New UE Blast and Megablast speakers jump on Alexa train

Ultimate Ears' first Wi-Fi speakers are the latest to include Amazon's Alexa voice-powered assistant.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
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David Carnoy
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The speakers ship in late October.

John Falcone/CNET

Ultimate Ears has gone from boom to blast.

Its new Blast and Megablast portable speakers are shaped like its earlier Boom 2 and Megaboom Bluetooth speakers but the new models add Wi-Fi connectivity and Amazon Alexa voice control. They respectively cost $230 (£200) and $300 (£270) and you can also purchase an optional Power Up charging base for an additional $40 (£35). There's no word yet on Australian pricing or availability.

As with Amazon's Echo devices, to use Alexa you have to be connected to Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot. You get access to the more than 25,000 skills available for Alexa, including the ability to control smart home products.

That said, only Amazon Music , iHeartRadio and TuneIn music services will be Alexa-enabled at launch. UE expects to add voice control for Pandora and Deezer in the future, but there's no word yet on when the speakers will get voice control support for Spotify. However, you can stream any music service via Bluetooth .

Watch this: Ultimate Ears' Blast and Megablast speakers add Amazon Alexa voice control

The Blast is very similar to the Boom 2 but UE says the Megablast has been completely redesigned from the "ground up" and is equipped with new drivers that deliver enhanced sound with a top volume that's 40 percent louder than the Megaboom's. Both new speakers are fully waterproof with a range of 330 feet (100 meters) on Wi-Fi and 150 feet (45 meters) on Bluetooth.

Battery life for the Blast is up to 12 hours, and 16 hours for the Megablast. There's also a new Ultimate Ears app, which will allow you to update the speakers with new features over time.

It's worth mentioning that the earlier Boom 2 and Megaboom will remain in the line, but will only be compatible with the old UE app. That means you won't be able to link older UE speakers with the new Blast and Megablast. UE also notes that at launch you'll only be able to play music through one Blast or Megablast at a time; you can't link them.

The speakers are set to ship at the end of October in six colors, though some colors will be limited to certain regions: The US will get Graphite (Black), Blizzard (White), Blue Steel and Merlot (Red), but Mojito (Green) and Lemonade (Yellow) will only be available in the UK. UE will also sell speakers bundled with the Power Up charging base for a small discount. 

While the Blast and Megablast join an increasingly crowded Alexa smart speaker market, the fact that they're battery-powered and water-resistant set them apart from AC-powered, indoor-only competitors like the new Sonos One, second-gen Echo and Echo Plus.

We'll have full reviews in the coming weeks. 

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These colors will only be available in the UK.

Nic Henry/CNET