Megablast - Powerful sound now with Alexa

Written by Kevin Cheng on . Posted in Audio

Ultimate Ears MegablastAt DigitalReviews.Net, we have had a long relationship with the "Boom" family of bluetooth speakers. We have gotten to be friends with Wonderboom, Megaboom, Megaboom 3, and now we get to welcome the Megablast into the party.

The siblings of the Ultimate Ears Megablast has earned very favourable reviews from our boss Martin at DigitalReviews, so there are some pretty high expectations when the unit landed on my desk.

 

App homeFirst Impressions
Granted it was a really long and difficult day at work. I was excited to have the Megablast turn up and I sat there both amazed and feeling dumb trying to figure out how to open the packaging. Long story short, a pretty mural like artwork covers the box. It looked like it could open from the top but no dice, so I ended up slicing open the pretty tape on the wrong side of the box to open it up. I am a born engineer, when in doubt, turn on destructive testing mode.

My unit is the Graphite colour version - not black, not grey, somewhere in between. It feels heavy, no doubt courtesy of the (up to) 16 hours battery. The build quality is solid as would be expected of something that is claims to be drop proof, with IP67 water and dustproof rating. Marketing aside, IP67 means protection from contact with harmful dust, and capable of withstanding fresh water immersion between 15cm and 1m for 30 minutes.

The Megablast stands 237mm tall with a diameter of 88mm. The volume buttons are unmistakable covering over a third of the height of the unit. Power button is on top, a second button is multi-function - it is used for Bluetooth connectivity, indicate the status of the microphone. The Bluetooth button in combination with volume down will mute the mics.

This leads to a feature that's new to the Boom family - the Megablast has Amazon Alexa built-in, and does not require an Echo or Dot. In order for Alexa to work, the Megablast has wifi connectivity and far-field voice recognition microphones. Muting the mics activates Alexa Privacy Mode.

 

Configuration
Luckily for me getting the Megablast up and running was pretty idiot proof, as I obviously needed a little extra help that day. The instruction manual is short and to the point - download the Ultimate Ears app and follow the bouncing ball. Except the Ultimate Ears app does not support Megablast, but a handy tap takes me to the Play Store to the Megablast app. The installation takes over the old Ultimate Ears app so you do not end up with two icons to get confused over.

Megablast topConnectivity is via Bluetooth, I did not have any issues with it on my Android Pie device. There were some glitches with an Android Nougat, which should be of no surprise to anyone. Follow the bouncing ball, first get Bluetooth connection, then connect to your local wifi network. The app will automatically check for any firmware updates and download them if available. Wifi connectivity is essential for voice control.

If you want Alexa then sign into your Amazon account at this point. The Megablast also comes with a 3 months Deezer Premium subscription. This is the extent of the setup needed for the basics.

The app comes with an equaliser function, with pre-configuration for "The Standard", Voices, Cramped Spaces and Bass Jump. There is also a custom mode that is user configured.

 

In Use
Actually I am sitting in bed typing this review up, my partner is doing the whole Marie Kondo thing cleaning up her wardrobe in the room. Alexa has found our radio station via voice command and we are both excited to have some music in the room with us.

We share our room with our 9 month old daughter, the volume is down around 20% but the sound is crystal clear and well defined. I have left the equaliser on "The Standard" which works just fine for us right now.

The Megablast does have a maximum sound level of 93 decibels. Obviously sound levels varies depending on distance from source, but it is roughly equivalent to a jack hammer level of sound. It is definitely in the range of hearing damage from sustained exposure at that level.

The far field microphones are a real treat. I whispered to Alexa to stop the music to avoid waking up my daughter. At other times, I can just talk to it from a distance to get it to do what I want. When the music is really pumping though, a bit over 60% volume, you would need to raise your voice or get closer before Alexa gets to hear you. Fair enough.

App EQAs always, I love throwing James Blake's Limit to Your Love at a speaker to test the bass. I followed it up with Ramin Djawadi's stunning score Light of the Seven (Game of Thrones), and Ólafur Arnalds' Re:member. It was streamed wirelessly from my phone and the quality was just remarkable. The sound was dynamic and details, punchy rhythms, precise bass, all from a relatively small product. The internal design now features two 25mm tweeters, two 55mm active drivers and two 85mm x 50m passive radiators. In this size, the bass is never going to make you run to the toilet, but the result really shows in the surprisingly good performance.

The Megablast had no problems filling our modest space with powerful, distortion free and sweet glorious sounds that fills us up. The performance can put some hi-fi stereo speakers to shame.

 

Amazon Alexa
As mentioned earlier, Amazon Alexa is now built-in for voice control, naturally wifi connectivity is a must for this to work.

Voice control for music is compatible for Amazon Music, Spotify, Deezer, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. Alexa’s skills become more useful the more smart elements you have in your home. You can add skills to Alexa, tapping into that vast ecosystem to extend the functionality further. Personally I am rather excited at leveraging some of the family games and educational skills to go with the kids.

 

Other Features
With another Megablast or a Blast, you could set it up it stereo mode either through Bluetooth or wifi. Unfortunately the PartyUp mode that is available for the Boom series is not available here.

Out of the box, the Megablast has a removable D-ring that hides a standard tripod mount insert.

There is also an optional wireless charging base for the Megablast.

 

In the Box
1 x Ultimate Ears Megablast
1 x Micro USB cable
1 x D-ring
1 x Power supply

 

Megablast bottomGripes
There is very little to complain about. The charging port is a tight fit so not all cables will fit in.

More importantly, the only indicator for Alexa is the small silver led strip at the top of the Megablast. This limits any clear indication that Alexa is listening unless the unit is placed below eye level. And you are out of luck if the unit is being charged upside down.

 

Conclusions
It did not take us long to fall in love with the Ultimate Ears Megablast. We have always relied on playing Spotify from our smart TV for music when we potter around our main living area, and our mobiles anywhere else. Now we just drag the Megablast with us, ask Alexa to play a radio station and we are just happy to have it in the background. For a speaker in this category, the sound is simply terrific.

The Ultimate Ears Megablast is available in Graphite, Mojito (my partner's favourite of the lot), Merlot and Lemonade, at a RRP of AUD$379.95.

 

Specifications
360 sound
Maximum Sound Level: 93 dBC
Frequency Range: 60Hz - 20kHz
Drivers: Two 25mm tweeters, two 55mm active drivers and two 85mm x 50mm passive radiators

Hands-free voice control
Amazon Alexa built-in for hands-free voice on Wi-Fi, both at home or on-the-go. BLAST / MEGABLAST is a standalone Alexa enabled device and does not require an Echo or Dot.

Far-field voice recognition
Multiple microphones with beam forming technology and noise cancellation enable a smooth far field voice recognition and control experience.

Power
Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery for up to 16 hours of battery life.

Compatibility
Requires a Wi-Fi router with 802.11 a,b,g, or n for first time setup. Audio Playback supported for Bluetooth® devices with advanced audio distribution profile (A2DP).

Wireless capabilities
Dual-band Wi-Fi supports 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 and 5 GHz) networks
Bluetooth - Pair up to 8 Bluetooth® enabled source devices.
Wi-Fi range: 100m / 330ft>
Bluetooth range: 45m / 150ft

System Requirements
Wi-Fi network and a compatible Android or iOS mobile device required. Minimum OS requirements are iOS 10.2 or Android 5.0. Certain skills and services may require subscription or other fees. When tethering to a mobile device hotspot, standard data rates may apply.

Waterproof
IP67 waterproof and dustproof. MEGABLAST can be immersed in liquid up to 1m for up to 30 minutes.

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