I’ve reviewed quite a collection of Bluetooth speakers in recent months, but the Creative Soundblaster Roar 2 has managed to leave a lasting impression. It not only holds its own against other speakers in its class when it comes to audio quality, it’s packed with additional features and capabilities. I wasn’t kidding when I said this thing is like the Swiss Army Knife of Bluetooth speakers.
Let’s start off with the audio technology. Inside the Sandblaster Roar 2 are two amplifiers, one dedicated to the low and mid range and the other used for high frequencies. There are five high performance drivers: a 2.5-inch subwoofer, a pair of 1.5-inch high frequency drivers and two side-firing passive radiators. The audio delivered is good quality for a small portable speaker; not quite on the level of the more expensive Riva Turbo X in terms of volume or sound dispersion, but clean and well able to dominate a mid-sized room.
I spent a lot of time going listening to my new wave collection with the speaker and synth pop sounded especially excellent on it. Getting into grungier stuff, songs that were heavy on guitar — Catherine Wheel’s “Waydown” for example — tended to be a little murkier, especially in the mid-range. Overall, sound is well balanced, with authoritative (but not overpowering) bass, clear vocals and bright highs. Distortion at maximum volume is minimal.
Push the button for TerraBass and the speaker makes up for reduced low end at lower volumes — without blowing it out with booming bass. The ROAR option boosts overall loudness. Creature says the feature uses the built-in DSP to “intelligently widen audio output.” Basically that means it gets louder, but without introducing gobs of distortion. In ROAR mode, music doesn’t sound as clean and the battery will drain faster, but you get a lot more volume.
The speaker can be positioned horizontally, or (using a pair of supplied rubber bumpers you have to stick on yourself) it can stand up vertically. Either way, it’s solid. With the bass piping out the sides instead of down or through the back, there’s no movement of the speaker unit itself and it’s heavy enough that it isn’t going anywhere. Despite the physical size and myriad ports and buttons, it’s actually pretty attractive with rounded edges, machined passive radiators, metal mesh speaker grill and some metallic finish trim.
Battery life is rated at up to 8 hours (I saw those kind of numbers in use) and the speaker can be recharged in under three hours using the included DC adapter, or you can also use USB if you can wait a bit longer.
Where the Soundblaster Roar 2 gets more interesting is the additional features and options. Two devices can be simultaneously connected using Bluetooth and it has NFC support for tap pairing. Besides Bluetooth (including support for high definition aptX and AAC codecs), there’s a 3.5mm Aux-input port. Or, you can connect it to a Mac or PC via USB and use it as an external speaker using SBX Pro Studio audio software. It works as a PS4 external speaker via USB as well. Or, you can insert a microSD card loaded with MP3s or WMAs and play that directly on the Roar 2 (it even has the function buttons to control playback). It will act as a Bluetooth speakerphone as well.
That’s not enough to earn the Swiss Army Knife moniker? The Roar 2 also has the ability to record to the microSD card and the big built-in battery lets you plug in a mobile device using a USB cable for a fast recharge. When my iPhone was running low, I used the Roar 2 to top it up from 20 percent to 85 percent in under two hours.
At $169.99 direct from Creative (the MSRP is $199), this is a pretty impressive device. As a Bluetooth speaker, it’s a little on the large and heavy side (2.2 pounds) and all those controls, ports and LEDs make it look busier than most. Then again it does more than most and sounds pretty good doing it. You can pick it up for a few bucks less on Amazon.
Soundblaster Roar 2 is available in black or white.
Disclosure: Creative supplied a Soundblaster Roar 2 for review purposes.