Bluetooth speakers are becoming a must have in every house hold, they make sense if you’re looking to purchase a sound system for your living room or backyard and they have the added bonus of doubling up as a portable speaker. Today we’re going to look at a speaker that should be coming in at a few dollar more, the Creative Roar SR20 packs a surprising punch for its size.
Design – Totally Two Faced!
The Creative SoundBlaster Roar SR20 suffers from a bit of an identity crisis, it is simple and elegant with clean lines and a minimal profile and on the rear it looks intimidatingly complicated. From the front there are only a few buttons on the top, it looks clean and adaptable to any type of décor. The fornt has a simple grill and a Creative logo that is pretty minimalistic as far as logos placed right in the middle of sleek design could be. Like I mentioned the rear is anything but simple, it’s a connectivity beast and your inner geek will be pleased.
The interesting thing about the speakers design is that everyone I handed it to placed it down wrong…every single time (and that includes myself!). The tendency is to place to speaker upright, so the logo is facing the sky, which to be honest, makes the sound absolutely horrible.
The rest of the speaker is all grille, even the sides are outfitted with some classy looking mesh.
The Roar SB20 has five drivers, three of which are speakers with magnets which adds a fair bit of weight to the overall unit. Tipping the scales at 1.1Kg it is 57 x 202 x 115 mm it’s not going to fit into your pocket, but it is definitely in the portable range.
With so many port on the rear connectivity gets high scores, NFC pairing is a must for our accessories and all you need to do is tap your smartphone to the top of the device. If you don’t have NFC on your phone you just need to hold down the multifunction button which has a Bluetooth icon on it, and you’ll be greeted by a rather pleasant voice that lets you know that you’re in pairing mode.
The Bluetooth range is 30 feet and when through the week that I’ve been listening to it there hasn’t been a single skip or stutter. If you don’t want to use Bluetooth there is a 3.5mm jack as well as a microSD slot if you wanted to load up some music. The speaker can only play MP3 and WMA audio files which isn’t very many, but it covers the basics.
If you’re into using the Roar as a stand alone music player you can access the MicoSD card by plugging the speaker in via a Micro USB cable. You’ll be able to transfer and delete music and use the buttons on top to scroll through songs. Only down side is, there is no display to search for songs, you’ll need to use your computer to select the songs that are to be played.
Another interesting feature when you’ve got it plugged into your PC or MAC, if you hold down the play button it becomes a USB sound card. Actually, it’s not that surprising if you remember that Creative was the a huge sound card maker in the 90s. All you have to do is download the Sound Blaster Control Panel software and you’ll be able to tweak settings like the EQ.
If that’s a little too much for you and you’re looking for more traditional uses, you’ll be able to use it like a speakerphone, and the microphone quality isn’t half bad. But since this device just seems to be all about pushing the boundaries, you’ll lbe able to record calls as well. This isn’t something most people are going to have to do, but if you need to do that, it’s a great feature to have built in.
The speaker also has a few other quirky features you’ve got an alarm button that plays a loud noise, and in “Loud Sounds Mode,” you get random loud noises which. I had to do a bit of research on this, apparently it is supposed to keep you awake. Again, if this is something you need, it’s awesome that it has it.
If you’re wondering what kind of playtime you’re going to get, the 6,000 mAh battery is meant to give you about 8 hours. We found this to be true. Playing bluetooth to my phone at a low volume I actually got 8.20. I was using the speaker while I was working, so I didn’t want the music too loud. When I brought it over to a friends house, we were hanging out in the living room with 8 people, so the music was turned up pretty high, I was there for 5 hours and when I got up in the morning I decided to keep playing the music quite loudly as I was getting ready in the morning and it finally quite at 7.25 hours.
One thing you’ll notice about the ports is that there is a mini as well as a full size USB, the mini is for charging the Roar and for plugging it into your computer. The Full size USB is if you want to charge another device, one things that we’d love to see is a wireless charging pad. Being able to charge off your portable speaker is pretty standard, so with all of the one ups that we’ve been seeing it’s almost disappointing it doesn’t include this one.
What about the Sound?
I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the speaker but haven’t actually talked about how it sounds. The Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR20 uses a bi-amplified design that is powered by five drivers. three of which are speakers with magnets. That means move parts so the potential is there for some decent bass, this also means that the speaker needs to be facing up to sound good. Everybody that I handed the speaker to and asked them to put it down seemed to try to place the ports and buttons facing up instead of to the back. Once you see it’s profile with the ports hidden away, it becomes clear it’s the only way to place it, but if you’ve never seen it set up, it’s an easy mistake to make.
When talking about sound, it’s nice to break it up into lows, mids and highs. The lows or the bass are surprising for how small the device is, it is unmistakeable that you get a thump when you’ve got the volume turned up. The bass is actually size firing and the front of the device houses dual front speakers where we’d be getting the midrange which is crisp and clear. The highs are solid until you push the volumes up it doesn’t sound as crisp, one thing that I did spend some time doing was playing aroun with the settings to see if I could clear up the high tones when blasting the sound. I think if you had a certain style of music you listened to a lot you could liekly optimize your Roar to minimize the harshness of the sound. The only other issue is that for a stereo speaker it’s hard to tell that sound is coming from two different sources.
If you really want to know we’ve got a video here where you can go ears on. We know it’s nothing like actually being the room, but it’s the closest experience we can give you.
The Verdict – Best $150 Bluetooth Speaker Around
The price has dropped on Amazon for $150, which is less than the Bose that is of comparable quality (don’t worry we’ve got a comparison of that if you’re keen). It’s portable with clear, crisp loud sound that is paired with almost too many connectivity and customization options. For the size it provides more sound than expected which makes it a very portable power house. I wouldn’t be afraid to pick this up as the sound system for my apartment, which isn’t huge but isn’t a shoe box either. Actually, it’s a speaker that I picked up for my Dad this Christmas, and if you want to know his thoughts, after he heard the sound he turne d to me and said “Best Daughter EVER!”