One of the most powerful portable speakers we’ve seen in its class/ size, now with smarts built-in.
AT A GLANCE
AGE OF THE
225 x 120 x 57mm
Remote Control), HFP
AAC, aptX, SBC, aptX-LL
The Creative Sound Blaster Roar series of portable speakers almost literally rocked the audio world with a combination of low price, good form, high performance, and loud ampliﬁcation when it was launched two years ago, and Creative hasn’t broken tradition with the Roar 2 and Roar Pro. The latest in the series, the iRoar becomes the ﬁrst Roar speaker to have an audio processor built in and app support for iOS, Android, PC and Mac. Originally found in Creative’s Sound BlasterAxx speakers, the SB-Axx1 processor digitally processes and enhances sound in real time.
In the context of the iRoar, this means you can create multiple proﬁles via the Dashboard app to easily get sound the way you like it. Most of the features from the Sound Blaster Roar Pro have been brought over and enhanced, but the iRoar gets a brand new monocoque body design that brings its weight down to just 1.08kg. That’s about 200g lighter than the Roar Pro; quite a feat given that the iRoar is larger too (57 x 225 x 120mm compared to the Roar Pro’s 57 x 202 x 115mm.)
Inside, the iRoar features a whole new set of bigger drivers as well: improved 2-inch high and mid-range drivers, a new 2.75-inch subwoofer driver and matching passive radiators. Neodymium technology is used this time round along with more efﬁcient magnets to allow for a footprint that’s still relatively small. According to Creative, the iRoar is designed from the ground up to take full advantage of newer technologies, and as a result, it can go two times louder with twice the battery life - up to 20 hours.
There’s also a High-res 24-bit/96kHz optical input jack for TV connections, USB 24-bit asynchronous audio support for jitter-free playback, and aptX low latency support over Bluetooth for wireless streaming. Other than the on/off button and shufﬂe/loop switch, the iRoar eschews other physical controls. It instead relies on a row of adaptive, touch sensitive array for controls, LED lit no less. This brings us back to the iRoar app, which allows you to download new features called “Add-Ons”. At time of writing, these range from Motion Alerts to Nature sounds to a Metronome. Creative also intends to release a developer kit so the community can chime in on custom functionality.
The huge ring that dominates the front of the speaker is actually an NFC spot, and ﬂanking it is a twin-beam microphone array. You can choose between a wide 180-degree beam for group teleconferences or a narrow 30-degree for personal use. The mic array is also used for noise reduction and echo cancellation.
Flip the speaker over and you’ll notice another major new feature. The iRoar has a connection to physically dock with attachments like the iRoar Rock, a dedicated subwoofer unit that also charges the iRoar.
Given its larger size, the iRoar is easily more powerful than the Sound Blaster Roar Pro. We’d estimate it to be easily at least 30~40% louder at each level, with better clarity to boot. And that’s not all, the SB-Axx1 voice and audio effects processor actually provides noticeable EQ difference to audio output. A total of seven presets are available: Blaster X, Live Concert, Audiophile Bliss, Game On, Sonic Bass, Cinemania and Personal Sound. The last one is an empty proﬁle to create your own Upon approval Please sign: Name and Date: settings, but all of the presets can be ﬁne-tuned to your liking.
Out of the box, Live Concert and Sonic Bass gave us the greatest change in terms of audio tonality. We listened to a recording of Freddy Mercury’s Barcelona from his Barcelona live edition, and the iRoar delivered it with a good degree of naturalness, bringing out the subtle phrasing and nuance the singer was so famous for. Likewise, with Under The Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the speaker did a great job with the separation between drums, vocals and guitar.
Switching over to a recording of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Spring, we thought the speaker did a good job with the imaging of the strings in the piece. Though generally better suited for pieces that are heavier in the mids and bass notes, we thought the iRoar handled the complexity of this piece fairly well. Once again, Creative Hardware has churned out another extraordinary portable speaker with great audio performance for its size.
Having said that, it doesn’t sound $200 better than this year’s Tech Awards winner for portable speakers, the Sony SRS-X55, and that’s something you need to consider before shelling out $499 for the iRoar. The inclusion of an audio processor and docking capabilities make the iRoar modular on both software and hardware fronts, which is deﬁnitely in its favor, but it’s still hard to judge if these “add-ons” will take off.
The top controls are touch based
These four proﬁles really make a
signiﬁcant change to the audio.