- Review Price: £79.37
When I go away on a trip, I always take some music with me. An MP3 player jam-packed with quality tunes and a decent pair of headphones can make hours of tedious travel fly by.
But when I get to where I’m going I often just want to disconnect and listen to the music through a set of speakers. That goes double if I’m travelling with friends; on a group skiing trip, or staying in self-catering accommodation in the wet wilds of Wales it’s nice to be able to have some of my own music to play in the background. Normally, I’d have to take two speakers, a charger or batteries, plus all the cables to connect them up to my MP3 player. However, that’s where Parrot’s Party speakers come in – which aim to do away with at least some of these hassles.
The first inconvenience consigned to the dustbin is the cables: Parrot is a Bluetooth specialist, so it’s hardly surprising to find that this unit is Bluetooth enabled. So you’ll have no wires trailing from your MP3 player, as long as it’s Bluetooth enabled, of course. I did most of my testing using the Samsung YP-T9 Bluetooth player I tested earlier in the year, but you can also use any A2DP Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone or laptop as well, which is really handy since the majority of phones and smartphones still don’t possess a standard 3.5mm headphone output.
Being a specialist in all things Bluetooth, it’s not a shock to find that the Party works perfectly. To connect a new device, you just press the Bluetooth button on the top, go through the pairing process on your player, phone or laptop, and Bob’s your uncle. The range is pretty good too – I managed to walk 10 metres away with my MP3 player without having the signal degrade, which is probably all the range you need from a device such as this. And even if your source doesn’t have Bluetooth you can use the 3.5mm line-in socket on the back without having to flick a switch to enable it. The Party detects whichever source is ‘live’ and switches over to it automatically.
The second hassle done away with is that of having to carry around two speakers. The Parrot is a pair of stereo speakers in one ‘pod’, so there are no wires trailing between speakers and it makes it easier to dig out of a bag quickly. The unit itself is solidly built from thick, heavy white plastic, a bit like the iPod Hi-Fi, and it feels as if it would stand up to a fair bit of abuse. It’s trimmed with bright blue rubber around the front edge of two circular speaker drivers and this extends underneath the unit to form rubber feet so it doesn’t vibrate against your desk – or slide off whatever other precarious surfaces you fancy putting it on.
Light weight and compact dimensions add to the portability. The Party weighs just 620g and is 228mm long, which makes it small and light enough to stick in a small bag or rucksack. It also comes with a protective bag to keep it from grime and scratches.
Power comes from a rechargeable NiMH battery fitted under a flap at the bottom of the speakers – the sort that’s often used to power DECT wireless phones. This keeps the Party going for up to four hours; good enough for an evening’s entertaining or a long picnic lunch at the park.
So far so good, but how does it sound? You’d expect a device like this to have limitations. After all, there’s not much to it and the specifications – just six watts of power output – don’t look that impressive on paper. However, when it came to turning them on and playing a little music through them, I was pleasantly surprised, first of all with how loud the Party can go. Crank up the volume and it’ll fill most small spaces quite adequately. It won’t exactly rumble the floor and annoy the neighbours, but it’s loud enough to drown out the hubbub of casual conversation and they’re a world away from the quiet, tinny speakers built into your laptop.
The bass isn’t wonderful, but that’s hardly surprising in a unit this small and it’s by no means the worst I’ve ever heard either. If you want to give it more punch, there’s a bass boost button on the top of the device next to the Bluetooth button and volume control. This fills out the sound and gives it a bit more body, giving the impression of more bass, even if it doesn’t add proper, low-down grunt.
There is one catch, though, and it’s one that might get on your nerves if you notice it. If you turn the volume up, a small amount of high-level distortion at the top end of the audio spectrum is audible. It sounds a bit like someone rustling sweet wrappers in the background. But it’s not something you’d hear if you were simply using the device in a party situation or for background music.
Incidentally, the speakers seem fine when playing the same music over the line-in connection, so it would appear that it’s a problem with the Bluetooth decoding electronics rather than the amplifier or speakers within the unit.
Parrot’s Party speakers are certainly well-designed for listening to music on the move. You can use them to play music from your phone, MP3 player or laptop without wires; they’re compact and solid enough to travel with; and Bluetooth pairing works about as well as you’d hope it would. At £80 they’re also pretty good value considering all the extra technology and, despite the distortion at the high end (over Bluetooth), general sound quality, volume and battery life is good for a device this small.
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