The best parties are big and loud and colourful, so you need a music system to match.
Party speakers (sometimes called party boxes) are Bluetooth speakers designed to deliver a lot of music for maximum party vibes. They tend to be big and bass-heavy – you buy these for sound quantity, not quality.
Whether you want music for a house party or a just a single room, our test results have a model for you.
I love this technology because it’s fun, which is something that doesn’t happen a lot with consumer electronics. I’ve tried a few over the past couple of years, including the gigantic Sony Muteki – the 1.7m-tall pinnacle of party speakers – and I have loved them all.
But for most of us, sadly, not every day is a party day.
Xennials and Millenials seem to be the demographics the companies are aiming at, and that makes sense. The speakers are large and many of them light up, meaning they don’t fit with more dignified home décor, and the sound they produce wouldn’t fit for a sophisticated soirée – though you can get understated versions (such as Panasonic’s range released last year).
If you’re not keen on the party aspects and are just looking for a large Bluetooth speaker, there are options that don’t come with lights and karaoke.
These speakers have uses beyond parties. For example, I own an older Sony model that I use as a PA system for MCing small events.
The UE Hyperboom and Sony MHC-V73D represent both ends of the party speaker spectrum: one is relatively small and simple with few features; the other is large and gaudy with every bell and whistle. Both are helpfully splashproof because we all know drinks get spilled.
The Hyperboom is a black box with a carry strap that’s easily luggable and is essentially a bigger version of their other Bluetooth speakers. It doesn’t light up or have many inputs, and it runs on batteries.
In some ways its lack of extra functions means you might want to use it in more situations. It’s the type of speaker you could take with you almost anywhere, though at just under 6kg you may not want to carry it on a tramp. It connects to other UE speakers, like Booms and Megabooms, so expanding the sound is easy.
The sound, though, is the biggest let-down. While it’s loud enough, the bass makes the sound muddy. The effect gets worse the higher you crank the volume. I know I said you don’t buy these for quality, but a physical button to toggle the bass impact would be good.
You can alter the bass in the app, which comes with a bunch of special EQ settings, but you want to be partying, not faffing about with an app all night.
Given the $700 price tag, you could instead buy two or three UE Megabooms and link them together, giving you a lot more sound options.
Dimensions: 364 x 190 x 190mm
Inputs: Bluetooth, optical, aux
Outputs: USB (power)
Sony goes all in on party speakers, and this is no exception. The MHC-V73D is a Dalek-shaped, DVD-playing, karaoke-enabled, bass-laden, disco-lit party beast.
Just under a metre tall and quite rotund, the V73D takes up a lot of space but, when it’s running, it’s a centrepiece. The massive 30cm woofer is visually unavoidable, and the music inevitably tips towards deeper tones. However, the balance is better than expected, with its six other speakers (4 tweeters and 2 mid-range) smoothing the rest of the sound.
The V73D is also packed to the gunwales with extras. Its karaoke function is excellent, simply allowing you to accompany anything playing through the system. What I initially thought were cupholders turned out to be holders for microphones. One of the two microphone ports can be used for an electric guitar for extra “rockability”.
I used it by connecting my Apple TV via Bluetooth, then playing karaoke clips from YouTube. The lyrics and the video played on my TV and the sound came through the speaker.
The V73D also has some extras you might not expect. It has a built-in DVD/CD player and you can connect it, via HDMI, to your TV to watch DVDs (but not Blu-rays). It even has an FM radio, which seems odd for a Bluetooth device until you realise this is more of an all-in-one stereo system than a stand-alone speaker.
Perhaps one of the oddest additions is a “Taiko mode”. Taiko is a Japanese drum, and enabling this mode changes the touchpads on the top of the speaker into a type of electric version. You can use this mode to play a simple colour-match type game. It’s goofy fun, which is a good way to describe the V73D overall.
The biggest downside is the software. The speaker requires you to use Sony’s Music Centre and Feistable apps. Both have terrible interfaces and offer a poor user experience. You use the apps to change the EQ, change light sequences and to add other users, but you also need them to connect new devices to the speaker.
The other downside is that you need to plug it in. It’s not exactly a portable speaker, but some flexibility for placement would be nice.
Dimensions: 428 x 921 x 370mm
Inputs: Bluetooth, DVD, CD, USB, FM radio
First Looks are trials of new and interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.
These speakers were loaned to the writer by Sony and Logitech