Thursday, March 10, 2016

Creative Labs SoundBlaster iRoar Wireless Speaker System Review

Creative Labs has come out with some excellent products in their SoundBlaster line over the years.  Last year we were privileged to be able to review the SoundBlaster Roar 2 wireless speaker system.  As usually, better and greater products are always being brought to market.  Now we were given the opportunity to review the next generation from Creative Labs called the iRoar.  And it does look to be a better and improved product.  Also included is the wireless microphone accessory for it.
Features and specs:

  • System ConfigurationOne-piece
  • Dimensions225.0 x 120.0 x 57.0 mm (8.8 x 4.7 x 2.2 inches)
  • WeightSpeaker: 1.10kg (2.5lbs), USB Cable: 43g (1.5oz)
  • Bluetooth® VersionBluetooth 3.0
  • Bluetooth ProfileA2DP (Wireless Stereo Bluetooth), AVRCP (BluetoothRemote Control), HFP (Hands-free Profile)
  • Supported CodecsAAC, aptX, SBC, aptX-LL
For Windows® OS
  • Microsoft® Windows 7 and above
  • 100 MB of free hard disk space
  • Free USB Port

For Mac® OS
  • Mac OS X® 10.6.8 or higher
  • 100 MB of free hard disk space
  • Free USB Port

For playback or recording via microSD slot
  • microSD or microSDHC cards up to 32GB formatted in FAT/FAT32.
  • Common audio formats such as MP3, AAC and WAV.
  • (MP3 format up to 320kbps,AAC format up to 320kbps and VBR).

For iOS device
  • iPhone® / iPad® running iOS 7.0 or higher

For Android device
  • Phone / tablet running Android 4.0 or higher
The Creative Sound Blaster iRoar came in a great looking printed box with photos of the iRoar, and its features and specs shown.  It was well protected.  Materials used in the construction was both metal and plastic.  Quality of materials used were very good, as was the construction.  Fit and finish was excellent.  And the heft in hand was also very good, which gives the impressions of a well put together an solid device.  The Creative iRoar is a flagship device, and it shows!  Also included in the box were the quick start guide, power adapter, USB cable, and carry pouch.

You may have already read our review of the previous generation Sound Blaster Roar 2.  The new iRoar is built on the success of the Roar 2, with some extra goodies.  The new iRoar's back panel now has an optical audio port.  The sides now have a mesh to protect the passive radiators.  Under the hood, the iRoar now has the SB-Axx1 powerful audio processor.  Play time is more than doubled from 8 hours to 20 hours thanks to the larger built-in battery.  Also new is the iRoar dashboard app, which lets you totally customize the sound using your smartphone or tablet.  If that wasn't good enough, with the optional iRoar Mic, you can turn it into a personal wireless PA system. And the optional iRoar Rock is a separate subwoofer that connects to the iRoar to really pump out the bass.

I was stoked with the new iRoar!  As I said before, the Roar 2 was a great player.  But the new features of the iRoar had me excited.  Creative increased the functionality by adding an optical port, to allow more devices that you could use the iRoar with.  The SB-Axx1 processor provides better processing.  And the iRoar dashboard app really helps you customize the sound. I also loved the updated controls on the top, that are easy to read.  Especially the digital readout that shows the volume level and status, such as showing the bluetooth icon.  Whoever designed the display and control panel nailed it! The range of the bluetooth was also very good!  Having over 3600 square feet at my residence, I had it set up in our sound room.  I was able to pair it very easily with my HTC One M9.  I then proceeded to walk all around downstairs, as well as going upstairs and throughout the bedrooms.  There were multiple walls between me an the iRoar, yet it performed well, staying connected to my HTC One. 

The optional mic that allows you to use the iRoar as a PA system did not perform as well.  But it also was not designed to go that far away from it either.  I was able to go about 40 feet away and a few walls between me and the iRoar before it started to drop signal.  Still really good!  The optional mic to use the iRoar as a PA system was designed for you to be standing close to the iRoar, and in this design it performed well with no signal drops, and sounded good as well.  But now it's time for the real question: how does the iRoar sound?

I am please to report that the iRoar doesn't disappoint in it's sound quality either.  I found myself listening to all different genres, and the iRoar sounded great in all of them.  I found myself listening to a vast variety of music.  I went from Michael Jackson, to No Doubt, Journey, Justin Timberlake, Mannheim Steamroller, Eric Bibb, John Williams, and even George Gershwin.  It provided big sound from an extremely small package.  I was very impressed with how loud the iRoar would play, and sounded good doing so!  With it being as small as it is, I wasn't expecting a large soundstage.  Yet the iRoar provided good stereo imaging, and a deeper soundstage than I expected.  The highs were crisp and clean, the mids were smooth, and provided excellent harmonics.  Percussion cymbals were crisp and very dynamic, as well as drums.  Vocals sounded very natural with nice texture.  The clarinet in Rhapsody in Blue provided some woodiness that I as a clarinet player like to hear.  I was not expecting the amount of resolution I got, although I should have known better having previously reviewed the Roar 2!  Piano is difficult to sound natural, yet the iRoar did good here as well.  It actually had some usable low end extension too.  It has a built-in subwoofer, and the subwoofer performed as well as to be expected for it's size.  The sub gave nice lower end extension, and actually gave a little bump as well.  I can only imagine how good it would sound with the optional iRoar Rock!

The Creative Sound Blaster iRoar turned out to be a worthy successor to the Roar 2.  Next generation products, while looking new and improved on paper, do not always turn out to be a better product.  The new iRoar had big shoes to fill with the high performance of the Roar 2.  But the new iRoar delivered in spades, improving in functionality AND sound.  Creative has another home run on it's hands.  Based on it's design, features, quality, and performance, the iRoar has earned our Editor's Choice Award.  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at