SoundBlaster Roar: Redefining “all-in-one”

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The Creative Sound Blaster was the soundcard of choice, back in the day when people still bought soundcards. However, as the previous sentence indicates, times have changed quite significantly, and Creative have found a way to innovate themselves out of obsolescence. The Sound Blaster Roar is a new kitchen sink approach to the Bluetooth speaker, with feature-packed functionality and great quality sound pouring out of almost literally everywhere. But is it as Creative claim, “the pinnacle of portable wireless audio”?  The Roar is packed with 5 drivers and powered by 2 high-performance amplifiers and a built-in subwoofer. But the Roar is also brimming with all sorts of technology – a built in battery, NFC, integrated voice recorder, microSD card recorder and a host of weird features like the ability to randomly blurt out noises to keep you from drifting off.

You certainly get a lot of bang for your buck. According to Will Greenwald at PC Mag;

“The Sound Blaster Roar defines overkill in terms of features. Creative seems to have thrown in every function I can think of for a wireless speaker short of AirPlay, and adding a few I hadn’t even considered.”

However, rather than over-egging the pudding, this works in the Roar’s favour.

“The Roar is the most audacious Bluetooth speaker I’ve ever seen, pulling tricks out of its hat I wouldn’t have imagined for a product this type, size, and price. It’s really quite impressive. The tricks are of varying usefulness, but there are so many of them you can find at least two or three you’ll appreciate.”

Over at Tech Radar, Nick Pino was enamoured with the Roar’s sleek design.

“Where the Pulse seemed to pander to a younger crowd with its lava lamp-style lights, the SR20 looks more like a hefty novel with chrome accents and a jet-black trim. It may not make for a great conversation piece like JBL’s Pulse, but the SR20 is refined, elegant, and would look sharp almost anywhere in the home. This Sound Blaster is compact, too. Measuring 2.24 x7.95 x 4.52 inches (W x D x H), the device should be easy to bring around town or, thanks to included international adapters, on a trip overseas. It’s a bit hefty, though, at 2.5 pounds, which may make you think twice.”

However, Micky Campell over at Apple Insider provides a small caveat.

“Given that the device’s guts are jammed into one side of the cabinet, while the grille-covered area houses three drivers and air, it should come as no surprise that balance is a bit off. This has no effect on sound reproduction, however, and is only mentioned out of consideration for those thinking about hand-carrying the speaker.”

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However, the key focus of any speaker review should be the device’s sound and reviewers agree that the Roar was no slouch.

Barry Brenasal over at Computer Shopper praised the Roar’s detailed sound.

“The sound wasn’t spacious, by any means, and the velvet was missing from the strings, but for a portable system in its price range, we were impressed. This naturally led us to test further in the same direction, and see just how deep that bass response could get in an album designed to spotlight this. That meant, first, one of our favorite test records, Ikon II (Hyperion 67756), with Stephen Layton leading the Holst Singers. Here it was possible to tell that the upper bass was fine, but that the really chthonic, deep bass response—the kind that seems to reach up from the deep in the earth below and grab you by the feet, before moving up your legs and spine—was completely missing. Even with the Roar button engaged, that sound wasn’t there in Balakirev’s Let all mortal flesh keep silence, nor Chesnokov’s jubilant Let thy good spirit. Nor, for that matter, to change gears in a big way, could it be found in Aerosmith’s Back in the Saddle. What we did get in the Aerosmith, at louder volume levels, was a slight amount of bass breakup.”

However, Tyll Hertsens over at Inner Fidelity uncovered an mild annoyance – one endemic to most speakers competing for attention in the crowded marketplace.

“On two occasions in the last month I’ve run across smart streaming speakers that have their internal equalizer set to something other than flat out of the box—the Sound Blaster Roar SR20 and the Philips Fidelio Sound Spheres. It seems to me that what’s going on here is that speakers are shipped with the EQ set to be attention grabbing and exciting on the display room floor or for unsophisticated users. The bass was set too high on the Sound Spheres, and the sound from the SR20 was overly punchy and slightly strident out of the box.”

“In both cases, in the normal flow of doing the review I found companion apps on-line that allow more comprehensive control of the device. Once I opened these apps I stumbled upon the fact that the equalizers were set to something other than flat. I’m going to make an assumption here that engineers in the company who designed the product calibrated it to be as flat as possible with the settings flat, and that subsequently folks in Sales and Marketing decided that punching up the sound of the product away from flat would improve sales. Sadly, they’re likely correct, and I can’t be too hard on the practice. What I can do though is warn you when purchasing products like this that it’s well worth the effort to find companion apps and to check the EQ settings.”

The Roar doesn’t quite live up to its name – but is a far cry from a miaow. Tech Radar summarised it well, pointing out that,

“While it won’t replace your soundbar or high-end speaker, the feature-rich SR20 is a cut above its compact competitors at the $200 price range.”

While at Inner Fidelity sum up the device’s potential best.

“Having now lived with this little gem for a month or so, I can say that while other Bluetooth speakers will likely get my ears for music playing, I have no doubt the Roar SR20 will always be within arm’s reach both at home and on the road. It’s just too good an audio tool to be without.” 

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The Roar is available now with an RRP of £129.99.

For more information visit Creative.