UE Wonderboom Freestyle review: A good blend of beauty and bass

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New Delhi | Published: September 10, 2018 2:48:06 PM

The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Freestyle speaker is one rugged speaker that you can grab without burning a big hole in your pocket

UE Wonderboom Freestyle is the latest speaker in the mid-range segment to offer stiff competition

Ultimate Ears, the Logitech-owned company, has had a glorious history of amalgamating looks and sound quality into the speakers that are portable. Last year, UE’s Wonderboom speakers got positive reviews for its balanced output, however, its design and looks didn’t quite stand out. This time UE has paid attention to how subtly ravishing a speaker can look on top of making sure the sound quality is intact on its new Wonderboom Freestyle speaker. The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Freestyle speaker comes draped in five colour themes. The names of these colour variants are as much quirky as the new appearance of the speakers – Concrete, Avocado, Patches, Raspberry and Unicorn.

A Rs 6,995 price tag makes the Wonderboom Freestyle position itself at the mid-range speaker market that has seen some winners such as the speakers from JBL. The company is touting the speaker’s capabilities of waterproofing, 360-degree surround sound, and an ultra-portability. The Wonderboom Freestyle speaker doesn’t differ much from its previous generation, however, it does iterate that a few aspects are worth giving a shot, even if it means being impressed with the new colour themes. Let’s see if the speaker is worth its pricing in our review.

UE Wonderboom Freestyle Build and Design

The only outstanding trait Wonderboom Freestyle can offer you on top of its predecessor is its new avatar that may pique its likelihood to find a comfortable yet distinct spot in your living room, or any other room for that matter. The build of the speaker is minimal, resembling a pot except for a broader base and curved edges on either side. But it isn’t new and exactly similar to the last year’s speaker. At a 425g weight, the speaker is decently suitable for outdoor use – you can even place it on your hand’s palm without really feeling its weight at least for some time. The portability quotient of the Wonderboom Freestyle is moderately high.

The company is touting the colour themes of the Wonderboom Freestyle more than anything. While the colours on the speaker are nearly identical to its prequel, the company had added a flair of scattered patterns and arts dappled around the centre that covers much of its real estate. There are five ‘vibes’ that company says will enable you to express who you are from inside – Concrete, Avocado, Patches, Raspberry and Unicorn. These are just the names given to the new customised colour patterns over the plain ones, but each name corresponds to the respective colours – for example, concrete is greyish black, avocado is pale green, and so on. We got the Concrete colour model as the review unit and it looks just okay – nothing outlandish about it. However, it does stand out in the assortment of other speakers that look dull and boring.

Besides colour, the other element that is the most noticeable is the set of volume buttons on the speaker. UE hasn’t changed how the volume buttons will look like on the new speaker, the more so because it defines the brand now. The gigantic buttons denoting volume up with a plus sign and volume down with a minus sign are well-located and give the speaker a distinct look. On the top, there are two more buttons – one for the power and the other for Bluetooth pairing. The power button is backlit – turning the speaker on shows white light that glimmers during Bluetooth pairing and low battery turns the light red. The speaker is minimalist in terms of buttons – most speakers are but the positioning of the buttons on them sometimes imply that there is a lot remaining for the brands to utilise space and tweak design accordingly.

The Wonderboom Freestyle has rubber fitted on both top and bottom, giving it sturdiness and ability to repel intense shocks when dropped on a ground. There is a rubber flap at the bottom that houses the MicroUSB port inside for charging. The fact that this is a wireless speaker just turns minutely annoying when you find that there is no 3.5mm audio jack. That said, almost every device today has at least Bluetooth as one of the connectivity options, so this shouldn’t be a big concern. The speaker is clad in a fabric mesh that has got rigidity and a wax-like substance to ensure that it’s waterproof. With an IP67 rating, the speaker is entirely waterproof and dustproof, so that you can take it along with you to the shower and dance while bathing. You can even dunk it in water for up to 1 metre and up to 30 minutes but it will begin to float after a while, thanks to its buoyancy. There is also a loop given on the top so that you can hang the speaker.

UE Wonderboom Freestyle Sound Quality, Performance, and Battery

The speaker comes with two 40mm drivers fitted inside along with two 46.1mm x 65.2mm passive radiators – both of which collectively produce a bass-laden sound but the treble is delivered with as much effect. The radiators in the speaker means that there is no subwoofer and the bass is produced by the reverberation of the sound in the enclosure of the speaker. However, since there isn’t much area inside the speaker (102mm) filled with air to produce enough thump that might rip most EDM tracks of their rich bass. In our testing, the speaker did a fairly good job of keeping up with the most of the music genres. We tried punk, EDM, and Bollywood tracks to test out the speaker.

The sound on Wonderboom Freestyle is punchy and striking. What convinced us most that the speaker can get really loud when you blast the volume on both the speaker and the source to the max. We paired the speaker with Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and iPhone X only to find negligible detour in the sound quality. The lows and highs are good but it’s the mids that suffer most. When maxing out to the full volume, the speaker threw a balanced mix of highs and lows, however, we could feel some overlap and muffled effect for the mids. Since the speaker does not support advanced Bluetooth transmission protocols, we did not test higher file formats for music. Besides some 320Kbps soundtracks locally stored on the phone, we played some songs on Google Play Music, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.

If you are buying this speaker to place it in your living room, if it is considerably big, you shouldn’t think twice. Its sound will impress you the moment you turn the volume to full. It can even camouflage with the interiors of your room quite well. When kept in a smaller room, the sound was immensely loud but it is subject to personal preference. We found the sound diminishing the extent of some tracks because of the lack of space to reflect the sound waves. But if you are someone who likes listening to music on low volume, this speaker makes sure of that too. You can leave the music volume midway and find that the Wonderboom Freestyle is enriching the music with a soothing effect, especially for the Blues songs. The soundstage of this speaker is good and you should feel the sound of the instruments playing in the song well dispersed around you. The 360-degree sound is immersive if you place the speaker somewhere in the centre of the room.

The sound is one thing but it’s no praiseworthy if the battery isn’t good. The company claims a battery life of 10 hours but the speaker managed to churn out approximately 9 hours on a single charge. While the backup is impressive, the charging is dismal. The Wonderboom Freestyle requires around 3 hours to completely charge. The company has provided a MicroUSB charging cable in the box, which means you can any adapter to plug the speaker into the power source. You can play songs on the speaker while it is charging, however, we found that the speaker dropped connection with the source intermittently, which is odd. The company touts a wireless range of 100ft, however, considering how homes are usually no less than quagmires with all the walls and other devices in the way, the connection was lost beyond about 50-60 feet. Moving past this mark, the sound was glitchy. You can pair up to eight Bluetooth source devices, two of which can be simultaneously paired. You can also stream music to two Wonderboom Freestyle speakers at the same time from one source, but we couldn’t test this functionality, given we had only one unit.

Verdict

The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Freestyle speaker is one rugged speaker that you can grab without burning a big hole in your pocket. With the features such as its waterproof capability, one cannot go wrong in spending Rs 6,995 for this beautiful speaker. While the sound quality is not matchable up to an audiophile’s expectations, this speaker should be well to carry on a trip to the hills, or even a beach. If you are looking for a fairly decent speaker with reasonable sound and outstanding looks, Wonderboom Freestyle is a no-brainer.

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