UE Megaboom speaker takes a licking and keeps on kicking out the jams

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The UE Megaboom Bluetooth speaker brings the noise in a nearly indestructible package.
UE Megaboom bluetooth speaker. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s easy to see how the UE Megaboom could become your favorite way to listen to music. The new Bluetooth speaker packs great features into a rugged cylindrical package that won’t go tits up if you drop it or leave it out in the rain.

The UE Megaboom is bigger and louder than its predecessor, the similarly shaped UE Boom. It delivers glittering, precise highs and satisfying bass. It’s lightweight and boasts a 20-hour rechargeable battery. All in all, it’s a perfect device for the way we listen to music in the streaming era.

“Music as we know it is becoming less and less tangible,” said Rory Dooley, senior vice president of Ultimate Ears, during an impressive demo of the UE Megaboom at Cult of Mac headquarters in San Francisco. To counter the ephemeral nature of music that comes from the clouds, Ultimate Ears wants to reconnect us to our tunes wherever we are. That means eliminating the hassle of wires and any niggling concerns about damaging an expensive gadget.

Now that many of us have moved beyond LPs, CDs and even downloads, Ultimate Ears wants to put its highly portable speakers at the center of your listening experience.

In their perfect world, you should be able to use your smartphone to set an alarm that will turn on your speaker, waking you at a predetermined time with a pre-picked song. You should feel free to pick up the Megaboom and sashay into the shower with it: The speaker’s IPX7 rating means you can listen to tunes as you wash the stink off. You can also answer incoming phone calls, since the Megaboom doubles as a surprisingly great speaker phone.

UE Megaboom: Excellent audio on the go

It’s impressive how much sound the 1.7-pound speaker pumps out — and how vibrant music sounds coming out of the speaker, which is about the size of a wine bottle without a neck. The free UE app (available for iPhone and Android) lets you adjust the equalization to suit your ears and your surroundings.

While a single UE Megaboom delivers 360-degree sound that easily fills a large room with great jams, you can pair a couple of the speakers to run in stereo. A future software update promises the ability to link six or eight Megabooms, so you could conceivably rock a large backyard with a series of the speakers.

The ability to enhance the speaker’s software with over-the-air updates, just like your cellphone, means it can be upgraded easily, taking a bite out of the planned obsolescence that plagues many electronics products.

“We really have a platform here, and that platform is updatable,” said Dooley.

The smaller, $199 UE Boom will also get an update, which will enable Boom-to-Megaboom pairing, remote on and off switching and over-the-air updates in the future. The smaller speaker has been a success, Dooley said, although the company won’t reveal actual sales numbers.

Megaboom speaker is nearly indestructible

Though the Megaboom and Boom are both very lightweight, they are what Dooley calls “non-precious objects.” A stain-resistant polyester nylon shell covers and protects the speaker assembly.

“It actually took us forever and a day to find [the right material],” said Dooley. When the Megaboom launches this month with a list price of $299, it will come in four colors: blue, black, red and purple.

Both the Megaboom and its smaller sibling withstand drops that would doom lesser electronics, as seen in UE’s torture-test video and verified during Dooley’s demo, during which he forcefully threw the Megaboom to the ground. The speaker was none the worse for wear, despite a rather hard landing on our office’s concrete floor.

The Megaboom we tested worked exactly as you’d hope. It paired quickly and reliably.The Megaboom will maintain connections up to 100 feet, according to Dooley, thanks to clever antenna design and the use of Class 1 Bluetooth, which uses slightly more energy than the Class 2 typically used in Bluetooth speakers.

The connection was quite robust in our tests. I listened to it throughout a fairly large house during a cabin-fever Christmas break. The connection never crapped out, whether I was carrying the phone or the speaker around the house. It was perfect for setting humdrum chores to an energizing soundtrack — just call up Spotify or your favorite streaming service, then carry the Megaboom to the kitchen to do some dishes, tote it to the laundry room to fold some clothes, then carry it as you deliver clean garments to various rooms.

That combination of ultimate portability, “life-proof” properties and captivating audio quality makes the UE Megaboom perfect for taking to the beach or the barbecue, the shower or the sauna, and there’s no need to worry if you get a little tipsy and leave the speaker outside overnight.

Unless, that is, you’ve got neighbors who’ve been listening to your backyard jams and eyeing the incredible little speaker that pumps them out. There’s no protection against gadget envy.

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