EarFun may be a relative newcomer to the mobile and audio accessories space but that doesn't mean it's a company that should be ignored. Contrary to what might be said about the benefits of building experience to build prestige as an audio OEM, the company's latest Bluetooth speaker is yet another example of just how far sound technology has come.
Dubbed the EarFun UBOOM Portable Bluetooth Speaker, this audio device, of course, delivers a solid sound experience with plenty of volume and clarity. No device is perfect and there's plenty here to dislike, whether that's the inability to sync up with two source devices at once or the fact that it's not exactly lightweight at 585 grams. This won't match up with the needs of most who self-identify as "audiophiles."
At just $50 at the time of this writing, it's also fully loaded with a bundle of features that is typically unheard of in its price bracket, making both EarFun and the EarFun UBOOM speaker well worth keeping an eye on.
Better-than-expected sound and battery life …mostly
Battery life here follows a trend that I first noticed with my prior review of EarFun products. Namely, the claimed times for charging and draining seem to be off by quite a bit.
Charging, for instance, fell in at right around 2-hours and 45-minutes — in spite of the listed 4-hour charge time. That was using a standard USB port via USB-C.
Killing the battery off took right around 11-hours and 40-minutes. That's well below the 16-hours listed by the company — promised at 50-percent volume. But in the overwhelming majority of circumstances, that's going to be more than enough, especially with consideration for the short charging time. Over my test period, the volume was set at over 70-percent and as high as 90-percent.
Now, there should be no reason to have the volume that high under most circumstances so battery life should be much better for most users. At 60-percent, filling a small two-bedroom apartment is no issue. At 50-percent volume, with no walls, filling up a small 1,000-square-foot courtyard with sound was possible.
In terms of sound quality, that was much better than I expected at this speaker's current cost and that didn't seem to degrade much with the increasing volume either.
There are two modes for listening with this device, which I'll get into later on, but in either mode, the bass tones rang through clearly and powerfully. That likely comes down to the dual-passive bass radiator design — based on the documentation at the company's website — coupled with a more standard 360-degree speaker layout.
That's two 45mm transducers with two 12W drivers. So this speaker, for its small size, absolutely thumps where it needs to and puts out smooth-flowing low tones where those need to be.
Mids and highs are well-represented as well with just a single caveat. I noticed that on one or two less common frequencies, at least for the music I listened to, there was a slight quality that could only be described as "tinny." That's going to show up only with a few frequencies which I, unfortunately, wasn't able to pin down.
Thankfully, I only noticed it on a single song or two of the hundreds I listened to for this speaker. Both of those fell into the punk genre of music and in both cases that happened when the bass-limiting outdoor mode was turned on — which most probably won't use. Everywhere else, this speaker performed well without the tainted audio.
The one area that all really seemed to break down was while using my Samsung Galaxy Note 9 to connect to the EarFun UBOOM speaker. Plainly speaking, this device is not going to work as well as intended with every smartphone.
At right around half-charge, the speaker started randomly cutting out while connected to the above-mentioned device, even at very close distances of around five feet. That only seemed to happen with my Galaxy Note 9 and not with the Galaxy S10+ or HTC U11 or Elephone A6 mini devices that were also connected for testing. In fact, the range and connection on those devices were solid even with several walls between source and speaker at around 30- to 40-feet.
So I'm inclined to think that this could be a problem with the Galaxy Note 9 and not the speaker but it's also not possible to test with every device that's out there and could as easily be an issue with the device.
Regardless, the issue became annoying enough that I stopped testing altogether with my smartphone, carrying on testing with others instead. The sound quality didn't seem to be impacted by that at all as long as the speaker was working properly. It just cut out on that one device.
Dressed up and ready to go out or stay in
On the purely aesthetic front, I was surprised by the effort put into this speaker — with consideration for its cost. The classic conical shape of the EarFun UBOOM portable Bluetooth speaker is accented by a gentle concave curve that fit neatly into my hands and the soft cloth covering on the exterior of that added a distinctly premium feel. That's setting aside any attributes that might bring in terms of sound quality.
The front of the gadget is stamped with a rubbery branding in a silver-on-black color configuration. That black hue is the only color this comes in but it looks and feels extremely well made. The bottom is ringed with the same materials and a circular textured foot to keep it in place.
Topping the device is another ring of that same material with the surface of the top having a distinctly concave curve to it as well. All of the buttons are found there, as well as a yellow nylon carry loop. The back of the device houses a flap that fits over the USB Type-C charging port and the aux cable input.
In every way, the exterior design feels or functions as good as it looks too. The aux input and USB-C ports, for example, fit snugly with no unwanted wiggle. The carry loop doesn't feel like it's going to fall off no matter how hard it's jostled. On the bottom, that textured foot really does work to prevent motion.
Each of the buttons has a deliberately squishy feel that ends in a soft click. That doesn't feel like it's going to stop clicking any time soon either. After hundreds of clicks, it just kept right on clicking through as always, noiselessly but with no drop in resistance. All of the buttons are just easy to press and comfortable.
"Comfortable" describes the use of the back flap well too. Unlike other gadgets I've used, that felt like a crowbar might be easier for removing the flap to access the ports, that came away easily and was held aside easily while plugging things in or unplugging cables. Simultaneously, it let absolutely no dust or water in.
…and still ruggedized
Attributes associated with the build quality, from the fact that none of the stitching, labeling, rubbery bits, or loop feel like they're going to wear out any time in the near future to the scooped rubber top surface, don't tell the whole story here, however. The premium-aesthetics belie the fact that this speaker is rated to be waterproof with a rating of IPX7.
That means it can be used in the rain or completely submerged within reason. The water might pool on the top surface and get trapped in the cloth exterior, but it's not going any further and the EarFun UBOOM cleans up well afterward.
That means that outdoors or indoors, this device is going to keep looking as good as it sounds with very few exceptions.
Extra features and the price tag say it's a worthwhile purchase
At right around $50, all of that already makes the EarFun UBOOM Portable Bluetooth Speaker an intriguing proposition — one that should easily be on anybody’s shortlist of speakers to look at. There is considerably more here that still needs to be taken into account though and all of it only serves to make this device easier to recommend.
To begin with, all of the controls built into this speaker, from the volume adjustment or Bluetooth button to the multi-function button, is incredibly easy to use. The multifunction button also provides ready access to whatever AI assistant is available on the source device simply by holding that down for a few seconds.
That means that whether I was using Google Assistant, Alexa, or Bixby, I was able to access the helper without ever needing to hunt down my phone after the initial step of setting a default helper.
A second button, with an icon shaped like a stereotypical mountain peak, kicks the speaker into the "outside" mode. That seems to boost volume and clarity at the expense of some bass thump without losing too much definition in the lower frequencies. It's almost perfect for use in large spaces to provide background music outside with lots of people, as long as they aren't all speaking too loudly.
The EarFun UBOOM speaker can be used in conjunction with a second UBOOM speaker for a true 360-degree stereo experience — at what is effectively the same cost as the MSRP for one speaker, as of this writing. Now, I wasn't able to test that mode because I only received a single test unit but if that works as well as the rest of this device then there's little chance it won't work well.
The only feature that's really missing that some competing gadgets have is the ability to sync up multiple smartphones at once for shared playback. That's more of a niche feature and is typically found in more pricey devices too. So those looking in this EarFun speaker's price bracket aren't likely to find many better options on that front.
More succinctly, taking all of that into account, this is going to arguably be one of the best, ruggedized Bluetooth speakers on the market and it will certainly be among the best in its price range. That's even after taking into account its few caveats.
The question of whether or not to buy the EarFun UBOOM Portable Bluetooth Speaker will, as with all audio device, ultimately prove subjective. But it's a good enough speaker to recommend a much closer look regardless.