The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 is the latest portable wireless speaker from a brand known for making colorful, great-sounding, feature-packed Bluetooth speakers. It’s also a direct replacement for the accomplished, award-winning Wonderboom 2.
The UE Wonderboom 2 won the trophy for best wireless portable speaker under £100 at the Which Hi-Fi? Awards in 2019, so we’re starting with high hopes for the highly anticipated next-gen model.
In terms of updates, though, the news isn’t quite the big jump we expected after three years of waiting: you’ll get longer battery life (by an hour), greater Bluetooth range (by 10 metres) and the use of more eco-friendly materials. The Wonderboom 3’s drivers have been updated and we expect improved sound, but is that enough?
The new UE Wonderboom 3 looks the same, has similar features and even keeps the same price as its predecessor. At £90 / $100 / AU$149, it’s the same launch price as the Wonderboom 2 (at least in the UK) and the sub-£100 / $100 price point is as attractive as ever.
Unusually, if you find the Wonderboom 2 online from UK retailers, it’s at a higher price point than the Wonderboom 3 – making the latter the better deal right now.
In terms of competition, the fantastic five-star JBL Flip 6 launched in early 2022 for £130 / $130 / AU$200, but it’s now creeping into Wonderboom territory as you can find it for less than £100 / $110 if you shop around .
The Wonderboom design formula – colorful, buoyant, portable – is one of the best of its kind, so the 3’s unaltered design isn’t bad at all. It is small and light, you can take it to the garden or to the beach, put it in a backpack and place it on any surface in the house.
The bright colors with contrasting buttons are also attractive in a sea of all-black products. Our test sample is bright pink, but there are also blue, black and gray finishes.
Where Ultimate Ears has made quite a fuss with this new speaker is the use of more environmentally friendly materials. The Wonderboom 3 uses “minimum” 31% post-consumer recycled plastic (i.e., plastic derived from discarded electronics). The nod to durability is always good to see, and to UE’s credit the build quality of the speaker is still of a high standard.
However, the fact that the Wonderboom 3 still uses a micro-USB charging socket feels very outdated in 2023. Where brands like JBL, Tribit, Sony and more have long since moved to using USB-C, we wonder why Ultimate Ears didn’t take the opportunity to update the connection on the newer model. However, the required micro-USB cable is conveniently included in the box.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 technical specs
Battery life 14 hours
Dimensions (hwd) 10.4cm x 9.53cm x 9.53cm
Connections Micro USB for charging
Functions 360 degree sound, waterproof, dustproof, quick pairing, double, outdoor boost
Other elements of the design are oh-so-familiar: there’s the elastic rubber loop for hanging the speaker, and the IP67 rating means the speaker is supremely durable. Not only is it waterproof and can survive dust, sand and submersion in water, but it also floats, just like previous Wonderbooms.
The Wonderboom 3 is incredibly easy to use from the moment you take it out of the box. This is as straightforward as a Bluetooth speaker gets: just turn it on and pair it with your device (it makes friendly noises to indicate its status). The connection is fast and stable. We’ve been using the Wonderboom 3 for nearly a month while testing it in a variety of settings, and we found that it reconnected to our phone automatically, instantly, and without error every time.
There’s no voice assistant controls or speakerphone functionality, so you won’t be besieged by random button presses. There is no app and we have never needed one.
The already long battery life of the speaker has been extended by an hour: the Wonderboom 3 now lasts no less than 14 hours (previously 13). Another change is that the wireless range of Bluetooth has been extended to 40 meters instead of the previous 30 meters.
Both are small but useful changes: during our time test we only had to charge the speaker once every two weeks. We experienced no dropouts or glitches, even when our connected phone was on the opposite side of the house from the speaker. You can also connect two smartphones to the speaker at the same time. For those using the Wonderboom 3 as a party speaker or taking it on a weekend trip, these will undoubtedly be attractive features.
The lack of USB-C means no fancy fast-charging capability; the Wonderboom 3 can be fully charged in less than three hours (2.6 hours to be exact). You can find out the battery status by pressing the large volume buttons – different tones will be emitted based on the battery level, although it’s hard to decipher what they mean at first. We wish there was a visible indicator for a quick check, like the LEDs on the JBL Flip 6 or the cheaper Tribit Stormbox Micro.
Other features carried over from the Wonderboom 2 include the Outdoor Boost mode (this reduces bass frequencies so that highs and mids can be heard louder outdoors) and Double Up (which combines two Wonderboom 3s in mono or stereo modes for greater sound).
We didn’t have a second Wonderboom 3 to try out this feature, but we did have the older Wonderboom 2. Unfortunately, this dual feature isn’t backward compatible with older models and only works with newer Wonderboom 3s, which is rather unfortunate for existing UE owners .
The Wonderboom’s 360-degree sound reproduction returns, and inside the speaker are two 40mm active drivers and dual passive radiators. Ultimate Ears has confirmed to us that “the driver configuration has been updated based on the most updated chipset” used in the Wonderboom 3.
With music streaming from Apple Music and Tidal, the Wonderboom 3 delivers cohesive, detailed and substantial sound that still impresses at this price point. There’s an even balance to the tone and the volume it produces from such small dimensions is always surprising. It’s an enjoyable, audience-friendly listening experience.
We’ve used the Wonderboom 3 in a variety of rooms – bathroom, kitchen, home office, garden – in addition to our dedicated test rooms, and never found it to sound too boomy or too bright.
There is a clear difference with the older model: Wonderboom 3 has a slimmer sound profile. It’s also roomier, more dynamic, turns better and offers a little more detail. The edges of notes in Alt-Js Windblocks are clearer, basslines go deeper and the speaker manages to create more harmonies around each instrument.
This slimmer nature doesn’t sharpen edges; it just shines a light on the treble and exposes more high-frequency notes than the previous model. Some may prefer a fuller presentation of their songs, especially with voices – Lizzo’s vocals on The truth hurts sound fuller and richer from the older Wonderboom 2, for example. But that new extra helping of detail and clarity is appreciated, as the Wonderboom 2 sounds a bit boomy and overpowered compared to Wonderboom 3’s smoother, more spacious presentation.
However, the competition has moved on in the intervening years and the Wonderboom 3 must face a newer, more formidable rival in the form of the five-star JBL Flip 6. And the JBL speaker offers even more subtleties in detail and dynamics, along with the delivering more depth and warmth to the sound. It’s not hard to recommend the Flip 6 over the Wonderboom 3 in terms of sound quality alone, especially considering the few pounds or dollars in price difference between the two products.
If you already own the Wonderboom 2, there’s no need to rush and upgrade to the new model. While the Wonderboom 3 has incrementally improved its sound and features, both versions of the speakers are well designed, long lasting and perform admirably for their size and price.
For those looking for a brand new portable speaker in the £100/$100 region, the similarly portable and versatile JBL Flip 6 offers better audio performance overall.
As a well-designed portable Bluetooth speaker at this price point, the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 certainly has its appeal, but it’s not the only – or the best – option worth considering.
Read our review of the JBL Flip 6
Also consider the Tribit Stormbox Micro
Best Bluetooth speakers: portable speakers for every budget