Ultimate Ears Megablast
POOR MICROPHONES LET DOWN THESE PORTABLE ALEXA DEVICES
Ultimate Ears’ Alexa-powered Blast speakers have a real outdoorsy style. Beneath their tough rubber exteriors lurk sizeable internal batteries, lasting for 12 hours on the smaller Blast and 16 hours for the imposing Megablast. They’re IP67-rated too, so you don’t need to worry about dirt or water splashes.
As usual, con guration is split between a dedicated Ultimate Ears app and the regular Alexa app, but the former just handles basic connection settings, so there’s no confusion. And it’s delightfully easy to con gure your phone as a portable hotspot for the Blast, so Alexa continues to work while you’re out.
Smart features are mostly present and correct. Predictably, there’s no voice calling, and you can’t change the wake word from “Alexa”, but queries and commands generally work as you’d hope.
The physical design of the Blast is also oddly wayward, with the power socket hidden under a ap at the bottom, so the speaker can’t be charged while it’s standing upright.
The volume controls aren’t brilliantly thought out, either; you have to steady the unit with one hand while you push the huge frontfacing buttons, or it’ll topple over.
Still, as speakers, they’re not bad. The regular Blast has more presence than you’d expect from its size and overall it’s a crisper, more exciting tone than the Amazon Echo. The Megablast has a much solider bottom end and a more balanced sound all round – and it cranks up to a suitably mega 86dBA.
We’ve one last quibble. Purportedly, these units feature three microphones with noisecancelling technology. In practice, we often found that once we’d asked them to start playing music, they couldn’t always hear us tell them to stop.
With no charging base and a somewhat deaf ear to commands, the Blast and Megablast can’t be recommended as our favourite general-purpose smart speakers. Even so, their portability and decent sound make them hard to dislike: if you’re heading for the beach, there are far worse companions to take along.