Compatible: All Bluetooth-Capable iPads, iPhones + iPods
HMDX Jam Party Bluetooth Wireless Stereo Speaker
In the not too distant future, there will come a point where there are so many Jawbone Jambox-inspired small portable speakers that no one will be able to keep them straight -- a task that has become more challenging with every passing day. Budget speaker maker HMDX has added to the pile with Jam Party ($100/$120*), an atypically wide alternative that's now being offered in four colors -- gray, blue, yellow, or pink, each with a black front grille, a black wall charger, and a pop-up black handle on the top. Apart from that handle, which is a cute but not exactly necessary design element for a speaker this small, Jam Party doesn't have much to offer that we haven't already seen two or three dozen times before. (* Note: HDMX's web site lists Jam Party at $120, the company's originally announced price, but the speaker is universally available in stores for $100.)
Measuring roughly 8.6” wide by 3” deep by 2.8” tall with the handle recessed—notably larger than suggested on HMDX’s web site—Jam Party looks somewhat like a giant, colorful stick of butter from the front, only revealing gently trapezoidal tapering when viewed from the side. Coated in soft touch rubber that’s slightly metallic except in the aforementioned black zones, the speaker has a control panel on the top with power, track, play/pause and volume controls in a line, with Bluetooth pairing and power indicator lights off to the left and right sides, respectively. Three rubber pads each split into two parts; one on the back covers power and aux-in ports, while two on the bottom open with a plastic bar to reveal a sort of kickstand that tilts the speakers slightly upwards from a flat surface. A 12-hour rechargeable battery is inside, offering roughly twice the longevity of $100 peers.
Thanks to all of the components noted above, Jam Party certainly doesn’t feel underdesigned, but it doesn’t have the sort of unified aesthetic polish or millimeter-obsessive engineering we’ve seen in top $100 speakers from companies such as JBL and Soundfreaq. For instance, the top control bar of our review unit didn’t quite match the blue color of the rest of the unit, seams are visible on all of Jam Party’s sides, and its twin 1.5” speakers are easily spotted inside hexagonal recesses behind the front speaker grille. Moreover, despite possessing similar enough audio hardware, Jam Party is quite a bit bigger than the Jambox, JBL’s Flip, and most of their peer-priced rivals. One gets the sense that it could have been more conveniently smaller without any sonic compromises had the pop-up handle just been left out.
Jam Party makes a good rather than great overall sonic impression. On the plus side, it is capable of performing music just a tiny bit louder than the peak level of JBL’s Flip, which is to say just shy of small room-filling—not bad for a compact, battery-powered speaker. It’s also quite similar in frequency response, favoring treble and mids over bass. While Flip has a small edge in clarity, the differences between them aren’t huge, and since Flip’s an excellent performer for its size and price, that’s pretty good news for Jam Party.
On the other hand, Jam Party is considerably larger, yet doesn’t have major sonic or other advantages over Flip. It notably lacks the microphone/speakerphone functionality found in Flip, and has some rough edges when used as a speaker. The first thing we noticed was its power-on chime, a pleasant enough sound that clips off just before it finishes playing; this chime subsequently sounded like it’s being interrupted by a second, similarly clipped chime signaling Bluetooth pairing. More importantly, an obvious static hiss can be heard whenever music is quiet or stops playing through the speakers, interfering a bit with the system’s otherwise Flip-like sonic quality. While the hiss isn’t terrible, and HDMX appears to be shutting off the amplifier after several quiet seconds to prevent it from being annoying, it doesn’t sound great when you can hear it. You’ll also have to play separately with your Apple device’s volume settings and the volume buttons on the speakers to optimize sonic performance.
Considered in its totality, Jam Party is good enough to be worthy of a general recommendation, but that’s all. Top $100 rivals such as Flip and Soundfreaq’s Sound Kick offer superior overall value propositions for their prices, giving users the choice of a considerably smaller size with speakerphone functionality, or something larger with added bass, each with impressive build quality. Jam Party’s greatest differentiators are its battery life, color options, and handle, none of which we’d consider major reasons to pick this system over earlier alternatives. Should its design language really speak to your needs, we wouldn’t dissuade you from considering it, but it’s not a strong enough performer to really stand out from the crowd.