by | September 16, 2016 | News

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The good

Amazing design and build quality

Lots of functionalities

Full and balanced sound

Solid battery life

 

The bad

No carrying case included

The sound reproduction lacks coloring and processing.

 

Creative Lab, a Singaporean company specialized in audio products, released the first generation SoundBlaster Roar in 2014, and the portable speaker soon became a global sensation, winning the ears and the hearts of the customers around the world. Its successor, the SoundBlaster Roar 2, was also very well received. Eying for continuing this on-going success, Creative didn’t wait long to release the third generation product – the SoundBlaster Roar Pro at CES 2016.

 

Creative Roar Pro Main Specs:

 

Dimensions: 4.5 x 7.9 x 2.2 inches

Weight: 2.5 pounds

Connectivity: Bluetooth, NFC, AUX, USB

Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth 3.0

Bluetooth Profile: A2DP (Wireless Stereo Bluetooth), AVRCP (Bluetooth Remote Control), HFP (Hands-free Profile)

Speaker Drivers: 2*1.5” high frequency speaker, 1*2.5” subwoofer, 2*passive radiators

Amplifiers: two dedicated amplifiers (1 for the high frequency speakers, 1 for the subwoofer)

Battery: 6000mAh rechargeable Li-Po battery, 10 hours of battery life

Accessories: 1*AUX Cable, 1*USB Cable, 1*Wall Charger

 

 

Packaging and accessories

 

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The Creative SoundBlaster Roar ships with very simple packaging. The box which contains the products has a lot of printed information on the outside.

 

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Inside the box you will find a portable speaker, a wall charger (15V-1.6A), a USB Cable, and an AUX cable with 3.5mm straight plugs on both sides. There are also a user manual and a warranty card. Unfortunately, a carrying case is not included. You can buy the official case Creative’s online store, in China it costs RMB99 ($14.8), prices in other countries may differ.

 

 

Design and build

 

 

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The Creative SoundBlaster Roar Pro looks like the identical twin brother of the first generation Roar, which is bigger and heavier than the second generation product. I can only assume that’s why this new Roar is named Roar Pro instead of Roar 3.

 

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The general design of the Roar Pro is a cuboid with rounded corners. The front side, the left and right sides and the majority of the top side are covered by black metallic mesh, which looks exquisite, refined and cool. There is also a shiny “Creative” Logo sitting comfortably in the middle of the front.

 

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Part of the top side and the entire back side of the speaker are covered by rubberized plastic, the gray color used here can reduce the cold and arrogant feel of black technology. You can find five physical buttons on the top side: Bluetooth/Phone Call, Volume -, Volume +, Roar and Power. There is am LED indication light besides the Bluetooth/Phone Call button to show you the connection status, you can also find another next to the Roar button, indicating whether the Roar effect has been enabled. There is also an NFC reading area and 3 LEDs indicating the battery level.

 

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In order to make a more versatile product, Creative has to sacrifice some elegance of the Roar Pro. As you can see from the photo above, the back side of the Roar Pro is very crowded.

 

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The left half the back side plays host to all the ports and slots. From left to right there is a charging port, a 3.5mm audio jack, a full USB 2.0 port, a Micro USB port, and a Micro SD card slot which supports cards up to 32GB.

 

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The right half hosts several groups of physical controls, including Voice/Room recording controls,

A group of controls for audio stored in the SD card, an audio profiles (warm, neutral and energetic) switch, a Tera Bass button, and a toggle switch which allows you choose from connecting the Roar Pro as a mass storage device or using it as a SoundBlaster audio adapter for your PC.

 

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The SoundBlaster Roar Pro looks and feels expensive, thanks to the elegant design and premium material used by Creative. The build quality is simply great. The edges are nicely joint, the mesh is clean, the ports and slots are firm, and the buttons offer nice tactile feedback. There are no such things as sharp edges, sloppy construction or mold lines, which we often find on budget portable speakers.

 

 

Connectivity and Functionalities

 

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The SoundBlaster Roar Pro offers more connectivity options than any other portable Bluetooth speakers. Wireless connection can be established via Bluetooth and NFC. The speaker features the more dated Bluetooth 3.0 instead of the latest Bluetooth 4.1. Since the improvement of the Bluetooth 4.1 is very limited, especially when it comes to audio transmission, I wouldn’t call this a pity or shame. The Roar Pro supports high quality wireless audio codecs such as aptX low latency, aptX and AAC, all of which ensure that the wireless audio sounds as good as a wired connection.

 

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Besides wireless connections, you can also connect the speaker to your source with the stock AUX cable. For DAPs, Laptops and Desktop PCs which have neither Bluetooth nor NFC on board, this is extremely useful. You can also connect the speaker to your PC with the USB Cable. With necessary drivers installed, the Roar Pro can turn into an external audio adapter and a speaker system for your personal computer.

 

The Creative Roar Pro can also work without a source. With a Micro SD card inserted, the built-in MP3 player of the Roar Pro can play the audio files stored in the card. You can use the physical controls on the back side of the speaker to manage the music playing.

 

 

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You can also charge your smartphone or tablet with the Roar Pro. The full USB port featured on the back of the speaker has an output of 5V-1A. Not that I would suggest anyone to carry the 1.1kg Roar Pro around as a portable charger, but this function can actually come in handy when your smartphone runs out juice and there isn’t any other way to charge it.

 

Besides, the Roar Pro can also perform as a speakerphone and a voice recorder, useful in conference calls.

 

According to Creative, when the Roar Pro is paired with the iRoar Mic, it can transform into a portable personal public address system, perfect for presentations, public speaking or karaoke sessions. Since the iRoar Mic is sold separately and really isn’t cheap, I don’t have it and really can’t tell you how it really works.

 

 

Sound Quality

 

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Tested Tracks:

Usher – His Mistakes (APE)

Justin Timberlake – Take Back the Night (MP3@320kbps)

Little Mix Feat. Jason Derulo – Secret Love Song (MP3@320kbps)

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Otherside (FLAC)

Drake feat. Wizkid & Kyla – One Dance (MP3@320kbps)

Ed Sheeran – Runaway (APE)

Demi Lovato – Cool for the Summer (MP3@320kbps)

Beyonce – Daddy Lessons (MP3@320kbps)

Coldplay – Up & Up (APE)

Gavin DeGraw – Fire (APE)

Lana Del Rey – Young and Beautiful (FLAC)

Adele – When We Were Young (APE)

And Some Chinese songs

 

Source: Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, LG G3, iriver U100, Microsoft Surface Pro 3

 

Comparisons: Monster Clarity HD, Kef Muo

 

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The Creative SoundBlaster Roar Pro’s sound is powered by 5 separate drivers and 2 dedicated amplifiers. There are two 1.5” high frequency speakers facing forward, a 2.5” subwoofer facing upward, and two passive bass radiators firing sideways. One amplifier is dedicated to bring out the best in those forward-facing drivers, and the other takes care of optimizing the subwoofer. The SoundBlaster Roar generally sounded better from a distance greater than 1 foot, where these sonic differences between the drivers are not noticeable.

 

The Roar Pro dwarfs many of the similarly-sized competitions when it comes to volume. This sound output can easily fill up a large bedroom and an average-sized living room. I remember playing Macklemore’s “Growing Up” with it in a park, I could hear the music loud and clear from 10 meters away. Even though I am a huge fan of loud music, I never feel the need to crank up the volume of the Roar Pro to more than 60% while using it in my two-bedroom apartment.

 

 

Bass

 

The bass of the Roar Pro is powerful, but not overwhelming. If you still want more bass prominence, you can activate the Tera Bass mode (with the Tera Bass button located on the back of the speaker). This mode works perfectly well with bass-centric music such as Hip Hop, R&B and Soul, everything has a deeper tone and more dynamics. But when there’s musical-oriented tracks being played, the lower bass could bleed into the lower mids, and cause certain notes to sound subdued. Audiophiles may find themselves turning on and off the Tera Bass mode very often.

 

Mids

 

The midrange frequencies are presented very well in general. The vocals, both male and female, are very defined and clean. I remember listening to Emeli Sande’s “Next to Me”, I could hear her voice piercing through the piano sound and people clapping in the background. And the contrast between the vocals and the instrument music could create very enjoyable dynamics.

 

Treble

 

The treble of the SoundBlaster Roar is smooth, bright, defined and full of intricate details. Even at the highest volume, it still doesn’t sound distorted, and there is no noise and rattling.

 

Generally, the sound reproduction is almost the same as it is on the recordings. There is very little coloring or processing involved. Some people may appreciate this balanced and neutral sound profile, but others may criticize the Roar Pro’s ruler-flat, and sometimes even uninvolving sound.

 

When using the Roar Pro out in the open or in a relatively large room, you can activate the “Roar” effect by pressing the Roar button on the top side of the speaker. This dramatically increases the overall sound output, overpowering the noises in the background. The Roar effect can also enlarge the soundstage, making the sound more space-filling, ideal for dance parties and outdoor activities.

 

 

Creative SoundBlaster Roar Pro vs Monster Clarity HD

 

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Compared to budget speakers such as the Monster Clarity HD, the Roar Pro just sounded much better in every way. The bass was bigger and fatter, the mids and highs were much cleaner and more defined, with more details. At a relatively high volume, the Monster Clarity HD’s lightweight body couldn’t stabilize itself and began to move backwards on the table, but the Roar Pro still stood steadily.

 

 

Creative SoundBlaster Roar vs Kef MUO

 

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Kef MUO is priced twice as much as the SoundBlaster Roar Pro, and is considered by many to be the best Hi-Fi sounding Bluetooth speaker. But the overall sound output at the highest volume is only half of what the Roar Pro can produce.

 

The Roar Pro has a very decent amount of bass and very nice lower extension, especially with the Tera Bass function activated. But the Kef Muo is weak in this area, not only does it lack the quantity of bass, we are also missing some real punch here. When it comes to clarity, the Kef Muo is probably second to none, even at the highest volume, the sound is still extremely defined and clean, but the Roar Pro’s bass starts to sound muddy at 80% of volume.

 

The Roar Pro’s sound reproduction lacks coloring and processing, and that’s exactly where the Kef MUO’s strength lies. The vocals are much more forward, Instrument separation and positioning are more accurate, and the treble is even brighter than the already bright Roar Pro.

 

 

Battery Life

 

According to Creative Lab’s advertising, the SoundBlaster Roar Pro can offer 10 hours of consecutive music playback, and they are not exaggerating. With 60% of volume, I can normally get 7-8 hours of battery life out of the speaker. If you turn down the volume a little, it is not impossible to get 10 hours of wireless music playback. This handily beat the B&O Beoplay A1 and A2, both of them could only last around 4 hours at 50% volume.

 

 

Competitions

 

Priced at only $172.25 on Amazon, it is also extremely affordable. However, there are many competitions in the same price range. The B&O Beoplay A1 may be superior in terms of overall sound quality, especially in the mids and highs, but only 3-4 hours’ battery life at 50% volume constantly drove me crazy when I was using it. Other Bluetooth speakers in this price range include the JBL Charge 3, the Bose SoundLink Mini 2, and UE Boom 2 Phantom. All three are solid for battery life, the JBL and UE speakers are even water-proof, but when it comes to overall sound quality, they are no match for the Roar Pro.

 

 

Verdict

 

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The Creative SoundBlaster Roar Pro has found a perfect balance in volume, sound quality, portability and battery life, and it offers more functionalities than any other wireless speakers on the market. For people who are into the aesthetics of black technology, it is also one of the best-looking portable speakers available right now. I could easily recommend it to all of my friends as the best all-around speaker below $250. With that said, if sound quality is your absolute top priority and battery life is far down the list, then you should probably go for the Beoplay A1. And if you really care about the water-resistance and endurance, you should give a serious look at the JBL Charge 3.

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