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The UE Boom's new PartyUp feature lets over 50 speakers play music in sync

The UE Boom's new PartyUp feature lets over 50 speakers play music in sync

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The UE Boom, our favorite portable Bluetooth speaker, already lets you "double up" two devices for better sound. You can set them to play the same exact audio out of both speakers, or they can be configured as a stereo pair where one speaker is the left channel, the other right. But now Ultimate Ears is going far beyond a two-speaker setup — if you've got enough speakers, that is. An update to the UE Boom and UE Megaboom apps being rolled out today introduces a new feature called PartyUp. PartyUp allows you to corral dozens of nearby UE speakers (the company says "more than 50") and get all of them playing the same music in sync.

These can be a mix of the original UE Boom, UE Boom 2, and UE Megaboom; the excellent UE Roll and Roll 2 are sadly excluded from the party. All speakers must be updated with the latest firmware that enables support for PartyUp. Pairing just two speakers together has gotten much faster than before, according to the company.

Now you just drag and drop nearby speakers; the app detects them even when they're powered down using Bluetooth LE. Their icons match the exterior color of the speakers, which makes it easier to tell which device you're controlling. Just drag a speaker up into the main area to add it to your "party" and drag it back down to remove it.

I don't have 50 UE speakers handy to test out the extreme limits of PartyUp. But the company did send over around 8 of them — a mix of regular Booms and Megabooms — and the feature seemed to work as advertised. There was the occasional dropout, but they get harder to notice when you've got so many speakers blaring music all at once. In PartyUp mode, all speakers play the same audio; there's no option to set up multiple stereo pairs. Also, Ultimate Ears is quick to clarify that this is not any kind of whole-home audio solution or something that's meant to challenge Sonos. Instead, the company seems hopes PartyUp might prove convenient at parties or on the beach. Sort of like this:

That scene doesn't strike me as very realistic, even with the Boom being a very popular speaker. Coinciding with the announcement of PartyUp, Ultimate Ears will offer Party Packs that you can customize with your preferred mix of Boom 2 and Megaboom in sets of 2, 5, or 10 for a discounted rate compared to what you'd pay for all the speakers separately. So maybe this super pairing feature will get some use in spots, and it's nice that the company is still updating the original Boom with new capabilities. Some are more useful than others; a previous firmware update added support for Siri / Google Now voice control from the speakers.