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Radical and practical? That might best describe UE’s newest very portable Bluetooth speaker, the UE Roll. The once upon a time only headphone company unveiled the Roll just a few weeks ago. And while I was able to nab it ahead of time, I’ve been running it through its paces to ensure I can provide a thoughtful review. So here goes. Is it up to the task of competing with other top-rated Bluetooth speakers?
The UE Roll comes in just one shape, but in a variety of finishes. And I’m not talking black, yellow, or green. Though, they offer black, purple, and blue. But there are also fun colorways (and names) such as Reef, Piñata, and Sriracha. Of course, the latter keeps things spicy. As does their Origami-inspired packaging.
On the face are UE’s signature buttons; plus and minus to do you know what. Press them together, and a voice will sound, telling you the remaining battery life. The tag is fabric. And while it’s a nice touch that makes the speaker feel a bit more organic, it’s just for show. You can also check out the UE Boom Bluetooth speaker review for a speaker with longer battery life.
Everything about this best Bluetooth speaker is sealed, and nicely done so with a rubber backing and a fabric-like face – even the buttons are coated in fabric. The speaker has the requisite power and pair buttons. They’re on the back, which is how the UE Roll will primarily be placed; on its back, at least when it’s not hanging up.
But what doesn’t show is the bungee cord strapped to the back. It’s quite possibly the best thing to ever, yes, ever happen to a Bluetooth speaker. Hanging it on a door or a shower is a no-brainer. But less obvious, or perhaps in my case painfully obvious, is strapping it to the handlebars of a bicycle. Other Bluetooth speakers have tried to solve this issue by providing what ultimately becomes a cumbersome mount. The UE Roll is the opposite. And when the bungee isn’t needed, it tucks away neatly.
Waterproof – if you’re into that thing called swimming, or beaching as some tend to do – is a default feature. As is dirt resistance, all thanks to a plasma coating. Officially the UE Roll is IPX7 rated, just like the JBL Clip 3, which means it can last submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes with no issues. Check out the UE Wonderboom 2 review for another IP67 speaker that floats on water.
And yes, it will sink if placed in the drink. Unless of course, you inflate the included flotation device, which will get you stares, questions, and probably some jokes. It works, though. Just inflate, insert the bungee through the holes and you’ll be in business, provided you don’t have an Olympic-sized swimming pool that could “outrange” the speakers 30ft or so range.
For added control, including powering the UE Roll on and off remotely, there is an app. It’s not the same app as Roll’s big brothers, but UE says they have plans to unify things. With it downloaded and paired, you’ll be able to modify the UE Roll’s EQ as well as pair it to another UE Roll for stereo sound and what ultimately should be a better sound stage. UE says soon you’ll be able to pair 3 or more together with a max of, I believe, 8 speakers. For now, though, you can set an alarm and wake up to tunes or a simple chime.
It’s a small speaker. So you’ll need to concede on the bass end of things. Which is to say it is what it is; a slightly “bright” Bluetooth speaker. Because it’s effectively a circle it does provide 360 sound coverage, and with it room-filling sound. Loudness doesn’t seem to be an issue, as it can crank especially given its overall physical size and weight of just 12oz. “Impressive” is what many have called it when played at full amplitude.
Strapped to my bicycle’s handlebars, it didn’t shift around or slip down despite being held in place by a simple but effective bungee cord. My co-riders didn’t have much to say about it, that is until they noticed it wasn’t playing. So the UE Roll confirms that absence makes the heart grow fonder (for Bluetooth speakers).
Lastly: battery. This is always a tough one to gauge. UE specs it 9 hours of use, depending on how loud you play it. I was able to achieve about 2 hours of use whereupon a check of the battery stated 60% of the juice was left. Not exactly 9 hours, but not bad.
Being on the top of the list of best portable Bluetooth speakers, the UE Roll may not have the same audio gusto as some other Bluetooth speakers, but there are a few things to consider. First, it was just $99. Second, it has a built-in bungee cord, which means it can be used anywhere you can strap it; shower, bicycle, car, surfboard. Third, it’s waterproof and dirt/dustproof (hello beach!). Fourth, it’s highly portable thanks to its slender size and weight of just 12oz. Needless to say, there are a variety of Bluetooth speakers that accomplish the aforementioned. But good luck finding one that does all of them.