logitech UE Boombox doesn’t change the rule, and it will be hard to give a definitive verdict for that product.
First, design and features are less controversial. With a sleek grille and a rubberized lower third, the device looks both solid and elegant. The handle at the top makes it easy to pick the boombox up. But at 4.4lbs (2kg), you may only want to carry it in your backyard or in another room. Compared to other models, such as the Big Jambox, this boombox is quite big and you should leave it in your home.
The big rubberized volume buttons on one side are unmissable. On the other side, you find the on/off switch, a Bluetooth pairing button, the 3.5mm audio output and the power socket.
Pairing the boombox with an iPhone, an Android 4.0 phone and a Mac was very easy. The A2DP audio profile ensures that a large number of devices will be compatible. It’s even easier in iOS 6 with the Bluetooth settings now front and center in the Settings app. With an iPhone 4, audio didn’t drop even with approximately 30 feet of distance between the two devices in an office environment.
Yet, as audiophiles will tell you, A2DP is not ideal for audio fidelity. The audio is first compressed on the phone or tablet using SBC, or optionally AAC or MP3. For example, iOS now supports AAC up to 128 kb/s in addition to SBC, which is pretty low. Moreover, reencoding a lossy track, such as a song bought in the iTunes Store or streamed in Spotify, with a lossy codec is one of the worst thing to do for sound quality. It’s like taking a photo of a photo.
It still sounded good, especially when you compare it to using the internal speaker of your smartphone. But you definitely lose sound clarity in the higher and lower ends of the audio spectrum. That’s why Logitech UE should have put an audio cable in the box. It’s a high-end speaker.
Talking about audio spectrum, the Boombox is clearly skewed toward low mids and basses. I usually use very neutral equipment, such as studio monitoring headphones (Sony MDR-7506). It is more noticeable when playing some songs, especially electronic music tracks with a deep and clean beat. Other times, it makes the track more enjoyable. But when it ruins a classic, you have no choice but to skip the track.
Yet, as the name suggests, the Boombox was intended to produce booms. If you intend to use it to party, to fill a crowded room with a sound that is pleasant to listen to, then it is the perfect choice.
We have a Jawbone Big Jambox in the office. When playing the same song on the two devices, there was no room for discussion. The Logitech UE Boombox is the clear winner, with a much clearer and richer sound than the limited Big Jambox. The Boombox is much bigger, but $50 cheaper than the Big Jambox. Picking Logitech’s speaker is a no-brainer if you are not constrained by size.
Logitech UE Mobile Boombox
- Compact speaker
- Bluetooth (A2DP profile) and 3.5mm audio output
- 10-hour micro USB rechargeable battery
- MSRP: $100
- Logitech UE Product Page
- Very easy to carry around
- Better sound than the speaker of your smartphone
- Perfect for podcasts
- Not very powerful
Don’t expect any magic from this Mobile Boombox. It is an inexpensive speaker to throw in your bag when you are going to the beach, the park or hiking. You don’t get a lot of details, especially with messy and difficult to render tracks. But if you really need to listen to music with a speaker in those situations, the Mobile Boombox is a good versatile choice.
If you insist on using it in your home, there is another use that makes it very useful, podcasts. I listen to a lot of podcasts and don’t use iTunes anymore, even if Apple plans to release a completely redesigned version. I manage all my podcasts in Instacast on my iPhone and listen to podcasts exclusively on my iPhone, using headphones, AirPlay or the internal speaker.
You can use the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox to listen to podcast while doing the dishes and cooking for example. Voices sound much better than with the internal speaker and you won’t have to spend a lot of money for a kitchen speaker.
These two speakers are highly capable for different uses. While you won’t take the Boombox with you, it will be a very polyvalent and enjoyable speaker in your home. The Mobile Boombox, on the other hand, can make an excellent speaker to listen to podcasts in your kitchen, or a correct portable speaker for the park or the beach. I wasn’t very confident when turning those speakers on due to the brand. Logitech isn’t a well-known audiophile brand. Those fears vanished quickly.
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Living in the digital age is a privilege. All the content you could want, whether it’s music, video, games, or apps, is at the tip of your fingers every time you fire up the old MacBook or iPad. But these portable devices – our smartphones, tablets and notebooks – aren’t really prepared to deliver that content at the highest quality possible. In terms of visuals, Retina displays and the like have gone a way to improve this, but where sound is concerned…
That’s where the Zooka wireless speaker bar comes in. It’s a sold-out Kickstarter project: a silicon bar that easily attaches to your iPad or MacBook. But even if you don’t have it physically attached, you can still pair it via bluetooth to your smartphone. The speaker bar comes in a host of different colors, and has buttons for volume up and down.
Just attach it to your chosen device, make sure it’s charged, and begin the pairing process. Once you’re locked and loaded on Bluetooth, just press play and the music, TV show, or YouTube video gets about twice the audio juice than you’d normally have.
Content stored locally on the device, which should naturally have better quality audio, certainly sounds better than content streamed over the web. My iTunes copy of Gangnam Style played on full volume was enough to fill my studio apartment. However, when I used it to make streamed Game Of Thrones episodes somewhat audible, it was definitely a rougher audio experience than I’d like.
Much of this has to do with Bluetooth, but an added benefit is that your Zooka can be used as a wireless mic for any Bluetooth device. Plus, the Zooka has a 3.5mm audio input jack that clears up a bit of that snap, crackle and pop.
In terms of build quality, the silicon materials and tube like design make it easy to plop this thing on a MacBook or iPad. There’s even a little space for the iSight camera to peek through.
However, it’s relatively heavy, so if the laptop display is tilted further backwards, or you’re trying to hold up your iPad (rather than rest it on the Zooka as a sort of makeshift stand), it’s possible the balance of the devices together could be uncomfortable.
One complaint that I had is in reference to the microUSB to USB cord shipped with the device. In no way is it long enough to attach the Zooka and charge it with your laptop USB port simultaneously. Since the Zooka uses Bluetooth, you could potentially plug it in and let sound come from somewhere other than your laptop, or you could even plug in the audio-input cord, but that get’s awfully wirey.
Overall, the Zooka seems like a fine investment for anyone, like myself, who enjoys their TV and movie content on their computer but can never quite hear those important lines. However, I certainly wish the Bluetooth connection offered clearer audio for the price asked, $89.
Here’s the product video: