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Creative iRoar Intelligent Speaker Review

Creative’s iRoar Bluetooth speaker is being dubbed “the most intelligent speaker on the planet,” and it very well could be. The svelte desk-top speaker is not just loaded up with features, but it’s full of huge high fidelity sound. A few of the notable features include a 5-driver design, a built-in Creative digital audio processor, an app with preset audio signatures and custom tuning, 20 hours of battery life, 360 degree sound, expandable storage, karaoke & PA capabilities, and even more.

Design

We’re calling the iRoar a portable desk-top speaker because it excels in environments where it can lay flat on a surface. It’s most definitely portable, measuring about the size of a couple stacked books and weighing 4lbs, however, it’s not quite a throw-it-in-your-backpack-and-bring-it-to-the-beach portable. Instead, it’s a great household unit for moving from room to room or dedicating a semi-permanent placement. It has a similar footprint to a large box of tissues. The design has a very classy and elegant look and feel. It’s glossy black with golden accents and discreet LEDs and touch buttons.

iRoar Buttons

The front of the speaker features two high-frequency drivers, covered by a large speaker grille. The sides each have a passive radiator and are also covered by a speaker grille. And, finally, on the top is the active 2.75” driver that’s directed upwards to “stabilize the speaker”. There’s actually two amplifiers powering all of these 5 speakers; this is something you won’t find in your average bluetooth speaker. One amplifier drives the lows and the mids, while the other is dedicated to delivering the clearest high-range audio imaginable without making a sacrifice on the bass.

iroar_explode_drivers

On the back, you’ll find a bunch of ports. There’s the 15V power adapter input, a micro-USB “USB Audio” port, a standard auxiliary audio in port, an optical S/PDIF port, and a full sized USB port for charging any USB device. Additionally, there’s a slot for a Micro-SD card, and a toggle for shuffling or looping your Micro-SD music.

iRoar Ports

Battery and Charging

iRoar features a gigantic 9000mAh battery that can provide up to an impressive 20 hours of playback. Unfortunately, it requires a proprietary power adapter. There is a micro-USB input, but it’s for USB audio and won’t charge iRoar. Nicely, there is a full USB port so you can borrow some of iRoar’s juice to charge any USB device. The USB port has a 1.5A output, so you should be able to charge a phone pretty quickly.

Audio Experience

Creative is all about the audio experience and they have been for years. Just like their sound cards and other SoundBlaster products, the iRoar rocks a Creative brand audio processor. This digital signal processor (DSP) is the SB-Axx1 and it’s what makes a plethora of features possible. The unique processor is capable of altering and enhancing audio in real time, whether it’s to nail down your specific listening preferences, or it’s just to goof around with funny sounding audio.

dashboard_apps

The out of the box audio quality on iRoar will sound pretty incredible, and quite favorable, to most listeners. It’s not until you download the iPhone/Android app that you start to realize you actually do have listening preferences after all. By default, you’re listening to BlasterX, which is Creative’s custom flavored tuning. From there, you can try “Audiophile Bliss”, which is a flatter, unaltered experience, or “Live Concert” which makes the music a little more immersive and quick to feel, or “Sonic Bass” for the songs you really want to feel. That’s not all, not even close in fact. There’s also presets for gaming, movie watching, and your own personal sound. All of the presets can be tweaked. You can choose to tune your music in the style of a handful of different music genres, or you can adjust the equalizer, bass, and treble manually. You can adjust the immersion to make the experience more or less 360 surround, and you can even adjust the dialog to add more focus and clarity to speech and voices.

That’s still not all. There’s a smart volume feature enabled by default that helps normalize your volume so that some songs aren’t really low while others are loud. You can enable night mode, which applies this feature even more so. If you’ve ever watched a movie and had to raise the volume for dialog, and immediately lower the volume for action, night mode fixes that.

Finally, there’s even a Roar button that simply adds more oomph to all your music. Like most features, it comes down to personal taste. It’s intended for parties where you want some more depth and coverage with your tunes.

The music and audio sounds truly incredible, especially once you start personalizing it. Even with all the features and options, Creative did a fantastic job of making it really intuitive and easy to use. The speaker is so amazingly dynamic in terms of range and capability that even the untrained ear will be able to hear the difference in settings. The level of detail in the music can be astonishing. Equally as impressive is the level of bass this small speaker can crank out. With tuning, you can highlight any aspect of your music or audio fairly easily. A bit of criticism though, I found in certain settings with default audio, my music can sound a bit artificial and maybe even odd. Luckily, it just takes the right touch of tuning to fix that. I was unable to figure out how to save any of my audio presets, but that’s likely an app update away.

Creative did a terrific job of choosing the presets. They cover most of the audio experiences and use-cases that the average enthusiast will want. While personal taste is a big factor, so is the room shape/size, speaker placement, and audio type. We found that the default BlasterX, Audiophile Bliss, and Live concert were good enough for most situations.

Microphone

There is a set of dual-array microphones built in to the iRoar that make it a terrific speakerphone, but like the other iRoar features, Creative didn’t stop there. With an SD card you can record anything playing on the speaker as well as anything over the microphone. You can record yourself singing over a song, or you can record both sides of a phone call. There’s a feature called Mic Beam that is supposed to zero in on one person speaking rather than picking up every sound in the room. Mic beam worked well when I was a few feet away from the speaker, but if I was too close it didn’t sound as good. I generally kept the feature off. Using the app, you can alter your voice to one of many voices like orc, robot, chipmunk, elderly, or even make it sound more emo. This was a lot of fun, even if it is gimmicky. It’s great on phone calls and recordings.

Creative offers a portable microphone, sold separately, called the iRoar Mic. With this you can use the speaker as a PA device for broadcasting a presenters voice. It was really neat and worked pretty well. It’s fun for karaoke, but it probably wouldn’t cut it for a large conference or presentation. The mic weighs just 30 grams and easily clips to a shirt. Its battery lasts for 30 minutes and it charges with an included Micro-USB cable. On the bottom, it features a line-in jack so you can simultaneously play music through the microphone as you speak. It also has a microphone port in case you want to plug in your own mic and use it as a means of wireless broadcast.

Additional Features and Smartness

There are plenty of ways to hook up music to the iRoar. In addition to the Bluetooth connection, there’s a standard auxiliary 3.5mm input for, or for higher quality you can connect a computer via USB Audio over micro-USB or connect a TV or audio device over the optical port. Finally, the iRoar can also play music stored on a micro-SD card.

The bluetooth connection is just as easy to pair as any other bluetooth device. If you have an Android phone, it’s even easier. The iRoar is NFC-enabled, so just tap to pair. Virtually any bluetooth device can stream music to iRoar, including your bluetooth-enabled laptop or computer. Creative offers a USB bluetooth adapter (BT-W2) that adds high performance bluetooth to a computer or PS4. The bluetooth spec includes low-latency APT-X and a voice-back channel so that audio is transmitted clearly and with virtually zero delay.

Finally, the last big feature is the apps. If you have a micro-SD card (up to 32GB) inserted in the iRoar then you can download and install pretty much all of the apps. The apps can extend almost all of the speaker’s features. You can download apps for basic features like alarm clock, countdown timer, sleep timer, or for more unique features like motion detector, smart audio recorder, metronome, and guitar tuner. There’s also plenty of fun voice changing apps. There’s even surprising apps like motion detectors, step counters, and a lullaby app that will play music when it hears a loud sound. The apps are a really nice touch that could come in handy.

Read on for the Verdict…