Review: JBL's new Partybox Encore Essential speaker is a great size at a great price

JBL Partybox Encore Essential
The company's speakers are generally impressive - but is the new one? Photo credit: Newshub

I've reviewed a few JBL products in my time and they're a brand that is as reliable as they come.

If you buy a set of headphones or a speaker from the company you can be assured the audio quality is going to be more than acceptable.

However I haven't always been a massive fan of party speakers - they tend to favour those with lots of spare money and who don't mind annoying their neighbours.

Could I be convinced by JBL's latest addition to the range?

I've been using the Partybox Encore Essential for a couple of weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good

Right out of the box, it's clear the new speaker is going to be more my cup of tea compared to others I've tried.

It's smaller than I'd expected and, although not quite a cube, comes in just around 30cm2 meaning it's not going to dominate and will fit in your car boot along with all the other stuff you need for the beach. By which I mean a towel and cases of beer and wine.

It's also easy enough to connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth - or your favoured audio player via 3.5mm audio cable. You should also install the app - available for both iOS and Android - so you have ultimate control.

And you'll be vowed by the sound for the most part.

JBL Partybox Encore Essential
Photo credit: JBL Partybox Encore Essential

As always, I tried out a selection of my go-to tunes, none of which would be considered party fodder by most. Of course Motorhead got a bit of a blast, their cover of David Bowie's Heroes one of the greatest rock tracks of all time.

I also mellowed it up a little with new favourite Harry Styles, some Swell Season and a touch of Kirsty MacColl before embracing my dark side with Iron Maiden and Metallica.

I love the bass-y sounds of JBL's speakers, so much so that the Bass Boost button just isn't necessary as far as I'm concerned. In fact I'd say the two options actually take away from the fidelity of the experience.

Perhaps if I was a drum and bass kind of guy, that might be more important. For me bass has to be a balance of feeling it but not pissing everyone off that lives within half a kilometre.

For those who like to take the party to the next level, a microphone can be plugged into the back for full karaoke mode. I respect everyone too much to make them listen to me trying to hit the right notes.

Battery-wise, it's not going to see you through an all-nighter, with around six hours maximum but less if you're really pushing the sound.

That seems fair enough for the size and price, however, and the plug means you can keep the party going in the lounge when it's dying.

And there's more too.

JBL Partybox Encore Essential
Photo credit: Newshub

You can pair the speaker with a second using TWS to create a stereo pair that will really maximise the sound levels and it's IPX4 splashproof which will ensure any stray pool water doesn't do any damage.

I also like the USB port in the back, for those old school who carry their tunes around on a USB stick that cost the same as the speaker, back in the day.

All in all, it's a tremendous sounding speaker that's the right size to be what it purports to be. Party on!

The bad

Although options have gotten better since I last used a Partybox speaker, the ability to finesse the sound is still limited.

There's now an equaliser within the app that provides some limited options for bass, mid and treble settings but it's hardly comprehensive.

JBL Partybox Encore Essential
Photo credit: Newshub

It's a good job the JBL's default sound is so good and true as significantly changing it may be beyond your control.

Of course there are another couple of options that work as intended but potentially turn this from something you'd want to use to something kitsch and overbearing.

The first is the lightshow. Yes, it may remind you of your primary school disco, it really doesn't do much for me, even when it changes in sync to the music.

The second is the (for me) much-hated DJ sounds. It's like JBL wants to remind you of that terrible all-inclusive holiday you took when you were 19 and the DJ thought it was hilarious to play The Timewarp four times in a row.

Okay, I'm probably not the audience for those functions. Then again, who wants to press buttons to boo, cheer and play klaxon sounds?

JBL Partybox Encore Essential
Photo credit: Newshub

The verdict

Too often I've found party speakers such as this either too cumbersome to be truly mobile or at a price point that makes you wonder how you get your money's worth.

I'm very pleased to say the Encore Essential hits my sweet spot perfectly.

At around $400 it's not that expensive for the quality of audio you get from it. That's no surprise as JBL's range of audio devices very rarely fail to impress.

Meanwhile weighing in at under 6kg, with a soft-grip handle to carry it with, I would have no hesitation in carrying this to the far end of the beach if necessary.

With all the miserable weather at the moment, I'm already dreaming of summer. 

JBL Partybox Encore Essential
Photo credit: Newshub

I can easily see this blasting out some party tunes on a Friday evening in my back garden, the barbecue on and the drinks flowing.

It would be a damned fine addition to yours too, I suspect.

Newshub was supplied with a JBL Partybox Encore Essential for this review.