Creative Sound Blaster ROAR Review
The advent of high-end mobile devices that can do everything from stream music to play console-quality video games has spawned a whole new market for portable wireless speaker systems to give said devices a boost in the audio department while users are on the go. Let’s face it, the built-in speakers on Android and iOS devices leave much to be desired when it comes to robust and powerful sound quality, and the same can be said for most laptops. A nice pair of headphones can solve many sound quality issues for mobile devices, but this solution limits who can hear audio to the user wearing the headset. Herein lies the beauty of portable speaker systems, and in particular the new Sound Blaster ROAR from Creative Labs, which will allow any audiophile to maximize the sound output of their mobile devices (and PCs) for the world to hear and enjoy.
Creative Labs’ Sound Blaster ROAR is the latest innovation in portable bluetooth speakers thanks to its booklet-size design (~2.5 pounds), and more importantly its five audio drivers powered by not one, but two separate amplifiers to ensure both high and low sounding frequencies get equal amounts of power. This unique hardware setup allows the ROAR to maintain clear sounding frequencies at any volume level, while also filling a large room with its space-filling sound thanks to the far-field high frequency drivers used in its design. With the inclusion of AAC and aptX codecs the ROAR also ensures that all Bluetooth 3.0 connections sound just as clear, if not better than a wired connection. With built-in NFC capabilities and the ability to connect multiple Bluetooth devices at once, the Sound Blaster ROAR makes it easier than ever to connect your mobile devices and start listening to them without the hassle of cables or tedious pairing methods. The ROAR truly is a party-in-a-box that can most definitely light up a room with luscious sounds if the DJ forgot to bring his/her turntables.
Creative Labs’ Sound Blaster ROAR definitely lives up to its powerful name. This book-let sized portable wireless speaker can turn even the crummiest sounding mobile device speakers into booming boxes of clear powerful sound when connected to the ROAR through Bluetooth. The five separate drivers do in fact produce a much more full sound profile that does fill a room with both high and low frequencies. The combination of the five drivers and two dedicated amps produces an audio experience with a quality that rivals wired speaker systems that can cost upwards of $250-$500. The ROAR adds so much power to your mobile device’s audio output that it can cause damage to your ears if you try to turn its volume up all the way, which is a great thing when it comes to sound quality, but maybe not so much when it comes to your health.
The inclusion of a Tera Bass mode can help boost the bass of an audio track even at low volumes, so the ROAR can still give you the deep tones you desire while listening quietly, or it can flesh out the deep tones of a music track while at a loud party. This mode is activated with a button on the ROAR’s backside and it is quite noticeable when it’s turned on and off. This setting gives audiophiles a way to beef up, or strip out bass tones of a particular song or audio track to ensure it sounds the best it possibly can for the environment it’s being played in. Personally, leaving it enabled seems to produce the best overall sound for most of today’s music, but if you find that the Tera Bass makes a track too beefy or muffled sounding, it can easily be switched off on the fly.
If Tera Bass isn’t enough to pump the sound from the Sound Blaster ROAR over a loud gathering of people it also offers the “ROAR” button, which dynamically increases the sound output to overcome other loud noises that you may hear at a party type of event. Rather than messing with the volume buttons to turn up the device when the crowd gets too loud you can just press the “ROAR” button, which will instantly add a noticeable amount of audio power to the ROAR itself. It’s not just a louder noise either, the “ROAR” mode definitely adds power and more space-filling quality to the audio output to give the ROAR an impressive sound profile while it’s being used in an overly loud area.
The mix of hardware and audio boosting features of the Sound Blaster ROAR is definitely impressive, and it’s a portable speaker solution that can bring a room to life with its clear and rich frequencies. During testing all audio streams sounded much more rich and full thanks to the ROAR’s abilities, and there’s no doubt that it could serve as a full fledged speaker system while on the road vacationing, or even in a home or an apartment that can’t support a more expensive home entertainment system. With the ROAR in tow there’s no need to make sure that a location has a speaker system, because it gives all of your Bluetooth enabled mobile devices the ability to be professional sounding audio devices without the need to lug around hundreds of dollars of equipment.
The audio technology packed into the Sound Blaster ROAR is well worth the low asking price of $149.99, but when its other functions are factored into the mix, the Sound Blaster ROAR becomes an incredible value for mobile power users. This portable speaker solution is more than just hardware that can boost the audio power of a mobile device thanks to its plethora of other functions, which include, but are not limited to: USB device charger, MP3/WMA audio player, SD card reader, Speakerphone, and Voice recorder. Think of the ROAR as the Swiss Army knife of portable wireless speakers, because its other functions are quite useful. Below you will find summaries of these functions and how well they work.
The ROAR can be connected to in four different ways. Users can use Bluetooth, Analog (AUX in), Digital USB, or the Standalone mode to connect to the speaker system. These options provide flexibility in your connection options, and allow you to use the device for more than just wireless speakers. For example, you can plug it into your PC or Mac and use the ROAR as desktop speakers complete with a software program to customize the sound profiles. If a device doesn’t have Bluetooth you can still connect it using an AUX cable, or if you don’t have a device at all you can just play music right from the ROAR’s memory card slot.
The ability to connect multiple Bluetooth devices at once is also a great feature and works quite well. Depending on the Link Security mode you have set you can allow two devices to connect at once, none but your own, or have a free for all and allow anyone with a Bluetooth device to connect. With that being said only two devices can be connected at once, but getting them connected is quite easy. I found using the NFC pairing to be the easiest method of connecting a new device, but the Bluetooth pairing operation is a cinch as well.
Integrated memory card reader and MP3 player
The Sound Blaster ROAR can also serve as a memory card reader and a MP3/WMA player thanks to its microSD slot. This functionality works well and allows you to store up to 32 gb of data on the device itself, which can include your own voice memos, loaded songs, or even songs that you’ve recorded from other sources directly onto the ROAR’s memory card.
The internal battery not only gives you ~8 hours of playback time, but it can also be used to charge other USB devices like the iPhone or Android phones. A USB port is located on the rear of the ROAR and it will charge any USB device connected to it, so not only can you listen to some great sounding audio on the go, you can also charge your devices while doing so. In my tests I was able to add 50% of power back to my Galaxy Note 3 after leaving it plugged into the ROAR (powered off state) for about two hours. It’s definitely not a quick charger, but the ROAR can get you some precious juice in an emergency situation
If a memory card is installed in the ROAR it can be used to record voice memos, speakerphone calls, or music playing from an attached audio source. These are great functions for power users, so the ROAR can even play secretary if you use it in an office setting, or to organize interviews, voice notes, and even telephone calls.
If you have a smartphone attached to the ROAR using Bluetooth you can use the speaker as a speakerphone. I tested this multiple times and it definitely amplified my conversations with clear audio on both ends, and I would definitely use the ROAR as a full on speakerphone if I worked in an office setting.
With a memory card installed that has audio data on it the ROAR can be put into Bedtime Mode to play the audio and progressively lower it over a timeframe of 15 or 30 minutes. This way you can gradually pass out to your favorite tunes, or if you’re a parent you could record a bedtime story to be played for the little ones as they dose off in their beds.
The ROAR has a built-in siren to alert anyone nearby of trouble. With the push of a button on the rear side the ROAR will send out extremely high tones and audio in an attempt to draw people’s attention to it. I’m not sure when this function may come in handy, but if you’re ever alone and have the ROAR in hand, you can discourage evil doers with its siren.
It’s plain to see that the Sound Blaster ROAR from Creative Labs is more than just a portable speaker system thanks to all of its included functions and features. Each one detailed above works as advertised, and don’t require complex directions to figure out. It’s always appreciated when a device can do more than its main purpose, so the ROAR is an amazing value for $149.
Creative Labs’ Sound Blaster ROAR is an amazing portable wireless speaker system that can definitely bolster your mobile audio needs while on the go. Its five driver system powered by two independent amps produces amazingly clear and powerful tones that can turn any Bluetooth audio device into an impressive sound system. Connecting to the ROAR is a breeze thanks to its easy-to-use NFC and Bluetooth pairing modes, so listening to music on it doesn’t require a technical degree. The extra functions only add more value to this already impressive device, so for $149 you can’t really find another portable wireless speaker system that can belt out the sound and perform other duties like charging USB devices, and serving as a memory card reader. If you’ve been needing to liven up your summer with some powerful audio and cool functionality, then you should definitely plan on buying the Sound Blaster ROAR from Creative Labs.
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Review Statement: The author of this review was provided with a Sound Blaster ROAR from the manufacturer for the purposes of this review.