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Ultimate Ears’ Roll portable speaker takes a dunkin’ and keeps on thumpin’

A portable Bluetooth speaker that can shirk off a splash or a a few minutes in the rain is one thing, but one that you can submerse in the shallow end of the pool for a spirited game of “capture the speaker” is something else entirely. The Ultimate Ears (UE) Roll is just such a device. And the best part is, pulling duty as a sound-emitting submersible is just a perk — this is a totally respectable portable speaker by every measure.

Foremost, the Roll is a speaker, so it needs to sound good. Thankfully, it does. You should never expect chest-pounding bass from a speaker this size, but what UE has managed to coax from the Roll is impressive. The respectable amount of low end is just a bonus add-on to clean midrange and articulate treble that just barely borders on the hot side. We think that was an intentional move given the speaker’s intended role (sorry, couldn’t help it) as a go-anywhere sound source. Bottom line: If you’ve ever heard the outstanding UE Mini Boom before, then you can expect a similar, slightly more robust, sound signature.

The Roll is also remarkably resilient, with a high-impact enclosure, anti-skid silicone skin, and ultra-durable speaker grill. We literally kicked the speaker around the office for a while, and it survived the FIFA-style abuse no worse for the wear.

As if such durability and dunkability weren’t enough to lure you in, UE went ahead and tossed in a few smartphone-based convenience features to seal the deal. With the UE Roll app, users can pair two Rolls together for stereo operation, adjust EQ for customized sound, use the speaker as an alarm, adjust volume, or power the speaker on or off — a slick feature we’ve not seen on any other Bluetooth speaker line before. Battery life is a respectable nine hours maximum (depending on volume), with an approximated charge time of five and a half hours.

Priced at $99, UE’s Roll is bound to be a big hit this summer. Few (if any) speakers can match its compelling combination of sound quality, utility and features. Ultimate Ears is to be commended on yet another impressive addition to an already award-winning lineup of portable speakers.