SAN FRANCISCO — Not content to conquer the Bluetooth speaker market with tubes and bigger tubes, Ultimate Ears made its latest portable audio device look like a lily pad. They made it waterproof, too. The only problem was, the UE Roll sank like a stone.
“As life would have it, it doesn’t float,” said Rory Dooley, Ultimate Ears’ senior vice president, during a visit to the Cult of Mac headquarters.
The solution? Create a tiny life preserver for the UE Roll, and give it away to anybody who orders the hottest speaker of the summer directly from UE’s website (while supplies last).
LAS VEGAS — Walk the halls of the massive International CES trade show and you’ll be bombarded by an outrageous number of pitches for products with radical new features.
You can glimpse the shiny happy future of consumer electronics at the show, although some of the innovations on display are clearly destined for the dustbin of gadget history.
At the biggest booths, reps for big companies like Sony and Samsung — but, sadly, not Apple — talk up the latest additions to their product lines. At smaller booths, inventors show off prototypes for products that may not ever roll off an assembly line. There’s a nonstop blitz of “world’s first” products.
It’s impossible to see everything, but it’s a blast trying. Here are Cult of Mac’s picks for the best of CES 2015, from Lightning-enabled headphones and massive TVs to drones and self-adjusting belts.
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.
When I received the UE Boom in the mail and opened the mailing box, I thought maybe the PR rep had secretly slipped me a bottle of Scotch. Not that I would have minded, of course.
UE Boom by Ultimate Ears/Logitech Category: Bluetooth Speaker Works With: Any Bluetooth Audio Source Price: $199.99
It turns out that this ruggedized little portable Bluetooth speaker by Logitech-owned Ultimate Ears (UE) comes in some slick packaging that I’m loathe to get rid of, it’s that cool. The cylindrical speaker fits snugly in the center portion of the box, and each side has a cute little compartment where the bright yellow power plug and flat premium micro USB cable fit in, each with its respective symbol printed on a little flag. It’s striking packaging, which should go over well with consumers.
Luckily, the actual speaker here, a smallish cylinder made to be set on end vertically as well as on its side horizontally, is a fantastic sounding Bluetooth speaker, with a full, clear tonal spectrum that’s surprising in something so small. The bass response could be a bit punchier, but I don’t find that to be an issue at all, and actually prefer the more balanced tonal approach.
When one company swallows another, it’s common for a slow shift in rebranding and design to occur as the two entities thrash out their roles and relationship. The latest shift in the Logitech-Ultimate Ears story — Logitech purchased UE in 2008 — occured a month or so ago, when Ultimate Ears was rebranded as Logitech UE and launched a suite of high-end, blue-tinged soundware, with a product selection that reached far beyond the in-ear monitors the company has thus far been known for. In fact, out of seven new gadgets, just one new IEM was introduced: the Logitech UE 900 ($400), a quad-armature earphone that now sits at the pinnacle of UE’s non-custom earphone line.
The UE 900 has lineage, of course; we loved the snug fit, solid build and amazing sound of its antecedent, the TripleFi 10. But the TripleFi 10 is gone, and the UE 900 has stepped into its place with new ergonomics, a new sound — and a lot of blue.
So far it’s been pretty consistent: Each time we review a set of Ultimate Ears ‘phones, the bar leaps up a few notches as our expectations regarding the outfit’s offerings rise. After reviewing the 350, 700, and especially the 600vi — which garnered a best-in-class verdict — we were expecting the TripleFi 10 ($400) to slay vampires and cure cancer.
Of Ultimate Ears’ more serious offerings — and by serious, I’m referring to UE’s armature-equipped models, which start at $100 — the TripleFi 10 is by far the most serious, with three drivers and a crossover in each ear, pro-level detachable leads, the thickest cable we’ve ever seen on an IEM, Comply foam tips (the best tips, period) and a sound signature that’ll have you madly running through your entire music catalog with a big, gleeful smile plastered all over your face.
Almost all mic-equipped canalphones that can be had for about $100 use moving-coil drivers to produce sound, as is the case with all the previous IEMs in this review series. But the Ultimate Ears 600vi ($120) are different — this set employs a single tiny armature in each ear. Armatures generally allow for a more neutral sound with better definition than their moving-coil brethren, and that’s exactly the case with the 600vi. In fact, this set uses pretty much the same excellent drivers as in the now-discontinued, $180 SuperFi 5vi we reviewed early last year.
And yes, apart from the V-Moda Vibrato, the 600vi is $20 more than the other earphones in this review series — but we think the extra Jackson is worth it.