Ultimate Ears 'Mini Boom' Speaker: My Number-One Tech Gift Idea

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If there's one thing you need to know about the Logitech ( LOGI ) Ultimate Ears Mini Boom wireless Bluetooth speaker, it's this: Everyone who comes to my house wants one after they hear it.

They're jealous.

Sure, the Mini Boom sounds great and it can take a beating, but the fact that people want what I've got is the icing on the cake.

And that makes the Mini Boom my number-one tech product of the year, and a perfect holiday gift that will set you back less than $100.

How Does It Work?

Most modern PCs, smartphones, and tablets are capable of using Bluetooth technology to wirelessly transmit audio to speakers like the Mini Boom.

Once the Mini Boom is charged, simply turn it on, wait for it to play its "ready" signal tone, and then you can go into your device's Bluetooth menu to pair it with the speaker.

Alternately, you can use a 3.5mm cable to accept audio from a standard headphone jack.

There are volume controls on top and a Bluetooth button to initiate the device-pairing process.

Build Quality

The Mini Boom is small, just 4.4" x 2.6" x 2.4" and weighs just 10.6 ounces, but it's well-built.

It's made of a grippy rubber material that prevents it from moving around on slick surfaces, which is a problem I had with a competing model I owned previously.

That material likely provides some shock resistance, as I've dropped my Mini Boom quite a few times -- including into a sink with the water running, and on concrete and marble floors. It's still going strong.

It's also been covered with sand and baby powder and had no issues.

In other words, I've been torturing this thing for eight months. If it hasn't died yet, it's probably not going to for a while -- though maybe I shouldn't admit as much because I'm pretty sure I just voided the 2-year warranty.

Sound Quality

The Mini Boom sounds great for such a tiny speaker. It's not as nice a full-featured set with a dedicated subwoofer, but there's a good balance of low-end growl and high-end sparkle. I listen to a lot of different music, everything from hip-hop to classic rock to R&B, and it's simply never occurred to me that the sound quality's lacking -- I can't say the same for some of the expensive headphones I've owned.

In terms of volume, the Mini Boom puts out more than enough sound to fill a room or backyard, and if you need more power, a second speaker can be synched. Ultimate Ears also makes a bigger, more expensive model simply called the Boom which provides 360-degree sound.

There's definitely sufficient bass response, though at full volume, some songs with a very heavy low end can cause some distortion.

Think of it like this. I love my Cambridge Soundworks speaker system that's connected to my computer, but my Mini Boom gives me 80% of the sound quality at 5% of the size and weight. That's a great trade-off.

Real-World Usage

Ninety percent of the time, I use the Mini Boom paired with my Apple ( AAPL ) iMac to listen to music, podcasts, and dialogue-heavy movies when I'm doing housework or lounging around.

So if I'm cleaning my bathroom or cooking dinner, I bring the speaker with me. If I'm doing yardwork, the speaker comes with me.

The other 10% of the time, I use it at barbecues and other gatherings with a smartphone (usually someone else's, as I'll explain later).

I've found the wireless signal to be very reliable throughout my home. It never cuts out if I go up or down the stairs and into different rooms, or out into my backyard.

According to the Ultimate Ears website, the Mini Boom can stream music from up to 50 feet away. In my tests, I've found I can go about 40 feet way before the signal gets wonky.

Battery life is very solid at about 10 hours, and the speaker can be charged via a standard USB connection or wall outlet.

Cons

This isn't a product-specific issue, but Bluetooth can be a serious drain on a smartphone battery. For this reason, I will often happily let someone else -- prefereably someone who can't stop yapping on their phone -- play DJ. Another simple workaround to maximize battery life is to use a cable and set your phone on Airplane Mode.

And it would be nice if there were a track-skipping function directly on the speaker, which would be useful when I'm on a different floor from the audio source.

But really I love this thing. I have a lot of gadgets -- a 42" plasma TV, an iPhone, an iMac, a big pile of camera equipment, an audio recorder, and an Amazon.com ( AMZN ) Kindle. The Mini Boom is the only device I own that I would buy again immediately if it broke.

Two very enthusiastic thumbs up! For less than $100 on Amazon , in my opinion, there's not a better tech gift out there.

Twitter: @Minyanville



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , Technology

Referenced Stocks: AAPL , AMZN , LOGI

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