For a run-of-the-mill gathering in your yard, just about any basic Bluetooth speaker works. But if you’re having a party — the sort you enunciate as “par-tay”— you’ll need serious sound (or if you just want the best damn 6-year-old birthday party ever). To fill a pool party, backyard bash, or the whole block with music, you’ll need to go bigger. Think: speakers closer in size to what a DJ would bring, but with the ease of use of a Bluetooth speaker.
A newer category of speakers is emerging. These party speakers can range from about 27 to 41 inches in size. Most have internal batteries that can run for hours on one charge and certainly long enough for any single party. That makes placing them in the yard easier since you won’t have to worry about an outlet. They all connect to your smartphone, computer, or tablet through Bluetooth so you won’t need a wifi network to use them. After the sun goes down, built-in lights strobe to add to the vibe. Bonus: with an input for a microphone, karaoke happens as fast as you can find a ’90s pop hit.
Here are the best three options.
The Longest-Lasting Speaker
The XP700 packs five speakers in a shape that's about the same size as a carry-on bag. Placed in the middle of the party, it broadcasts sound out 360 degrees with an option for mega bass mode. At 25 pounds, it’s the heaviest speaker here, but it has a grab-and-go handle that makes moving it a bit easier. Because it's rated to withstand some water drops from rain, pool splash, a sprinkler, or a spilled drink, you won't have to baby it. It's bigger because it accommodates a larger battery, and the Sony can last up to 25 hours and, in a pinch, it’ll give you 3 hours of sound from a quick 10-minute charge. With two inputs karaoke becomes a team sport.
The Speaker that Turns You Into a DJ
While not an outdoor-rated speaker — there is no built-in battery or water resistance — the XBoom RN9 can fill the biggest yard, provided the forecast is cooperating and you have an outlet nearby. Hit the double bass button and the airflow behind the speaker opens to deliver chest-thumping depth without distortion, which really rocks inside. And if you have a compatible LG TV, the XBoom can work as a sound system for that too. But where the LG shines is at night: lights around the front-firing speakers sync to the beat of your playlist. It has built-in controls for echo, bass and treble, as well as a mic volume adjuster, voice canceller and key changer. So your music is always loud and clear no matter where you are. Come karaoke time, the voice filters add a fun twist to your version 'Intergalactic.'
The Speaker for Epic Outdoor Parties
The portly, 38 1/2-pound PartyBox 310 has wheels and a telescoping handle like your checked bag, so getting it to the backyard, the park, or a tailgate is easier. Hidden inside are pairs of woofers and tweeters that will run for about 18 hours on a charge, or you can plug it into an outlet. The heavy-duty build keeps it dry in the rain too. If you fancy yourself the MC of the party, the top of the JBL has buttons that do just about anything, from controlling specific lights to sounds, like an air horn, or boo — for those bellyflops into the pool. The dashboard also includes a pair of inputs for duet karaoke
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