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Creative iRoar review: A speaker with sound intelligence

By Marcus Wong - 18 Apr 2016
Launch SRP: S$499

Audio performance & Conclusion

Audio Experience

Given the larger size and bigger drivers, you’d expect the iRoar to easily sound more powerful than the Sound Blaster Roar Pro, and it certainly is. We’d estimate it to be easily at least 30~40% louder at each level, with better clarity to boot. 

But that’s not all there is to the iRoar as the inclusion of the SB-Axx1 voice and audio effects processor means you can really make meaningful adjustments to the sound output. A total of seven presets are available: Blaster X, Live Concert, Audiophile Bliss, Game On, Sonic Bass, Cinemania and Personal Sound. (The last of course, being an empty profile for you to create your own settings.) 

These EQ adjustments really make a big difference to the audio playback you get.

All of the presets can be fine-tuned to your liking, but we found that Live Concert and Sonic Bass gave us the greatest change in terms of audio tonality. Unlike software equalization (EQ for short), which tends to result in rather subtle changes, the changes to the iRoar’s EQ really make a noticeable difference.

Live Concert seems to bring about better separation, with improved clarity to boot and so works well with most genres of music, but it's most pronounced with vocals or acoustic instruments. Meanwhile, for pieces with heavier bass notes, we’d swing over to the Sonic Bass just to fully maximize the bass thump. 

We listened to a recording of Freddy Mercury’s Barcelona from his Barcelona live edition, and the iRoar delivered it with a good degree of naturalness, bringing out the subtle phrasing and nuance the singer was so famous for. Likewise, with Under The Bridge, by the Red Hot Chili Peppers we found that the speaker did a great job with the separation between drums, vocals and guitar. There’s ample depth on the lush bass, and you can even just about pick out what the choir is singing in the background towards the end. 

Switching over to a recording of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Spring, we thought the speaker did a good job with the imaging of the strings in the piece. Though generally better suited for pieces that are heavier in the mids and bass notes (like most radio-friendly songs you hear today), we thought the iRoar handled the complexity of this piece fairly well.

 

Formal testing

We started our formal testing with Adele’s Melt My Heart to Stone, and we thought the iRoar did a good job with Adele’s vocals. There was hardly a trace of sibilance, and the speaker placed her nicely forward, rendering her vocals with a touch of warmth. We’re inclined to say the bass was a little dry on this piece, but certainly there was good separation throughout.

Moving on to Hotel California by The Eagles, and again the speaker demonstrated its imaging prowess, handling the opening riff with a good amount of separation between instruments. We felt there was good clarity to the strings with a nice ring to them, but the bass could have done with just a touch more depth and weight.

Next up, Buckethead’s Sail on Soothsayer. The guitar distort was nicely handled on this, and we felt the bass had just enough weight to be present but not overpowering. We do suspect that some people will be hankering for more though, but in this case switching over to Sonic Bass (or Live Concert) mode will probably do the trick. Overall, an enjoyable listen but we could have done with a little bit ring to the piece.

Finally, we concluded our testing with Tiesto’s Elements of Life. With this, we felt the iRoar produced a medium sized soundstage on its base settings. The speaker easily keeps up with the pace of the track, but we felt you really need to switch out to the Live Concert mode or Sonic Bass mode to get sufficient bass to ground the track.

Audio Performance Summary
MP3 Testing Score
Hotel California - The Eagles 8.5
Sail on Soothsayer - Buckethead 8.5
Elements of Life - Tiesto 8.0
Melt My Heart to Stone - Adele 8.0

 

Final thoughts

It seems Creative has churned out yet another extraordinary portable speaker. The iRoar certainly turns in great audio performance for its size – if you take the time to select the appropriate audio profile through the app. The inclusion of a processor and the dock connector option means that the iRoar is also immensely modifiable whether through software or hardware, so that certainly is something worth noting if you’re looking for a speaker that will do more than just play music.

Unfortunately, that’s something we can’t judge as yet as these "add-ons" are still few and far between. On its own, the iRoar is certainly one of the most (if not the most) powerful portable speakers we’ve seen in its class/size, and certainly one of the better sounding. Having said that, note that it doesn’t sound S$200 better than this year's Tech Awards winner for portable speakers, the Sony SRS-X55, so it’s going to lose out on the “value” aspect when you consider that the iRoar commands a retail price of S$499.

8.5
The Good
Overall finish feels premium
Sound quality in the mid-range is good
DSP-based EQ adjustments can be made
Modular aspect holds lots of promise
The Bad
Default tuning doesn't bring the best out of the speaker
Price is a little too steep