Bring the Party with the Camden Square by Polk

In this era of technology that seemingly at best connects people through a screen and at worst isolates us from any human contact whatsoever, it’s refreshing to encounter a concept that actually encourages and enhances in-person interaction. The Camden Square is a Bluetooth Speaker. But add Polk’s DJ Stream app, and it’s suddenly a party speaker.

At face value alone, the Camden Square by Polk is an attractive mid-sized Bluetooth speaker. The aesthetic is really fresh and modern. The top panel was inspired by the grooves on a record, and the sides are wrapped with black leather (sorry, fellow vegans). Small (7”x7”x3”) and lightweight (4lbs) enough to be considered portable, the Camden Square is designed to be taken out with you. While it won’t fit in a purse, it would pop into an empty backpack, tote, or messenger bag with ease. Because of that extra size, it’s able to house four 2” drivers and two 2” x 3” bass woofers, so it’s able to really pack a punch in the dB department. While for most portable BT speakers the idea of playing music for more than a dinner party is laughable, the Camden Square is loud enough for a legitimate living room dance party. The design radiates music out from the top and sides of the chassis so the sound really fills a space.

Speaking of sound, the overall sonic profile is really great for the size. The highs are clean and clear without being buzzy, and the lows, while no substitute for a separate subwoofer unit in a home theater system, are impressive for something with a smaller footprint than a vinyl record. There is a definite roll off on the very low end, but there is no distortion or unwanted resonance. Overall, it’s a really pleasant listening experience.

Like other portable Bluetooth speakers, the Camden Square has a rechargeable battery that claims 24 hours of life, so you don’t need to listen near an outlet. It also has a 1/8th” jack so you can connect to non-Bluetooth devices. But here’s where the Camden Square stops being just a speaker and tacks on the “party” part: with the download of a free app (available for Apple and Android) called DJ Stream, suddenly your party music becomes interactive. Using the app, you, as the host, can create a digital party playlist that others can connect to provided they download the app as well. In this party up to 4 people can connect to the Camden Square as DJs and create playlists of music that’s on their device. (You’ll need to have them pair with the speaker via Bluetooth to DJ)

After everyone makes their playlist, the app alternates songs from each DJ’s playlist one after another. As it plays, the info on the song displays on everyone’s app along with the DJ’s profile (so you know who is responsible for the song you’re hearing.) Other partygoers with the app (up to 128 people!) can also connect to the “party” and vote thumbs up or down on the song as it plays. As the host, you can password protect your party, by the way, so no crashers will be allowed. While this voting won’t affect what songs are played unless the DJ in question takes the overall vote into account when adding or removing songs from a playlist, it will create a little friendly DJ competition. Each “upvote” adds 5 points to a DJ’s score that is tallied over the duration of the party. The graphics are also fun, with a little meter at the bottom of the song that updates real time as people thumbs up and down on a particular song. And in case you were concerned that someone could hijack your vibe with all crap all the time, as the host, you do get the final say; as you alone have the universal skip button in the app.

When I took the Camden Square over to a friend’s place to test out, we found ourselves talking about the music more: saying things like, “Oh wow, I forgot this song” or “I always wondered who this was by!” more than I think we would have had someone just popped on Spotify in the background. Suddenly debates on, “Okay, who downvoted Genesis?!” occurred (full disclosure, it was me) and remarkably, what usually would have been a passive activity became an active and engaging one. While I don’t think I’d use the app every time I used the speaker, the Camden Square stands on it’s own practicality beyond the novelty of the app. Functional, fun, and easy on the eyes, the Camden Square is always welcome at my next get-together.

Camden Square by Polk is available now for $250 at Polk’s Website