Passion of the Hi-Fi: Part IV - Why Boombox?
I scuttled furiously from bedroom to living room. DVDs without cases, puzzles with missing pieces, and random pairs long Ragnell scissors (why do we even have these???) strewed across a cascade of coffee tinted MDF shelves. This hand-me-down Brobdingnagian entertainment center would be the new home for my hi-fi, chipped away but yearning for gear. Like any man on a mission, I needed my soundtrack, my “Eye of the Tiger”, my “Don’t Stop Believing”, my “Bootylicious”, but what would be my source?
My laptop’s internal speakers lacked the oomph(!) I needed to propel my body into motion. Headphones were a hazard. Then, like a power chord, it hit me.
For the past three months, my roommates and I had been using the Logitech UE Boombox ($249.99). I previously reviewed another boombox trying to unearth the role of this ambiguous portable music device. After my post, Stereophile Assistant Editor and all-around excellent practical thinker Stephen Mejias asked me the very important question: “Why do people need boomboxes?”
In this music-less moment while transferring the hi-fi, the Logitech UE Boombox proved its role: to be the music when you have none. Its ultra-durable stainless steel wire-mesh casing, die-cast aluminum handle, and rubberized inlays make it a sturdy little machine and comfortable for transport.
Connection to the boombox via Bluetooth was facilitated easily by turning on the device with the power switch, waiting for the tone signifying the boombox was ready to be recognized, and searching for and selecting “UE Boombox” on your Bluetooth device. Up to three Bluetooth devices could connect to the Boombox at the same time allowing the roommates to interchange pressing play on their individual devices, a great way to play musical tag. Unfortunately after long periods of playback, the music would cut in and out, and I had to restart the device and re-establish Bluetooth connection with either my phone or laptop. This happened on multiple occasions.
While off cleaning the shelves of five years worth of junk, the Logitech|UE Boombox bumped Victor Wooten’s Soul Circus, an album that combines bombastic teeth-gritting funk-bass fireworks (“Victa”) and homage-driven humility (“Bass Tribute”). Wooten’s stunning finger work boomed as I bounced from one room to the next. Actually, it boomed a little too much distorting the acoustic guitar that doubles Wooten’s bass line and muddying the mix overall at reasonably high volumes. Admittedly, I wasn’t listening for a detailed sound just something physical to radiate around the house as I did my work, which it did, but the distortion was worrying given the $250 price.
The Logitech UE Boombox utilizes two 0.5" tweeters, two 3" woofers, and four 2 and 5/8" passive radiators.
In a separate listening session, the bass on Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” nearly swallowed the entire mix, similar to what I heard on Wooten’s Soul Circus.
It was time to bring the hi-fi gear into the living room and place the components in their appropriate locations. I transferred each piece of gear to the living room, one component at a time. Like a one-man assembly line, my work process was methodical and ordered. I could have easily carried more than one cable at a time, but that would not have been a peaceful and serial transition. How could I bring over gear before I cleaned the shelves? How could I position my phono preamp without my turntable in place? How could I do any of this without music?
Compositions by Napoléon Coste played by classical guitar savant Pavel Steidl accompanied the meticulous move. Through the boombox, Steidl’s guitar was airy, warm, and pristinea preferable listening experience to the distorted Wooten.
It was time to connect wires, my absolute favorite activity as an audiophile: plugging each cable into the appropriate input, placing them in optimal location based on length, and making them as inconspicuous as possible.
Around 3am, Pete and his girlfriend came home. I had just finished all my connections, and I asked them if I could play the newly connected hi-fi. The living room borders Pete’s bedroom. Pete said “No,” but that I could continue playing the classical guitar through the boombox.
I just turned off the boombox and went to bed. While the boombox had been fun and useful, it didn’t create the sound I wanted and worked inconsistently. My stereo was finished, and it was all I wanted to hear.