CES 2014 Showstopper: Creative Labs Sound Blaster Roar

Must be some sort of weird desease, but I've been seriously enthralled with the idea of killer Bluetooth portable boomboxes lately. I guess it's just the other half of my desire for good music on the move—headphones, sure, but speakers have their place too. For the most part, these devices are pretty simple: volume control; play/pause/RW/FF; battery charger; bigger usually means better sound; and that's usually about it. Oh, sometimes they'll act as a speakerphone. The Creative Labs Sound Blaster Roar kinda changes all that with a boatload of cool and unusual features.

First of all, it's loud and clean. Most of the Bluetooth speakers of this size that I've heard really can't hold a candle to it. They did a demo of the Roar against the similar Bose device and there was just no comparison. The unit has two power amps: one stereo amp for the front firing treble speakers, and one mono amp for the upward firing bass speaker. Additional passive radiators on either side provide extra umph for the lows, and it's hefty weight and rubbery feet keep it from dancing around on the table. But there's more...lots more.

CES2014_Creative_RearPanel

The Roar, of course, is CD quality Bluetooth capable: aptX for Android; and AAC for iOS devices. It will act as a speaker phone when paired, which is nice, but it will also act on-demand as a voice recorder or will record your phone calls if you've got a microSC card in the slot on the rear. I love that as I've often got to record phone interviews and the Android apps I've found for that suck big time. You can put music on the microSD card (mp3, WMA, WAV) and use the Roar as a stand alone player—play/pause/FF/RW and random play mode switches are on the rear panel. It can pair with two Bluetooth devices at once, so you can watch a movie on an iPad with the sound coming out of the Roar, and then also have a phone paired so you can take speaker phone calls without having to fiddle with the pairing. NFC Bluetooth pairing is supported. The 6000mAh battery will operate the Roar for 6 hours or more (depending on the volume), and a USB port on the rear is available to allow you to charge your phone or pad from the internal battery. The Roar will charge quickly from the main rear panel power connection, but if you forget to bring your wall-wart it can charge, albeit more slowly, through the Micro-B USB connector on the rear. I can't be sure from the scant literature available, but it does seem to indicate the Roar will allow for USB connection to a computer for music playback, but I'm not quite sure. A 3.5mm stereo line-in jack is also available for analog playback.

They could have stopped there and I'd be perfectly happy, but the roar also has some very unusual features. A bedtime mode gradually lowers the volume and then shuts off, possibly for small kids and recorded bedtime stories, Creative suggests. But then there's the Life Saver mode where tones and soundbites are played randomly...I guess to keep you alert while driving or something. And there's a siren...um, so you can scare folks if they come into your office?

The Sound Blaster Roar is expected to be available sometime in the first half of this year for about $199.

YES! You read that right...$199! I. Can't. Wait.

No info on Creative's normal website yet, but you can read the press release here.

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COMMENTS
jGray91's picture

Colour me very hyped for this baby, if it's that cheap (relatively)!!!

NZtechfreak's picture

I've had the bluetooth speaker bug for a long time now, I do so wish I didn't feel like I need to try them all. Just picked up the Braven 850, which is very nice in it's own right (the 20hr battery life doesn't hurt), and the sounds-as-nice-as-the-name-is-horrible Loewe Speaker 2Go. Look forward to hearing more about this one in due course.

friedduck's picture

Glad you posted this! I swear around Christmas time I kept sweeping the local big box stores looking for either near field speakers or a bluetooth boombox--just something to listen to around the house and/or on the go.

Nothing sounded great, and even terribly tinny neon-festooned junk was $200 or more.  Keep us in the loop if you get one in as a demo unit.  You can't wear headphones continuously and i trust you guys to steer me in the right direction.

Lunatique's picture

Why couldn't Creative have released this BT speaker earlier? I spend months researching and testing portable BT speakers, and after testing/comparing every single popular model out there (if you can name it and it's reasonably popular, I've tested it), I finally settled on the Klipsch KMC 1, and I've been quite happy with it (other than a couple physical control complaints). For the price, it beats all similar priced BT speakers on the market in terms of how loud it can play, the pleasant sonic signature (non-fatiguing and not muddy), and the amount of sub-bass it can output without distorting (powerful down to 60Hz, and usable at 50Hz). 

I'm now tempted to try the Blaster Roar and see how it compares.

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