Bluetooth speakers are great, but they’ve also become a commodity at this point. Creative—yes, that long time PC sound card company—has a new Bluetooth speaker of its own and it’s trying pretty hard to differentiate itself from the pack.
On the surface, the Sound Blaster Roar is a pretty compelling product, but it’s trying to do so much to break through the noise of competing speakers, it may have done itself in with feature overload.
First, let’s start off with what this thing has inside and what it can do. Packed inside a fairly compact, metal clad, brick are two 1.5-inch drivers speakers pointing forward and a bass driver pointing up. The sides are open to facilitate as much sound transfer as possible.
The speaker includes NFC for one-touch pairing (with certain Android phones), multiple Bluetooth connection types for solo or party mode, speakerphone functionality with call recording, and a USB port for gadget charging. But those are just the main features, it can also function as a PC speaker when connected via micro USB, it has an AUX port which allows two Roars connected left and right—also single input though AUX.
Of course you can also play MP3s back from the microSD slot, and if it is connected to a PC, that same slot works as a standard card reader. For some reason Creative decided to keep going with the features and added things such as a siren sound, and the ability to play random “loud noises” to keep the user awake while listening to music.
The built-in 6000mAh battery which can play music for about eight hours and still fully charge your phone is a wonderful addition. The one-tap pairing via NFC is handy as well, but at least half the advertised features should have been cut in favor of simplicity. Of course, the biggest reason to buy the speaker is its sound. So how does it actually sound?
The first thing you do with a new speaker is turn it on, connect it to music, and then imminently form brash opinions based on the first 30 seconds. That’s what I did as well. And on the first listen, I was pleased with what I was hearing from the speaker. I didn’t know what setting it was on, what it was supposed to sound like, or anything from the manual, and it sounded pretty much like how a $100-200 speaker should sound.
Punching the “Roar” button on the device alters the music’s EQ to maximize loudness and provide spaciousness. For some acoustic tracks I played, like “Flame & Snow” from I Am The Sky, it worked as advertised—as in it sounded nice. Most of the time it muddied the sound and made it worst, however. Meddling with a recording’s sound usually isn’t ideal. I consider the job of the speaker to reproduce the sound as intended, whether it was recorded or mixed badly.
Inside the house, the speaker provided the fullness you’d hope for, whether in a large room or smaller bedroom. It was plenty loud to hear upstairs or down. Moving the Sound Blaster Roar outside was a little bit of a different story. With vast open space, the speaker just didn’t move as much sound as would have been ideal. It was adequate, but compared to other Bluetooth speakers on the market, it was very middle of the road.
As far actual sound quality, versus its ability to just be “loud,” it was better than average. The device certainly isn’t a slouch, but there are better options if you’re strictly looking for the best sounding, small, speaker. For its size, for example, the Bose Soundlink Mini sounds brilliant—regardless of your feelings towards Bose in general. The Roar just didn’t have the crisp clarity and any “wow” factor in its sound quality.
It’s amazing that Creative was able to think to cram in as many features as it did, but I couldn’t bring myself to even test the most outlandish ones like the loud and random noises. I tested the siren once, but wouldn’t use it ever again—like I imagine the vast majority of its consumers won’t either.
Things like speakerphone functionality work well, but I wouldn’t say they are necessary. And then there’s the nice features that are just too complicated to discover or use regularly. Because if the argument is that all the features are clearly depicted in the manual, then you’ve already lost most people’s interest.
I have no doubt a few technical people are thanking the heavens that Creative designed this speaker, but most people will just want a wireless speaker than sounds nice and is easy to use. Features requiring a combination of button presses just won’t get used and were barely intriguing enough for me to spend the time with. The Sound Blaster Roar is the perfect product for the right person, it’s just not the perfect speaker for most people.