Ears On: JLab Audio Party Series Wireless Speakers

When JLab Audio launched their new Party Series wireless Bluetooth speakers last month, they quickly created quite a stir. After they won a 2017 CES Innovations award and a 2017 Dealerscope IMPACT! Award, I knew I had to check them out in person. I’m certainly glad I did. There are two speakers in the Party Series: the small House Party ($100) and the larger Block Party ($150). Both speakers in the Party Series will connect to each other; up to 8 speakers can be connected wirelessly.

At this point in a product review, I usually start to talk about the features, saving my listening evaluation for the end. Well, I just can’t contain myself. I was very impressed with the sound of the larger Block Party speaker. Because it uses two side-firing two-way speakers and two passive subwoofers, the Block Party has some of the best stereo separation I’ve heard from a small speaker in quite a while. It had a wide, natural sound, without any artificial DSP creating that wide soundstage. The House Party also has decent stereo separation, with two full-range speakers and two passive subs. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled review.

The Block Party is powered by a 50-watt amplifier; the House Party has a 20-watt amplifier. Both will play for up to 9 hours on a single charge. The Block Party comes with an AC power adapter for charging; the House Party uses a USB connection for charging. The Block Party has a USB connection for charging another device. Both also have a 3.5mm AUX input. They currently come with a 3-month subscription to Pandora.

Both speakers are IPX5 splashproof rated. That’s splashproof, not waterproof. They both have some heft to them, but the Block Party has the most impressive build. Its heavy build and metal frame contribute to the solid sound and impactful bass it produces; it comes with a removable carrying strap to make it easier to tote the 5.6 lb. speaker. The House Party is 6-inches high and the House Party is 3.5-inches tall. Both Parties have two EQ settings, one for indoors and the other is for outdoor use. I found I preferred the indoor EQ setting both inside and outside. Both speakers have large touch controls on their top surface. When paired, any speaker can be used to control playback with track forward and back, play, pause, volume and power. The speakers have a standby mode where they’ll remain paired even if idle for up to 20 minutes.

Pairing the speakers was a bit tricky, but easily corrected by actually reading the owner’s manual. When I initially paired the two speakers, there was a slight delay in the signal, but after pausing and restarting playback, the delay was eliminated. The speakers connect to each other via 5.8 GHz frequency, so it’s a bit more robust than Bluetooth. I had a solid signal up to 40 feet away with a clean line-of-sight. However, when I moved around the house, it struggled with the solid concrete walls and reinforced concrete floors. In a wood-framed home, I imagine the signal would have been reliable throughout a larger area.

I used Beyoncé’s “Hold Up” from Lemonade to check out the speakers. The phased and muted pizzicato strings swirl from right to left across the soundstage, with her vocals firmly planted in the center. The bass is impressive considering the size of the speaker. It’s not earth-shaking, but it’s solid, balanced, and it plays remarkably loud. Switching to the outdoor EQ setting lets it get even louder without distortion.

Often times, companies will let me hang onto their review samples for a while. Very reluctantly, I have to send the Party Series speakers back to JLab Audio (not to be confused with JL Audio - completely different companies). This makes me very, very sad. This is a speaker series that I can see using in a variety of situations, both inside and out.