We’ve been reviewing quite a few portable speakers lately, in search of the one that will give us the best value-for-money, sound, and ease-of-use, all in one package. We’ve come across a couple of gems, including the Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST. In this review we’ll break down the MEGABLAST’s sound, design, packaging and accessories, specs, and more. If you want to see how it stacks up, see our best wireless speakers and best smart speakers.
Power and Volume
If there’s one thing we can say for certain about the $175 UE MEGABLAST, it’s that it is one powerful Bluetooth speaker. Though it may not look like much from the outside, which we’ll talk more about below, the inside of the MEGABLAST houses two tweeters, two mid-sized drivers, and two passive radiators. These drivers give the MEGABLAST its signature sound and power, crushing other models like the $119 JBL Charge 3 (full review here) for volume.
There aren’t many Bluetooth speakers in this range that can reach the same level as the MEGABLAST - especially the smaller models available. However, the volume level doesn’t always make a good speaker, and we would argue that most listeners wouldn’t want to blast their sound on this one. When pushed past 75 percent volume, the MEGABLAST tends to distort some of the higher frequencies. This is a similar experience to one we had with the $109 UE BOOM 2 (full review coming soon) - another speaker in the Ultimate Ears line-up. This isn’t a deal-breaker - in our experience, most speakers of this size have distortion issues at max volume - but it’s worth noting if you enjoy cranking your tunes. Fortunately, a moderate level is all you need to get a solid sound out of the MEGABLAST.
High-End (Treble) and Low-End (Bass)
The UE MEGABLAST has a more well-rounded sound than most portable speakers we’ve tested. In tracks that featured a lot of instruments in the mid to high range, the MEGABLAST was great at separating the details and pinpointing specific notes. Nothing felt muddy or jumbled, regardless of the genre we played, and we didn’t have any issues with sounds receding into the background. This is something we noticed with the $84 JBL Flip 4 (full review here), which wasn’t quite able to keep up with busier tracks, and lost some detail in the high and mid-range.
As for the low-end, we can say happily that the MEGABLAST has the best bass of any portable Bluetooth speaker we’ve tested. It’ll never impress us the way one of our dedicated subwoofers would, but it blows competitors like the JBL Charge 3 out of the water. While that speaker also has passive radiators, it just can’t seem to beat the bass of the MEGABLAST. The low-end is full-bodied, refined, and gives life to bass-heavy tracks - something we usually crave from our wireless speakers. We genuinely enjoyed playing our tunes on the MEGABLAST, and would recommend it as the best poolside party speaker available right now.
360 Degree Sound
Ultimate Ears say that the MEGABLAST delivers 360 degree sound. While they don’t quite achieve a full 360 degrees, you can place the speaker virtually anywhere and get a full experience. Other companies, like JBL, have been trying to pull off the same concept, but don’t quite make it, due to too much real estate used for the footing of the speakers. This is something UE did away with when they created a speaker without feet. Aside from a strip of controls on the MEGABLAST, it can play sound from all sides, and manages to do this quite well. You don’t have to worry about where you place your speaker in order to get the best sound, but you will want to stand it upright to avoid it inevitably rolling away.
All of the speakers currently in the UE lineup feature the same cylindrical, 360 degree sound design - aside from the UE WONDERBOOM. That little speaker looks more like a musical tennis ball with buttons, and has earned a spot in our list of best wireless speakers.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Connectivity
The Bluetooth connectivity for the MEGABLAST is fairly standard compared to other portable speakers. Though it’s rated for 150 feet - five times that of the most portable speakers - we did experience dropouts when testing from different rooms in our apartment. This wasn’t a huge issue, as it was still an improvement from previous speakers, but it wouldn’t hold up against something like the $499 Klipsch The Three (full review coming soon), which we use in our home and office. We'd recommend using this speaker outside where there are less barriers.
The advantage the MEGABLAST has is the ability to connect to a wireless network. This more than doubles its wireless range to 330 feet, and is what powers the smart functionality. The Wi-Fi connection isn’t quite flawless, but certainly an positive if you have a larger living space and plan on using the MEGABLAST in multiple rooms. If only it had the ability to pair to other speakers for multi-room listening, which is something the BOOM and MEGABOOM series have a serious leg-up on with their PartyUp Mode. We have yet to understand why Ultimate Ears didn’t include this feature in their other speakers, but would more than welcome this addition to the MEGABLAST.
Amazon Alexa, Ultimate Ears App, and Setup
The MEGABLAST is an Amazon Alexa-enabled speaker, which means that it can be controlled using Amazon’s virtual assistant. As we mentioned in our best smart speakers roundup, we try to not judge speakers on the abilities of their included virtual assistants. Unfortunately, we found that the MEGABLAST’s integration with Amazon Alexa was more of a negative aspect than a positive one. While the MEGABLAST is a solid portable speaker, we felt like the inclusion of Amazon Alexa made it more difficult to use, and we were less likely to utilize the smart functionality.
If you want to use the MEGABLAST as a regular Bluetooth speaker, you only need to do two things: turn the speaker on and pair it using the Bluetooth pairing button. Simple, easy, and almost as painless as setting up the $349 Apple HomePod (full review here) and its remarkable proximity pairing. What gets complicated about the MEGABLAST is when you decide to do anything else. If you want to get started properly, you will need three apps. Yes, three. You will have to download the Ultimate Ears app, the Amazon app, and the Amazon Alexa app. Don’t have an Amazon account? Shouldn’t have bought an Alexa speaker.
Once you’ve downloaded, signed-up, and signed into these three apps, you will then have to check for updates on your speaker, as well as connect any streaming services or other apps you may use. We suggest looking up instructions for these steps, because we’re quite confused as to how we arrived at the final destination ourselves. If you aren’t tech savvy, or have minimal patience, get some help setting up your MEGABLAST. And yes, Alexa will respond with either “I don’t know the answer to that question,” or “I don’t understand” quite often. After having experienced multiple virtual assistants, we can surely say that the Google Assistant for the $179 Google Home (full review here) is our favorite.
Other than the hassle of apps, the MEGABLAST is a useful speaker once it’s set up, and we haven’t had any issues with it thus far. While we would have liked the apps to be as intuitive or simple as the JBL Connect+ app, we have definitely seen worse.
Looks and Build Quality
If we didn’t have pictures to prove it, and years of running into them whilst shopping, we’d be hard-pressed to understand the design of the MEGABLAST. Whoever thought to turn a tube into a noise-box deserves an award. Because, while it may be one of the stranger designs we’ve seen - and we’ve reviewed the alien-like $2,990 Devialet Gold Phantom (full review here) - it really works.
The ability to stand the speaker upright drastically decreases its overall footprint. This means that you only need enough space for a large coffee mug on your desk in order to fit the speaker - we don’t condone hoarding, but you will have so much more room for activities. And, with the amount of power this thing puts out, you won’t need to make way for something as large as the $299 RIVA WAND Festival (full review here). That speaker weighs 14lbs to the MEGABLAST’s 2.65lbs, and is far from portable, despite what the manual says.
The material the MEGABLAST is made of is almost identical to that of the JBL lineup - including the $197 JBL Xtreme, which is one of the MEGABLAST’s foremost competitors. We don’t fault either company for having a similar design, but we can’t help but feel like these manufacturers are just in a battle to one-up each other. Other than the near-360 degree sound, the design feature that stands out to us on the MEGABLAST is one that mostly goes unnoticed - we even discovered it by accident. On the bottom of the speaker, there is a metal D-ring that can be removed to make way for a standard tripod mount. Though it’s not something we would utilize often with a portable speaker - we aren’t always travelling with our tripods - we applaud the ingenuity here. For anyone looking for a portable, yet mountable, Bluetooth speaker, this might be the one for you.
Controls and Ports
The physical controls for the MEGABLAST are located on the side and the top of the speaker. On the side, you have two large symbols: one plus, and one minus. These are, quite obviously, the volume buttons. Though they are fairly easy to operate, and virtually dummy-proof, we found there to be a bit of lag between pressing the volume controls on the speaker and the actual change in volume. This wasn’t a huge issue, but did make it hard to change the volume quickly when we needed to turn it down. In comparison to the JBL Flip 4, which had smaller, singularly pressable buttons, rather than larger pads, we found the MEGABLAST to be less responsive. However, for the most part, they are simple, unique, and add to the aesthetic of the speaker.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to use the physical controls, you can control the MEGABLAST using either the Ultimate Ears app - we’ll talk more about this below - or the volume controls on your phone. We suggest using the controls on your phone for the MEGABLAST to avoid the previously mentioned volume issues.
The charging port for the MEGABLAST is located on the bottom of the speaker next to the removable D-ring. You’ll find it just underneath the waterproofing flap, and you’ll only need to access it for charging purposes. Unlike the UE BOOM 2, the MEGABLAST does not include an aux port. Normally, we try not to make a fuss over missing aux ports with portable speakers - after all, they are designed for wireless use. However, if other models in the lineup include the port, that’s where we get picky. We often use our portable speakers as “soundbars” for our laptops, and were quite displeased when we couldn’t plug this one in manually.
Durability and Waterproofing
One of the MEGABLAST’s main selling features is the fact that it’s waterproof. Not only is this one of the only waterproof smart speakers available, it’s also rated for durability. With a rating of IP67, the MEGABLAST can withstand being submerged in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes and is “dust tight,” meaning no dust can get inside. While most speakers, like the $285 JBL Xtreme 2, boast an IPX7 rating, the added 6 for durability is what gives the MEGABLAST the upper hand. If you want to learn more about IP ratings, read this.
The MEGABLAST might weigh less than 3lbs, but this speaker feels like it could take a beating. It has a heftiness that shouts “take me on an adventure.” The overall design is robust, with minimal room for dust, dirt, water, sand to seep in and harm your speaker. We’re confident that you could take it on a mountain trek to a hidden lake without worry. Just remember: though the MEGABLAST is built tough, its weight gives it a slight disadvantage for swimming. You may think the speaker floats - it will convince you it can when you first place it in the water - but it will begin to sink after roughly 10 seconds. We learned this the hard way after having to quickly dunk our arm in a fountain - in the wind and freezing cold, no less. If you’re looking for a speaker that can actually float, check out the new $150 UE BOOM 3. Alternatively, if you don’t want to sacrifice size or volume, you can always purchase a separate floatation device for your MEGABLAST.
The battery life for the MEGABLAST is rated for 16 hours. While we don’t think we ever received a full 16 hours - at most we got 15 hours at moderate volume - we didn’t have any issues with it failing us during our work day. Playing at lower volumes will certainly aid to a long-lasting battery, and we always suggest listening under the 75% mark for hearing safety purposes. While using the MEGABLAST as our office speaker, we found it best to charge the speaker every other night after use to give a consistent stream of battery life.
The battery life of the MEGABLAST out-performs smaller models - like the $67 UE WONDERBOOM, rated for up to 10 hours - but it still can’t compete with models like the $35 Cambridge Oontz Angle 3 Plus (full review coming soon), which achieves up to 30 hours of battery life on a single charge. While we prefer the sound of the MEGABLAST, you might choose the cheaper model if you need better battery life.
The accessories and packaging of any Ultimate Ears speaker can be described as anything but boring. If the MEGABLAST itself didn’t have any other redeeming qualities, we would give it brownie points for the packaging alone. If you’re someone who enjoys the minimalist, clean white aesthetic of Apple products, this is not the package for you. Like all other Ultimate Ears speakers, it comes in a colorful, psychedelic-patterned box, that unfolds to unveil the speaker within. If you went for a more conservative color style - we chose the Graphite option - you’ll find it blending into the black cardboard inserts. Otherwise, if you went for a more liberal color, you’ll open the box to yet another vibrant display of Ultimate Ears’ goodness.
Along with the speaker, you get a micro-USB to USB charging cable, and a wall plug. That’s it. Your choice of style also determines your cable color, so beware. While our MEGABLAST was accompanied by white accessories, our UE BOOM 2 came with one in garish, safety vest yellow. If you like, you can purchase a separate charging dock for your MEGABLAST for $40. We were sad to see that it wasn’t included in our package, but the standard micro-USB did the trick.
What We Like:
- The UE MEGABLAST has great volume and decent sound.
- Voice commands through Amazon Alexa can be useful for hands-free listening.
- The MEGABLAST is IP67-rated for water- and dust-proofing.
What We Don’t:
- The MEGABLAST is a bit large and clunky to carry around.
- The integration of Amazon Alexa could have been better - or a better assistant altogether.
- The MEGABLAST is a bit pricey compared to other portable speakers.
- The lack of aux port is annoying.
|Speaker||Price||Batt. Life||Bluetooth||Wi-Fi||IP Rating||App|
|Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST||$175||15 Hours||Yes||Yes||IP67||Yes|
|JBL Xtreme||$197||15 Hours||Yes||No||IPX7||Yes|
|Ultimate Ears BOOM 3||$150||15 Hours||Yes||No||IP67||Yes|
|Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)||$150||N/A||Yes||Yes||N/A||Yes|
|Ultimate Ears MEGABOOM 3||$200||20 Hours||Yes||No||IP67||Yes|
Until recently, JBL was dominating the portable speaker world. That is, until Logitech decided to get their feet wet. With their new sub-brand, Ultimate Ears, they were able to create a line or portable speakers that were better, more durable, and competitively priced to JBL’s. The speakers themselves, other than certain aesthetics, can be very similar. One speaker that comes to mind is the JBL Xtreme. This speaker is JBL’s version of a larger portable speaker, that also includes a virtual assistant integration. While we do prefer JBL’s compatibility with Siri and Google Assistant, as opposed to the MEGABLAST’s Amazon Alexa, the Xtreme doesn’t feature 360 degree sound, and is less powerful overall. If you’re a person who’s planning on taking your speaker outdoors, the Xtreme won’t be able to beat the MEGABLAST’s waterproofing and durability - while it is splash-proof, the speaker can’t be submerged in water. The Xtreme is also more expensive than the MEGABLAST, $197 to to $175. Alternatively, if you choose to spend an extra $100, you can pick up the JBL Xtreme 2. But that speaker is essentially a boombox, weighing almost five and a half pounds, and is much less portable.
Another speaker we’d like to compare is from Ultimate Ears as well. The UE BOOM 3, sequel to the infamous UE BOOM, is a smaller portable speaker that’s recently caught our eye. While we are currently testing the UE BOOM 2, which has quickly become our go-to speaker for daily use, the release of the UE BOOM 3 has us intrigued. It features all the same goodness of the UE BOOM 2, but improves it with better sound quality, design, and actually floats. The UE BOOM 3 is easy to use, lightweight, and doesn’t give the same hassles we have with Alexa. No, it doesn’t have a virtual assistant built-in, but it’s easy to control with a smartphone. This speaker is an ideal budget option for someone looking for all the glory of the MEGABLAST experience, but in a smaller package. The UE BOOM 3 can be had for $150 or under depending on your style choice, and is a value that won’t disappoint.
While there are many alternatives to the MEGABLAST, another virtual assistant-enabled speaker we’d like to include is the Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen). It might not be portable, but it does feature a full range of Alexa usability. The Echo Plus is meant to be a designated home speaker - you certainly won’t be taking this on any adventures - but for $150, it’s a good option for anyone looking for a designated smart speaker. The Echo Plus has similar sound quality to the MEGABLAST and is a fan favorite among Alexa users. If you’re looking for an at-home solution to your virtual assistant needs, we could suggest the Echo Plus. Or, we could just tell you to splurge for an Apple HomePod.
The last speaker we’d like to use for comparison is another Ultimate Ears model - the UE MEGABOOM 3. We reviewed the original UE MEGABOOM back in 2016, but have been keeping a close eye on the newer model. Essentially, the UE MEGABOOM 3 is the MEGABLAST without the smart functionality. You can purchase the new UE MEGABOOM 3 for $200, just $25 more than the MEGABLAST. While you might lose your Alexa virtual assistant, you will gain improved sound, better battery life, and the ability to connect to 150 other BOOM series speakers. The UE MEGABOOM 3 is also IP67 rated for water and dust-proofing, but also comes with the ability to float. This is definitely an upgrade we recommend after having to dunk our arm in a fountain to retrieve our MEGABLAST. If you aren’t in need of a virtual assistant, but still want all the portability and durability of the MEGABLAST, we suggest the MEGABOOM 3.