Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3: Good Thing Happening

Ultimate Ears revealed the Wonderboom 3, the latest iteration of its beloved entry-level portable speaker that swears high-quality 360-degree audio and up to 14 hours of battery life in an adorably compact package that still floats on water.

Strangely, the Microboom 3 still uses a Micro USB connection in our good year of 2022. It feels a little… well, lazy to carry over the same unfriendly port from the Wonderboom 2 when USB-C is available and mandated on portable speakers in Europe starting in 2024.

The third-generation Wonderboom does offer a few improvements over the Wonderboom 2 while keeping the price unchanged at $99.99. The Bluetooth range is now 131 feet, and the listed battery life has been improved by an hour. Like before, two speakers can be paired together for proper stereo separation; only now can the extended range and battery life help your audio cover more ground at parties. Ultimate Ears has also subsisted more sustainability into the speaker, claiming they’re created from a minimum of 31 percent post-consumer recycled plastic.

If you were a fan of the fact that these older models can float in water, you’d be pleased to hear that the Wonderboom 3 will restart that tradition, featuring an IP67 rating for water, dirt, and dust resistance. That rating also indicates it’ll resist jets of water if you want to listen to tunes in the shower — it’s also “drop proof” if fortes get slippy.

While a few design changes were made between the original Wonderboom and the Wonderboom 2, this latest model looks visually identical to its predecessor, featuring two-tone fabric and a flat bungee cord loop.

The Wonderboom 3 speaker will be available in four colors at launch: gray, pink, blue, and black, each with a contrasting strap and iconic control buttons to help them stand out against the body. Ultimate Ears says the speaker will come in these colors “initially,” which suggests we could see more colorways hitting the market in the future if you need more choices.

A selection of Wonderboom speakers is lined up against a vintage Volkwagon campervan. The Wonderboom 3 peeks to be a modest upgrade to the previous generation, but if it isn’t broken, then don’t fix it — especially if you’re casting a successor to one of the best portable Bluetooth speakers. It’s set to come in the US and UK on August 31st for $99.99 / £89.

Ultimate Ears is an American custom in-ear monitor (IEM), speaker, and earphone manufacturer founded in Irvine and Newark, California, United States. Mindy and Jerry Harvey 1995 founded the custom in-ear monitor company, creating a new market for custom IEMs that are now used by most of the world’s top musicians. In August 2008, Ultimate Ears was gained by Logitech and operated as a subsidiary.

In 1995, Jerry Harvey was Van Halen’s touring monitor engineer, integrating their stage sound through stage wedges—effective loudspeakers aimed at each musician. Jerry Harvey promoted the systems and supported Shure produce their E1 and E5 IEMs, “the first universal-fit dual-driver monitors.” Helping Shure build this product also helped the new company Ultimate Ears gain respectability. Ultimate Ears first became significantly profitable in 1998 with the introduction of the UE-5 model, the fifth of Harvey’s designs. Customers included The Rolling Stones, Faith Hill, Enrique Iglesias, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Initially, Ultimate Ears partnered with Westone to manufacture Harvey’s designs. Still, in 2001 Westone began to operate a separate distribution channel in Europe, selling the IEMs as their designs, holding all the Ultimate Ears trademarks and patents. As a result, relations between Westone and Ultimate Ears soured. Harvey did not have patents, so it was difficult for him to disjoin his design, marketing, and sales business from the manufacturer. At the beginning of 2002, Ultimate Ears opened its lab, hiring Chomphorn “Noy” Soudaly, an audiologist and hearing aid technician, to run the lab. In April 2002, Ultimate Ears produced an upgraded model without Westone’s help. As a result, the Harveys were able to retain nine out of ten customers; the remainder became customers of Westone. In 2003, Ultimate Ears had five employees and held about 80% of the professional IEM market.

Harvey went out on tour with Linkin Park to get back in contact with touring musicians, and while on tour, he noticed the popularity of iPods and other mp3 players. He returned with the idea that Ultimate Ears should offer a consumer model for audiophile listeners. The resulting UE-5c appeared in January 2004 and sold for $550. High sales of these doubled the company’s income. Pursuing this direction further required outside investment, and the Harveys contacted Bob Allison, owner, and CEO of Innovate Partners, an investment holding company in Irvine, California. Allison became the CEO of Ultimate Ears as the company moved to Irvine, with Mindy Harvey the president and Jerry Harvey the CTO.

Innovate Partners helped Ultimate Ears develop a manufacturing source in China to provide the expected sales volume. By April 2005, the resulting Super.fi 5 Pro, a double armature product, was offered to consumers at $250 per pair, and sales of these helped Ultimate Ears to gross more than $10 million in 2006. That same year, Ultimate Ears teamed with M-Audio and Altec Lansing to produce rebranded lines of earpieces, one sold under the management of M-Audio (their IE model line) and the other under the Altec Lansing name.

Harvey left Ultimate Ears in 2007 after designing and producing the UE-10 Pro and then the UE-11, the first 3-way and 4-way (respectively) IEM products from Ultimate Ears. Harvey said he was “forced out” by Allison, who wished to strengthen his leadership position.

Logitech acquired Ultimate Ears in August 2008. The $34 million deal bought out Mindy Harvey’s share and gave Logitech its first in-ear earphones product line. Allison continued as division CEO. Logitech’s vice president in charge of headsets and earbuds, Philippe Depallens, said that even after the departure of both Jerry and Mindy Harvey, the company has been able to “keep carrying the torch of having the best in-ear monitors in the market.”