Published On: Sat, Jul 6th, 2024
Technology | 2,287 views

You’ll be surprised which of these three Bluetooth speakers I think is


Bluetooth speakers

Ultimate Ears, Bose or Beats: which is best? (Image: Ultimate Ears/Bose/Beats)

Any of these speakers is a serious chunk of cash to part with, so I’ve been blasting tunes in my house and out in the park to see which one is my favourite, and whether I’d part with my own money to buy it.

You don’t have to spend loads of dosh to get a portable rechargeable Bluetooth speaker, but I have tested several over the years and if you want the best sound quality you generally have to spend close to – or more than – £100. For the past few years I’ve been using and loving the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2, a small waterproof £89 blob of fabric that sounds amazing considering its dinky size.

It came out in June 2019 and five years on still holds charge for several hours and sounds great. An annoyance is that it charges over the ageing micro-USB, but I have never thought about upgrading it because it still does the job admirably. It’s loud enough to use as the only speaker at a party in my (small) flat.

But then three companies asked if I wanted to test their new flashy wireless speakers in time for summer so I said yes, despite some lofty price tags. Beats, Ultimate Ears (UE) and Bose have all released music-focused Bluetooth speakers that cost £149.99, £249.99 and £399.95 respectively. Any of these speakers is a serious chunk of cash to part with, so I’ve been blasting tunes in my house and out in the park to see which one is my favourite, and whether I’d part with my own money to buy it.

Beats has just launched its new Beats Pill, a speaker that is an update to the Beats Pill+ that came out in 2019 but was discontinued in 2022. The good news is that this resurrection was worth the wait. Despite being the cheapest speaker I tested, the Pill sounds great right out of the box, and pairs easily with iOS or Android devices thanks to quick pairing options for both platforms – even though Beats is owned by Apple, it doesn’t discriminate here.

Beats Pill

The Beats Pill is a well-rounded, punchy speaker with 24 hour battery life (Image: Beats)

Available in black, red or resplendent gold, it’s smaller than the UE or Bose efforts but still gets incredibly loud with a design that fires sound directly at you rather than try to fill every inch of the room or space you’re in. That makes it better for use indoors as sound can get a bit lost outside.

Whether I was streaming rock, pop, hip hop or classical music from Spotify, the Pill coped admirably. If anything it’s a little too bassy – common for Beats products in general – and for this reason it sounds better on a solid windowsill or countertop rather than a thin tabletop. The single USB-C port is used for charging, but also pleasingly can play lossless audio via a cable with apps such as Apple Music, Qobuz, or your own lossless music files. Cleverly the Pill can also charge your phone when plugged in, or can be used as a speakerphone over Bluetooth.

Whether I was streaming rock, pop, hip hop or classical music from Spotify, the Pill coped admirably

I particularly like the metallic grille design with rubberised casing, but the lack of play, pause and track buttons on the unit seems like an oversight, so you have to use your phone for most controls. It does at least have volume buttons. The Pill could blend in easily in a living room but should also be relatively unscathed in a tote bag for the weekend away. It’ll last the trip too, with 24 hours of playback on a charge and has an IP67 waterproof rating.

If you want something more rugged that you can really thrash about though then you should consider the Ultimate Ears Everboom. ALso IP67, it’s coated in rubber and fabric mesh just like my beloved old Wonderboom 2, replete with the brand’s signature large ‘+’ and ‘-’ volume buttons on the front face. The Everboom is brand new and fits into UE’s burgeoning range as its third beefiest and therefore third most expensive speaker above its famous Megaboom.

Confusing boom branding aside, the Everboom is built very solidly. The speaker comes with a fabric loop attachment for an included carabiner to hook it to bags, tents and whatever else. At 960g I certainly noticed it swinging from my bag straps.

Ultimate Ears Everboom

The Ultimate Ears Everboom has great sound and features for indoor or outdoor use (Image: Ultimate Ears)

It sounds excellent from the off, with room-filling power that outdoes the Beats Pill, but remember you’ll have to spend an extra £100 for that. It fires sound out the front and both sides (though not the back) of the unit, which helps you soundtrack your picnic and reach more people.

Unlike the Beats, you can change the EQ on the Everboom in the companion app with five excellent presets that you can also tweak to your tastes or the space you’re in. This thing gets incredibly loud but you can also pair it to another Everboom (if your wallet allows) or another same-generation UE speaker – it won’t pair to my old Wonderboom, sadly.

It charges over USB-C but falls short of the Beats’ battery life at 20 hours. Bluetooth signal strength is particularly good, with a 55m range. Get outdoors! There’s an outdoor boost button that does just that. It basically jacks up the bass and treble, but it’s very effective. You can also tap a button in the app and use the Everboom as a megaphone, where you speak into your phone’s mic and the speaker projects your voice. Handy for bossing around your mates when out and about.

… you can change the EQ on the Everboom in the companion app with five excellent presets

At the high (perhaps too high) end of the pricing spectrum of the speakers I tested is the Bose Soundlink Max, which will set you back a penny short of £400. In black or powder blue, this very weighty 2.13kg speaker is the best sounding of the three I tested, with a phenomenally well balanced soundstage. You can buy an optional (£45.95!) rope carrying strap to lug it around, but this could be a permanent living room fixture as much as a travel companion.

Of all three speakers, I noticed a big improvement in sound quality on the Bose when streaming music using Hi-Res specialist app Qobuz as opposed to Spotify, which doesn’t let you play music in lossless formats. Qobuz sounded less muddied with the better quality audio files – not a dealbreaker, but something to bear in mind. I played ‘When the Levee Breaks’ by Led Zeppelin and was astonished at how good it sounds out of what is still, price aside, a portable speaker.

Bose Soundlink Max

The Bose Soundlink Max sounds incredible but it’s the least portable option of the speakers tested (Image: Bose)

Given its weight and price, the Soundlink Max is firmly in guilty pleasure territory. It’s a credit card purchase, a payday Klarna treat-yourself-because-surely-summer-will-happen-soon buy. The EQ controls in the Bose app are great, and it’s the only speaker with an auxiliary port for plugging in a 3.5mm headphone jack, so I was able to hook it up to my vinyl turntable. It charges via USB-C but it takes five hours, so don’t forget before you hop on the train with it. It’ll last 20 hours on a charge, just like the Everboom, and will charge your phone too, and like the other two speakers is IP67 waterproof.

Given its weight and price, the Soundlink Max is firmly in guilty pleasure territory

I recommend the UE Everboom out of these three as you get the most for your money, even though £249.99 is still a lot of money. But you could keep it plugged in as a speaker loud enough for parties at home, and it’s just small and light enough to take away with you on a trip and loud enough to soundtrack a big barbeque. It’s got quick pairing with Android phones too, so all you need to do is tap your phone on it to pair, and tap again to unpair. As with all UE products, it can take a beating too.

If money is no object then the Bose is objectively the best sounding of the bunch with the best stereo audio separation thanks to the quality of the parts and craftsmanship, but it’s too heavy to chuck in a backpack unnoticed and it takes an age to recharge. Were I parting with my own money for one of the three I would probably buy the Beats Pill though, as I still think even its £149.99 price tag is high for a portable speaker. After a few weeks with the best portable audio the biggest brands are pushing this summer, I might even end up throwing my old Wonderboom in my bag when the weather is good enough for a picnic – sometimes less is more.



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