SoundBlaster Roar: Redefining “all-in-one”

roar-lake

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.

Foxl Portable Hifi Speaker: Portable sound that goes to 11

The early pioneering days of portable hi fi are like golden sunsets for me. A romantic notion it has to be said, but after a few minutes you want to move on, because tomorrow there’s another one coming along. And let’s face it, it wasn’t that long ago when we were packing those speakers into our suitcase and ending up with a pile of knotted up spaghetti that took forever to straighten out. Then there was the sound quality. Well, let’s not even go there. Fortunately hi fi has evolved at a frightening pace and thankfully speakers have become smaller and sound quality has improved no end. There has yet to be however, a portable wireless speaker system that lays down a benchmark for the industry to set as a standard bearer.

FoxLv2

The Foxl v2 however will raise one or two eyebrows, having been personally endorsed by a number of respected rock musicians who have a practical use for it on the road. Now before we all jump up and hail the new king of portable audio, let’s not assume that what we have here is the last word in miniature high end audio, but it is nevertheless an extraordinary breakthrough.

Practically the same size as your iPhone, your first expectations of the Foxlv2 are therefore perhaps just as small, but this is a pocket rocket that will punch much higher than its diminutive size due to some technological wizardry from Soundmatters’ founder Dr. Godehard Guenther.

Jordan Rudess loves his iPad Foxl speaker combo

Tiny dual 1-inch linear magnetic DriveTM Twoofers provide the clarity and range whilst a patented ‘BassBattery’ technology turns the battery into a woofer which together with passive bass radiators provide the bass depth so vital in making sound quality really effective. The bluetooth connectivity is good for at least 30 feet, and whilst there is bound to be some interference the overall effect is a triumph when you consider how small this device really is.

Soundmatters also includes an AC power alternative in the bundle which helps to boost output and recharges the battery which is stated to last over 8 hours. There is also a microphone that allows you to use it as a hands free speakerphone if you’re playing music through your connected phone.

There is a video of the amp in action here.

The FoxLv2 Bluetooth $199   www.soundmatters.com.

Logitech UE Speaker: Wireless music streaming

Logitech have announced the release of their new UE Air Speaker system, which incorporates Apple’s AirPlay technology, allowing your music to be streamed wirelessly from a whole variety of Apple products – more specifically iTunes, iPhone, iPod or an iPad.

Logitech-UE-Air-Speaker

Offering high quality audio streamed over your home Wi-Fi network, the speakers incorporate dual tweeters and woofers for maximum impact. Easy to set up and with a modern, stylish design, the speakers are all set to take pride of place in any music lovers shopping list.

If you are wondering what UE stands for, then wonder no longer. Unique Electrics, would be a good guess, but no… it is actually Ultimate Ears. Strange but true. Then again, who are we to complain about a name when Logitech offer speakers that perform to the high standard that these do?

Don’t just take our word for it, the Logitech UE Speaker has won an honoree award in the Wireless Handset Accessories product category at the International CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards 2012.

They are simplicity itself to use; all you have to do is dock your Apple i-device and download the Logitech UE Air app. You just need to connect to your Wi-Fi network and you are then all ready to start streaming music to your hearts (or should we say, ears) content. If you use their Apple Dock Connector, you can even charge your device as you stream. Logitech seem to have thought of everything. Ultimate Ears, indeed.

Priced at £299, the speakers are available from the beginning of April from most retailers in the high street and online stores.

For more information visit www.logitech.com.

Bluetooth Robot Sound Box: This is the droid you are looking for

It’s a truth universally acknowledged by everyone who’s ever turned an amp all the way up to 11 – music sounds great loud. PMPs and smartphones of all shapes and sizes are pretty incredible music devices – they can store gigs of musical data and even better, can hook up to services like Spotify and tap into an infinite jukebox. But their built in speakers aren’t designed to blow you away (and I’m sure anyone who has ever travelled on a London bus with teenagers is infinitely grateful for this fact. But there are times when it’s nice to get a little Radio Raheem and break out your boom box. We looked at TDK’s pretty impressive answer to this conundrum earlier on in the year. But what if you’re ballin’ on a budget? Well our friends at mobilefun.co.uk hooked us up with a toy that should help you bring the noise.

Bluetooth-Robot

Android fan boys your time has come. Why waste time screaming about your preferred mobile OS of choice on forums when you can can let your smartphone shout from the rooftops for you (real answer – no one in the real world cares what operating system your phone uses).

The Bluetooth Robot Sound Box utilises Android’s key strength – the darned cuteness of its robot mascot – and turns that into a sonic weapon in the form of a Bluetooth speaker and microphone. This isn’t your Granddad’s bluetooth however, and the BRSB uses Bluetooth 3.0 so the sound quality is pretty sharp.

The robot’s head acts as a control for your phone, letting you change tracks with a twist or pause with a push
The top of the robot can be moved to let you control your tracks, play/pause music, or activate voice-dialling with a simple motion. The head rotates left and right for track changes, while it acts as a button for the other features.

6th generation CVC is also deployed for echo and noise reduction. Set up is simple (it’s Bluetooth after all) and for your time you get 300 hours of standby time, 4.5 hours talk time and a working distance of 10 meters. Plus you look immeasurably cool talking to a robot at your desk -especially if you’re using Siri.

The Bluetooth Robot Sound Box is £19.95 from mobilefun.co.uk