Ultimate Ears (now owned by Logitech) has found great success in the marketplace with its "Boom" series of Bluetooth speakers, a modest tube about the size of your typical energy-drink can, that puts out sufficient volume to provide a wireless soundtrack of music for an intimate gathering, or double as an on-the-fly conference call speaker. Sometimes, however, you need to go large, and for that the company offers the Megaboom, a bigger speaker that offers even more volume for when you need more people to hear the music. How big is too big for a speaker like this? How loud is too loud?
We've used the Megaboom a number of times for presentations to rooms of up to 100 people without an issue (though the main room we used had very good acoustics), so we can definitely see this filling up a house party with sound, and of course the Megaboom can be paired with a second one to create either a true stereo effect, or to fill a very large room with sound. This thing has some volume on it, though we confess it is -- regardless of EQ adjustment -- set to add bass to whatever is being pumped through it.
Most people would not regard this as a negative, particular when one is using it for a dance party, but we prefer our speakers to be flat by nature, with EQ settings we can use to enhance the bass if desired. It's great for party music, less great on a business call, though the effect can be lessened using the EQ one can find on the free iOS (or Android) UE Megaboom app, which also allows for remote turning on and off the unit, pairing it with another Boom or MegaBoom speaker, and other features.
More than just another Bluetooth speaker
Among the "other" features is the ability to pair the device with up to eight Bluetooth devices, and up to two Bluetooth mobile devices at the same time. Having said that, no it will not play two different tunes at the same time (we checked). It allows the two devices to take turns playing songs or other audio files, so you and a housemate can load up playlists, hit play, and the Megaboom will take turns with the devices for each track.
If you have several people at a gathering who all have (or are willing to download) the UE Megaboom app, there is another feature called "Block Party" that allows up to two other mobile devices to play music through the speaker, with the owner's app in control of which mobile device the speaker will draw music from. If others want to join in, just "boot" one of the existing pairings and add a new one. You can adjust the volume of the speaker through the app, of course, and alternatively you can use gestures with the speaker itself to connect to your device (tap the top once the device is on), pause the music (tap the top again), or skip a song (tap the top of the speaker twice).
Top of the speaker
The top of the speaker also has the power-on button (though the speaker can be activated remotely via Bluetooth Smart from your iPhone), and a "put into discovery mode" button that doubles as a way to answer an incoming call. The side of the tube has massively large buttons (plus and minus, as seen above) for manually controlling volume, or one can use the app. On the bottom is a optionally-detachable rubberized cover to protect the power port (micro USB) and a 3.5mm jack for those unfortunate devices that lack Bluetooth. The speaker is also NFC-friendly if you prefer to (or can) go that route.
Bottom of the speaker
Keeping the sound going, rain or shine
I mentioned that I have used the Megaboom as my speaker for presentations, and here is where I ran across one (minor) complaint with the device: it will turn itself off after 15 minutes of inactivity. This isn't really a problem, as 90 percent or more of users will be streaming music through it, thus never running into the shutoff issue, and may also appreciate that it turns itself off so one doesn't have to think about it.
However, when I was doing demos I would often go 15 minutes without needing the speaker (which was set to amplify system audio, not my microphone), and the process of turning it back on and re-pairing (as was sometimes necessary) could be awkward or time-consuming. If I had my druthers, I'd prefer the speaker went to "sleep" rather than powering down (but at least it lets you know when it does this with an amusing conga sound), or I'd like the option to prevent the powering-down entirely (even at the cost of the battery life).
A big plus with the Megaboom (and the smaller Boom) is that it is highly water-resistant (IPX7 rating), meaning you can take it into the shower, toss it in the pool, or carry it with you into a waterfall (we recommend Enya for waterfall soundtracks). This is, coincidentally, the same rating as the Apple Watch has, and what it means in a nutshell is that you can get it wet all you like, but it mustn't be submerged at too great a depth (more than one meter, or 3.3 feet) for too long (more than 30 minutes). UE abuses the term "waterproof" on its site in describing this, but we didn't test the float-ability of the unit much, so we can't say how likely it is to sink if it falls into a pool. In any event, you have a while to get it out.
As for the range, it's impressive. The unit uses Bluetooth 4.0, and if your iPhone or Android device does to, you'll see a working connection that has a max range of nearly 100 feet -- far better than the 10-30 feet range you may be used to with older Bluetooth devices, though the best range in our testing was achieved outdoors, not indoors. The company says the battery will last up to 20 hours, and our "continuous music" test found that claim to be true, though we also noted that battery life was cut down by a couple of hours with the optional "remote on/off" (which uses BT Smart) feature enabled. We've had a unit for three months now, and have had to charge it twice, but we can't be considered heavy users.
We said it was loud -- the unit will produce up to 90dB of sound, and offers a frequency range of 65Hz to 20kHz (we also told you: lots of bass). In our testing, we found it takes a bit over 2.5 hours to charge it up from dead. There's a tiny LED on the bottom that lets you know when it is charging and when it's done charging, so you have to charge the unit on its side or "upside down" to see it.
The Megaboom is nine inches tall standing up, with a 3.3 inch diameter, and weighs 877 grams (31 ounces, nearly two pounds) outside the case, which adds considerable bulk and weight to the portability of the thing, but includes the charging adapter and cord (neatly stowed) as well as a convenient handle. The speaker by itself has a ring on the bottom that can be attached to something for carrying purposes if you only want to bring the speaker alone. In its case, the whole thing looks like a sophisticated James Bond-type nuclear device, and we wish you luck explaining it to Customs, particularly when you open the case to find the "core" (speaker) inside.
If they want to search this cylinder, let them
If you need a big, loud, portable Bluetooth/NFC speaker, this is the best one we've found in its class. It's unwieldy and overkill for small gatherings, but perfect for big ones, or times when you want more volume than the "normal"-sized Boom or its myriad competitors can offer.
Our chief complaint about the Megaboom is that there is no way we've found to completely neutralize the added bass, which can be minimized but can still be an annoyance to music purists -- but for everyone else, this is a selling point, rather than an issue. The only other complaint we have is an unfair one -- at $300, the MegaBoom is priced competitively to speakers in its class, but the cost effectively prevents us from entertaining the notion of getting a second one -- $600 is a lot to pay just to gain true stereo, though we know a pair of these would get the cops called on us at our next house party.