Regular Strategist readers know that, every so often, we writers and editors come together to talk shop about the stuff we buy ourselves. While comparing notes about our favorite portable speakers on a December all-staff Zoom, I piped up to sing the praises of my Ultimate Ears Wonderboom speaker. As I spoke to the grid of faces before me, I noticed colleagues start to nod their heads in unison, as if practicing some new choreography. Then, as you might a sacrificial offering, each of those colleagues slowly raised their own versions of my speaker to camera, revealing themselves as acolytes of the gadget, too.
It turns out that of all the brands and models of portable speakers we very obsessive shoppers swear by, none is more endorsed than the Wonderboom, which no less than three of us (myself included) own. While I was delighted to discover this fact, I was not all that surprised. I’ve had my Wonderboom 2 (the latest generation) since the summer of 2019, and all of the other speakers that have come into my life since — from a Google Nest to a Google Home to an Amazon Alexa to a JBL Clip — have only made me love it more. First, it pairs faster than any of those. Unlike the “smart” speakers I mentioned, it doesn’t shout at me out of nowhere when it mishears its name, or when the Wi-Fi drops. It also doesn’t listen to what I’m saying and then serve me related ads on Instagram two minutes later. And it plays whatever music I tell it to with clarity and depth. While my library is centered around guitar music and Motown-era R&B, my colleague and fellow Wonderboom owner Jordan Bowman says his rotation has “a lot of hip-hop, grime, and reggae” that sounds just as great pumped from the speaker. My former colleague Nikita Richardson (who started a new gig shortly after that December Zoom call), meanwhile, told me that she starts her day by cueing up the “latest episode of Morning Edition or Small Town Murder” on hers and that it plays those podcasts just as crisply.
But being a portable speaker, its performance at home is only part of its appeal. The Wonderboom, which is about the size of a mug, sounds just as good pretty much anywhere else based on all the scenarios we’ve used it in. Jordan says that whether “on hikes, beach trips, or at BBQs, it hasn’t let me down yet.” Nikita has used hers to successfully blast soundtracks during “protests or afternoons in the park.” As for me, I like nothing better than to prop mine up under the windshield of whatever car I’m in, no aux required. I don’t bother to fasten it more securely because I know that if it falls there’ll be no damage nor stopping of my music — a fact that Jordan agrees with. “The Wonderboom is a tank,” he says. “Mine has tumbled down a few steps in its lifetime, and doesn’t have a scratch on it. I kind of treat it like it can withstand anything.”
While I have the Wonderboom 2, Nikita and Jordan actually have its older sister, the Wonderboom 1, which shares a lot of features with the newer model. (In a testament to its durability, Nikita has used her Wonderboom 1 for three years; Jordan has used his for one.) Both speakers share the same design, with giant, user-friendly volume buttons on their side, power and pairing buttons on top, and a handy hook for hanging them. Both can float in water. But the Wonderboom 2 improves on the first by boasting 13 hours of battery, while the original has just 10. The 2 is also fully sealed against dust and water and, according to the brand, it has a better bass response. The pandemic has prevented us from testing the models side by side, but based on my colleagues’ anecdotal accounts, it’s fair to say they (literally) sound the same. Which you could call music to the ears of budget shoppers, who can nab the first generation of the Wonderboom for even less than the newer one.
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