Just a few years ago, there was a low level of interest in party speakers in Scandinavia. It was associated with beach parties around the Mediterranean, with Ibiza as a top destination. But something has happened, and every year the sales of these gaudy and somewhat vulgar speakers have actually increased here too. Perhaps it’s the legendary summer festivals around the Oslofjord and in Southern Norway that require ever higher volume and light shows to attract the best participants. An arms race in party atmosphere?
The most important thing for a party speaker is that it plays at a sufficient sound level to overpower all squeals and perhaps also the neighbour’s modest portable speakers. It’s about showing who’s boss. Number two on the list is a real bass rendition that feels like a fist in your solar plexus, and preferably sets off car alarms in the parking lot. The third is that it should have built-in light shows so you don’t have to bring separate lamps and Strobe lights. And to round it off, all of it must be able to run on battery power, so you can set up your own sound system anywhere. If the speakers is reasonably sturdy and can withstand being transported, and maybe even have beer spilled on it, then they get an extra bonus.
Unfortunately, this s a utopia that’s hard to achieve. Two of the speakers in the test have a decent decibel level and a powerful bass, as well as plenty of flashing lights. But they are such power guzzlers that it wasn’t possible to run them on batteries. One of them had actually succeeded by plugging in a pure nuclear power plant of a battery and could blast away, but then the light show had to be removed. And then it is less of a hit, since you have to settle for only two of the four criteria. On the other hand, it will be significantly cheaper because it is expensive to be on top.
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Two years ago, we tested Soundboks, a success story involving three Danish youngsters who needed a party speaker for the Roskilde Festival. They found none, so they built their own and launched it at Kickstarter, where it met with success. Now they’re back with an even more gruesome successor. Like its predecessor, it is designed to be used for festivals, and is thus built like an armoured vehicle. It can handle huge fluctuations in temperature, falling to the ground and having beer spilt on it. Despite its size and weight, two people can easily carry it around by its sturdy handles.
However, this is an unmitigated blaster that has no special features. You can stream music with Bluetooth or connect it using an Aux cable. That’s all. On the other hand, one can now choose whether to play indoors or outdoors, so that the speaker can be used all year round. The bass amplification can be muffled, and sound can be adjusted to more acceptable levels. The battery is more powerful and now also displays the charge level. At the highest volume, Soundboks 2 plays an impressive 40 hours, and for 100 hours without earbuds! You can also bring along extra batteries if that’s not enough.
Sound pressure and bass
We already described the predecessor as “a box of Danish dynamite”, and now the boys have increased the volume resources by 40 percent. This implies that it goes up to a rather outrageous 122 dB! It’s like standing in the front row at a rock concert, which guarantees sore ears. The volume control goes quite literally to 11! There is nothing magical about this either. It has a 3 x 72 watt Class D amplifier as well as double 10 inch drivers. Thus, it plays not only loud, but also cleanly and effortlessly. That’s why one is eager to break loose with some raw rock tunes and dance away to electronic dance music in front of Soundboks. You might end up with a nosebleed, but up until that point, everything is cool.
If you want to arrange a separate party for the festival’s camping grounds, there is nothing better suited than Soundboks 2. The speaker can handle rough treatment, unpleasant temperatures and be showered in beer. It is certainly not lightweight, but two people can easily carry it by its handles.these are also the only party speakers in the size class that have a battery that can last for several days. And if you have a spare battery, you can pretty much carry on infinitely. But above all, it plays insanely loud and has a bass that can make your clothes flutter. This doesn’t mean, however, that it sounds bad; Soundboks has enough horsepower to keep control of the music as well.
Sony has gone all out with more of everything in its disco system MHC-V71D, which also has younger brothers and one big brother. It is the largest and heaviest apparatus in the test, which fortunately has wheels for transportation. However, one should be a little careful, as the lamps in the corners and the top can easily be damaged if one knocks into something. The cabinet, however, is made of solid wood and the speaker lattice is made of metal. Like the Philips’ system, it is only for indoor use, as few batteries can run it. However, the top is spray watertight so that it can withstand spills from a drink.
In addition to being able to stream music from your mobile phone, there are inputs for USB flash drives, external input, FM radio and two microphone inputs for karaoke as well as a guitar input. It is unusual that it also has a DVD player and can be connected to a TV with HDMI. There’s even a soccer mode! As usual, Sony has gone all out with all the features imaginable, and then some. How about playing DJ by waving your hands over the control Panel? or use it as a bongo drum? Most impressive, however, is the 360-Strobe light show, which really lights up an entire room. It can also be controlled through the Music Center app or from the special DJ app Fiestable.
Sound pressure and bass
Sony has not been forced to discover new tricks to bring about a heavy sound. They have instead simply installed large speaker drivers that can pump air. The result is sound pressure that cannot be recommended in a regular flat, and bass that for once can be felt on your body. But above all, the system never feels stressed no matter how much one pushes it. It just sounds great, even when playing electronic dance music at dangerously high volume. During the night, you can even slow down and play quieter tunes, but still get a sound quality that you won’tt be ashamed of.
If you are going all-in on a party system, you can’t fail with the Sony MHC-V71D. It has all the music sources you need, and then some, and it can even be connected to the TV since it has a DVD player. It is full of cool features such as playing DJ with gesture control, karaoke with two microphones, and you can actually use the cabinet as a drum. The light show was the most impressive in the test with the 360-degree strobe lighting. But above all it has decent volume resources, and bass that can be felt in your body – everything without sounding bad, no matter how you push it. It has quite simply the highest party factor of all the loudspeakers!
After a couple more mediocre products, Philips NTX400 gives us exactly what we are looking for in this category: a tough appearance, cool speaker drivers and large flashing lamps. Now we’re talking party speakers! The cabinet is made of trust-inspiring hardwood, and has a pair of decent carrying handles on the sides so you can move the speaker. However, it is not intended to be taken to the party; in this size and volume class, it is unusual that you could run it on battery power. No, this is a speaker that you can shove into the car and bringsto a student party.
Besides streaming music from your mobile phone, you can also play MP3s from a USB flash drive or CD, regular music CD, FM radio, or plug in external audio sources with a cable. It can be managed relatively easily with the remote control. Sadly, however, there is no app for easier handling nor any extra features. However, most of it can also be controlled by all the buttons and knobs on the top. Besides the usual features such as choosing source, controlling playback, selecting the EQ mode or bass boost, there are also some special things, such as the button to choose between the preset lighting effects. They unfortunately don’t have much variation and don’t match with the music as well as with the JBL Pulse.
Sound pressure and bass
The most exciting button is the angry little red-lighted NX Bass, which is somewhat reminiscent of a launching button on a weapon. If that is activated, the volume is raised, the bass is amplified and the lamps go into a conniption for a few seconds. Oddly enough, it is only then the speaker truly shows its party potential, so it is a bummer that one cannot have the mode enabled over a longer period. Not because it is timid otherwise; it has a powerful sound with an adequate bass, which can absolutely fill the dance floor at any party. However, the bass is not so treble and hard hitting, and the midrange lacks clarity.
If you want to find a loud and cool speaker for the party hall, the Philips NTX400 is a great option. It absolutely has the capacity to fill a larger room with deafening music, and has sufficient bass to get the party going. However, as to how powerful it may be, you will not know before firing the NX position, which is unfortunately a short-lived pleasure. It is extra festive with the large flashing rings around the speaker drivers, although we would have preferred a more varied light show. When the party is over, you can easily carry the speaker away thanks to the sturdy handles on the sides.
The Panasonic SC-UA4 is rather a complete music system for a young person’s flat. It has an impressive row of music sources, from modern Bluetooth and USB to traditional CD and radio, complemented by two microphone inputs for karaoke. There’s even an optical input so one can use it as a TV speaker. A proper carrying handle makes it easy to take to your buddies’ place. However, it is a bit odd that it lacks battery power, which means it isn’t well suited for an outdoor party. You can use an extension cord, but the speaker is not protected for outdoor use.
With so many audio sources, there will naturally be a lot of buttons for playback, selecting source, changing volume, and getting to the settings. It gets a bit messy although the remote control does help somewhat. The Max Juke app could have helped with streamlining the menus, but instead it just has a remote control on the display. However, it has EQ and bass controls, but the jukebox function only feels like a gimmick. In addition, this model is not supported in the app for iOS. It’s also a little weird that Panasonic has bothered to put in lamps, but that it is not possible to get them to flash or change colours.
Sound pressure and bass
Despite the fact that the speaker is not particularly large compared to the giants of this test, Panasonic has worked in a smart way to squeeze out as much audio as possible. The cabinet has a honeycomb structure for stability, bass ports that help move air and an adjusted treble for a more ambient sound. The sound pressure is certainly sufficient for an indoor party, and it hangs on all the way down to the deep bass. It works great with everything from howling guitars and thundering drums to electronically generated bass lines. However, it is too much to ask for the bass to knock your socks off. The sound quality is perfectly okay, and definitely good enough for dance music.
The Panasonic SC-UA4 is a compact system with sufficient power to goose up any house party. The sound resources are fully adequate and the bass is very deep, so it works great with everything from pop and rock to electronic dance music. If you’d like to sing karaoke, just plug in the microphones. But it is also a practical everyday system as it has a CD player, radio and can be used as a TV speaker. However, despite the carrying handle, it is not suited to be used for a party at the pool since it has neither battery power nor is protected for outdoor use. One does not get any feel of disco, because the lamps only emit permanent blue the whole time.
It’s easy to believe that a comparatively inexpensive speaker with a known trademark stamped across the front will be bad. But ACDC TNT-3 is actually seen as a rather well-built product. The cabinet feels muted and sturdy even though the speaker material is actually plastic. Both the wheels and the handle for pulling are of sufficiently good quality that I would not hesitate to use them if they were put on a travel bag. The purpose of this speaker is obviously so that one can easily roll it out to an outdoor party. But then the question is why there is such a short battery life on it? There are hardly any electrical outlets on a beach.
The sound sources are good for most people. You can stream music via Bluetooth from your mobile phone as usual, or you connect it with a cord to the Aux input if you want to save a little bit on the battery. Or one can insert a USB flash drive with MP3 music. But you can also plug in the accompanying microphone and make some noise on your own. The control panel at the top unfortunately feels much more plastic-like than the rest. There, one can adjust the volume, the volume of the microphone, select the source, start and stop play, and skip to the next song. Tone controls wwould have been appreciated.
Sound pressure and bass
Such a speaker screams to be tested with the song after which was baptized. And admittedly, one gets a sense of rock’ n roll when Angus Young plays his guitar solo! But it’s not as much a party feeling as one might have expected. We tried with a little EDM to see how the bass behaves. Yes, it goes quite deep in the bass, but there’s no pressure in it. Perhaps it is because the “200 watt” that is described on the net is possibly closer to the “20 watts” as actually listed in the instruction manual? Just for fun, we try with all possible musical styles, and it’s actually rather good at playing quieter music. So the sound quality has no major issues.
When all the metalheads spot an AC/DC branded speaker, they may itch to get one. One envisions how one rolls it to the outdoor party and rocks away the night. And the transport is no problem, it is actually a pretty well built speaker with good wheels and handles. But it will be a short party, since the battery has an inexplicable short life. So it is important to be near a power outlet. The question is whether there will be much headbanging, given that the speaker is neither particularly loud nor has any substantial bass pressure. You should instead invest in a Big Brother TNT-1, which is twice as expensive, however. We will not rock you.
We have previously tested JBL’s portable speakers with good results. Just as the practical JBL Charge 3 and the loud JBL Extreme, not to mention the power house JBL Boombox. Pulse 3 is as large as the small Charge, but JBL has covered most of the speaker with light panels instead of speaker drivers. It feels well-built, albeit not as rugged as the speakers with metal grills. However, there is no need to worry about rain showers or losing it in the pool, because it is waterproof according to IPX7. This means that the charging port and auxiliary input are hidden behind a rubber hatch.
Next to them are the buttons for controlling playback, pausing, and starting music, as well as choosing lighting effects. You can also use the JBL Connect app to choose between the seven light animations or create your own. The light show is really cool and impressive, but it falls very short of lighting up the whole room like Sony and Philips. It’s more like a cosy lava lamp. The app is also used to stereo connect two speakers, or connect up to 100 compatible JBL speakers in the party mode. The app also allows one to choose to have the play button activate the phone’s voice assistant, as the speaker also has a microphone to be used as a speakerphone.
Sound pressure and bass
A problem with Pulse 3 is that, despite being almost as big as Charge, on the whole it does not have the same sound resources. This is because JBL had to use smaller speaker drivers, and place them at the bottom, instead of using all of the space to pump out sound. This is therefore not the speaker that will create any euphoria on the dancefloor. Instead, it is something that creates a pleasant mood at a house party. However, the same solution with subwoofers at both ends has been continued. It does provide a deeper bass than would otherwise be possible, but there is no particular kick to it. In addition to that, the treble feels fuzzy. Not ideal for EDM.
The JBL Pulse 3 is a cool and practical speaker in itself. But is it a party speaker? If so, it had better be a very small house party. The speaker drivers are simply too small to enable you to turn up the volume to the max, and the bass is too small to make your feet tap. The reason is that most of the speaker is filled with light panels that have given it its name. The light show is certainly festive, but it doesn’t light up the room like a disco. It is more like a cosy lava lamp to gather around at a house party and mosey to the beat. Or place it by the pool at a barbecue party, since it is waterproof.
Finally, an interior friendly subwoofer that delivers real physical bass! Sure, it will cost you but the returns include gorgeously musical bass notes and hefty low-frequency effects i movies. And best of all: you can hang it on your wall.
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