I own and have used the Ultimate Ears Boom speaker that I've had for the past 5-6 years or so and it has been my favorite bluetooth speaker I've ever had. After hearing about this new Ulimate Ears MEGABLAST speaker, I was thrilled and couldn't wait to receive it in the mail. I knew this would be my new permanent replacment for my aging BOOM speaker, with the increasingly dwindling battery. But, a few bugs and inconsistencies keep it from exceeding my expectations. It'll still be my new daily-use speaker.
First of all, let me explain why the original UE BOOM was my favorite speaker. I've got some hearing loss issues and my right ear has only about 15% hearing (it's really only good for picking up bass, lol). So, when I choose a new speaker or pair of headphones/earbuds, they have to be able to get loud enough for a comfortable level for me, but yet even louder when I want to "crank" it. I use all my bluetooth devices on my iPad Pro 10.5" and my new iPhone X. The BOOM speaker has never failed me. I watch Twitch.tv daily, usually for about 6 hours on average while I do my work. I've used my BOOM for many years like this and I've only kept the volume up between the 3-4 notch (this is maybe 1/3 the max volume on the device volume bar) for everything I listen to and never had an issue hearing.
So, I was definitely excited to get this. I couldn't wait to unbox it, get it charged and synced to my devices! Let's break it down.
This was where I was most impressed. The packaging on the outside didn't look like anything fancy. But, it's when you break the seal and pull the slip-cover off the box... The inside box the speaker is housed in is made of a super thick and durable cardboard and I was totally not expecting the amazing artwork! It's so bright and colorful and I immediately thought - they've put a lot of love into this making and designing this speaker and box. Inside the box, the cylindrical speaker is nestled in perfectly curved black styrofoam and matches everthing else. It's very snug and secure. Along with the speaker, you also get the normal, minimal instructions (it's a bluetooth speaker, not rocket science), USB power cable and the larger-than-my-old-one power brick. The cable and brick are both white, perfectly contrasting with the black speaker.
This speaker looks nearly identical to my old one, aside from a few minor color differences and the obvious fact that it is MUCH bigger. The top of the speaker has the power button and the bluetooth sync button. On the front, non-mesh part of the speaker are the + and - buttons for the volume. Then, down at the very bottom...ON the bottom, lies the flip-up waterproofing rubber flap. You have to pull this up in order to get to the USB charge port and Power LED charge indicators. This flap was a little tighter to pull up than I would have liked (I thought I was going to rip it once...) and you definitely have to pull it back a bit with some force in order to plug the charge cable into it. The only other negative to this is given the fact that all this is on the bottom of the speaker, you have the lay it down on it's side while it is charging. Again, the same as my old one. But...you know, round things...well, they roll. Aside from this, I absolutely love the tall, cylinder shape of the speaker and the minimal amount of space it takes!
Once I got the speaker fully charged, I was able to connect it via Bluetooth to my iPad Pro 10.5" (my primary Twitch.tv watching device) without fail. I downloaded the app designed for the BLAST range of speakers. It looks really nice and has all the normal options I'd expect. The app detected the speaker and after I entered my WiFi password, it even automatically updated the firmware. It then asked me to activate Alexa and log into my Amazon account, which I was able to do without any problems...then gave me a code for a few months free of Amazon Music. I use Spotify myself, but still - not a bad gesture. After the inital setup, the app displays the current battery level in a bar-style format (not a percentage), confimration of WiFi connection and Alexa on/off, as well as the link to my Amazon account. Other than that, it's pretty basic, but gives you the information you need.
However, my major issue with the battery level on this speaker is that you can ONLY view it through the app. My old BOOM speaker displayed the battery at the top of my device, as well as in my Battery Widget. This speaker does neither. It just shows that "headphone" icon at the top of my device with no battery indicator and does not appear anywhere in my Batteries info in settings or the Widget. I'm hoping this is just a software bug and will be fixed in a later update, as it's quite annoying coming from my BOOM speaker that does show this. Then again, it could be intentional since you can just ask Alexa "what's my battery at?"...
I'm tying these final three into one category because it's seems that they are all somehow related together and where my biggest concerns are. This is where the the bugs and inconsistencies hide, aside from my issue with the Battery indicator above. The bluetooth has EXCELLENT range, but it doesn't appear to be flawless, like I'm used to with other Ultimate Ear products. When it has a connection, it's great and solid. No cut-outs or any other weird sound artifacts. However, I've had a few instances where the bluetooth connection would just drop for no reason. This seemed a little inconsistent, with no rhyme or reason for it. Completely random. I have to manually go into settings and select the MEGABLAST speaker to connect it again.
This is my first Alexa enabled device! So, I was definitly excited to give it a try. Initially, Alexa was a joy to use. I started with all the obvious stuff you would ask something like Alexa or Siri. "How's the weather today?" granted me exactly what I wanted to hear, plus more in a voice that I found rather pleasing compared to say, Siri. Alexa just seems much more natural and non-robotic. Then I go on with having her tell me a joke, rap, etc, etc. All works great. But...I discovered an issue with using Alexa while playing music or any audio already coming through the speaker. When the speaker is playing audio and you issue an Alexa command...when she's done...the bluetooth connection just.........DROPS. Every. Single. Time. I have to go into settings and reconnect. So, the only time I can use Alexa is when the speaker isn't being used. Which then, I've more than likely got it turned of. Very disheartening as I really wanted to implement Alexa into my music, smart thermostat, etc. I'm really hoping this is just a bug and can/will be fixed in a sooner-than-later firmware update.
As for sound, I found a lot of inconsistencies there as well. When playing music or other audio, I noticed I had to turn this speaker up louder than my BOOM to get the same level of volume out of it. I have to use my MEGABLAST at about half volume to get it at the same sound level as 1/3 volume of my BOOM. Which is weird because...isn't this supposed to be the loudest speaker they offer? It appears this speaker does better at mid to higher level volumes than lower to mid level. I initially thought that the "max" volume of the speaker was independant of the volume I have on my device because I could say "Alexa, change the volume to 10" and the volume bar on my device would stay the same, but the speaker would be much louder. But then...when I raise or lower the volume a notch on the device, the speaker volume would change to match that. Another issue I noticed...the speaker outputs the audio that is being played...but none of my other device sounds. Unlike my boom, I don't can't hear the keyboard typing sound, any text or e-mail notification sounds, etc. I've even turned the "Sounds" volume on my device up to the max with no results. But the audio being played is normal. I cannot figure this out to save my life.
I didn't get to test the bluetooth phonecall quality during use because my BRAND NEW iPhone X that I've had for less than 15 days decided to bite the dust on me (the touch screen quit working...hardware defect) and I'm currently awaiting a replacement from my carrier.
So, there you have it. So far, I have a love/hate relationship with this speaker. The volume inconsistencies are killing me and Alexa is all but useless since my bluetooth connection drops every time I use her. I also really with there was a battery level displayed on the device like my BOOM has, but the only way to see it with the MEGABOOM is via the app. These are my big 3 issues with the speaker and why I'm giving it a 4 out of 5 stars. The only thing saving it from 3 stars is the amazing sound of the actual audio that is being played...as long as it's above half (5) on the volume level.
Now, I did reach out to Logitech (the manufacturer of the Ultimate Ears brand) on Twitter earlier in the week. Several days have passed since then (which is why I waited a bit on my review) and I haven't heard anything back from them. I'll e-mail support about this I guess, when I get my phone back. But I really expected some sort of response or follow-up from them regarding this. Oh well. I should dock a star for this, but I won't.