Ultimate Ears is well-known for making durable and portable speakers with great sound quality, and the Megablast is no different. This Alexa-enabled smart speaker produced good results in our listening test, especially with the hip-hop and electronic tracks we threw at it. It is one of two portable smart speakers we tested, along with the JBL Link 20, that allow you to pick them up and carry them around the house without worrying about plugging them in and waiting for them to boot up and re-connect to Wi-Fi. It comes with a charging cable that plugs into the bottom panel, but it has to be charged while lying on its side, which is an annoying design flaw. An alternative is a $40 charging dock, which charges the speaker without needing to lie on its side.
The Megablast is the most durable speaker we tested. It has an IP67 waterproof and dustproof rating, which means it can survive 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The coarse rubber panels do a good job of keeping the speaker from sliding on slippery surfaces, and we saw no signs of wear after dropping it off our 3-foot-high tables onto the commercial carpet in our testing lab. This is the best speaker for withstanding abuse at a poolside party. The voice-control features only work while you are in range of a Wi-Fi network, but you can connect any Bluetooth-enabled phone or tablet to play music without Wi-Fi connectivity.
To test the microphone range, we put each smart speaker inside a room, 2 feet from the door, and put some music on at 70 dB, which is about as loud as a normal conversation. We then walked around the corner and measured the maximum distance at which the speaker could hear the wake word ("Alexa") at the same conversational volume. The Megablast was the worst performer in this test. It could barely recognize the wake word from 4 feet away, which is terrible compared to other speakers that had a range of more than 30 feet. The Megablast has large physical volume and power buttons, but if you are playing music in the kitchen and hear the doorbell ring, you’ll have yell at it to turn the sound down, which is an annoying design flaw.
After spending most of a work day connecting multiple smart speakers to our lab’s network, we were pleasantly surprised at how easy the process was for the Megablast. The companion mobile app is easy to navigate and walked us through the process quickly and efficiently. Some of the speakers we tested took more than 10 minutes to connect to our network and add a couple music streaming services, but we had the Megablast up and running in less than five minutes.
The UE Megablast is the most durable and best sounding portable smart speaker we tested. It has access to the huge catalog of Alexa-enabled smart devices, but you have to speak up more compared to other speakers we tested because the microphone range is terrible. We suggest purchasing the charging dock with the Megablast, because charging it with the cable is inconvenient.