Ultimate Ears have detonated released the MEGABLAST and BLAST. True to their heritage they are portable, IP67 waterproof, with the distinctive Ultimate Ears 360° sound, bass/mid signature.

MEGABLAST is Ultimate Ears loudest speaker to date pumping out 93dB (40% louder than MEGABOOM) and has Amazon Alexa Voice control. That means both Wi-Fi dual band and Bluetooth built in.

BLAST is Ultimate Ears portable ‘drink-bottle’ size also with Amazon Alexa. Its characteristics are like the Boom 2. We estimate this speaker should top out at around 80dB.

Ultimate Ears (a Logitech company) does not publish specifications like watts RMS or total harmonic distortion, so the only way you can judge their products is to listen to them. GadgetGuy will be reviewing these in mid-May.

Ultimate Ears

Chris LaBrutto, Global Product Director for Ultimate Ears, gave GadgetGuy a preview

Ultimate Ears“When we design acoustic systems, we try to achieve a frequency response curve that is as flat as possible. Some brands want things to be loud, so they artificially pull back on bass and use the energy that they save from pulling back on bass to drive the SPL [sound pressure level] higher.”

Chris was right. Our frequency Response meter showed 20Hz-20kHz response flat from around 65Hz to 15kHz – fantastic for a waterproof speaker. Sound signature is warm and sweet (bass/mids boosted, treble recessed) typical of Sony speakers. Regrettably, the App has no EQ function.

Although we did not achieve 93dB from the MEGABLAST, it was louder than expected from a portable speaker. At full volume, the signature was still true when most other portable speakers develop a shrill harshness.

Ultimate EarsGadgetGuy: Why choose Alexa? Yes, we know it has been around longer in the US, but here Google Assistant seems to be on a stronger ascent.

Chris: We chose Alexa to start with because at least in the US, consumers are gravitating towards that platform. It has the largest installed base, the most momentum, and the biggest ecosystem of supported products.

In the long run, we will follow our customers wherever they go. As they begin to adopt other platforms, we’ll find a way to support them. Same as with our Bluetooth speakers, we support iOS and Android. We want to support all the big platforms that customers use. It’s going to be the same with our line of connected speakers.

By the way, there are hardware differences between what Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri need.

GadgetGuy: You have a lot of stiff competition with Alexa and other speakers.

Chris: Our guiding motto is that getting better has no finish line. We stick to mobility, durability, and won’t compromise Ultimate Ears sound quality, and build quality. There may be better Alexa Hi-Fi audiophile speakers, but not better mobility speakers.

Ultimate Ears is great for kids. Their natural instinct is to want to throw our WONDERDBOOM (GadgetGuy review here) around like a football, dunk it in the pool, take it into the bath/shower and that is true mobility. At the same time, MEGABLAST and BLAST add Amazon Alexa voice control and all that offers. I see these in the kitchen, paired up for stereo and grouped in party mode (coming). These are things that make Ultimate Ears special.

Back to the speakers – applies to MEGABLAST and BLAST

  • Colours: Graphite (Black), Blizzard (White), Blue Steel, Merlot (Red), Mojito (Green) and Lemonade (Yellow). Colours vary by the retail outlet.
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi N dual band and Bluetooth (45m range)
  • App: iOS or Android
  • Wi-Fi music streaming: Clients include Amazon Music, Deezer, iHeart Radio, Tune-In Radio and soon Spotify. Subscriptions may be needed.
  • Bluetooth A2DP allows streaming via the smart device of Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Google Music.
  • Alexa: Amazon account required. Can answer questions, check the weather, set alarms, control smart home devices, and use Alexa partner’s skills. Has three microphones, Far-Field voice recognition and mic mute feature. Alexa and its partners collect personally identifiable information – check its terms of use and privacy policy before use.
  • Waterproof: IP67 means dust tight and up to 1-metre submersion for 30 minutes. Won’t be affected by a quick dip in the pool or shower.
  • Battery: MEGABOOM up to 16 hours. BLAST up to 12 hours. Charging Base for both is $49.95 and allows simultaneous play and charge. Supplied with USB-A to micro-USB flat cable and charger.
  • Mounting: Removable 1/4” D-Ring mount on base.
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Missing: Airplay, NFC, multi-point pairing to more than one device, no AUX In or 3.5mm port

Ultimate Ears

Price

MEGABLAST (A$379)

BLAST (A$279)

GadgetGuy’s take: Ultimate Ears – yes.  Alexa – maybe

First, don’t think we are anti-Alexa in any way. There are three worthy competitors for the AI assistant to rule us all. We see Alexa more as a tool employed by Amazon and its partners (skills) to serve you as a retail shopping client.

Second, in Australia, we see, and feel, that Google Assistant is on a far steeper ascent to greatness, if only because of its search engine and that it waited for the other voice assistants to make mistakes first.

Apple’s HomeKit/HomePod and Siri will remain Apple user’s preference.

But our call is that eventually Siri, Cortana, Bixby, LG ThinQ,  Alexa et al. will simply become device clients that access the great AI Skynet. That is where we find it hard to see Alexa beating Google. No, the fight may be between good old IBM Watson (as a vast AI) and Google (with its vast indexed knowledge base).

2018 is the year of the personal assistant. They may be primitive in comparison to what we expect, but they will get there.

So back to speakers. Ultimate Ears is almost in a class of its own as a mobile Bluetooth speaker. Just decide if you want Alexa.