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HOME / Audio / UE BLAST vs MEGABLAST Review (vs Amazon Echo 2 & Google Home)
UE BLAST vs MEGABLAST Review (vs Amazon Echo 2 & Google Home)
UE BLAST & MEGABLAST are Alexa-Enabled Smart Speakers - Here's How They Compare!
Bluetooth speakers used to the big thing…now, voice-enabled smart speakers are everywhere. Ultimate Ears was (and still is) a huge player when it comes to Bluetooth speakers, but the smart speaker market is moving quickly and they needed in. Enter the BLAST and MEGABLAST, which are essentially Alexa-enabled versions of the BOOM 2 and MEGABOOM, allowing you to (among other things) play music simply by asking Alexa.
In this post we’re going to cover what you can expect from the BLAST and MEGABLAST and how they compare to the Amazon Echo 2 and Google Home. If you’re unfamiliar with the smart speaker category, it might be helpful for you to start with our Amazon Echo 2 vs Google Home vs Echo Plus comparison. For now, let’s run through what you can expect of the BLAST and MEGABLAST. In the other sections we’ll cover why you’d opt for the Echo 2 or Google Home over the UE speakers.
Ultimate Ears BLAST & MEGABLAST Review – What Can They Do?
The first (and by far the most popular) use case for these speakers is to play music. This time, however, instead of playing music purely over Bluetooth, you get the option to stream music natively via Amazon Alexa over Wi-Fi. From the outset, both speakers work with Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Audible, and TuneIn, but Deezer and Pandora are supposedly coming soon. Spotify is curiously missing, but you can stream Spotify (and other services such as Apple Music) over Bluetooth if you’d like.
Also, just so you know, steaming music via Wi-Fi, as opposed to Bluetooth does have a few advantages, including:
– Improved audio quality since audio is not re-compressed, as it is with Bluetooth
– Getting a call on your phone does not interrupt the music
– Typically, Wi-Fi range is better than with Bluetooth range
– Wi-Fi doesn’t drain your phone’s battery life
Both speakers offer virtually 360° of sound and get surprisingly loud, which is pretty great. You can put the speakers in the center of the room and they will certainly fill that room up with sound.
And one major advantage that these two speakers have compared to most smart speakers is that they’re wireless and water resistant down to 1 meter for 30 minutes (neither will float, however). You can access Alexa throughout your house or any place that has Wi-Fi. Even better is that you can use either speaker as your general Bluetooth speaker in the event that Wi-Fi is not available. So, they’re really serving two purposes: your smart speaker at home and your portable Bluetooth speaker on the go. It’s a pretty neat concept.
UE also offers a separate charging cradle [see on Amazon] that really ups the convenience factor when you plan to use this partially at home and partially on the go. Otherwise, you have to plug it in via MicroUSB each time you want to charge the device.
Power Up Charging Dock for BLAST & MEGABLAST
You can also control your various smart home devices using the BLAST and MEGABLAST. Basically, if the device is compatible with Alexa, you can control it via voice as long as you’ve set it up within the Alexa app. There are hundreds if not thousands of Alexa compatible devices, including from big brands such as Nest, Ring, Philips Hue, Logitech, Ecobee, Honeywell, and more.
Beyond music and smart home control, the next biggest feature is shopping. You’ll be able to add items to your Amazon cart all by asking Alexa. So, for the next time you run out of AAA batteries or protein bars, ask Alexa to add them to your Amazon cart…you’ll be good to go.
Other requests that you might have for Alexa include:
– Sports updates — get score updates for your favorite teams
– Weather — get weather updates for your current location or any location
– News — get a personalize flash briefing from your preferred new sources
– Traffic — find out about current traffic conditions
– Timers — start/stop timers
– Reminders — have Alexa remind you to do something
– Calendar — get updates from you calendar
– Games — play various games such as trivia and Jeopardy
– Lists — create lists
– Movies — find out which movies are playing right now (among other requests)
– Unit conversions — convert meters to feet, ounces to quarts, etc.
– Ask questions — where did Todd Gurley go to college?
UE BLAST Review – Where it Gets the Edge?
Everything mentioned above applies to both the BLAST & MEGABLAST, but where does the BLAST get the edge when comparing the two?
The second advantage is portability. The speaker is smaller and lighter than the MEGABLAST. It’s actually 2″ shorter and 1.5LB lighter than the MEGABLAST. The BLAST is about the size of a 16oz can and the MEGABLAST is about the size of two 12oz cans stacked up.
Complaints with the UE BLAST & MEGABLAST
The biggest problem that we have is the price. At $230 and $300, they are quite a bit more expensive than your standard smart speaker from Amazon or Google. In fact, they’re both even more expensive than the Harman Kardon Invoke and Sonos One. Even with the portability element, it’s hard to justify the exorbitant price tag. To put it into perspective, you could get the Amazon Echo 2 for home and a $100 Bluetooth speaker for travel and still save money.
Alexa also happens to be less accurate and slower to react with the BLAST and MEGABLAST, as compared to a proper Alexa device. I’ve found that Alexa on the UE speakers gets things wrong more often than does the Echo 2, for example. Even more, the UE speakers can be 1-2 seconds slower than the Echo 2 in response time, which can be annoying. And, the indicator light on the top of the UE speakers is far less noticeable and clear than that on the Echo speakers. When you request things of Alexa, you can tell that she’s thinking with an Echo speaker, but quite often it’s hard to tell what’s going on with the UE speakers.
And lastly, while this is a minor point, the volume level between Alexa and your music is crazy. Alexa is quiet even when your music is at 50% volume. Often times I couldn’t even hear Alexa from across the room even though the music was comfortably audible. Kind of weird and I’m sure this can be fixed with a software update, but worth mentioning nonetheless.
The biggest reason is loudness. You could probably say audio quality as well, but they sound similar in all honesty. Both are good here. The MEGABLAST just happens to get much louder. The BLAST will fill up small to medium sized rooms, but the MEGABLAST is ideal for larger rooms and outdoor use.
The MEGABLAST also has better battery life. Depending on usage, the MEGABLAST can get up to 16 hours of battery life on a single charge while the BLAST is up to 12 hours. Both are really good in terms of battery life, but the larger size of the MEGABLAST means it can store a larger battery. Even so, it’s advisable to keep the speakers plugged in at home.
UE MEGABLAST vs BLAST – Bottom Line
Beyond battery life, loudness, and audio quality, there’s nothing really extra that you get with the MEGABLAST. It’s a pretty good smart speaker, but the price is far too rich for us.
We’ve published plenty of other posts about the Echo 2 so I won’t get into the minutiae with this speaker. Instead, we’ll focus on how it compares to the UE speakers directly and where it gets the edge.
UE BLAST vs Echo 2 – Why go Amazon?
The Echo 2 has all of the features listed above related to Alexa. The biggest reason to opt for this speaker is price. It retails for $100 [check current price on Amazon]. I’m no math whiz, but you can buy 2.3 Echo speakers for the price of one BLAST. While the UE speakers do offer better audio quality, the Echo 2 is not bad at all…it’s actually really good. It sounds fairly clear and crisp with solid overall sound quality. Also, as you can see below, the Echo 2 (at this point) supports more streaming services than the UE BLAST or MEGABLAST.
UPDATE 1/18/18: UE BLAST and MEGABLAST now support Pandora and SiriusXM.
Hands-free calling is the next advantage with the Echo 2. You can have Alexa call anyone from your phonebook or numbers within the US, Mexico, and Canada. No calling features for the UE speakers.
You can also setup multi-room listening with Echo speakers. You can have one speaker in your room and one in the living room, both playing the same song at the same time. Can’t do this with UE.
You can pair Echo speakers with other speakers via AUX or Bluetooth. Currently, there is no option to pair the UE speakers with other speakers, unfortunately.
UE MEGABLAST vs Echo 2 – Why Go Amazon?
Basically the same story here since there’s no functional difference between the two UE speakers. One thing that we should clarify is that the Echo 2 is also a Bluetooth speaker, it’s just not portable. As such, if you want to manually control music. playback on your phone, you can in fact do that with the Echo 2.
For us, the portability factor and audio quality are not enough to justify the additional cost with the UE speakers. The Echo 2 isn’t perfect, but for $100, it’s definitely good enough.
This is going to be a similar story to the Echo 2. The Google Home has an MSRP of $130 [check current price at Walmart]. This time I’ll let you do the math. Either way, Google wins on price.
Beyond that, you can customize the look of the Google Home with different fabric bases. Not a huge deal, but it does make the Google Home the most elegant of the speakers on this list. I can better picture the Google Home in an office or professional environment than UE or Amazon.
Google also has a translation service that allows you to translate languages in real time. You can simply speak to the device and it will regurgitate it back in your designated language. We’ve seen that it’s not always spot on in terms of dialect and grammar, but nice to have the feature nonetheless, especially since Google is the only brand to offer this.
You also get a hands-free calling feature with Google. Again, not available with UE. Also, you can pair it with other speakers that have a Chromecast Audio plugged in. This allows you to do multi-room listening.
A few advantages that UE does have over Google include:
– More smart home devices — Alexa technically is compatible with more brands and devices than Google. Even so, Google works with the same category of devices, just not as many brands…most of the big ones though like Nest, Ring, Philips Hue, Honeywell, Ecobee, etc.
– Shopping — You’ll be shopping via Walmart with the Google Home. UE and Alexa allows you to shop via Amazon, which is better and more seamless shopping experience.
UE MEGABLAST vs Google Home
Nothing changes here. The MEGABLAST is just a larger version of the BLAST and thus the advantages for Google and for UE hold.