Creative Sound Blaster Roar review
Creative is one of those companies that doesn't muck around trying to be a super-cool Beats or new-wave trendy Bluetooth speaker company. It relies on what it knows best: delivering quality sound.
The Creative Sound Blaster Roar may look small and just like many other Bluetooth speakers priced around £130. But for that asking price can this Sound Blaster not only sing beyond its peers but, as its name suggests, roar?
We've seen Bluetooth speakers that cost the same or more than the Roar but aren't built to anywhere near the same specification.
The metallic build is sturdy and we like the aesthetic appeal of that dotted mesh cover. This metal component meets an easy-to-grip silicone section containing the main button controls on top, while to the rear the same section houses the inputs and outputs and some additional controls.
Typically you'll just use the Bluetooth connection - it works via NFC too and is aptX compatible for the highest sound quality - but there's also a 3.5mm AUX in, microUSB port and even a microSD slot.
The additional controls make it possible to record and playback media, making the Roar much more than just a plain Bluetooth speaker. How much you'll genuinely use these we have to question, but just like the Creative Sound BlasterAxx Axx 200 we have also reviewed they are all present and correct.
READ: Creative Axx 200 review
Unlike the hexagonal format of that sister product, however, the Creative Sound Blaster Roar is a small scale portable - measuring 20cm across, 11.5cm deep and 5.6cm tall - with two side-positioned radiators for added bass enhancement.
Typically small products such as this seriously lack bass. But the first time we synched music to the Sound Blaster Roar we were seriously impressed because it positively boomed and gave plenty of low-end rumble.
Quite a feat to achieve, but there's no trickery: Creative has simply done the footwork and wired the right components in. There are two 1.5in drivers for the high- and mid-range, while one 2.5in subwoofer soounds to have bigger bass output thanks to those radiators we've mentioned.
Indeed we don't think we've heard a £130 Bluetooth speaker at this scale deliver more bass. It's a balanced sound output that doesn't distort or vibrate its own chassis either, so audio remains clean.
It's also really, really loud if you want it to be. The volume controls on top of the device operate independently from other devices, which gives a two-tier approach to getting the right sort of incremental volume. Volume up on the Roar, add some more via your smartphone.
Our only minor criticism is that you'll need to think about where the Sound Blaster Roar is placed. It's not got a full 360-degrees of output like Ultimate Ears' competitor product UE Boom does, for example, so you'll get best results when it's raised and facing front-on at you. Not a huge issue, but something to think about.
READ: UE Boom review
With a battery life that lasts up to eight hours - less if you crank the volume, but we've been getting full office days of use from it - the Sound Blaster Roar is also easily portable.
It does weigh almost 1.1kgs, however, so it's not dissimilar to carting around a 10-inch laptop or similar in terms of weight. It's twice the weight of the UE Boom mentioned above, so not the lightest of portables by any means.
But then you do get that quality build. And while it's not waterproof - hide it when outside if the rain comes - we doubt that'll be a deal-breaker. How often do you sit in the rain listening to music after all?
When testing the unit around the house we did feel as though the Bluetooth range had its limitations and didn't operate quite as far as some products we've used before, but a direct line of sight is no problem for this small speaker.
Just like with its Axx sister, the Roar also includes a built-in microphone for use when conference calling or to act as a Dictaphone because, yup, the Roar can record your voice onto a microSD card. Very cool, but we doubt we'd ever actually use it in the real world.
The other buttons on the rear handle an alarm and there's even an LS switch that, rather bizarrely, stands for "life saver". Pop it into one of its two positions and, as a lovely voice says out loud, "life saver active: loud sounds will be played at random to keep you awake." Um, ok then. Don't sleep and drive, m'kay?
If Creative isn't among the first names that jump out at you when thinking of buying a Bluetooth speaker then, take note, because the Sound Blaster Roar is an exceptional portable.
Decent battery life, sturdy design and, most importantly for any audio device, sound quality that will outsmart plenty of its rivals are obvious high points. There's a lot of bass that warmly sweeps into the mix - far more than you'd anticipate for a device of this scale.
It's a little weighty for a portable, but we'd rather take the quality build and deal with that. Because for its £130 asking price - and despite that being a lot more than the US equivalent price point (naughty, naughty) - we don't think there are many better portable Bluetooth speakers out there.