I own quite a few different speakers from portable Bluetooth speakers to home speakers with integrated voice assistants. The UE Megablast tries to be the jack of all trades, but falls a bit short.
The unboxing experience is simple and pleasant. Without getting into too much detail of the packaging, you're greeted with a speaker, a high-quality flat microUSB cable, and an AC adapter. You can also purchase a charging dock separately which will allow you to drop the Megablast onto the dock for charging without fiddling with cables. Additionally, you can continue to use the Megablast while charging.
To setup the Megablast, I downloaded the Ultimate Ears app on my smartphone and opened it up. After ensuring Bluetooth was enabled on my smartphone, I turned on the Megablast. From there, you can pair using the app or your phone's pairing menu. After pairing over Bluetooth, the app will continue the setup process.
The Wi-Fi connectivity setup process is simple, but only if your home network situation is typical. Ultimate Ears recommends having separate SSID's for each network (e.g. MyWiFi 2.4GHz, MyWiFi 5GHz) so that the Megablast doesn't get confused during setup. I found that following this recommendation led to a successful setup for the Wi-Fi connectivity. After selecting your network and entering the password, you're also given the opportunity to login to Amazon Alexa for the voice assistant functionality. The app will also install any firmware updates during this process.
Once the setup is complete, the app is very simple. You have the ability to turn off the microphone for Alexa to work, and you have the ability to see the battery status, Wi-Fi connection status, Bluetooth connection status and Alexa sign-in status. You also have the ability to switch Wi-Fi networks, switch Amazon accounts for Alexa integration, or unpair/forget the Megablast. Lastly, you can change the idle-time before shutdown, the speaker language, and toggle firmware auto-updates.
The Megablast is pretty simple. It has a power button with an LED in it, a pairing button, and volume down/up buttons. And of course, the 360 degree sound people love so much paired with an IP67 water resistance rating for splashes and even a bit of submersion. However, it does not have a 3.5mm jack—a feature found on the smaller UE BOOM.
Like the BOOM speakers that preceded it, the Megablast has sparkly highs, clear mid-range, and punchy bass. However, the Megablast starts to fall short at the highest volumes, as compression kicks in to prevent clipping/distortion in the bass frequencies. This is due to the fact that the EQ really pushes the bass on the Megablast, but like any other Bluetooth speaker, it can only physically handle so much—so to prevent damage, it compresses the bass at a certain threshhold. When this happens, the bass sounds either anaemic or uncontrolled. I do want to stress that this happens to most portable Bluetooth speakers, and the Megablast far from the worst of them.
Despite this, if you're listening to spacious, dynamic music, then the Megablast will sound fantastic at most volumes. I have gotten the chance to listen to progressive rock, metal, acoustic, swing jazz, big band jazz, EDM and more. Music with more dynamic instrumentation really shines on the Megablast. Music with a constantly hot master may start to lose its clarity when the Megablast is set to its highest volumes. But overall, an excellent listening experience.
I'm not a fan of Alexa, personally. I find that switching between Bluetooth and Alexa is not seamless. Once I call out "Alexa", the Megablast disconnects from Bluetooth, so I have to pair my phone again if I want to use it. Despite this, you can use Alexa with a limited number of unpopular streaming services. You can control Alexa's volume, but not your Bluetooth volume. You also can't ask for the battery status using Alexa. It helps to think of Alexa as a standalone assistant that knows nothing of its existent in the Megablast. When using Alexa, the "Megablast" is irrelevant. It only knows whatever Alexa knows and can only do whatever Alexa can do—except stream from Spotify for some reason. So the lesson here is that if you are using Alexa, don't expect Bluetooth connectivity to resume. Just stick to Alexa's Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn streaming over Wi-Fi. Oh, and just so we're clear, Alexa only works over Wi-Fi.
CONCLUSION & FINAL THOUGHTS:
So, is it worth the price? I'm not sure. I own portable Bluetooth speakers in the same price range, and the Megablast packs a better sound and more volume, but its Alexa integration is half-baked and its missing the integrated voice that tells the battery status when you hold both the volume up and down buttons at the same time. On top of that, you can't do party mode with multiple Megablasts, you can't do remote power on, and you can't change the EQ. These are all features of the smaller UE BOOM, so I'm rather confused as to why these features aren't available on the Megablast. If you're buying this speaker for the Alexa integration, forget it. But if you want a great Bluetooth speaker with a few missing features compared to its smaller siblings, this could be the one to rock your parties.