UE Roll review

Ultimate Ears has recently announced the latest edition to its family, the UE Roll. The UE Roll is a sub-£100 Bluetooth speaker that should withstand almost anything that you can throw at it, partly thanks to an intuitive plastic coated acoustic skin which provides the speaker with water, dust and stain resistance. It also features a ‘marine grade’ bungee cord at the back of the speaker, which enables you to attach it to almost anything, from hanging it on a tree in a park to attaching it to the handlebars of your bike. Also see: Best tech to take on holiday 2016.

See also: Best budget Bluetooth speakers of 2015

UE Roll review: Design

As soon as you see the UE Roll, you know it’s offering something different to similarly priced Bluetooth speakers. The circular, dome shaped design helps to aid the audio projection of the UE Roll, while also making it extremely versatile – its at home sat on a desk as much as it is attached to a backpack in the Australian outback. Its circular design is one that hasn’t been widely adopted by Bluetooth speaker manufacturers, as many opt for the standard rectangular design. It measures in at 40mm in height, has a diameter of 135mm and weighs a lightweight 330g.

Its shape isn’t the only thing you’ll notice about the UE Roll – it also comes in a variety of different patterns and colours, six in total. These vary from the standard UE colours including blue and red, black and red and purple and yellow to eye catching designs with vibrant colours. Having such a range of colours and designs to choose from is something that UE does well, as we’re moving away from a time where everything is black/grey into a time where vibrant colours and designs are the height of fashion.

Its not a delicate speaker either – its rugged design is prepared for outdoors use, including a plastic coated acoustic skin which provides waterproofing to the speaker – an IPX7 waterproof rating to be precise, which means the UE Roll can (in theory) be submerged in up to 1m of water for up to 30 minutes. Why someone would want to play underwater is something we can’t quite understand, but it means it’ll definitely survive any accidental encounters with liquids. It’s not just water resistant though, as the plastic coated acoustic skin also enables the UE roll to be both dustproof and stain resistant, too.

Our favourite part of the UE Roll isn’t its vibrant designs or dome shape, but the ‘marine grade’ bungee cord attached to the back of the speaker. The presence of a bungee cord means that you can hang/attach the UE Roll to almost anything, from hanging it in the shower to tying it to a belt loop, for a hands-free music experience. Combining the bungee cord with its rugged design and plastic coated acoustic skin, the UE Roll is a great companion for the outdoors.

UE Roll review: Connectivity

With regards to connectivity, the UE Roll doesn’t disappoint. As well as boasting both Bluetooth connectivity and a 3.5mm jack input, UE has created the UE Roll app specifically for the speaker, and is available for both iOS and Android. When connected to an iPhone or Android device, the app acts as an intermediary between your device and the speaker, allowing you to remotely turn the speaker off (and back on again) as well as connect an additional UE Roll for double the volume, or for a truly stereo speaker experience (one speaker is L and one is R).

As well as this, the app is also where you can update the UE Roll’s on-board software. But why do this? UE prides themselves on continually updating their speakers’ features via OTA updates – in fact, even the double-up feature wasn’t an original feature, and was instead introduced to the UE BOOM as an OTA update. It’s a great mindset for UE to have, and is one we haven’t seen from many (if any) other Bluetooth speaker manufacturers. It makes you feel a bit better about buying a speaker because you know that it’ll continue to improve over time!

As mentioned now, the UE Roll supports Bluetooth connectivity with a 20m range, but that may vary depending on usage and other factors. However, that’s not the only impressive feature of the UE Roll’s Bluetooth connectivity, as it can simultaneously connect to two devices. If a friend wants to take over as DJ, they can connect to the UE Roll while you’re still playing music. Then, once they’re ready, all you need to do is pause the music on your phone and let them play from their phone – it’s that simple, and minimises the downtime usually associated with switching Bluetooth inputs.

One feature missing from the UE Roll that won’t be implemented over an OTA update is speakerphone functionality. Though this is a feature that many Bluetooth speakers boast, UE has decided against it – and we think it was the right choice. We’ve had many Bluetooth speakers that boast speakerphone functionality, and apart from testing it to see how it sounds, we’ve never really used the functionality in the real world.

UE Roll review: Audio

Now you know all about the UE Roll, lets move on to what really matters – the audio quality. Though the UE Roll isn’t very big, it features one two-inch driver and two ¾inch tweeters which, together, produces a room-filling level of audio. Its dome-like design also aids with audio projection, as when the speaker is on a flat surface, you experience an even level of audio from any angle.  

It’s worth noting that there isn’t as much bass as its older brother, the UE BOOM, though over the period of time we’ve tested the speaker, the levels of bass has improved. But with this being said, it has a great mid-range that produces warm and clear vocals, and is at its best playing acoustic-style songs.

With many sub-£100 Bluetooth speakers, the audio deteriorates as the volume increases, usually ending up with horribly distorted audio at maximum volume. We’re glad to say that the UE Roll doesn’t suffer from this issue, and delivers crisp, clear audio even at the devices maximum volume. It’s surprisingly loud for a small speaker too, as we were able to hear it quite clearly from the floor below at home. Don’t get us wrong, a UE Roll wouldn’t be a good replacement for speakers at a house party, but if you’re off to the beach/park/out with friends, it’s a great device to have with you.

UE Roll review: Battery life

So, the UE Roll has a unique design and great sounding audio – does its battery life let it down? We don’t think so. The UE Roll is advertised as having a nine-hour battery life, though we’re sure we’ve used it for longer periods without needing to charge its battery. It’s worth noting that UE recommends a 5.5-hour charge time from 0-100%, so it’s not the fastest charging Bluetooth speaker available on the market.

One cool feature of the UE Roll is that it can be remotely turned on and off via its smartphone app. What does this mean for users? It means that as long as your UE Roll is in range, you’ll be able to remotely activate it and start playing music without having to move a muscle. It also displays its battery level on the status bar of the iPhone, as well as in the app, so you’re always aware of the battery level of the device.

But what if you’re on Android? You can still check the battery levels via the app, or you can try something different. If you press the + and – buttons on the speaker at the same time, you’ll get a natural-sounding voice letting you know what percentage the battery is currently at. It’s nice to hear such a natural-sounding voice on a Bluetooth speaker, as many manufacturers seem to opt for a poorly pronounced voiceover, with some being completely inaudible.

See also: Denon Envaya Mini Bluetooth speaker review

UE ROLL: Specs

  • 330g
  • 135mm diameter
  • 40mm height
  • 360-degree audio
  • Range of colours and designs
  • Pair two UE ROLL speakers together
  • iOS and Android app available
  • Bluetooth and 3.5mm jack input
  • 9 hour battery life
  • 330g
  • 135mm diameter
  • 40mm height
  • 360-degree audio
  • Range of colours and designs
  • Pair two UE ROLL speakers together
  • iOS and Android app available
  • Bluetooth and 3.5mm jack input
  • 9 hour battery life

OUR VERDICT

Overall, we love the UE Roll. From its design to the audio quality, it’s a great addition to the UE family and is an ideal companion for those of us that enjoy the great outdoors. It’s water/dust/stain resistance and rugged design means that it should be able to handle almost anything that you can throw at it (within reason, of course). Though it’s not as bassy as other Bluetooth speakers in its price range, song vocals were clear and crisp and audio fills the room without needing to be on maximum volume. The fact that it’ll receive OTA updates with new features is definitely a selling point, as it means that the UE Roll should continue to improve over time.