Bluetooth speakers are great. They’re small, convenient, and kick out some seriously good-sounding audio. The modern-day boomboxes have gone from the living room to the outdoors.
For many, carrying a speaker around is a great way to bring the party wherever you are. However, not all of them can stand up to the task.
We took a look at two mid-level speakers that are built to sound great and protect against the elements. The durability of these speakers can stand up to dirt, water, snow, and grim, meaning it travels wherever you do.
|Fugoo Sport XL||UE Boom 2|
|Frequency Response||50Hz – 20KHz||90Hz – 20kHz|
|Bluetooth Versions||Bluetooth 4.0||Bluetooth 4.1|
|Battery Life||Up to 35 hours||Up to 15 Hours|
|Dimensions||12.04 x 4.21 x 4.72 inches||2.5 x 2.5 x 7 inches|
Fugoo isn’t as big of a name as Ultimate Ears (UE). However, their speakers are packed with features for the outdoors and the living room. Their line is inexpensive compared to competitors on the market, making them a great value for those looking for excellent sound.
Starting off, the Fugoo XL has some of the smartphone integration on the market. The first part of this is support for Siri and Google Now. Simply touch a button on top of the speaker and access the controls via the built-in microphone.
The Omni-directional microphone doubles to answer calls as well. The built-in echo cancellation helps for clear calls all without touching your phone.
The speaker also doubles as a power bank. A single built-in 1A USB Type-A connection will charge any USB device on the go. It’s convenient, but I would have liked to have seen an additional port, as well as a 2A port for faster charging.
There should be plenty of power for charging your device as well. The internal battery boasts up to 35 hours of playtime before it needs to be recharged. That’s well above any other speaker at this price point, making the Sport XL truly stand apart.
To help audio quality, the speaker also supports the aptX codec. This codec is for high-quality Bluetooth streaming. Since there is some signal loss through Bluetooth, this is a great way to pump up the performance.
If you don’t want to lose any signal, there’s a 3.5mm auxiliary input. Just plug in your device and you’re good to go.
The Fugoo Sport XL is made to be torn up. However, that doesn’t mean it has to look bad. The design isn’t elegant, but it looks good enough while also being able to stand up to anything you can throw at it.
Looks-wise, the speaker is simple. The black grille wraps around the body, with white bracing wrapping around the bottom and side edges. On both sides is webbed venting, exposing a bit of the internals.
However, this is just a shroud. The meat of the speaker is inside of it. The removable core is built of plastic but feels really substantial in the hand. This design is a bit strange but makes cleaning out some extra dust of sand inside the speaker a breeze.
On top, there are six different buttons. There’s a play/pause, volume up and down, one-touch for calls and Siri, and forward/back buttons. What makes the buttons cool is the illumination. In dark light, the white buttons light up blue, making them easy to see.
To carry around, a strap is included to thread into two holes built into the frame.
None of that is really what makes the speaker special, though. What makes it special is how well it’s built. The speaker is waterproof, snowproof, mudproof, and shockproof.
Fugoo doesn’t exactly specify how these points are achieved. They do test the speakers with a 3ft drop test, which makes the shockproof point valid. With that being said, the speaker does seem to be able to hold up to these trials, making the lack of specs a bit of a null point.
This speaker is absolutely stacked with different drivers. The eight of them are divided into four tweeters, two midrange woofers, and two bass radiators. The main point that changes between other speakers is the four tweeters.
So, why four tweeters? The Sport XL has 360 degree sound. With a set of tweeters on both sides, that means there’s no top-end loss as you move around the speaker. If you’ve used a Bluetooth speaker before, you know what it sounds like when you go around back. This design eliminates that, making the sound fantastic all around the speaker.
The midrange woofers are very nice. However, they’re responsible for the midrange and the low end. As opposed to having low-end drivers, the midrange ones control the rest of the frequency spectrum. If you know about the designs of other Bluetooth speakers, this should be no surprise.
Instead, the bass radiators help make the real low-end. Yes, the speaker is rated down to 50Hz, but the real bass is coming from the radiator of the bass. The frequencies bounce around, making the low end full and satisfying.
The design is modern, but what really sticks out is how well it stands up to a beating. The complete protection from the elements makes the speaker ideal for taking it wherever you are. Yes, there are other speakers that are built well, but few as well as this one.
Sound-wise, everything is peachy. The speaker won’t blow you away, but it’s enough to satisfy. If you’re on the go, how this speaker is intended, you probably won’t be critically listening anyway.
UE Boom 2
Ultimate Ears Boom 2 is a speaker that comes at a slightly lower price point but aims at the same market as the Sport XL. Despite not being fully protected against the elements, the speaker is waterproof and holds the signature UE sound.
Feature-wise, the Boom 2 takes what the Sport XL has, and beefs it up. Integration with smartphones is as good as ever, with a few extra smart features to make controlling and using the speaker a joy.
Starting off is the integration with smartphones. All the controls are with your voice, making the phone obsolete once connected. Play, pause, change songs, all of it can be done with your voice.
However, there are options if you want to use your phone. Instead of dedicated controls, the UE app can be downloaded to control the speaker. Everything can be controlled there, as well as features like an alarm, remote on and off, and more.
Up to eight devices can be paired and remembered by the speaker at any point, making reconnecting a breeze. However, two devices can be connected at the same time. If you and a friend want to switch songs you’re playing, this is ideal.
Speaking of which, two speakers can be paired together as well. One device can stream to two UE speakers at the same time, doubling the output. It’s not as ideal as JBL’s Connect technology, but it’s a good one.
Where things fall apart is with the battery life. The speaker is rated for 15 hours of playback before it needs another charge. That’s consistent with other Bluetooth speakers at this price point. However, it becomes a con when compared to the battery life of the Sport XL.
The look of the Boom 2 is much more fun and modern. As opposed to the understated design of the Sport XL, this speaker comes in a variety of colors and designs, some with a single color, others with patterns.
All of them feature a cylinder-like design. The grille wraps around the speaker, with colored accents for the top and bottom and a single strip running the length of the speaker. On that strip is UE’s iconic cross volume controller, raised with soft rubber. In addition, there’s a UE tag that adds some flair.
Out of all of the designs, my favorite is the blue, purple, and black ones. The top and bottom are black, and the grille has a gradient from baby blue to royal purple. It’s that kind of design that pushes speakers in different directions, and I can appreciate that.
Of course, the looks aren’t what’s important though. What’s important is how well the speaker holds up. UE advertises that the speaker is protected against just about any weather condition you can throw at it.
The IPX7 waterproofing means the speaker can fully be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes with no damage.
The Boom 2 holds the same 360 degrees sound as the Sport XL. The cylindrical design has drivers places around the body, making sound great from any angle you can be standing at.
Despite being only rated to go down to 90Hz, the name of the boom holds up in the department you would want it to do. The speaker booms low end, thanks to two passive bass radiators. Again, they bounce audio around to create a fuller low end without straining the drivers.
Most of the sound are from the chief midrange drivers. These two create most of the frequency spectrum, as well as the perceived low end. The midrange is rich and smooth, but less present. The speaker has a scooped characteristic, which shouldn’t be surprising if you’ve heard a UE product before.
Speaking of which, the tweeters produce some crispy and very present top end. The highs aren’t shrill or annoying, but they’re very hyped. Again, you’ve heard a UE product before, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The sound overall is hyped in the high end and the low end, with the mids, scooped out. That’s great for many people, but don’t expect a warm or smooth sound from the speaker. The sound is about as trendy as the design.
UE Boom 2 Overall
The UE Boom 2 is a stylish and great-sounding speaker that holds up to just about any environment. The multiple styles are all unique, meaning the speaker will stand out no matter which one you go with.
The extensive feature set is great for integration with smartphones. Add that to the app for control and the speaker is very versatile.
All of that is in the classic UE sound. It’s definitely hyped which, for some, is great. However, it isn’t as elegant as some other, more expensive, products.
However, the design isn’t as flashy as that on the Boom 2. Additionally, the UE option has deeper integration with smartphones and full IPX7 waterproofing.
Both are great options and the decision comes down to personal preference. Unfortunately, the determining factor here is looking. If you’re just looking for specs, go with the Fugoo Sport XL and leave the Boom 2 behind