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Is Sound Blaster Roar SR20 Really That Great?

Updated on August 1, 2014

400 million units Creative Sound Blaster Roar sold?

Is that possible? Especially when it was only released on July 8, 2014 in the US.

No. Definitely not yet for the Sound Blaster Roar SR20 but that was the number of units the ever so popular Sound Blaster card for the PC were sold globally since it was first released many years ago.

The manufacturer, Creative Technology is surely hoping for another runaway success that will be even better with this new Sound Blaster Roar portable Bluetooth speakers. By the way, this speaker also functions as an external Sound Blaster sound card when you plug it into a PC or Mac via the USB port.

Who knows, they may even pull it off again this time with the Sound Blaster Roar if the tremendous response that they are getting now is a yardstick of what is in store.

Long queues for the Sound Blaster Roar at a recent Tech show
Long queues for the Sound Blaster Roar at a recent Tech show

Hot cakes?

Gosh...the Roar SR20 is selling faster than hot cakes!

At a sneak preview at the CES 2014 Las Vegas in January this year everyone who saw and heard the Sound Blaster Roar demonstration at the Creative booth wanted to buy one on the spot.

At its IT Show pre-launch in Singapore, the Sound Blaster Roar wowed the audience so much until It generated long queues with a very impressive record average sale of 'more-than-one-unit-sold-per-minute'.

Then at a subsequent a four days cash and carry Tech show; also in Singapore, Creative reported that the sales rate double to one unit of the Sound Blaster Roar was sold every 30 seconds!

Wow...that is really amazing. The Sound Blaster Roar is certainly selling like hot cakes

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Why the big hoo-ha about this portable bluetooth speaker?

What is this Sound Blaster Roar?

In a jiffy, the Sound Blaster Roar is a new concept, 5-driver high performance portable Bluetooth wireless speaker in a small but sexy notebook size package.

However don't underestimate this small package as experienced in the January 2014 CES, the pre-launch and Tech show in Singapore are anything to go by; the Sound Blaster Roar SR20 simply blew people away the moment they heard its astoundingly powerful, precision-tuned and high fidelity sound.

Is it as if people just fell in love at the first sight...err, first sound?...with the superb audio emitted from this very compact and portable booklet-sized portable Bluetooth speaker the moment they saw and heard it. People just felt that they must absolutely have one!

Are you looking to buy a portable Bluetooth speaker now?

 

Speakers are just speakers...what is so great about this one?

Why is there so much interest in this new set of portable Bluetooth speakers from Creative?

The simple answer according to WH Sim, founder, CEO and Chairman of Creative Technology is that the Sound Blaster Roar SR20 is simply an "impossible" product! In fact this "impossible" product took 2 years of R&D time before it was released into the market.

In coming up with the product concept for the Sound Blaster Roar, Sim set out design objectives desired by consumers that are at times contradictory to each other. Among some of the design goals were:

- small footprint (the size of a small booklet)

- loud audio

- long lasting battery (at least 8 hours of playing loud music)

- clear crisps sounds

- and many others

I will go into the details each these first and then highlight to you why the Sound Blaster Roar was initially an "impossible" product until the design team found creative (pun intended) ways to go around these "impossible" roadblocks to design this speaker.

Small footprint

Elegant and sophisticated looking speaker

The Sound Blaster Roar is 2.2 x 7.9 x 4.5-inch/57 x 202 x 115 mm (HWD) and weighs in at 2.5 pound (1.1 Kg).

Many a times you will come across light weight Bluetooth speakers that almost feel like toys. However the Sound Blaster Roar feels robust and well built with a very tasteful matte-grey alloy for the speaker grill coupled with smoked-chrome accents around the side speakers. It has a unique design in that it lies flat on what similar speakers would be on their "back".

The design looks nice and elegant anywhere; whether placed on a counter-top, nightstand, coffee table or even on an executive's desk.

A narrow strip at the top rear holds the membrane buttons that are the most commonly used. These buttons include Power, Bluetooth/Call Answer/End, Volume Up/Down, and the volume-enhancing Roar mode. Hidden behind the front grill are the compact but powerful high frequency front drivers and solid bass enhancements firing radiators are on both sides.

To top it up, there is a clean powerful active top firing driver for audio delivery through the top of the Sound Blaster Roar. A three-LED battery indicator light and lights for Bluetooth connectivity and Roar mode are also situated at the top.

The rear of the speaker has a power port for the included adapter, a 3.5mm aux input, a USB port for charging smartphones with the built-in 6,000mAh battery, a micro USB port for connecting to a computer and the a microSD card slot.

It also has small Play/Pause and Track Forward/Back buttons, a Shuffle/Repeat toggle for the media playback, a separate Play/Pause button, a Record button, and a microphone mute toggle for the sound recording, a three-way Loud Sounds switch, an Alarm arming switch, and an Alarm button.

Loud audio

Don't be deceived by the small size of the Sound Blaster Roar for it can really roar!

This is because the Roar has three drivers with two passive radiators at the sides. The two 1.5-inch, front-facing drivers handle the highs and mids, while a top-firing driver takes care of the mid to lower registers.

Finally, the two side-firing passive radiators cover the lowest of the lows which rounds out the whole audio spectrum; creating a balanced, clear, bass-heavy and loud sound.

Due to these configurations, the Sound Blaster Roar SR20 does not have the significant lack of bass that you would encounter with many similar Bluetooth devices. If you are looking for bass, the Roar definitely delivers and does not disappoint.

Long lasting battery

What good would a portable Bluetooth speaker be if it has a short battery life?

In this case, the Creative Sound Blaster Roar AR20 has 8 hours of continuous battery-only playback. However it would depend on the volume levels that the speaker is playing and how you use it. A higher volume will definitely drain the battery faster as it is required to generate more energy to produce that volume.

A flat speaker battery takes approximately 3 hours to fully charge. However you can charge and play at the same time just like you could with your smartphone or tablet.

Clear crisp sounds

Currently, the Sound Blaster Roar is the only portable speaker that uses two separate amplifiers while other similarly battery powered portable Bluetooth speakers use a passive system with only one amplifier for both low and high end sounds.

The Sound Blaster Roar uses an active system with two separate amplifiers to give you some of the best sounding music you'll ever hear from such a small speaker; one amplifier is used for high-end frequencies like cymbal crashes, flute sounds and female vocals while the another is used for the low-end frequencies such as bass guitar, kick drum, thunder sounds etc

Now you know why the Sound Blaster Roar sounds so great!

Not only that, it also has a "Roar" button that acts as a loudness button to increase the dynamic range of the audio that is being played. This is especially useful if you are having a party or at a location with ambient noise. This Roar function also helps to compensate for external noises without adding any hiss or muddiness to the sound.

Overall the bass, treble, low, mid, and hi range sounds produced by the Sound Blaster Roar is superb. It comes out from the Roar very clean and distinct and there is no distortion even when you play your music at a high volume.

Oh yes...

That bit about the "impossible" part...

Shhh...here is the secret to the "impossible" part.

It all started with a concept that SIm, the CEO at Creative had. He wanted another killer product like his first Sound Blaster sound card. This time a portable Bluetooth wireless speaker instead.

In his mind he envisage that this portable Bluetooth speaker should be no larger than a booklet. Not only must it look look great but must also have powerful killer audio with kickass thumping bass.

It must have a long lasting battery that is able to fit into that small casing; be features rich and at the same time out perform similar speakers more than twice its price without any sacrifice in quality in that small package!

If you are a speaker or sound engineer you would know that these are impossible demands.

How the "Im" was removed from the "impossible"

One of the things people are looking for in a portable Bluetooth speaker is big bass and loud music. However to have a big bass, a corresponding big acoustic chamber is required. But how do you have a big acoustic chamber with a big battery together in a small box?

So the engineers at Creative came out with an ingenious idea to position the battery and all the electronic circuits inside the acoustic chamber and enhance the bass by making the chamber air-tight. They also positioned two low frequency acoustic radiator drivers at each end of the chamber.

By doing that they improved the bass dramatically without taking up much space as every cubic millimeter of free space in the speaker was utilized to boost the bass acoustics.

How to preserve battery power? It is an acknowledge fact that the louder you play on a portable Bluetooth speaker, the faster you will drain the battery. Not only that, you will also heat up the amplifier circuits. To compound that, trapped heat will not be easily dissipated because the acoustic chamber is sealed.

Once it gets heated up to a certain extent, the battery protection circuit in a battery powered speaker will shut down the unit to prevent overheating which may damage it. People however generally do not take it too well when their speaker suddenly shuts down because of the heat! Never mind that they have been blasting loud music out of it all day long!

This heat problem could be easily solved by placing the battery and the circuit board outside the acoustic chamber. However the size of the speaker would have to be increased. So, it is either a small size or a high power output but not both.

To make the impossible possible, engineers at Creative came up with another brilliant and novel way to implement an intricate heat sink system in the chamber itself. This time two heat-conducting copper plates were attached on to the walls of the chamber together with a thick braid of copper wires to bond them to the printed circuit board that contained the two high-power amplifiers.

In this manner, trapped heat can be dissipated simultaneously through two ways: via convection and conduction. As a result of this, Creative was able to maintain its goal on the small size chamber and at the same time still maintain the high power output.

How to satisfy both the Audiophiles and non audiophiles...

when they both have opposite requirements!

In order to be able to sell the speakers to virtually everyone, Creative will have to satisfy the requirements of the people at both ends of the audio spectrum. Audiophiles wants professional loudspeakers; accurate, balanced and well-defined while the non audiophiles wants them to be loud but not so precise and balanced; all they want is spacious, no-holds-barred audio.

This can be solved through tuning. However, even though the Sound Blaster Roar has a built-in advanced audio signal processing that can be tuned, the challenge Creative faced was how to provide a perfect tuning out of the box that satisfied everyone - the audiophiles and non audiophiles.

It is easy to tune the Sound Blaster Roar out of the box either way. However tuning out of the box to cater to both camps is next to impossible as the settings are basically the opposite of each other.

So why not take the middle road? I was glad that Creative did not choose the easy way out by taking a compromised solution as the speaker would then be neither here nor there and it would alienate both camps!

What about getting the users to tune it themselves? This would be possible but most users are not technically inclined or would find it too troublesome. (By the way, it is possible for users to tune the Roar themselves through the Sound Blaster Control Panel software for PCs and Macs)

That's when the "Roar" button idea came about. From the default factory setting you will get well-balanced, precise audio. However when you push of the Roar button, you will immediately boost the loudness, depth and spaciousness of the audio. Smart? In this way, everyone would be happy.

As a result of that thought process that has gone into the design of the Sound Blaster Roar, Creative not only made the impossible possible but had a very successful product!

Moral of the story? Never say impossible!

What else do you get from the

Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR20?

So apart from having long battery life, playing loud music and having wonderfully crystal clear audio what else can the Sound Blaster Roar do for you? As I mentioned early on in this lens, the design philosophy was to create the Sound Blaster Roar as the best "audio" package with all the bells and whistles in a very small package that is very portable.

Here are some of the features that comes with it:

  • High quality microphone - very useful as a recorder or speakerphone for teleconferencing
  • Integrated MicroSD WMA and MP3 Player - allows you to play music directly from your MicroSD Card
  • Integrated Voice Recorder - a one-touch audio recording function that allows you to record music and voice calls directly to a MicroSD card
  • NFC (stands for near field communication) connectivity - makes life easy by allowing similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them close together, usually no more than a few inches to establish connectivity
  • Allows connection to two Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously. A good example of this use is that when you are watching a movie on a tablet and wants to take a phone call on the Sound Blaster Roar from your smartphone. You can do both at the same time
  • Link Security Modes - allows you to decide how you can connect your Bluetooth devices to different usage scenarios:
    • Default Mode (Creative Bluetooth Multipoint Mode) - Connects to up to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously
    • Friendly Access Mode - Allows Bluetooth devices that have been paired to the speaker before to takeover control of the Sound Blaster Roar. This easily allows your family and friends to share their music vis the Roar SR20
    • Free-for-All Access Mode puts the speaker in discoverable mode. This means that anyone can easily search and connect to the Roar without any permission. This mode is ideal for the use in meetings or classrooms so that the participants can easily share audio
  • Dual Purpose Battery - you can charge your smartphone using the build in 6000 mAH battery which also provides audio playback
  • Siren - Useful for grabbing attention when needed. For example, if you are a trainer and you want to call back your team members after a break
  • Sound card - instead of buying an internal sound card, just connect the Sound Blaster Roar to a PC or Mac USB port to get the audio. You can also get advanced audio processing through Sound Blaster Control Panel free downloadable software program that is specially designed for the speaker.

Conclusion

Everyone has a different expectation on audio because sound is very individualized due to each person's sense of hearing, their preferences and other factors such as the environment, room size, location etc

As such your expectation and mine may be different. However for many people when they hear the Sound Blaster Roar speaker in action, they will really realize how much creativity and ingenuity that Creative put into designing this speaker.

I find that the Roar performs exceptionally well at any price point. If you compare other Bluetooth speakers in this price range, they do not even come close to the sound and functionality of the Roar SR20.

So are there better speakers around?" Of course. However those will generally be much more expensive and also larger in size. Maybe heavier as well...

If you're still undecided and is looking at other audiophile-grade portable speakers and this price point, I would offer you this advice. Forget it. This is the best to date. Grab one now and you will thank me for it!

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