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 moveheadphones, 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.
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 playerplay/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.