UE Roll review: Waterproof Bluetooth speaker that's fun to play with

It's one thing to bring your iPhone to the pool or to the beach, another thing to be able to listen to music while you're bobbing in the water. If you're looking for a speaker that you can get wet, you should check out the new UE Roll.

The speaker

The Roll is a circular speaker that looks like a flying saucer. Its diameter is a bit more than 5 inches and it weighs about 7/10ths of a pound, making it small and portable. The big plus and minus on the top are a UE—Ultimate Ears—trademark volume up and down buttons, identical to the ones you'd find on UE's other Bluetooth speakers, the Boom and the Megaboom.

Inside the housing is a 2-inch full-range driver and two 3/4-inch tweeters, which deliver plenty of oomph and 360-degree sound. Not enough to drop the bass for a party, but great for background sound or just hanging out at the beach or the pool. Unlike other UE speakers like the Boom and the Megaboom, there's no integrated mic, so you can't use the Roll as a speakerphone.

The rubberized underside sports a recessed power button and a pairing button; both of these light up when active. You can pair it with up to eight devices, so if you want to use it with your iPhone one day, your Mac the next and later with your iPad, you're all set.

An integrated bungee cord gives you a way to hang the Roll off of and loop it around ... well, whatever: wall pegs, door handles, bike handlebars, the strap on your messenger bag. Use your imagination. A sturdy built-in hook makes sure that the speaker doesn't go anywhere.

You can even pair two Rolls — or a Roll and a Boom or a Megaboom — together, to create a two-speaker sound field — using the optional software app for iOS and Android. That app is definitely worth installing: it provides you with the ability to remotely turn the speaker on and off, adjust equalization levels, and even update the speaker with new capabilities pushed live from UE. I was able to do this with my UE Boom, and the net result was great: two speakers is better than one, and they're perfectly synced. Unfortunately there's no Mac or Windows app, so you'll need to have your Roll paired with an iPhone, iPad, or Android device to get the most out of it.

The water resistance

UE's designed the Roll for rough outdoor use. It's IPX7-rated — the same rating Apple got for the Apple Watch — which means it's water-resistant for up to 1 meter of depth for up to 30 minutes. Safe to use in the pool or at the beach, just don't go diving with it.

Waterproofing aside, it's important to remember that left to itself, the Roll is not buoyant. If you buy it directly from UE's Website they'll throw in a free floaty designed especially for it, though. The ring sports a strap in the middle that the Roll holds on to using its own integrated bungee cord.

The details

UE offers the Roll in six different colors, with names like Volcano (black), Atmosphere (the blue I have), Sugarplum (a gorgeous purple), Sriracha (a geometrically-patterned red and orange), Piñata (grey and red), and Reef (blue and green).

The Roll works up to 65 feet away from its Bluetooth source. The built-in battery lasts for about 9 hours per charge. Charging is handled using an included Micro USB cable and connector that's hidden beneath a waterproof rubber seal on the underside of the Roll. There's a 3.5mm mini jack input to connect to olde-fashioned gear that eschews modern Bluetooth witchery.

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The bottom line

Waterproof Bluetooth speakers have some tradeoffs. They're a bit more money than other Bluetooth speakers and sometimes sound a bit muffled or canned. That's not the case with the Roll: It sounds great, and its integration with the UE app and its ability to pair with other UE Bluetooth speakers make it a fantastic choice if you want to create big sound.

UE's created a portable, waterproof speaker with some design whimsy that will bring a smile to your face and a bounce to your step.

The Roll is a great summer accessory, but if you're looking for more, check out our summer accessories hub!

Peter Cohen