So this summer I found myself in an interesting position, up until now my wife and I haven’t had any need for portable Bluetooth speakers, but this year we bought a new house with a pool and have spent as much time as we can out in the pool enjoying the tiny window that Ohio offers for good weather. Well, our Razer Leviathan Mini did the job at first but quickly developed a rattle prompting me to look for a new speaker. What I found was that I really didn’t know what I needed feature wise or how a lot of them compare for audio quality and loudness. So I reached out to both the LanOC social media pages (Facebook and Twitter, join us!) as well as my own Facebook as well and asked what everyone was using. There were a few that were mentioned a lot or came highly recommended, I reached out to a few companies and here we are. Ultimate Ears, a subsidiary of Logitech sent two speakers, Creative sent one, and Braven sent one as well. There were others but remember Ohio summers are so short I had to get out testing and not wait any longer. So I’ve been testing these portable speakers and today I want to dive into their features and how each of them performed.
Article Name: Searching for the right poolside portable speaker
Written by: Wes Compton
Pictures by: Wes Compton
Amazon Affiliate Links:
Ultimate Ears Megablast
So Ultimate Ears sent over two different speakers, I wanted to start off with their big and bad new flagship portable speaker, the Megablast. The Megablast and the blast came out last fall and in a lot of ways they look a lot like the Megaboom and Boom 2 but the biggest feature change isn’t even a hardware one. Both of the “Blast” models have Alexa built in, so in addition to being a portable Bluetooth speaker, it is also a portable assistant. This was unique and this is the only speaker out of the ones I’m testing that has this feature so I was very interested in how it would work out. Before getting into the rest of the features though we do need to see what comes in the box.
So the box itself has a slide on cover that is black and has the Ultimate Ears branding up in the top left corner. An actual picture of the speaker takes up most of the space and what stood out to me was that the packaging has the actual color of our speaker on it. You can get the Megablast in four different colors and I went with blue. Normally they would just do one color then have an area with a sticker or a checkmark on the color inside. The box does highlight the Alexa support but on the other side it also mentions it being waterproof, the WIFI/Bluetooth support, 360 audio, and up to 16 hours of battery life.
The inside box was shockingly bright with all of the different colors. This fits Ultimate Ears though, they do a lot of crazy designs on their speakers working with different artists sometimes. Inside the box, the speaker has foam at the top and bottom keeping it in place. Beyond that, there is a note about installing the app to get started and then you can pull out a section to get access to the accessories.
They include an AC to USB wall adapter and a USB cable for charging. The cable is a heavy rubber but flat design that should hold up well.
With the speaker out we can talk a little more about its overall design. For starts, this is the largest speaker that I had come in. It is 9 and 3/8ths inches tall and a 3 ½ inch wide tube. That isn’t HUGE or anything, but keep in mind that it isn’t going to fit in a purse unless you have one of those Mary Poppins bags that can hold anything. It is still more than portable enough though at that size to take with you on vacation, out to the beach, or anywhere else.
The speaker grills cover most of the tube portion with the exception of the front. This is the 360 degree sound that Ultimate Ears mentions. They mention having two 25mm tweeters, two 55mm active drivers, and two 85mm x 50 passive radiators up under the grill. The grill itself is a thick fabric. You can’t see through it at all but it is a mesh. I also love that the grill matches the blue that the rest of the speaker has going on.
There are only a few controls on the entire speaker. You have a plus and a minus sign on the front and then two buttons on top. The plus and minus really stand out because they are in bright white on the blue and their design is an Ultimate Ears styling cue that they use on all of their speakers for volume control. Oddly enough this was also the first thing that others noticed, mentioning it looked like a cross. Now, this isn’t the place for a heavy discussion like that, but I will say that this could be a good thing for some and others a bad thing. I heard from both when showing people. Now the top buttons, one looks like a coin slot. That is the main power button, the slot lights up white and lets you know when Alexa is listening. The other button was used for Bluetooth pairing. That same button should also play/pause/skip as well if needed.
The bottom of the Megablast, like the top and front, is all a nice silicon rubber. All of the normal required stuff is actually cut into the bottom including the serial number. Then in the middle, they have a plug covering the micro-USB charging plug. The insert or plug is held in place with a metal nut with a flip out half ring to make it easier to screw down.
Now Ultimate Ears also send along their Power Up accessory. This is a charging base that fits the Megablast and the Blast. The box has the same black background and blue logo, it also has the blue Megablast in the picture on the back. Inside it has a warranty paper and simple install instruction sheet.
Also inside is the charging base itself and a replacement thumbscrew for the bottom of the speaker. They don’t include an AC adapter or a USB cable because those are both included with the speaker itself but both will be needed. This charging setup is an additional cost when picking up the Blast or Megablast and its MSRP is $39.99, so it isn’t exactly cheap as well.
So what makes all of this work is that replacement thumbscrew. The original is black and simple. This replacement is unique in that it has a connection in the middle and then the rest is also a connection letting a positive and ground through to charge. I originally thought that maybe they did wireless charging or had a terminal already exposed on the bottom of the speaker. This design is really cool though. It is low voltage DC as well so even sitting in water isn't going to be an issue later for the speaker. So to get everything setup you swap out the original for this one. Then you plug your original USB cable into the charging base.
The Power Up has a full rubber base for good grip. They also used this area to put all of that normally required info for an electronic product.
Here is a look at the built-in contacts at the top. The center one does its thing for positive, then the other two touch the other two touch the thumbscrew for ground. It is a lot like how a light bulb gets power.
When setup there is a tiny LED light on the front that will let you know if it is charging.
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom
So originally Ultimate Ears was going to send the Blast and the Megablast but after spending some time on their website this small little portable speaker called the Wonderboom really caught my eye. The big thing for me was that it floats and given that we were looking at speakers to use out by the pool that isn’t a bad feature to have.
The box for the Wonderboom is fitting to its smaller size. This is an older model and it has an older look and logo. The background is white with the branding over on the left, then a close to a full-size photo of the speaker takes up the rest of the space. The picture has the “fireball” color of our speaker on it as well, given that they currently have 11 different colors available, having the packaging reflect each color is a lot of work. The back of the box is really simple and right to the point with mentions of the 360 audio, it being waterproof, 100ft range, and a 10-hour battery life. They also note that you can pair up two for louder music.
The box opens up like a watch or jewelry box and features the speaker in the middle. Then inside, along with the speaker, you get the charging cable and a safety and warranty paper. I was surprised to see the USB cable be bright yellow, it doesn’t really go with the orange model, but it is very bright and you aren’t going to lose it. It is a USB to Micro-USB cable and they didn’t include an AC adapter so you will have to use your own or plug into your computer.
So the speaker itself is 102mm tall and 93.5mm wide. It is a round tube shape as well like the Megablast but the top and bottom are a lot more rounded off, making it a lot closer to a ball shape. So the Fireball color scheme is just one of many options available. I like my orange so I went this direction but you should check out the options on their website. They have a lot of girly colors and I don’t think any of the color combos look bad. There are also options with designs, they brought a few new designs out earlier this year. Now the smaller size doesn’t mean that you don’t’ still get that cross looking volume control on the front, but the Wonderboom doesn’t have the rubber strip down the front so you get a full 360-degree mesh grill.
The mesh covers up two 40mm drivers and then two 46.1mmx65.2mm passive radiators so this time around there aren’t tweeters. The overall range is rated at 80 Hz to 20 kHz with a max sound level of 86 dB.
Up top, you have a rubber area with the Ultimate Ears branding in it. There are two buttons up here as well. The bottom one with the slot is the power button, this is similar to the Megablast only smaller so it doesn’t look like a coin slot. Then the other is a connect button when held to pair up two speakers or it does the play/pause/skip thing when playing music. Also unique here is the hanging rope loop at the back. It is color matched to the front controls and it can allow you to hook it on a nail on a pier, hang it up in the shower, or anywhere else you can think of.
The bottom of the Wonderboom doesn’t have as much going on. All of the certifications and required info is cut into the bottom and the entire bottom is rubber like the top. This helps keep it in place when not using the hanging loop. Then at the back, there is a plug that covers up the charging port to keep things waterproof. This fits the included USB cable perfectly, you can also use any standard micro-USB cable as well. Just make sure this is plugged back up before getting it in the water.
This picture of the Megablast and the Wonderboom together really helps with the scale of both of them. It is more the Wonderboom being nice and portable more than anything though. This is really the only speaker that I’m testing that you could toss in a normal size purse or maybe even in a large cargo pocket.
So Creative is someone we work with a lot so it wasn’t a surprise at all that they were interested in sending over one of their speakers. They also came highly recommended on my personal friend's list, but then again the Creative reps are also on there, maybe they were slipping tips to people for the recommendations ?. I’m joking obviously, but I was excited to see what they would send. I took a look at their Roar 2 three years ago, and the iRoarGo is an extension of that series. It’s a shame I didn’t keep that one around in the first place, but I left it for my parents to use around their pool and they are still using it.
Anyhow, the iRoarGo comes in a black box and the picture on the front is the main focus. I was actually surprised the branding and model name weren’t a little larger. But I like seeing the product on the front. The rest of the front just mentioned the IPX6 splashproof rating, the 5 drivers, and that this speaker is super wide. On the back Creative lists off all of the features and gives short descriptions of each feature. Beyond that, they do have a specification list in a tiny font as well as a picture that shows you everything you can expect inside of the box.
In the box with the iRoarGo you have a stack of papers. They have the normal warranty stuff in a few different languages, but the papers with the red up top aren’t to bad. You have a user manual and a user guide. The main thing here is just the breakdown of what each button does, most people will figure everything else out. Also in the box, you have the power cable. The iRoarGo uses a power wart with a DC plug, not a micro-USB plug so if you need to charge it up you will have to have this charger with you not just take advantage of USB chargers being all over. The ac adapter comes with swappable plugs for the US and most of Europe. There is also a USB cable included as you can directly hook to your PC or Mac desktop or laptop and use this speaker as your soundcard and speaker. The small headphone jack looking adapter is actually so you can hook up a microphone to the iRoarGo for recording audio or to use this setup as a portable PA.
So the overall shape and size of the iRoarGo is in line with the last Roar that I took a look at. It is 54 x 192 x 97 mm or 2.12 x 7.56 x 3.8 in inches. So it is smaller than the Megablast, actually it is the second smallest speaker tested today but it might be the most portable even though it doesn’t look it. It was basically the perfect size to fit in my pocket, of course, that is a men’s pocket for a large guy but even the Wonderboom, while small, wouldn’t fit this comfortably. It is just over 2 inches thick, but the overall width makes this a little larger. That same width allows for a large speaker grill on the front, behind it is a 2.5-inch subwoofer and two 1.5 inch tweeters (38mm and 64mm). Then there are two passive radiators on the sides. This design, unlike the two from ultimate ears, is designed to push most of its music in one direction, depending on your usage this can allow you to contain it to the area you are listening a little better.
Here are the two passive radiators. They also sometimes call these drone cones because they pull some of the sound that the main drivers push into the enclosure out of the enclosure adding a little more efficiency overall. They are on both ends of the iRoarGo and because they aren’t hidden some people might think these are the “Subs” because they do move, but they aren’t.
The metal grill does wrap around to the bottom, well one of the two optional bottoms. This is for when you want the speakers to face forward not up. Creative also put thick silicone feet on both of the outside edges to keep everything from moving around or damaging the speaker.
So the back is where you will find the actual product name hiding. Also back here are all of the normally required certification logos and a sticker with your serial number on it. There are two LONG feet, one along the top and the other the bottom to keep the iRoarGo lifted up off the surface and to keep it from moving around and protected. The big thing back here though is the vent in the middle. It actually has two functions. This is the port for the speaker enclosure, but they use that same air being pushed to cool the amp inside. I’m told that running the iRoarGo with this facing down will also give you more bass, I will have to try that out in testing!
So there are two locations for controls. The controls you are most likely to use the most are on the front. All of these are your normal controls, most of the portable speakers I’m testing have these. So you have a power button and volume up and down. Then the Bluetooth/speakerphone button. All of those should explain themselves. The source button is really the only unique button here and that is because the iRoarGo has a lot of functionality that the other speakers don’t have. Beyond being a Bluetooth portable speaker, it can also be hooked up directly to your PC as I already mentioned, but I didn’t mention this also works on the PS4. You can hook up an audio jack input or a microphone to use this as a portable PA system or hook up older devices that don’t have Bluetooth. Then there is a built-in storage slot that lets you use a built-in MP3 player to just bring and play your own music without using any internet or other devices. To switch between all of those you would use the source button. Over on the other side, there are a few status LEDs to help let you know what is hooked and what isn’t. The power button and Bluetooth buttons also have LEDs in them as well. The other big feature up here is that tiny NFC logo, well with NFC on your phone you can touch it against this area and it will automatically sync the Bluetooth and get you rolling.
The other controls are up on the top. Here you have the play, pause, and skip forward and back that you will need for the built-in MP3 player. There is also a big shuffle button for the same reason. The record button and the play/pause button next to it though are for the built-in voice recorder. You can use the built-in microphone or hook up a microphone just like when using the PA functionality to record audio and play it back later. Then the Roar button lets you turn on the Roar mode that boosts overall loudness using the built-in signal processor, hitting it a second time turns on the equalizer that you can program using a phone app.
Also on the top is this rubber flap, it’s a fancy flap, isn’t it? Just kidding around, but this does play an important role. It covers all of the connections that the iRoarGo needs. This includes the power plug on the far left, the auxiliary in for audio or a microphone (using the adapter), a standard USB plug, the micro-0USB plug, and a micro SD card slot. The cover helps keep the IPX6 rating for water splashes. I wanted to talk a little about the power plug because while this is a standard design it isn’t standard in mobile devices. So you will need to bring the charger with you if you think you might need to charge it. I would much prefer a micro-USB or Type-C connection that you could charger the iRoarGo up with your mobile phone cord in your car for example. Now the micro-USB port I talked about how it hooks up to your PS4 or Mac/PC to be a speaker. But the other USB port, well you can use this for two things. Using your phones USB charging cable you can bypass Bluetooth and output audio this way. It also lets you use the 5200mAh battery built inside to charge your devices.
Braven Stryde XL
So between you and I, when a good friend had recommended a Braven speaker I hadn’t heard of them before. But after looking around on their website it did look like I may have found what I was looking for. The whole point was to find speakers that could handle being out around the pool and maybe out in the yard when we light the fire pit. Braven’s website is focused on showing their speakers in use while hiking and out in the water. All of which are a lot more demanding than our pool. So with that in mind as well as the high recommendation they were giving I was excited to see what they might send out. They send their Stryde XL.
So right away when the Stryde XL came in I was impressed with their packaging. I’m always a fan of making sure there is at least a real picture of the product on the box, but being able to see the entire thing is WAY better. Braven packaged their speaker in a completely clear plastic enclosure that lets you see the speaker from every angle. The product name ran along the bottom with the Braven branding up top. They also have a short list over on the list of a few key features. Up on the top they slipped in “Go the Distance”. The back of the packaging has more features down along the bottom and Braven social media information all listed out next to them.
Inside the plastic packaging, they did hide the accessories in the bottom section that you can’t see inside. In there you get a warranty and warnings paper, a small get started guide, and then one that shows you how to register the speaker. For accessories, you get a wall wart similar to the Creative speaker. It also has a few different connection options like before as well, for me, I will only need the US power adapter but if you travel you can bring these with you if needed. There is also an audio cable with your normal headphone jacks on both ends to hook up directly.
So the Stryde XL is similar to the iRoarGo in a few ways. It has its drivers facing out the front with two passive radiators on the ends. Because of that design, they do both have that wider shape that is designed to focus the audio more in one direction. The radiators do help get it out to the sides as well, but this isn’t a 360-degree speaker design like the Ultimate Ears. Now the Stryde XL is larger than the iRoarGo, it is 9 and a half inches wide and 5.6 inches tall. Then it is about 2.6 inch thick, Braven doesn’t list the thickness on their website. They also don’t mention what size drivers they are using, only that there are two. The overall look is sharp, the front grill is holes drilled in the plastic enclosure with a dark gray rubberized finish then there are red accents down on the ends. There is just a single status LED and it is here on the front as well hidden behind the grill.
The back of the Stryde XL has that same dark grey finish and it has the same plastic construction. The Braven branding is embossed into the back and there are four smaller rubber feet here for if you want to face the speaker up into the air.
Down close to the bottom of the rear there is a rubber panel with a pull tab on top that you can pull out. This is by far the most heavy duty watertight seal in all of the speaker I am testing. It was really hard to pull out because it is so tight and it uses multiple rings. That is because this speaker is IP67 rated. This means it is dustproof and can be immersed in up to 1 meter of water. This is the standard rating for anything that you would run outside in the dust, dirt, and rain.
Behind it, you have all of the connections. So we have a full-sized USB out and a micro USB port. The full-sized USB port is there because the Stryde XL has a 4400MAH battery inside that you can use just for the speaker or to charge up your mobile devices. This is especially nice when playing music from your phone. The micro-USB port on the other hand, I thought might indicate that you can use the Stryde XL as a PC speaker like the iRoarGo but that didn’t work. Windows picks up the USB device, but not an audio device. The included User Guide doesn’t even include the plug in their drawings so I’m guessing this might be a service plug. The battery shape on the button is the battery status button with the LED below it to show you via color how charged it is. White is fully charged, green is 70%, yellow is 40%, and red is anything below 40%. The reset button is there to restore back to original settings. Then to the right of that is the power plug. Like the iRoarGo Braven went with a power wart and regular plug, not a micro-USB or Type-C port that might also match your mobile devices, so you will need to bring the charger along with you if you think you might need to charge it. Lastly, on the right, is an auxiliary in port that uses a headphone jack and the included male to male adapter to hard wire to your mobile device or laptop if it doesn’t have Bluetooth.
So both ends of the Stryde XL are completely filled with the passive radiators. These basically pull sound waves from inside of the enclosure out the sides. They both have Braven branding on them and then that bright red ring around them that gives a nice accent to the speaker. They do also have another version that has a lighter gray casing and these rings are then bright green. Both look awesome.
So all of the controls are contained up on the top edge of the speaker. There is a rubber ring around them all and then the buttons are also rubber. The Braven branding is here as well. I think they managed to put their brand on every side except the front. For buttons, you have the standard stuff in the larger buttons. Power is on the left (this photo has the speaker upside down) along with a play/pause button. Then in between them is the Bluetooth sync button. On the other side, the plus and minus signs are mainly for volume up and down, but long pressing each of them can skip forward and back through your music as well. Then the middle button there is a speaker icon. This one can be used to answer phone calls. The Stryde XL has a microphone built in for this as well. Or any other time pressing it will turn on your google assistant or Siri and using the built-in microphone you can give commands.
The bottom is the least exciting area. So all of the required logos and information is all down here. Then near the ends, there are two-inch wide rubber feet that help give a flat surface to the round bottom of the speaker and to keep it from sliding around.
Okay so with four portable speakers in hand I then had to figure out the best way to even test them all. Obviously, some areas like overall sound quality can be subjective (to a point) and that wasn’t going to be an issue, we have tested countless headphones/headsets, speakers, and even a few portable speakers. In addition to that, each one really has a whole list of features that make them unique. So I started off by testing them all in our main use case, by the pool and around our backyard. This is what started it all right? So why not play in the pool and tell myself that I’m doing work.
But before I did that I did want to get some photos of the speakers all together so we could really compare things like the difference in sizes. These pictures really put it all into perspective. So the Megablast is by far the tallest speaker, but the Stryde XL is right there with it in being large as it is the widest and still fairly tall. The Wonderboom is basically the size of a softball so you can hold it in hand but its thickness makes it hard to put in your pocket or to pack. The iRoarGo ends up being the easiest of the four to put in a pocket, at least a men's pocket. It is also the most compact overall because it doesn’t have any circular or roundness to it so if you are traveling it is going to take up the least amount of space in your backpack or suitcase. The iRoarGo also ends up being the plainest looking speaker out of the four, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. Ultimate Ears offers really cool color options, especially in the Wonderboom and the red accents on the Stryde XL look great as do the other option with green.
Before getting all of the speakers out by the pool I should be responsible and confirm their waterproofing ratings as well. Each has them listed on their website and they are all rated in the same Ip ratings for easy comparison. Basically, they are all waterproof to some extent, they better be at least because portable speakers are going to get used outside and in areas that might get wet or dirty. So the Megablast and Stryde XL both have IP67 ratings, this means they can both go into the water up to 1 meter deep and they have the top level dust ratings. This is great for when you are outside in just about any situation. Then the Wonderboom has an IPX7 rating, so it can go in the water to 1 meter as well but there isn’t a dust rating. This was a little confusing to me, because by default if you can put it under water safely you would think there would be some dust protection. I don’t know if they just didn’t bother rating it at that, or there is an aspect that I am missing. The charging connection cover is a little less robust than the Megablast and the Stryde XL. Then the iRoarGo is IPX6 so it can handle water splashed on to it, but can’t be submerged or sprayed with high pressure. Basically, don’t dunk it but a normal rain should still be fine.
This kind of brings me to one of the cool features of the Wonderboom. Not only is it IPX6 rated but it also floats. Now if I’m being completely honest the pictures on the Ultimate Ears website kind of gave me the impression that you could just drop it in the water and listen to your music. Well, that was basically why I was so excited about it and why I picked it over the smaller Blast model. Well sure you can do this and it does still play music, but it doesn’t do it very well. Beyond that, if it ends up more than 8 inches under water it will also lose Bluetooth connection anyhow. So it wasn’t what I expected, but it did get me thinking about why you would want this. For starters, notice that all of the speakers aren’t rated past 1 meter, that is just past 3 feet and a lot of pools, ponds, rivers, lakes, and other areas you might use the Wonderboom can all be deeper than that. Especially if you are on a boat or fishing out on a long dock. So the big plus here is the Wonderboom isn’t going to go too deep if you drop it in the water and be damaged or lost altogether. So it is great for those situations.
The next area I wanted to take a look at was the batteries built into each of the speakers. If you can’t use these for a full day of use at work, out on the beach, or when camping or hiking you are going to need to recharge them and most of the time that isn’t going to happen until you get back to power. If you had the power you wouldn’t need a portable speaker in the first place, right? So I put together the battery life ratings that each has on their website. I did not confirm any of these and most likely they didn’t test the same. But they do give us a starting point. No huge surprises with the over life ratings. The smaller speakers have smaller capacity levels. But even the Wonderboom at the lowest is still at 10 hours, that is a full day in most situations. Now two of the speakers had connections for you to hook up your mobile devices and charge them using the built-in battery. So with those, we get an actual look at the battery capacity. You can see that the iRoarGo has the highest rating here, even though it is smaller and has a lower battery life overall.
Also related to this, but I wanted to touch again on how easy or hard some of these speakers are to charge. In my house, if something is plugged in all of the time I don’t care what kind of charger it uses. Well, I might not be as happy if it is a wall wart that I can't fit in a power strip, but otherwise, it doesn’t matter. But with all of these being portable, I was disappointed to find that two of them (the iRoarGo and the Stryde XL) both use proprietary cables where the two from Ultimate ears both used Micro-USB. I will have a micro-USB cable on me when on the go, I’m not going to bring the power cable for the others. Speaking of, they both had warts as well. Also important to mention was the additional charger that Ultimate Ears sent for the Megablast. It isn’t included when you buy the speaker, but you can pick up a charging base that lets you keep it charged all of the time. Considering how everything I own is dead this was really nice for me.
I then finally got into audio testing. Well, actually I tested them all outside across weeks of testing, getting a feel for how well they worked in different situations. Then I did some in-office testing. In the office, I was able to put some earplugs in and get a better listen to each of the speakers when you have them cranked all the way up. I wouldn’t recommend listening at these levels but I wanted to look at two things. How well do the speakers handle being played so loud, is there any noticeable distortion or issues. I also wanted to use our decibel meter and get noise level readings. That is because some people like their music loud and louder isn’t always better but if you need to fill a large area you might need to crank it up.
So all tests below were done with the meter 1 foot away while listening to Kid Rock American Bad Ass. Not my first choice to test with, but I wanted something loud and that was on my google music account that I could play over and over again. With most, the highest level was from the front but I did move it around to see if there was a louder spot, especially on the round speakers. So the Megablast was the loudest, but by one decibel. The iRoarGo was small but powerful here. Then the Stryde XL and Wonderboom were noticeably down lower. This wasn’t a big shock with the Wonderboom, it is a much smaller speaker but I expected the Stryde XL to be up closer with the other larger speakers but it wasn’t.
So my notes at the time mentioned that the Wonderboom had a surprising amount of bass at max volume, but because of this things did get a little muffled. I was doing the test on my workbench with an oak wood top and I noted that the Wonderboom did vibrate and put out more bass from the table itself, picking it up or hanging it from the hanger on top cut down its output. As for the 360 output, it did have good levels most of the way around, but at the back, it did have less.
The Megablast being the loudest had less distortion than the Wonderboom, but that isn’t to say it didn’t have any. This one had a noticeable sweet spot at the front if you want stereo, but noise output went out at a good spread filling the room. Like the Wonderboom it did also put out less at the rear, but both were more than the directional speakers.
The iRoarGo was right behind the Megablast in overall volume but I didn’t hear any clear distortion at full volume. This is made even more impressive given how loud it was. This was also the most likely to be a neutral sound field where the others sounded a little EQ boosted with their bass and highs. I imagine this helped it to not have distortion. For directionality, there was an 8 decibel drop in volume at the sides and 12 at the back. So you do get some sound out of the passive radiators but nothing big out of the back when sitting up. Laying it flat as suggested by Creative did give more bass, still not as much as the Ultimate Ears speakers, but it did give a nice sound. This orientation was also much better for directionality as well with no drop at the back this way.
Lastly, there was the Braven Stryde XL. I really expected it to perform better but it just hated being cranked up all the way. It wasn’t in the same loudness range as the Megablast and the iRoarGo but it was still the most distorted out of the four speakers tested. It was directional like the iRoarGo but a little less with 8 dB drop at the sides and 10 at the back. Laying it flat also helped with that and added more bass as well.
So full volume testing isn’t really where I spent most of my time. In fact, I only did it to each speaker just the once. Most of my testing was done at half or below. But for comparison, I did revisit each speaker at exactly half volume with the same song as the full volume tests. I know ¾ of the speakers had issues with the loud song. But how did they sound at a loud but more reasonable volume?
Well, the Wonderboom didn’t have any distortion but it also didn’t have the bass that it had before. The highs and mids were solid. Being a smaller speaker it didn’t fill the room as much, or maybe I was going a little deaf after the high volume testing even with protection. But it was much better than the speakers on my cell phone. The Megablast, on the other hand, had all the bass it needed, crisp clear highs, and sounded awesome. At half volume, it is still loud inside and just right to fill up our backyard when outside.
Now the iRoarGo, well if it didn’t distort at full volume it wasn't going to do it at half volume right? It still has a neutral mix but at this volume, there is a little more bass noticeable. In this situation facing up really made a big difference in the bass and just overall. While I would want to put it facing towards me, facing up is the better choice for sure.
Lastly, we have the Braven Stryde XL. Remember the full volume testing didn’t go as well. But this is where it thrives. I think Braven has a bit of a tune on this speaker because at half volume it is booming. The Wonderboom may have to trade names here. The bass that caused all of the high volume distortions sounds really good here for any of you bass heads and overall it sounds warm.
Moving past the audio testing I wanted to touch on some of the other aspects of each of the speakers. What I found after spending a lot of time with the four different speakers is that each one has its own use that it stood out in. I obviously went in looking for a speaker to take out and use by the pool and all four did that job, some did it better than others. The one that did the job the best for that specific situation was the Megablast. It was obviously the loudest speaker so that gave me the best chance, especially when paired with the mostly 360-degree directionality to fill our yard with music, including the pool. It was waterproof so that wasn’t a concern as well. But two things really stood out. For starters, it was always charged because of the optional charging base. The other big one was having Alexa built in. I normally use Pandora out at the pool, but I didn’t mind just telling Alexa to put on a specific type of music and just playing it off of our Prime account. You could also turn the volume up or down without getting out of the pool or keeping it close to the edge. That also meant you could set alarms, check the time, and use any other Alexa function as well.
Now the Wonderboom that I thought was going to be perfect for the pool because it could float and listen to music. Well, that turned out to not be the case as I already talked about. But the floating aspect already makes it my top pick if I were to be going out somewhere with deeper water just so I don’t have to worry about losing it. Mostly though, this little speaker has found a perfect home in our shower. The hook on the top made it easy to hang up out of the way and man does it sound amazing in that small space. The boom really comes back when it turns my entire shower into a concert, even my horrible singing started to sound good!
Now the Stryde XL, this was my go too in the office when I wanted some bass. Well specifically when away from my desk speakers taking photos. It doesn’t have a neutral sound but bass heads will like it. Because of that, I can completely see how this would be popular with the crowd that they are marketing towards. The dust and waterproof ratings make it awesome for hiking though personally, I might look at a smaller model for that unless you have a lot of room in your backpack.
Then there is the iRoarGo. Even with a name that is a mix of an Apple product, Katy Perry song, and a trendy mobile phone game it still ends up looking like the most boring speaker out of the four. I’m not saying that aesthetics are everything, but no one is going to say wow that is cool when you pull this one out. But it is a hidden gem. For starters, its size is perfect for taking it with you places. Sadly it only has an umbrella not a wetsuit for water ratings so you do have to keep that in mind. But this was the best sounding of the group, especially at high volume. It also has multiple functions like being able to be hooked up to your PC/Mac or PS4 and used as a speaker. Audio recording and even a built-in MP3 player that plays off the built-in micro-SD card slot. But it was the PA function that I thought was crazy. It's simple and maybe not useful that often, but no one else has that included. This is what I would be most likely to pack for trips due to its size, performance, and versatility but I didn’t end up using it as much compared to the Megablast and Wonderboom as they both fit the two uses I have for a portable speaker around the house. If it had Google Assistant or Alexa built in and was IPX7 or IP67 rated this would have been my pick for pool use without a doubt.
So how does pricing figure in with all of these? Well for starts I have to mention that there are hundreds or thousands of portable speaker options out there and most of them aren’t that great. They will be cheap, but I haven’t been a fan of most of them. With these four being tested, I wasn’t really looking for the best value, I just wanted something that would be perfect for us by the pool for the next year or two until I get a proper sound system setup. So the current Amazon prices are below and the Wonderboom obviously stands out. You can actually get one even cheaper if you don’t go with the bright orange color that I went with, same goes for the Megablast. Overall though I think the iRoarGo is the most interesting at its price. Audio quality was the best and it has a lot of functionality and is portable. The pricing of the Megablast is a little high but you do get Alexa and it is waterproof but adding in the charging base that would be a requirement for me makes it really hit the pocketbook. I wish I could have tested out the regular Blast as well to see how it fits into all of this considering its price is half as much. Then you have the Stryde XL, it has great style and bass but it up there with the Megablast in price without Alexa.
I hate not giving a definitive answer when it comes to what speaker should you get. But the reality is the iRoarGo is the best performing if audio or just number of features is your goal. The Wonderboom is a nice little speaker that is priced closer to what most people would be willing to spend and it also has a few great color options where you could get different colors for each of your kids. Then you have the Megablast that when paired with the charging base can function as a high quality in-house speaker with Alexa on all of the time and just be picked up and taken outside whenever you need it. So while I don’t have anyone answer, I hope that by describing my problem, going through my experience trying to find speakers that fit what I needed, and then all of my testing can help you pick out a speaker that fits you.
Live pricing via our Amazon affiliate links: