Whatever your feeling towards the rather aggressive and inelegant name JBL have given their new party box, it’s hard to deny the brand’s impeccable timing. At the tail-end of 2020, where people are looking for different ways to recreate some nightlife at home, the JBL Party Box On The Go is heaven-sent.
The pricey, chunky partybox is a powerful speaker that fits into JBL’s tried-and-tested line of party-minded all-in-one speakers. Except this is the on-the-go version, so portability is paramount and, as such, the design perfectly speaks to those who want to take their karaoke (because let’s be honest, most people will be using this for at-home karaoke sessions) wherever they go. Hello buskers licence?
As with all other partyboxes, you can plug in your own instrument and use up to two included branded microphones. Considering, the design is simple and straight forward. You get a sturdy, plastic speaker that’s thick in all the right place, with grippy handles and a detachable shoulder strap. It weighs roughly 10kg, so is heavy, but light enough to swing around to the beach (if you want to be obnoxious), park (if you want to be obnoxious), or just a mate’s house (where you’ll probably end up being just as obnoxious as you belt out your own version of “Killing In The Name Of”)
The battery-powered (2xAA) microphones can be connected via Bluetooth and are wireless, with a great deal of range and clarity. I was surprised at just how good the quality is, with vocals clean, crisp and vastly better than that cheap karaoke joint that’s probably permanently closed now.
The speaker includes controls to temper the output so you can find the exact balance that won’t make you sound off-key, plus JBL have amusingly included a bottle opener on the shoulder strap for obvious reasons.
An LED screen has been included on the body to indicate battery life.AA
With a Bluetooth range of up to 10 metres, those amateur stage dives (not that we encourage that) are more viable at that next house party. Although it’s the sound that’s the primary reason to fork out all that dosh for the On-The-Go, as opposed to other JBL partyboxes. Never before has a portable party box sounded this good, at least as far as I’ve experienced. You’ve 100 total watts of output here, with the ability to link up two of these party boxes for a louder, more powerful experience.
And surprisingly that sound is incredibly well balanced. Some JBL devices understandably go too hard on the low-end, and the sacrifice of some extra thump is invariably going to be the mids and highs. I’ve found that’s rarely an issue here, there’s no distortion on either end when I test this peak volume, whether that’s with Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” or Big K.R.I.T’s “Big Bank”. Even something as nuanced in the low-end as the bass-testing intro of Juvenile’s “In My Life” expresses a speaker that’s well equipped for detail.
You can plug this into power, but if you’re relying on the battery you can reasonably expect six hours. That’s fine, seeing as it only takes 3.5 hours to fully charge the box. On the microphones, you can expect around 10 hours of battery life, which is also quite reasonable. None of this is wholly impressive though, and it would have been much better for the primary function (portability) if you didn’t have to plug this in come after-party time.
Verdict & Value
$579 is a big ask for the Party Box On-The-Go, but I think JBL have earned this one. COVID-19 has a lot to do with it, given this is now a context where people are looking for ways to bring their nightlife activities inside to more intimate and COVID-safe settings. Plus, you know, your favourite karaoke spot probably no longer exists. Something about people practically wrapping their drunken mouths around shared mics doesn’t sound very hygienic to me.
Obviously the customer base is going to skew a bit younger here. When us oldies (I’m 34 – old AF) go to other people’s houses now it’s usually to sit down with several others, drink wine, eat food, and go home to be in bed by 10pm. But if you’ve got that karaoke house party vibe buzzing around in your life, go for this. Don’t even consider any other party box. The on-the-go delivers more than enough to position it as the king of parties right now. I wasn’t too impressed with JBL’s most recent wireless headphone series, but I have to give them a win here.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Can get obnoxiously loud and retain great balance; microphones are crisp and clear; great Bluetooth range; Can dial in output to find the right balance.
Lowlights: Poor wireless battery life; Only IPX4 splashproof (don’t use this at outdoor parties if the weather is looking shabby).