Most Bluetooth speakers these days have the ability to play from Bluetooth devices, legacy devices through an AUX jack, and act as a speakerphone. Our Creative Sound Blaster Roar Pro review takes a look at a Bluetooth speaker that does the basics and then adds a few more features into the mix. Read on to find out why this earned a spot as one of our Top Picks of 2016.
The Creative Sound Blaster Roar Pro has the following specifications and features:
- Recommended Usage: Wireless Streaming, Movies/Music, Outdoor
- Bluetooth® Version: Bluetooth 3.0
- Bluetooth Profile: A2DP (Wireless Stereo Bluetooth), AVRCP (Bluetooth Remote Control), HFP (Hands-free Profile)
- Supported Codecs: AAC, aptX, SBC, aptX-LL
- Near Field Communication (NFC)
- Connector Type: AUX-in, Bluetooth, USB
- Volume Level Control
- 1 x 2.5″ Woofer
- 2 x 1.5″ Tweeter
- 2 x Passive Radiators
- Bi-amplified Design (two amps, one stereo for speakers and a separate one for the subwoofer)
- Built-in Microphone
- Supported Platforms for Wireless Audio (Minimum Requirements):
- Mobile/Smart Devices
- Mobile/Smart devices with A2DP-enabled Bluetooth technology
- Computers: Compatible with PC (Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10); Apple Macintosh equipped with Bluetooth wireless stereo
- USB Audio
- Battery Specifications:
- Built-in Li-ion
- Battery Life 10 hours
- Charging by: Micro-USB, Proprietary Adaptor
- Charge Mobile Devices: USB, 1.0A Max Output
- Supports playback from and recording to microSD card
- microSD Slot: supports up to 32GB microSD cards
- microSD Supported Audio Formats:
- MP3 (up to 320kbps)
- WMA (up to 320kbps)
- WAV (16 bit 48kHz PCM)
- Dimensions (H x W x D):
- Speaker: 57.0 x 202.0 x 115.0 mm (2.2 x 7.9 x 4.5 inches)
- Power Adaptor Cord Length: Approx 1.7m
- USB Cord Length: Approx 0.7m
- Speaker: 1.10kg (2.5lbs)
- Power Adaptor: 153g
- USB Cable: 26g
- UK Interchangeable Adaptor Plug: 19g
- CE Interchangeable Adaptor Plug: 17g
- Color: Black
- Other Features: Sound Blaster Control Panel
What’s in the Box
- Sound Blaster Roar Pro
- Power adaptor
- Interchangeable adapter plug(s) — depending on region purchased
- Micro-USB Cable
- User Guide
- Starter Guide
Right out of the box, the Creative Sound Blaster Roar Pro features a sleek and compact design, and has a nice weight to it. The speaker itself is roughly the size of a thick book, a bit larger than a paperback but not quite as large as a hardcover book.
The black speaker grille starts just under the bottom of the speaker and wraps around the front and covers most of the top of the Roar Pro. The Creative logo sits in the middle of the front of the speaker. Each side of the speaker also has a grille with slightly larger holes which is inset into a silvery-black metal frame. Barely visible through the front grille are two 1.5″ high-frequency drivers for pushing out the highs. On the top you can just see the active 2.5″ driver for mid range tones and bass. Each end houses a passive radiator for even more bass enhancement.
The remainder of the top and bottom, as well as the back, is finished in a nice dark grey rubbery finish which provides a nice grip when carrying it. The bottom of the speaker has two rubber strips that run the width of the speaker that act as feet when it’s placed on a flat surface. These rubber strips provide some nice grip and doesn’t make it easy to slide the speaker around.
Near the back of the top of the speaker, in the grey finished area, is where you’ll find your indicators and main buttons. On the left side you have your NFC logo/sensor, 3 green LEDs to indicate battery life, and a REC light which turns on when recording to the microSD card. On the right side, starting from about the middle, are 5 slightly raised buttons: Bluetooth/phone with a white LED to indicate Bluetooth streaming, volume down, volume up, ROAR button with a white LED to indicate the feature is enabled, and finally the power button. Unfortunately there’s no play/pause or track skipping buttons on the speaker for controlling songs while streaming from Bluetooth.
The back of the speaker has a few more ports that are common on Bluetooth speakers. On the left side you have (from left to right) your 15V power port, AUX in, 5V/1A USB port which can be used to charge a smartphone or tablet, and a Micro-USB port. Beside the Micro-USB port is something that’s definitely not common on Bluetooth speakers: a microSD card slot. The right side of the speaker (from right to left) contains your USB Audio/Mass Storage toggle, the Tera Bass button, and a Warm/Neutral/Energetic toggle. This is followed by a set of microSD playback controls which include a play/pause, next, and previous button, a shuffle or repeat toggle, a record button, a record playback/pause button, and finally a microphone mute toggle. Unlike the soft buttons on the top, the back buttons and toggles are a hard dark grey plastic.
Ease of Use
As a traditional Bluetooth speaker, pairing is simple and streaming works great. To initiate pairing, hold down the Bluetooth/phone button until the light starts flashing and a voice tells you you’ve entered pairing mode. Once paired, the light will stop blinking. When it’s not connected, the light is green. In addition, if your smartphone or other device is equipped with an NFC chip, simply tap it to the NFC symbol on the top of the speaker and it will turn on and pair with your device and you’re good to go. To disconnect, tap against the NFC symbol again. It’s a small thing but makes connecting the speaker to your phone all that much easier. You can also pair 2 devices simultaneously and toggle between the two for music playback.
When streaming via Bluetooth, it first appears that the volume controls on the speaker are independent of your smartphone. When adjusting the volume up or down on the speaker, the volume bar on your smartphone doesn’t move. However, when you next adjust the volume using your phone, the speaker volume will jump to match the volume displayed on the phone and then continue to adjust accordingly as you press your phone’s volume up or down button.
I loved being able to hook this up to my laptop via a Micro-USB cable. Simply switch the back toggle to USB audio, install the Sound Blaster Control Panel for full access to the SBX Pro Studio™ suite of technologies, connect the speaker to your computer via USB, and you’ll be able to use it for audio output from your computer. In the case of my laptop, the sound was significantly better than the onboard speakers.
The Sound Blaster Control Panel has presets for music, movies, and gaming, as well as toggles for Surround, Crystalizer, Bass, Smart Volume, Dialog Plus, and an equalizer for fine tuning the sound.
While I don’t have a PlayStation 4 to test it with, Creative states that you can connect the Roar Pro to your PlayStation 4 console via the micro USB cable and use it as a USB speaker as well — as long as you have firmware 2.03 or higher installed on your PS4.
Why on earth would you want a microSD card on a Bluetooth speaker? With the Sound Blaster Roar Pro you can toss on a bunch of your favourite music onto an SD card and use the speaker as a standalone music player, no need to stream from your smartphone or connect another device to it. You can also use the record functionality to record business meetings, conversations, or even phone calls when used as a speakerphone. Finally, you can use the speaker in Bedtime Mode with the microSD card. You can activate it for 15 or 30 minutes and once set the audio playback will gradually fade out for the specified time before the speaker powers itself off.
To add music to the microSD card, you can either use an SD card adapter or plug the speaker into your computer and switch it to Mass Storage on the back and transfer directly that way. It’s a small addition, but adds plenty more functionality to the speaker, and for one thing it is great when camping or when not connected to a wireless network and not wanting to use up your data plan while listening to music.
The Creative Sound Blaster Roar Pro definitely packs a punch in the sound department with its 5-driver system. In addition, “the Roar Pro utilises two amplifiers — one dedicated to driving lows and mids, while the other is solely dedicated to deliver the high frequencies. This allows the speaker to produce uncompromisingly clear, high definition, and well-balanced music. The top firing bass and mid level driver is laid horizontally, reducing the speaker’s centre of gravity, thus stabilising it.”
The placement of the drivers, as well as the Tera Bass, ROAR, and Warm/Neutral/Energetic toggle options only boost the sound that much more. The Tera Bass feature provides bass boost to compensate for the loss of perceived bass during low-level listening. The Tera Bass compensates based on playback volume and once the volume reaches a certain level, the feature provides no bass boost to avoid distortion. The ROAR button on the other hand instantly boosts the loudness, depth and spaciousness of the audio, and the difference is very noticeable. When connected to the included power supply, the speaker automatically gets a volume boost as well and it is recommended to plug in when using the ROAR feature for full effect.
Finally, the three audio profiles (Warm/Neutral/Energetic) changed the dynamics of the sound just slightly enough to be noticeable. For the most part I left it on neutral, but when listening to an EDM playlist I did switch it to Energetic, and while listening to softer rock/classic type music I switched it to Warm and definitely noticed the difference.
Overall, whether streaming music from my Nexus 6P, using it as a USB speaker on my laptop, or using the built-in music player to listen to music from the microSD card, the Roar Pro sounds great. I found that between 50-75% volume was more than enough and once you pushed it to maximum volume there was a bit of distortion starting to creep in, but it really became too loud to listen to at that point anyways.
The speaker quality on a call is pretty decent, there were no issues on either side of the conversation although — as with most Bluetooth speakers — the closer you are to the speaker during a call, the better. As an added bonus, as mentioned above, you can even record incoming phone calls when you use the Roar Pro as a speakerphone if you have a microSD card inserted.
Creative claims 10 hours of battery life between charges, based on usage. During our test runs, we managed to get between 9 1/2 and just under 11 hours on a single charge. Of course this varied based on volume, and for the most part we stuck to a medium volume level — which was plenty loud, but should be enough to get you through the day. When using the included DC adapter to recharge the speaker, it took about 2 1/2 hours to fully recharge it. Charging via USB with a Micro-USB cable is also possible but takes much longer.
The Creative Sound Blaster Roar Pro has an MSRP of $249.99, and that price it offers a pretty decent value for everything that you get. However, at the time of this review, it’s currently selling for $199.99 on the Creative website and Amazon — an absolute steal for the features, quality, and usage scenarios. While we didn’t test it as such, you can also use it as a wireless personal PA system with the iRoar Mic (sold separately). You can also pick up a MegaStereo cable and connect two Sound Blaster Roar speakers together, setting one as a left channel and the other as a right channel for a wider soundstage. The MegaStereo cable will also allow you to enslave any other speaker with a 3.5mm audio jack, but your sound balance may vary due to the difference in speakers.
With all its features, the Creative Sound Blaster Roar Pro easily earns a spot in our Top Picks of 2016. Not only does it feature a nice compact design, but the fact that you can use it with Bluetooth devices, legacy devices via the AUX jack, as a USB speaker for your laptop, computer system, or PS4, standalone with the microSD card and built in music player, and even record conversations and phone calls makes this an excellent speaker.
*We were sent a review sample of the Creative Sound Blaster Roar Pro speaker for the purposes of this review.
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