Speak softly and carry a big stick? No—speak loudly, and carry a portable stick
Sometimes you just can’t yell loud enough—but a full-fledged PA system is either impractical or overkill. Anchor Audio, which specializes in portable sound solutions, has an answer: their MegaVox product line. Its size is not unlike the old “yell-into-a-funnel” megaphone, but it packs a battery-powered punch, and adds modern twists like Bluetooth and wireless operation.
One of the MegaVox’s most interesting aspects is that while the speaker unit itself is portable, you have the additional option to deploy wireless, as well as wired, mics. So for example, if you’re using the MegaVox to address a crowd of people, additional wireless mics could be passed around the crowd for those asking question. For panel discussions, up to four people could have wireless mics. For product demos, an announcer could use a wireless handheld mic, along with a product demonstrator using a wireless headband mic that would allow working on the unit with both hands, while commenting on what’s happening. The more you think about it, the more applications come to mind—marching bands, art and food fairs, schools, auctions, sporting events, amusement park lifeguards, emergency preparedness ship drills, and more.
The unit being reviewed is part of a bigger product line. All models can be stand-mounted, are battery or AC-powered, and include Bluetooth for receiving streaming audio. The basic MEGA2 simply supports Bluetooth streaming. From there on, the product name suffix indicates additional features. The MEGA2-U2 receives up to two wireless mics (the U2X also includes the Anchor AIR transmitter for driving a wireless companion speaker), the MEGA2-U4 receives up to four wireless mics with an additional X again signifying the Anchor AIR transmitter, the MEGA2-X includes the Anchor AIR transmitter but doesn’t accommodate mics (it transmits whatever Bluetooth audio is being streamed into the unit), and the MEGA2-AIR includes the Anchor AIR receiver, which picks up signals from a device with an AIR transmitter to extend its range. I received the MEGA2-XU4 model for review, which weighs about 14 pounds—not bad at all, and definitely portable.
Ins and Outs
The back panel (Fig. 1) is quite complete, and straightforward.
Starting from the top, the Bluetooth section has a volume control with on-off switch, pairing button, and pairing indicator. In addition to the wireless inputs, there are three 1/4” unbalanced inputs with volume controls—two for dynamic mics, and one for a line input. Outputs are a line out and 4 ohm speaker out (both 1/4” unbalanced). A signal alert sound has its own volume control and pushbutton, but if you push the button, turn up the volume slowly from zero, and stand back—it’s LOUD (and I do mean LOUD, as in “damage your hearing if you’re not careful” LOUD). For some applications, the signal alert will be a compelling feature.
Cutting the cord is all the rage these days, and Anchor Audio is onboard. Depending on the unit, you’ll have one or two dual mic sections (or none). Each dual mic section accommodates the output from two Anchor WH-LINK wireless mics (Fig. 2), with a master volume control for the pair as well as a pairing button and indicator. However, each Anchor mic has a mute button and level control, so there’s plenty of control over mic levels. If you have a four-mic unit, the two wireless dual-mic sections are the same.
The mics transmit over 1.9 GHz, so the range exceeds Bluetooth, and can be as much as 300 feet line of sight (with the standard caution that obstructions will reduce the potential range). They’ll hunt for a clear channel, but I didn’t experience any interruptions in use; either they didn’t need to hunt, or do so seamlessly. Note that while you need to pair the mic(s) with the main unit, unlike Bluetooth, you need to do this only once. Also note that only Anchor products work wirelessly. You can’t use other wireless systems.
There’s also an important tip regarding all wireless mics. The mics use two AA batteries, which give about 8 hours of use. Unfortunately, although we can land on the moon, apparently it’s not always possible to make batteries that won’t leak eventually. I highly recommend removing batteries from wireless mics (well, actually, any battery-powered devices) if they’re not going to be used for a while. The acid from battery leakage can kill electronics.
The transmitter section has its own power switch, so there’s no reason to add more battery drain if you’re not transmitting. You can change the channel to match that of a receiving MEGA2-Air.
The lithium-ion battery lasts around 4-6 hours on a full charge, depending on the volume level. Recharging back to a full charge takes about 6-8 hours, so the usual procedure is to use the unit during the day, then charge it overnight. Anchor doesn’t sell replacement batteries, but they are available from other sources. In any event, the battery is not easily user-replaceable, so should the battery run out of charge during extended usage, you can’t keep a spare around and just pop it in. Regardless, it’s a pretty powerful battery…you probably can’t jump-start a Tesla with it, but it drives the 20W amp easily (and those are real RMS watts, not “super-peak magical” watts).
The battery has a four-year warranty (Apple, are you listening?), but you can purchase an extended warranty for $50 that adds two more years, so that the battery warranty lasts as long as the six-year warranty on the unit itself (the mics and belt packs have a two-year warranty). If the battery does need replacing, you need to return the unit to Anchor Audio. Cost is $50 + shipping to Anchor if you purchased the extended warranty, or $175 + round trip shipping if the unit is out of warranty.
The unit comes with a Quick Start and frankly, for many applications that’s all you need. Once you figure out how to pair the wireless mics (headband or handheld), you’re good to go. The full manual is available online. Note that the wireless mics need nothing else to connect to the main unit, but for the headband mic, you’ll need the WB-LINK belt pack (Fig. 3).
The line-of-sight range for Bluetooth is a maximum of about 100 feet, but less if there are obstructions like walls in between the transmitter and receiver. Of course, one of the issues with Bluetooth is if you’re streaming from your phone, and get a call—which I learned about the hard way quite a while ago! Fortunately, the solution is simple. Bluetooth works independently of airplane mode, so you can put your phone in airplane mode to avoid getting calls, but enable Bluetooth pairing for streaming your music library or whatever. Do note, though, that if you want to play music, the unit is optimized for speech and doesn’t have much response under 400 Hz. Boosting bass going in is not a solution, because it reduces the headroom available for other frequencies.
So how loud is it? The company claims 119 dB SPL at 1 meter. While I don’t have the test equipment needed to confirm that spec, suffice it to say that I would not want to stand 1 meter away from it when it’s at max volume.
Although the MegaVox 2 products aren’t necessarily inexpensive, they’re designed for heavy use, often end up outdoors, and are up to the task. They’re solid, made in the USA, have a high-impact casing, and are backed by a serious warranty. I didn’t expect that this would be a particularly interesting review to write (you put sound in, it comes out…yawn), but I was taken aback by just how much functionality can be packed into a sound system that’s this portable. The MegaVox line adds a high-tech twist to the “megaphone” paradigm, but more importantly, does so in a professional and practical manner.