Pros: Sound, Features, Design
Before I start this review, I would like to thank Creative for sending out a Roar 2 unit to me. I’m quite surprised myself that prior to this, I had never heard a Creative product before, despite them having some interesting products. I chose the Roar 2 to review because I wanted to take a break from the usual IEM and headphone reviews that I do, I thought that speakers would be a nice change. This is my first speaker review, so take this with a grain of salt, the only thing I can really compare them to is the Audioengine A2s that I have with me, but even then, that is a not a great reference point considering they are 2 separate speakers.
What intrigued me about the Roar 2 was the appearance and the abundance of features. It looked like a lot packed into a relatively small package, and I was curious as to how they would stack up against headphones of a similar price point. The Roar 2 is Creative’s updated version of the original Roar, which seems to be quite highly regarded by some. I’ve heard that the drivers in the Roar 2 are the same as the original Roar, but as I have not heard the Roar before, I can’t comment on whether they actually sound different.
Coming in at a price of around $200, the Roar 2 is priced in the mid-range of portable speaker market and will appeal who are looking a versatile all-in-one solution. It employs a 5 speakers in the enclosure, with a bi-amplified design. It really does look like a complete portable audio solution if you want to travel down the speaker route, let’s get on with how they fared.
**Disclaimer** These were provided to me by Creative in return for an unbiased, honest review.
Unboxing & Accessories
The packaging of the Roar 2 was simple, but also very nice. Mine came with a carry case in a separate box, not sure if that is for everyone who purchases a Roar 2, but it will certainly come in handy when I take it out. The front of the box says “smaller, lighter, sexier”, which sums up the Roar 2. The back of the pox provides all of the features and specifications of the speakers. Upon taking the cover off, the roar 2 is safely wrapped in some foam and there is a section with all the accessories that it comes with just beside. The packaging is not extravagant, but it does feel like an expensive product.
The Roar 2 doesn’t come with a lot of accessories, but it comes with all the necessary ones. There is a micro USB cable, which I’m sure everyone is familiar with, a charging wall adapter with different adapters for whatever region you are in. There is also a user manual, and in that package there are 2 rubber feet which you can put onto one of the sides to make sure that you don’t scratch the speakers. The case that was included to me fits the Roar 2 very snugly, but once again, I’m not sure if this comes alongside the Roar 2 or is a separate accessory that you can purchase.
Design & Features
To me, the Roar 2 is a very well designed speakers with all the features that one could possibly ask for in a portable speaker of this price. The aesthetic design is very appealing and I really like the way that it looks, especially the black model. I found the fact that it has a serial number on the back quite odd, but a nice touch nevertheless. The black and grey colour theme works very well together and the sides are emblazoned with the Creative logo. Altogether, this thing looks awesome and there is nothing to complain about as far as the physical design goes.
I wasn’t expecting the Roar 2 to be so feature packed. It has Bluetooth functionality and you can make calls on the speaker as well, it comes equipped with a microphone. It is a sound recorder as well as a music player, you can simply stick an SD card in and it will play music off it. There is a switch which allows you to change between using it as a music player or for streaming music straight from the computer using the internal DAC. There is, of course, also an option for the good old 3.5mm input. The USB slot lets you use the Roar 2 as a power bank. On the face, there is the power button, the volume up/down buttons and the Bluetooth/call button. Creative really seem to have thought of everything and jammed all of it into the small body of the Roar 2.
The battery lasts 8 hours, which is quite decent. On to the Tera Bass setting – it is certainly a nice bass boost, but sometimes I felt like it was a little much. The bass becomes considerably stronger and there is very slight bleeding into the midrange. Surprisingly, it did not become boomy or bloated at all, which is the case with many devices with a boost feature. The boost is definitely not subtle, but it remains very controlled and still very nice to listen to.
I considered running the Roar 2 with some of the sources that I have on hand, but I felt that a fair assessment would require me utilising the internal DAC of the unit, so for the review, I linked it up to my PC and streamed music from foobar2000 with a regular micro USB cable through to the Roar 2. I did feel like with better sources, the Roar 2 sounded better, the results varied with different sources. Most of the time when I was using it, I used my Z2 as a source and fed the Roar 2 through Bluetooth, which is what I suspect most people will do because it is the most convenient option, but the sound was not as good as when it was wired. For most of my testing, I was using the speaker lying flat and facing upwards instead of facing directly towards me. I felt like it provided a bit more of a natural presentation, but it sacrificed just a little bit of detail. When it was facing me, I also thought that the sound was a little bit nasally on the vocals, but this was not the case whatsoever when the Roar 2 was flat.
I feel like I have to reiterate again that I am not very familiar with speakers and therefore probably cannot give an accurate judgement as to how they match up against other similarly priced units. Comparing them to the similarly priced A2 was also a little odd considering there are 2 speakers for the A2 compared to the single unit of the Roar. The A2s are also by no means portable at all. I was very impressed with how well the Roar performed after I fiddled with the positioning and feel like it provides rather exceptional sound for the price that it comes in at.
For some reason I was expecting a bassy sound from the normal setting, but I was wrong. The bass is visceral and punchy, but not at all overly heavy as I initially suspected it might be. The positioning made a very big impact on the bass, when it was closer to me, the bass was stronger, but when it was further away, the bass tended to be a little on the thin side. Personally, I found the optimum distance to be around 1 metre away facing upwards. At no time did I find them to bleed into the midrange or lacking in impact, they felt very balanced. Detail is quite good, it captured the bass lines well. Those who may be seeking a more Bose or Beats type of sound, the Tera Bass is excellent for strong bass without sacrificing much from the midrange and treble. I enjoyed the Roar with the bass boost off much more than with it on however, but the boost is definitely very well implemented and isn’t too strong.
Vocals on the Roar 2 are in-between what I would consider to be neutral and warm. While it isn’t really what I would classify as warm, it has a somewhat warm tinge to it. Turning it up resulted in zero sibilance, which was nice, and the vocals did not sound veiled at all. Remember, however, that these findings are with me using the Roar facing upwards, not towards me. In the other configuration, I found that the midrange was considerably brighter, but as a result, there was a little bit of glare on the upper midrange. The 2 configurations both lie slightly north and south of neutral and I prefer the midrange when the Roar is facing upwards, it just sounds more natural to me. Instruments sound sharp and clear, they have very good clarity. Pianos especially are very well presented with a natural timbre to it. Overall, the midrange of the Roar is one of the best I have heard in the price range, regardless of IEMs, headphones or speakers. It manages to be slightly laid back yet exciting.
If I was let down in one area, then it would have to be the treble. While it isn’t bad by any means, it isn’t quite on the same level as the bass and midrange. My personal preference is to have a slightly elevated treble region, but the Roar 2 is slightly rolled off on the top end. I do, however, understand Creative’s reasons for doing so, it makes for a much more consumer friendly sound and reduces sibilance. I did not detect any sibilance or glare whatsoever from the Roar and it was a very solid performer in the treble region. Detail was crisp, but decay was a little quick for my taste. Cymbals had a nice rig to them and they did not sound harsh at all, even at high volumes. The result is a detailed treble which does not come at the expense of sibilance at high volumes. While I would have liked the treble to be a hair brighter, I’m sure others will appreciate Creative’s decision to tone it down a notch.
Soundstage & Imaging
Being a single speaker unit, I expected the soundstage to be rather restricted and this was the case. This doesn’t have anything to do with the Roar itself, but is more about the portable speaker itself. It cannot really create a stereo image because of the small size and the fact that the sound comes from one area, unlike headphones or the A2s. I did find that the stage presented was very close up , and when the speaker was pointed upwards, the height was quite good. Don’t expect great soundstage from the Roar or any portable speaker, because you just won’t get it.
The imaging is quite good, but also not on the same level as other headphones that are in the same price bracket. Because of the limited soundstage, it is kind of hard to tell where instruments are placed. It is just not as clear as “stereo” headphones or speakers. However, it does work rather well with the small amount of space that it does have and all things considered, the Roar 2 is actually quite adequate in this department. The shortcomings in the soundstage and imaging are because of the size of portable speakers and is not a problem limited to the Roar 2.
Separation, Detail & Clarity
The clean, unobtrusive sound signature of the Roar 2 makes it a rather detailed speaker. The separation is very good, on par with some of the best headphones in its price range. They sound very coherent at all times and I did not feel like details were masked in the background. Obviously they aren’t as good as high end headphones, but I am definitely very impressed with the Roar 2’s separation, it really did surprise me.
While the Roar 2 isn’t the most detailed unit I have heard by quite a length, it is quite a detailed speaker. The detail is a little better when the unit is facing towards you, but the difference is not very large. Personally, I found that the slightly reduced detail was a trade-off I could deal with, I still prefer listening to the Roar 2 pointing upwards. Microdetails that you can hear in IEMs such as the B2 are not quite there, but the roar 2 manages to retain quite a lot of detail and presents it in a polite manner. It doesn’t shove it to you like the B2 does, but instead lets it sink in gradually.
Once again, the clarity is somewhat dependent on speaker placement; facing upwards will result in slightly worse clarity compared to it facing towards you. Instrument clarity is very good on the Roar 2, while vocal clarity lags a little behind. The slightly warm signature of the Roar 2 means that the clarity isn’t as good as other headphones with a colder sound signature. However, whether you prefer a warm or cold sound signature is up to you – kind of like whether you prefer the HD800 or LCD-3.
Creative have really impressed me with the Roar 2. It is feature packed, sounds great through all the connections and Creative seem to have crammed everything they can think of into it. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who genuinely dislikes the sound that comes from the Roar 2s, they seem to cater for everyone, even bassheads with their Tera Bass option. Even though I have never heard the original Roar before, I feel like the $200 price tag is very easily justified, and if you are looking for a portable speaker in this price range, the Roar 2 is worth at least a consideration.