Most people will be glad to see the end of 2020, myself included. But among the cool things that happened this year was my finally embracing a particular type of home entertainment.
I now fully appreciate party speakers after years of snobbishly turning up my noses at them.
Why do people value convenience over sound quality, I thought? And what's up with the flashing lights?
As it turns out, the coloured lighting is far from the silliest thing about Sony's MHC-V73D, one of the most notable party speakers released this year.
But this thing also turned out to be one of the most fun bits of tech I've used in ages.
After using one of these "High Power Audio System" devices for the last few months, here are my thoughts.
Over the last few years we've all gotten used to hearing music from those tinny little Bluetooth speakers or even worse, straight from a mobile phone's inbuilt speaker.
The V73D has to be plugged in, so it's not as portable as smaller ones like my little JBL, but its sound quality and volume capability is drastically superior.
And it's still fairly portable. It's pretty easy to take out onto the deck and back, or to anywhere in the house, or even to chuck in the back of the car and take to an Airbnb with the boys.
Sure, the audio quality isn't as crisp and lush as a pricey hi-fi stereo unit, but it's still very much good enough to blast.
The Bluetooth connectivity is fantastic, but that's a given now. This is also a DVD player with HDMI out which can be surprisingly handy - but it also plays CDs, is a FM radio tuner, has a USB input and an analogue audio port, too.
But there's two other ports that make this thing super fun: the microphone ports.
They make the V73D a karaoke station that all of a sudden means those silly flashing lights start making a lot more sense. You can Bluetooth or HDMI connect your TV to this, with YouTube on the TV which you can control from your phone, if you like.
It's damn good to not have to go to a karaoke bar to croon out '80s classics and melt away the troubles of the day. It turns out there's plenty of awesome karaoke versions of songs on YouTube you can access for free.
Those inputs could also be for plugging in a guitar or some other instrument and jamming along to some tunes, but karaoke really does take some beating. Having it in your home rather than a bar also means that even toddlers can get in on the fun - but be warned the fury of teenagers around as older family members try to educate them about "real music".
The little ones will likely enjoy those silly lights quite a lot too, as well as the hand gesture audio effects.
Yes. After touching a button, you can swipe your hand over the top of this thing to activate different samples, like your classic airhorn sound effect or a guy saying "let's go".
After touching a button, you can swipe your hand over the top of this thing to activate different samples, like your classic airhorn sound effect or a guy saying "let's go".
Toddlers find this hilarious and look, even I did the first time I annoyed various people with it. But there's no getting around how ridiculously basic and pointless this feature is.
What type of music sounds better with an untimed, super loud airhorn over the top of it?
What's even more ridiculous is the 'Taiko Mode' offered in the V73D. It has you tap the top of the thing to make drum sounds, but it's a game - sort of like those plastic noise game things we had in the '80s.
Considering pretty much anyone who has one of these speakers also has a smartphone that has a whole world of more advanced games to play on it, I'm baffled as to who the Taiko game is for. But hey, it's easy to just ignore these extra features, right?
Well, that depends on how annoying your drunk mate or excitable toddler is.
As far as sound quality goes, party speakers are generally about maximum volume for their size. This one goes nice and loud, especially with the bass boost on - but for hearing every single note and appreciating all the nuances of high quality recordings? That's not what this is for.
This size will be an awkward in-between for some people - not as portable as little battery-powered Bluetooth speakers, and not as good quality as a decent stereo system. But for others it'll be just right.
Sony's MHC-V73D can be a fantastic addition to one's home.
For cranking up my music while barbecuing on the balcony, using with the media room projector when we're watching movies or to provide the tunes when entertaining guests in any part of the house, it's nice and loud, and easy to move about.
But it's true, somewhat unexpected value has come from it being a karaoke machine which kids and adults alike thoroughly get a kick out of.
I only wish we'd had it earlier in the year for the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Maybe in a few years I'll go back and invest in a new ultra hi-fi unit to really focus on audio quality, but for now that's what decent headphones are for.
The convenience, versatility and volume of the V73D have converted to the charms of the party speaker.
Newshub was supplied a Sony MHC-V73D for this review.