various wireless speakers set against a checkered dance floor of colored disco lights

While we won't comment here on the pursuit of perfect snacks or the pitfalls of any given guest list, we can say that adding pitch-perfect music to your party has never been easier, thanks to today's wireless speakers. 

The wonders of streaming music can transform your favorite playlist—or that of a friend—almost instantly into mood-setting background listening or a full-throttle dance floor groove. 

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But not all speakers are created equal for party time. You want a model that can play loudly, filling a decent-sized room. You want it to be rugged and maybe even water-resistant, just in case a guest spills a seltzer, hard or otherwise. And you want it to deliver good sound, even when you're not in party mode.

We selected five quite different but well-rated speakers that share two important things. They're great for a party. And unlike your old college roommate, they'll make you happy to live with them long after the last Solo cup has hit the trash.

JLab Audio Block Party

Don't be fooled by appearances. The JLab Block Party may seem kinda tiny, but this little speaker performs. Our testers put it through the paces and confirmed that it provides volume aplenty, although they note that the low bass is a bit limited by the modest size of the enclosure. 

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JLab Audio Block Party

Price: $150

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The other thing that's kind of small about the JLab is the price. That gives you the option of buying several Block Party speakers and syncing them by Bluetooth for something like surround-sound throughout your party space. And when the lights go back up and that weapons-grade party playlist has been silenced in favor of your favorite podcast, you can use your collection of JLabs in a versatile multiroom system. Note that JLab claims the Block Party is splashproof but not waterproof, so it might not be the best choice for a pool party. 

JBL Boombox

The JBL Boombox channels those giant beat boxes of the 1980s and '90s and while its smooth streaming easily tops the warbling cassettes from the previous millennium, the hefty speaker does share some common ground, sonically, with its ancestors.

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JBL Boombox

Price: $500

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As with the music players you find in an old MTV video, the Boombox is all about the bass. It will rattle the walls. And that's a bit of a mixed blessing. While our testers give the Boombox a solid score for sound quality, they add that the bass is so prominent it can be overwhelming on some songs. To put it another way, the speaker would have scored even higher if the bass was a bit more restrained. But in a party situation, that throbbing bottom end might be just what the doctor ordered.

ION Tailgater Sport

The Tailgater Sport might be the ultimate appliance for an impromptu dance party, or any other situation where rugged construction and low price are important attributes.

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Ion Tailgater Sport

Price: $125

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This beefy block of a speaker, about a foot in each dimension, was designed to pump out tunes. Our testers report that the sound lacks a little nuance and detail compared with that of the very best wireless speakers

But if you're blasting dance music, whether at a party or while tailgating, sophistication simply isn't as important as sheer volume. And the latter is what the ION delivers. Our testers also give this modestly priced speaker high marks for versatility and ease of use. It boasts a large and well-labeled volume knob, and it includes a microphone input—as well as the mic itself—which makes it easy to channel your inner DJ.

Sony SRS-XB41

How about a speaker that lets you not only play music but make music? Or at least some reasonable facsimile thereof.

The Sony SRS-XB41 features what the company calls a Party Booster, which plays a variety of percussion sounds when you whack the top and sides of the enclosure to the beat of the music. Our informal testing revealed that the feature wasn't as responsive as one might expect. It's more of a fun novelty than a necessity, but during a party that's not a bad thing. 

The XB41 can also put on an LED light show synced to the music and, yes, even customized via a smartphone app. Sony claims the foot-long speaker is water-resistant, another handy attribute when the dancing starts. 

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Sony SRS-XB41

Price: $150

Sound quality
Ease of use
Versatility
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All those glitzy features wouldn’t mean much, however, if the XB41 didn't deliver respectable sound quality as well, with an even midrange and a treble that’s a bit subdued. While XB stands for eXtra Bass, our testers found that the deep bass is merely adequate and noted that the sound can be somewhat harsh at maximum volume. The model does play louder and deliver deeper bass than its smaller and cheaper sibling the XB31. Our testers also found the XB41 to be easy to use, adding that pairing two units in stereo improves the sound.

Bose Soundlink Revolve+

If you're looking for a speaker to play some Miles Davis, Sara Bareilles, or even a bit of Bach in the background of a dinner party, this big Bose fits the bill. 

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Bose Soundlink Revolve+

Price: $240

Sound quality
Ease of use
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With its steely, cylindrical styling, the Revolve+ is certainly sophisticated, although please note that it's splash-resistant rather than fully waterproof. The Revolve+ provides large and intuitive controls right on top of the speaker, a feature that's useful both during a party and in everyday listening.

Sonically, the Revolve+ proves to be a congenial listening partner, although our testers found the midrange to be “a touch metallic sounding" in critical listening situations. The speaker is sonically similar to its less expensive sibling, the Revolve, but delivers more volume and bass at a somewhat higher price, which makes it better suited to party duty.