Scoring a crescendo!

Creative gives us a pleasant surprise with this near audiophile grade speaker



A few years ago audiophiles would have scorned at the very mention of a Bluetooth speaker. Today, the speakers are every where, and the biggest, most serious audio equipment makers have all launched their own. Bang & Olufsen, Scandyna, Bowers & Wilkins, Bose and the others have all crammed research dollars and new tech into their Bluetooth speakers.

Two trends have made sure that these speakers have become a raging hit. One is the iPod and smartphone generation, which wants to carry its music with it always. And the second is the maturing of Bluetooth as a fairly reliable protocol for wireless data transfer. The ultimate aim, of course, is to make it as free from transmission losses as possible and get the speakers to being as close to the best monitor speakers as is possible. We say monitor speakers because Bluetooth speakers will by nature focus on portability and so, limitations due to their compact size will always be an issue.

We have reviewed quite a few compact Bluetooth speakers from serious audio equipment brands and keep looking out for challengers in this segment. One of the latest, seeking entry into the Club, is Creative. From a brand that seemed a bit wannabe initially, Creative has moved on to build some high-quality audio equipment. It is still largely focused on small units that are centred on the computer or portable music player.

Design

But, its latest introduction is the Creative Sound Blaster Roar a hardbound novel sized Bluetooth speaker that packs some serious punch. We put the new speaker on our test bench to evaluate its performance.

The Sound Blaster Roar’s construction is mostly metallic, a material that is not new to Creative. The speaker’s unibody-style finish includes a seamless combination of a rubberized rear panel, which smartly ensures good grip while it is carried around and ensures better grounding for the unit at high bass levels. Perforated panels on both the sides hide passive radiators that enhance low frequency output. The matt grey main panel with smaller perforation shows off the Creative logo at the front and has a bunch of simple control buttons at the top for volume, Bluetooth and NFC connection and the ‘Roar’ selector, in addition to the main on/off button.

Suffice it to say that the new Creative Sound Blaster Roar looks as neat as many high-end brands’ Bluetooth speakers. Creative now has more ammo to train its guns on the others, with the speaker winning the 2014 Red Dot design award.

What’s inside?

Connecting your laptop or smartphone to the Sound Blaster Roar can be done using Bluetooth or NFC (near field communication, the same tech being used for Apple Pay). Connecting is a simple process with either a tap on the NFC button with your phone or by manually pairing using Bluetooth. Once paired you can stream music or take calls on the speaker. It feels packed and heavy for its size, but is extremely portable. At the rear, the rubberized panel has all the other connectivity sockets – USB, mini-USB,

Inside this new Creative speaker is a pair of high-performance amplifiers that power five drivers. The choice of two amps instead of the more common one amp and multi-speaker combo allowed Creative’s engineers to use one amp for driving low and mid-range frequencies and the other for driving high- range frequencies. A top firing 2.5-inch bass cone sits atop the mid-range driver making sure that there is no distortion or stability issue for the unit.

Testing

A lot of work has apparently gone into making the acoustic chamber as dynamic as possible within the confines of the unit’s compact dimensions. Creative’s engineers have managed to squeeze in the 6,000mAh Li-ion battery and the electronic circuits inside the air-tight acoustic chamber. And they managed to ensure that heat dissipation was also handled using a new, proprietary method. The result is quite convincing not just with the level of bass and loudness, but also the reproduction quality from this petite speaker.

During the long duration tests on our bench, the Creative Sound Blaster Roar did tend to warm up quite a bit, though heating didn’t affect the performance at any time. The battery should last for 4-5 hours of moderate use, though power-saving mode kicks in with lowered volume levels once the battery reaches down to one-third charge.

We listened to a combination of different music – Western classical, Rock and Bollywood hits. Audio fidelity is excellent and the crisp notes of the violin quartet playing Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria and Mark Knopfler’s spotless baritone come through clear with no distortion even at full volume. Bass levels with the ‘Roar’ option turned on converted the room into a party place when the Bollywood numbers were streamed.

Verdict

The Creative Sound Blaster Roar packs in other features like support for aptX and AAC high-def codecs. Volume levels and reproduction quality was almost identical during our tests over both Bluetooth and via aux-in. You can create a stereo space by connecting two of these speakers using the company cable or enslave other speakers too. There is also a Tera Bass button for bass stability at low volume levels.

USB slots can be used for charging the unit and using the battery to charge to charge your mobile. A built-in mic allows live recordings which can then be stored in a microSD card.

We will recommend this speaker to everyone – it is great value for the price and the spacious, rich sound quality will surprise you. For audiophiles, here is a tip – you can actually tune the speaker for its balance using the Sound Blaster Control Panel software for PCs and Macs.

₹15,999

Love: Design and Build, Fidelity

Hate: Bluetooth limitations,

Published on April 08, 2015

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