It’s only March, but when a sleek black box with red and white text arrived from Creative, this dad felt like a little kid on Christmas morning!
Upon opening the package, I’m greeted with a bold red statement on the instruction manual: YOUR PERSONAL AUDIO REVOLUTION BEGINS TODAY. Grandiose? For sure. But, not altogether untrue. The iRoar Bluetooth speaker might just change the way you think about using speakers, both wired and wireless. The iRoar – made by Creative – was recently introduced to the world and almost instantly named a CES 2016 Innovation Awards Honoree.
The iRoar is the most innovative, most technology-packed and most expensive of Creative’s “Sound Blaster Roar” line of Bluetooth speakers. This model line includes the SBR, SBR 2 and SBR Pro – good, better and best, respectively. (I guess that makes the iRoar the best-est?) All of them have excellent sound quality and include some good features, but none to the cutting-edge extent of the iRoar.
The iRoar Bluetooth speaker does a lot of things very well. But, to call it a Swiss Army knife would be selling it short, implying that it’s a Jack of all trades and master of none. This portable speaker is the total package, with brains, brawn and a gorgeous form too.
Woah! What else can I say? From Beethoven to Beastie Boys and Primus to Punch Brothers, everything sounds great. I’m sure you’re not surprised, considering the price tag. Even the bass is impressive for a speaker this compact. But now, what really sets the iRoar Bluetooth speaker apart is how great it sounds at extremely high volume. This thing can get loud! For listening around the house, I keep it at a moderate 4 out of 20 where the “Sonic Bass” sound profile provides full and rich sound. 8 is fairly loud and still sounds awesome. Around 12, the size of the drivers becomes a limitation and bass distortion creeps in. So, at this point the BlasterX profile provides a better equalizer balance. Only at the max 20/20 does sound quality start to suffer slightly, but at this point you’re waking the neighbors! At high volume, Creative’s engineers take it a step further with the “Roar” option. “Roar” boosts certain parameters to manage distortion and achieve clear sound with surprising power.
…incredible sound that you would never expect from such a small package.
The iRoar’s APT-X Low Latency audio codec (also featured on the SBR Pro) allows it to virtually eliminate audio lag, especially important for movies and HD television. (Not to be confused with standard APT-X.) Although an APT-X-LL compatible transmitter is required. Speaking of movies, the iRoar has some great home theater benefits as well. Obviously the speaker will perform very well when used in the traditional sense. But, an interesting thing happens when you try to watch a late night movie after the kids have gone to bed. If you use the Cinema equalizer setting and Night Mode (which improves low-volume dynamics), then place the speaker on a nearby coffee table, you can experience a hard-hitting action movie with incredible no-sacrifices sound, while the loudness upstairs is only 60% of that with a typical speaker setup (based on my tests).
FUNCTIONALITY AND BATTERY LIFE
We already talked about the ear candy, but does the iRoar’s attractive form have the function to back it up? Of course. Prominent backlit touch controls plus an informational pixel icon make the whole interface quite pleasing. Next, pairing your compatible mobile device is a snap thanks to a NFC device connection (or you can pair it conventionally).
Advertised at an incredible 20 hours, the iRoar Bluetooth speaker has twice the rated battery life of the aforementioned SBR Pro. Furthering the theme of flexibility, if you’re willing to cannibalize the iRoar’s battery a little bit, you can charge any mobile device, phone or tablet directly from the speaker’s USB port.
If the iRoar has one Achilles’ heel it is a lack of weather-resistance. This speaker, with otherwise outstanding mobility and versatility, shouldn’t get too close to the pool and should never be left outside to face the elements. But, given proper care and protection, it can still electrify your next tailgate, camping trip, beach vacation or pool party. The iRoar’s musical horsepower allows it to be placed at a safe height and distance from danger without sacrificing audibility.
To add even richer sound and more convenience, Creative will soon be releasing the “iRoar Rock” subwoofer which doubles as an iRoar docking & charging station (now available on Amazon). Out of the box, it’s simply charged with an AC wall charger (included). Battery life status is conveniently shown as a pixel icon on the speaker itself as well as on the mobile app.
FEATURES ON TOP OF FEATURES
The value of the iRoar comes from fantastic sound combined with abundant technology and seemingly endless flexibility. A lot of that flexibility stems from mobile device connectivity. The iRoar Dashboard app and Remote Assistant app let you fine tune your audio experience and have a little fun doing it. The Remote app is pretty self explanatory (leftmost screenshot) while the Dashboard app packs the most punch. It has the equalizer with 6 presets and infinite press & drag customization, unique add-ons and voice morph profiles (more on that later). My only gripe is that the Remote app doesn’t stick to the notification bar for quicker access. Hopefully they’ll fix that soon.
I could list features all day…
I could list features all day, but I’ll stop after this last one. If a single iRoar Bluetooth speaker can provide cinematic bliss, than two iRoars is obviously better! Any two iRoar speakers can be easily connected with a MegaStereo Cable, and they will function as formidable left and right home theater speakers. Combining two of them with a “Rock” subwoofer would be a dream come true!
I know it’s cliche to say “you get what you pay for” but the iRoar fits squarely into that category despite it’s hefty price tag. Especially if you consider replacing multiple pieces of audio hardware with the iRoar’s seemingly endless functionality. Many Bluetooth speakers are cheaper and some shelf speakers might sound better, but they can’t match the iRoar’s impressive combination of sound quality, flexibility and portability.
BT-W2 BLUETOOTH TRANSCEIVER
Switching gears a bit, I also tested Creative’s BT-W2 Bluetooth transceiver. As great as it is to send music wirelessly from a smartphone directly to the iRoar Bluetooth speaker, that only represents a small portion of the iRoar’s potential to remove wires from your audio existence.
“Transceiver” is a fun word to say (a combination of “transmitter” and “receiver”), but most modern audio hardware is capable of receiving a Bluetooth signal – like the iRoar speaker or most wireless headphones – so an additional receiver isn’t as necessary. Therefore, the “transmitter” function is the most important. (Except when gaming, where the BT-W2 can relay all your smack talk and battle orders lag-free.) Just as I did in my review of the powerful Miccus Home RTX, I’ll be focusing on the transmitter performance.
Sending a lag-free Bluetooth signal from your laptop or computer is a snap with the BT-W2. (It is also compatible with the Sony PS4.) Just plug it in and software will install automatically and quickly. Then, push the lone button to pair it with a speaker or a headset and you’re in business. (After the initial pairing it will connect automatically in the future.) The BT-W2 features the aforementioned APT-X Low Latency codec so if you’re watching video on your computer, and your receiving hardware supports APT-X-LL, the Bluetooth audio will be synchronized perfectly. I heard some sporadic crackling from my computer, but it may not have been the BT-W2’s fault. Also, the thing is insanely small. Which is a great technological feat, but you better keep a leash on your BT-W2 or you might lose it! It’s a simple and inexpensive product from Creative with just one job to do, yet it does that job very well.
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