Supercompact portable minithat weigh a pound or less and travel nicely have been popular for a while. But if you're looking for big sound with thumping bass, you have to step up to one of the jumbo models, two of which have recently hit the market: the Ultimate Ears Hyperboom ($400) and the JBL Boombox 2 ($500).
These speakers aren't light. Both weigh 13 pounds (5.9 kg), have built-in handles for transport and include a bulky AC adapter, not a USB cable, for charging. They're designed to play a long time at moderate volume levels on the go -- both are rated for 24 hours of battery life. But if you want to go loud -- both can play loud enough to fill a medium-sized room -- the battery life drops to more like three to five hours.
Here's a closer look at the two contenders. If you don't want to read, just watch my video. It sums everything up in 5 minutes.
JBL's second-generation Boombox 2 doesn't really look different from the original. And on the outside, JBL didn't change much. However, what's interesting about the Boombox 2 is that is has a smaller 10,000-mAh battery than the original, which had a 20,000-mAh battery. But it's more energy-efficient, with a new Bluetooth 5.1 chipset. And yet the speaker weighs about a pound and a half more, which means the added weight went into other components besides the battery.
The big difference in the sound between the Boombox 2, which is fully waterproof (IPX 7), and the original is the bass. It goes deeper and has more punch to it. While the power rating is a little higher for the Boombox 2, its top volume is about the same as the original. It sounds fuller and more dynamic at its top volume and has no indoor or outdoor mode like the original. You can link up wirelessly to the latest JBL Bluetooth speakers, but sadly, you can't link to the original Boombox.
Like the UE Hyperboom, this has USB out port that allows you to charge external devices like your phone, and there's also an analog audio input if you want to go wired and connect a device without using Bluetooth (the Hyperboom adds an optical digital input).
For outdoor use, I like the design of the Boombox 2 better than UE Hyperboom. It's easier to carry around and just looks more like an outdoor speaker. However, while they both play loud and deliver plenty of bass, the Hyperboom sounds more natural and has a bigger soundstage with better overall clarity and smoother sound.
The UE Hyperboom has a few things going for it over the Boombox 2. For starters, the price: It's $400 while the Boombox 2 is $500.
As an outdoor speaker, I give the nod to the JBL's design. Both of these weigh 13 pounds, but the JBL is a little more natural to carry around. It's got the handle, the tubular design, it looks like it belongs outdoors. The Hyperboom's got the thick rubber strap and it kind of feels like you're carrying a big pitcher of something really solid. It's boxy. Understated. And it looks a little more at home indoors.
The Hyperboom is splashproof with an IPX4 rating while the Boombox 2 is fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating (I put them out in the rain and they both survived fine). Like the Boombox 2, this has a USB out port that allows you to charge devices like your phone, and also has analog audio input if you want to go wired and connect a device without using Bluetooth. However, the Hyperboom adds an optical digital input. That means you can connect it to a TV, PC or game console with an optical output. You can also toggle between two Bluetooth connections and it has a built-in microphone that calibrates the speaker's sound to wherever it is, inside or outside.
The Hyperboom also is the better overall sounding speaker. It has a wider soundstage with slightly more bass and clarity. It also sounds a little more natural.
If you can afford it, you can link up two Hyperbooms and create a stereo pair. You can also link it wirelessly to the latest UE Bluetooth speakers to spread out the sound across a wider area.
Here's the bottom line
Both of these are very good jumbo portable Bluetooth speakers that are great for tailgates, basement parties, hanging by the pool or at the beach or maybe just everyday listening around the house. Both play loud but the Hyperboom sounds more natural and has a bigger soundstage with better overall clarity and smoother sound. It doesn't win by a lot in the sound department, but it wins.
I do like the design of the Boombox 2 and its performance is improved over the original, punching out deeper bass and richer sound. But the Hyperboom is the better overall sounding speaker -- indoors and outdoors. And it does cost $100 less.