The first few months of each year are always the most exciting in the world of tech. All the cool, new gadgets and equipment showcased during CES start making their way to store shelves, and we get to see whether all of last year’s hype eventually pays off. 2015 was an excellent year for innovative audio products, and I was fortunate enough to analyze most of the major releases from industry veterans like Edifier, Creative Labs, Turtle Beach and SteelSeries. It may only be February at this point, but 2016 already looks like it’ll be full of surprises. Today, I’m taking a look at Creative Labs’ latest Sound Blaster Roar Pro, an enhanced version of last year’s brilliant Sound Blaster Roar 2.
Retailing at $199.99, the Sound Blaster Roar Pro sits somewhere between the Roar 2 and Creative Labs luxurious, new Creative iRoar, which I’ll be covering in the upcoming weeks. The Sound Blaster Roar was one of the best Bluetooth speakers I tested last year, but the new Roar Pro has exceeded my expectations in just about every way. With improved built quality, richer audio and a more attractive price tag, the Roar Pro makes competing Bluetooth speakers look like they belong in the bargain bin.
"With improved built quality, richer audio and a more attractive price tag, the Roar Pro makes competing Bluetooth speakers look like they belong in the bargain bin."
The Sound Blaster Roar Pro takes all the elements that made the Roar 2 such an impressive speaker, and tweaks individual features to deliver users the best possible experience for their money. The “Pro” attached to its name isn’t a mere marketing gimmick to make the speaker sound more attractive, it actually transforms into a wireless personal PA system (Public Address system) when combined with the Creative iRoar Mic (sold separately).
When it comes to presentation, Creative Labs knows how to wow its audience with sleek design and enough playfulness to make every tech head itch with excitement. The Pro’s elegant exterior hides a plethora of easy-to-use, adjustable features. It isn’t just a wireless speaker, it’s a multi-purpose system that’s handy for both professional and casual users.
"The 5-driver system combined with two internal amps, dual speakers and a dedicated internal sub-woofer creates sound that’s equivalent to a stereo setup."
Want to experience high-end audio while camping? No problem. The Roar Pro packs enough punch to turn your tent into a disco. Need to give a presentation in front of an audience? Again, no problem. Sync your iRoar Mic to the Roar Pro, and you can easily switch from blasting music to projecting your voice across an entire auditorium. The Roar Pro is loud, effective and an absolute breeze to use.
The Sound Blaster engineers have once again outdone themselves in the acoustics department. The 5-driver system combined with two internal amps, dual speakers and a dedicated internal sub-woofer creates sound that’s equivalent to a stereo setup. This is achieved by taking advantage of the entire Roar Pro body. The front of the Roar Pro pushes high frequency audio from its dual speakers, the sides deliver deep bass and the top blasts a mixture of mids and bass.
The Roar Pro’s basic functions are accessed via the slim panel at the edge of the mids/bass speaker. Here you can monitor battery life, sync bluetooth devices and answer phone calls, adjust volume settings and enable the ROAR feature which richens the sound with deeper bass and treble.
The back of the Roar Pro carries the remaining features, such as TERA BASS (allows for more pronounced bass at low volume), a micro USB input, a Micro SD card reader, AUX IN, DC OUT as well as a control panels that lets you use the Roar Pro as an MP3 player (music files can be stored via Micro SDs). Another addition to the Roar Pro are the warm, neutral and energetic profiles. They work like EQ tweaks and let you change the bass and treble strength to suit your personal preferences. I personally find the energetic profile to be the most effective as it delivers the cleanest and sharpest sound without losing any bass integrity.
"If you’re on the lookout for something a little more luxurious than the Sound Blaster FRee, then you aren’t likely to find anything better under two hundred bucks than the Sound Blaster Roar Pro."
The Sound Blaster Roar Pro plays music beautifully on its own, but if you’re lucky enough to own two units, you can connect two Roar Pro systems via the MegaStereo Cable (sold separately) for a full sound stage. Since each individual unit is designed to mimic a stereo setup, listening to two units comes very close to mimicking a full surround sound system. This is quite impressive when you think about how large a conventional surround setup is, and how small two Roar Pro units are when placed side by side. In a way, having two Roar Pros is the equivalent to having a portable entertainment system. Not too shabby for a speaker that weighs a little less than 2.5 lbs each.
This brings me to my only criticism. Why are the iRoar Mic and the MegaStereo Cable sold separately? If the Roar Pro is advertised as a premium Bluetooth speaker and the Mic is such a major feature, why aren’t they bundled with the unit? Instead, you’re asked to spend another eighty bucks if you want to experience everything the Roar Pro has to offer ($79.99 for the mic and $9.99 for the cable). Don’t get me wrong, the iRoar Mic is excellent and possibly the best mini-mic I’ve used in a long time, but the hefty price tag seems excessive. Maybe add another option where customers can choose a bundled package for $250 instead?
The Sound Blaster Roar Pro is precisely what you want to see from an upgraded and improved model of the Roar 2. It looks better, sounds better and offers more features for both audio aficionados and casual users. If you’re on the lookout for something a little more luxurious than the Sound Blaster FRee, then you aren’t likely to find anything better under two hundred bucks than the Sound Blaster Roar Pro.
Review by: Tin Salamunic