(Pocket-lint) - With what seems like a zillion portable Bluetooth speakers available, it can be tricky to decide which one to buy. Creative might not be the most obvious name that springs to mind, but its Roar series has been a strong contender in the space for years - and we loved the 2014 original model and 2015 follow-up sequel.
A few years on and the company has tweaked its formula to deliver the iRoar Go - a portable, water-resistant Bluetooth speaker with heaps of volume in a functional rather than fashionistic design.
Does it keep the standards as high this time around to standout in among an increasingly busy space? We've been using one for a couple of months to find out.
Creative iRoar Go review: Design
- 54 x 192 x 97mm; 810g
- Inputs: 3.5mm, Micro-USB, microSD, Bluetooth 4.2 (NFC)
- 12-hour battery life, 15V mains charger
- Water-resistant design
Bluetooth speaker design has been evolving over time, with various striking looking portable models available from the likes of Ultimate Ears and B&O BeoPlay, to name just a couple of prominent makers. Taken in comparison to those the Creative iRoar Go is a more functional rather than fashionable design. It's inoffensive, but could look a little neater in places.
Take, for example, the flaps covering the various inputs atop the device, or the huge array of volume/track skip buttons. They're necessary as microSD card input is possible to play music remotely, but we'd rather just control things via our phone or laptop and keep the design neater overall.
What the iRoar Go does have in its favour is that it's smaller than previous Roar models by quite some margin. It's not tiny to the point that it'll sound thin, though, while remaining portable enough to carry around for those outdoor picnics, BBQ parties and so forth.
Available in black only, the iRoar Go has two silver edges to make its design standout, which surround the two passive radiators to either end. It can be stood upright or laid flat, depending on your preference, but won't project sound out in a full 360-degree arc like some competitors.
Creative iRoar Go review: Sound quality
- 5-driver output; two passive radiators
- Bi-amplified: one amp for stereo, one for woofer
- SuperWide audio for wide soundscape
- Roar pre-set equaliser mode
Those passive radiators are great for emitting bass, too, which the iRoar Go can handle very well indeed. It can't hit the frequency lows of the smaller, better-looking B&O BeoPlay A1, but it still sounds good. Crank it up and you'll watch the Creative speaker's radiators warbling from the low-end output.
The bass is handled by a separate amplifier from the other drivers, in order to keep it clean and central. The midrange and high-end are handled separately, which can affect how balanced they sound depending on what you're listening to.
Sometimes the iRoar Go sounds as though there's some more oomph trapped within. Which can be released: there's a "Roar" equaliser pre-set button atop the product which, once pressed and illuminated, will crank things up a notch. It'll make the bass heavier and make everything sound almost as though it's being pushed through a compressor. It can work really well for some dance music tracks, but as it's either on/off (or in the slightly less bass Equaliser mode) it lacks the fuller range of customisation that we'd like.
Then there's the SuperWide technology, which Creative says gives a wide soundscape. It certainly does: but sometimes it's too wide and you'll catch hi-hats flailing off in one perceptible dimension, or those build-up swells so common in tracks to dance about unnecessarily from side to side. Ultimately it can be distracting from the overall listen, we feel, which marks the iRoar Go down a peg in terms of its output.
When it comes to volume, however, there's no qualms about just how loud the iRoar Go can, er, go. It's super loud, but crank that volume too high and the balance between bass, mid and high feels slightly amiss, like the speaker is trying to do a little too much.
Overall the Creative iRoar Go is a compact, loud and decent sounding portable Bluetooth speaker. There's plenty of connectivity and a strong signal for the Bluetooth connection, but the functional design fails to grab attention like some of its competitors.
Sound-wise the SuperWide technology can make the soundscape confused and the frequency balance isn't always perfect whichever Roar/Equaliser mode is selected. It sure is loud and there's ample bass, however, so it certainly doesn't disappoint.
The alternatives to consider…
B&O BeoPlay A1
Don't let its small size fool you: this is one bass heavy, beautiful sounding portable speaker. It's a bit expensive, but if you've got the cash then it's just about as good as things get at this size.
Read the full review: B&O BeoPlay A1 review: Bluetooth speaker bliss
UE Boom 2
The funky design, the 360-degree sound and waterbottle-style portability are all huge positives for one of the most effective Bluetooth portable speakers available today.
Read the full review: UE Boom 2 review: Booming back for the sequel