For a brand that most people associate with new-age Bluetooth speakers, tech brand UE has a colourful past steeped in one of the most legendary bands of all time.
The year is 1995, and Van Halen is touring the world. Drummer Alex Van Halen has been informed by his doctor he would need to change how he plays, or he would lose his hearing.
Determined to find a compromise, Van Halen and his audio technician Jerry Harvey set about finding a solution. They resolved to make earbuds that could double as hearing aids.
UE principal product manager Doug Ebert says this move changed the way the world treats portability in sound.
“The technician went into the hearing aid industry, looking for a way to preclude yet protect Van Halen's hearing.
Surviving the tech renaissance of the 2000s, UE was eventually bought by Logitech in 2008, and launched their flagship speaker, the first UE Boom, in 2013.
“If you go back to the time of the original BOOM, there was something missing. What we tried to do with Ultimate Ears was to come out with something unique and user friendly: not just to be cool to be cool.
Now, UE have launched their latest product, the UE HYPERBOOM, and Ebert says we're in for a good ‘un.What is the HYPERBOOM? (RRP NZ$699)
Weighing in at almost 6kg and about the rough size and shape of a shoebox, the HYPERBOOM is a whole new take on the UE line. From the first ‘Red Bull' can design in the UE Boom, to the baseball-shaped Wonderboom, UE keeps changing it up, and the HYPERBOOM has that same chic and appeal.
The HYPERBOOM is ‘portable,' in the sense that it could move if you wanted it to. Whether you'll actually choose to move it is a whole different story.
It's the perfect option if you need to take your music from the house to the bach and back again, but it certainly isn't suited to the casual stroll on the beach.
If you did choose to take it on the beach, however, it would stand up to everything you could throw at it. Whether you drop it in the sand by accident or feel like testing its IPX-4 water resistance, the HYPERBOOM will stand up to the elements.
To be fair to the brand, it wouldn't sit well in the line of UE products if it wasn't near-indestructible. UE has a growing track record of this.
While I was examining the HYPERBOOM in Noel Leeming (the current exclusive retailer), I was approached by an elderly man looking for some millennial advice when it came to upgrading his home stereo system.
“I want something that I'll be able to hear in the kitchen,” he complained, “and I don't want something that sounds tinny!
The poor attendant following him around spluttered a response and tried to move the man to the latest Sony home audio system. Big mistake.
Dredging Toto's Greatest Hits out from the deep recesses of my Spotify, I paired the HYPERBOOM (an easy process) and hit play.
I've listened to a lot of Toto in my life, but never quite like this. I've also never seen someone spin around so quickly.
“What is that?!” He exclaimed. “What is this speaker for?
I wasn't really sure how to answer, because even I wasn't sure any more. Do I say it's a home speaker system? Is it the replacement for your ageing car subwoofer? Should I use it for my desktop setup?
What is the HYPERBOOM's purpose? I'll forgive you for asking because even I'm not sure.
It caters to almost every conceivable purpose, having solved traditional problems stifling development in each of these fields. Moving from the kitchen to the gaming den? The HYPERBOOM comes with audio balancing software that scans the room you are in and adjusts the acoustics accordingly.
It will act as a portable charger and it has 24-hour battery life. It has an inbuilt playlist feature that allows for multiple devices to queue their own songs and will remember up to eight Bluetooth devices. Society hasn't moved away from the standard 3.5mm jack yet (sorry Apple) and neither has the UE, making it perfect for the plug 'n' play people out there.
To say the midtones, treble and bass are balanced would be an understatement. The audio is beefy, loud, and wonderfully clear and crisp. I'm seriously impressed by the sound, although I'd expect nothing less from the Logitech family.
While features like a rich bass might not impress my elderly friend, house fans like myself out there will rejoice, for we have found the holy grail of speakers.
So I hear you asking, “what is there the HYPERBOOM can't do?
My answer? There isn't much.