Ultimate Ears are sub-brand of Logitech after being bought out by them in 2008. Initially, they started out as a custom IEM, and they entered the portable speaker market in 2013 with the UE Boom.
The terribly named Ultimate Ears Megablast is their latest offering and is an IP67 rated portable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speaker with Alexa. So, is this a jack of all trades and a master of none?
The speaker is much larger than any portable speaker or smart speaker I have reviewed, but it is not massive. It is easy enough to carry around for example. It comes with an eclectic range of colour options with mine being a pleasant shade of Blue.
The speaker is cylindrical and clad in rubber which is both attractive and functional. The rubberised material not only helps it achieve an IP67 rating, but it makes it very durable. I have read reports of people dropping it down several steps and it being fine. It didn’t want to test this durability on something so expensive myself. The IP67 rating means that the speaker is fully dustproof and can handle being submerged in water up to 1m.
The speaker has rubber clad buttons, one for power/pairing and then volume up and down. On the bottom of the speaker is a rubber gasket sealing the microUSB socket. The socket itself is recessed and uses a specially designed cable to seal the electronics. However, the placement means that if you want to leave the speaker plugged in permanently you have to have it upside down and with a large unsightly white cable sticking out of the top. Coincidently UE sells a base that you can stand the speaker on the right way up to charge it, costing £34.99. I understand there had to be design considerations with the IP rating, but these decisions seem to be pushing you into buying the charging dock.
Overall I found the design more attractive than the similarly designed Amazon Echo, and the Google Home.
To get the speaker onto Wifi and then Alexa, you need to download the companion app. From here it is quite a straightforward procedure to get everything set up. The app itself has terrible reviews, but a lot of these seem to be based on reduced functionality compared to the Megaboom speaker. According to the support on the play store, Logitech is working to add this functionality back into the Megablast. If you have no experience of UE speakers, then you will probably have no issues with the app.
If you are hoping that this would be the perfect alternative speaker to the Amazon Echo, then you will likely be a little disappointed. Due to it being battery powered, it is not on 100% of the time while in battery mode, therefore Alexa isn’t always listening, it only works when you have the speaker powered on. If you have the speaker plugged in it should remain on permanently, but that would require the £34.99 base station.
When the speaker is on Alexa works perfectly well. I was able to use it to control all my home automation, set timers, and control the volume of the speaker. At the moment there appears to be issues with using Spotify on the Megablast, which is unfortunate as this is the primary way I listen to music. Apparently, this is because of the work that needs to be done between Spotify and third-party Alexa manufacturers to enable that functionality: it’s not a standard part of the Alexa Voice Service suite. So, it should eventually be enabled. If you want to use music via Alexa you need Amazon music or use TuneIn radio.
During use, I found that there was some speaker hiss when using Alexa, and if you are playing music at the same time, Alexa will mute the audio rather than just lower its volume. If you leave plugged in all the time, it does work perfectly well as an Echo alternative, it is just not quite as polished.
In my case, I didn’t actually use Alexa that much. The speaker connects flawlessly to my Bluetooth, and when I switch it on it auto connects to my phone, I found this a much easier way to use the speaker. In my case, it was mainly listening Spotify on the speaker while I cook in the kitchen, and I would just start a playlist and leave it going. I can appreciate the convenience it might have in a party situation where the speaker is being listened to for a long time, and you are continually changing songs.
What I do love about the speaker is the sound. It may not impress an audiophile, but I think the target audience will enjoy it. It is very loud for a speaker of its dimensions, and it is very bass dominant, which is perfect for a party situation. Or in my case when using it in the kitchen, I tend to listen to a lot of bassy music, and it works really well.
I have reasonably large rooms in my home, and this speaker can comfortably fill them all, I find the Sonos 1 can sometimes be a bit underpowered for my kitchen, and when you turn the volume up it struggles, especially with bass.
Even with the volume high, there is no noticeable distortion created, and I found it got too loud for me before I quit trying to make it distort.
It isn’t all bass though, this is an entirely capable all-round speaker, and the mids and trebles perform well offering a nice warmth throughout the mid-range and an overall energetic vibrant performance.
I mainly just found this speaker fun to listen too.
It is far from perfect, the Alexa integration is a nice added feature but with some outstanding issues, and the USB port is in an awkward place. Some people may find it a bit too heavy on the bass, but I think most people will love the sound that is produced by the Megablast.
It is comfortably the best sounding portable speaker I have reviewed, and it is the best sounding smart speaker I have reviewed. It is also the most expensive of the speakers I have reviewed, so I guess you would expect superior performance for your money. I would also suggest, that if you want to make the most of the of Megablast you also need to factor in the rather expensive charging base.
Ultimate Ears Megablast
Product Name: Ultimate Ears Megablast
Offer price: 210
Sound - 95%
Design - 85%
Features - 85%
Price - 75%