Creative Sound Blaster Roar 2 review

After trimming its mane, Creative's Roar 2 is leaner but no less fierce

The Roar 2 packs the same growl as the original, but looks better after dieting for a few months.
MSRP $200.00
The Roar 2 packs the same growl as the original, but looks better after dieting for a few months.
The Roar 2 packs the same growl as the original, but looks better after dieting for a few months.

Highs

  • Still loud, despite smaller frame
  • Roar and Tera Bass now one button
  • Bluetooth and portable
  • Two color schemes
  • Great value

Lows

  • Uneven audio quality
  • About 6-8 hours of battery life

Creative wasted no time in trimming down its original Sound Blaster Roar Bluetooth speaker, a product from earlier this year that we considered among the most unique we’ve tested. The Roar 2 has slimmed its figure down, looking a little less voluptuous than its predecessor, and yet it still wears all the same hats.

The Sound Blaster Roar 2 carries on in namesake tradition, playing loud and proud while offering the same additional features that made the original such a versatile standout. Does the slimmer waistline still mean this speaker can belt out tunes with the same fiery performance as the weightier original?

Yep, and without missing a beat.

Out of the box

Unboxing the Roar 2 was like experiencing déjà vu. The packaging inside was virtually identical to that of the original Roar. Save for the smaller speaker and a different manual, there was nothing different going on here. Even the charger and micro-USB cable were exactly the same. Right out of the box, we started charging the Roar 2 with the previous model’s power adapter.

We liked the instruction manual, particularly because it was kind of like finding Easter eggs on an app or Blu-ray disc. Usability tips and tricks the Roar 2 can manage were neatly pointed out throughout the short manual, making it easy to try these settings once we were up and running.

Features and design

Some subtle differences do make the Roar 2 different. There are now two color schemes — one white, one black. Creative reversed the order of the layout on the rubberized strip at the top for reasons that aren’t especially clear to us. The sides more visibly indicate the passive radiators that are part of the five drivers nestled into the smaller chassis. Part of this appears to be purely aesthetic, since they pulsate with the bass, whereas the classic Roar had hardened grilles on the side.

Despite a 20 percent smaller body, the same components have been tucked inside.

The front has a Creative logo that isn’t embossed like the original was, and the panel is also flat with no perforated holes. Instead, the grilles only cover the top, with a slight overlap onto the fold toward the front. Doing this has practical implications: Laying it flat offers more spatial coverage, whereas propping it up offers more direct audio with better access to the buttons.

The back features the same exact inputs as before, save for some minor adjustments. The weird alarm Creative threw in with the classic Roar is gone, having been replaced with a much more useful switch to toggle between USB audio and USB mass storage when slotting in a microSD card.

Despite a 20 percent smaller body, the same components have been tucked inside, so there is nothing uniquely different about the subwoofer and stereo amps. The idea is that the Roar 2 can pump the same sound out of a smaller frame — like an opera singer who shed a few pounds but still hits the same notes.

Sound Blaster Roar 2
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Being thinner and shorter also means getting lighter. At 2.2 pounds, the Roar 2 is only 0.3 pounds less than its fatter sibling, but the disparity felt greater once we held one in each hand. Even with its reduced form factor, the Roar 2 isn’t the most portable Bluetooth speaker, but it doesn’t have to be when it packs in everything it has.

Bluetooth pairing, especially with NFC, is as easy as it was before. Two devices can be connected simultaneously, so that playback can begin with one and continue with another. We liked this for collaborative playlists with friends, so that more than one person could play what they wanted.

Audio Performance

It wasn’t hard to guess how the Roar 2 would sound. With the same components, audio quality wasn’t going to take a leap forward or step backward. Still, in this case, being predictable is a good thing. The original Roar impressed us by blasting music at the highest volumes for its size, although a little distortion crept in when we pushed it that far. The same is true here, yet again, and once more we’re impressed at those volumes, in spite of a smaller frame.

In fact, we tested it with exactly the same tracks we noted when reviewing the classic Roar, and then kept the speaker going. The Roar and Tera Bass buttons are back, though Creative decided to merge them into one button. Pressing it once turns Tera Bass on — twice and Roar roars into action. Both of these don’t offer any surprises compared to the original Roar. Tera Bass comes in handy for bass-heavy tracks that aren’t pumped at full blast (or close enough). The Roar effect is really only necessary at parties or for large groups people in a big room.

The same trade-offs apply, too. The Roar 2 doesn’t do anything to improve on the original’s tendency to overtake the lows with more pronounced mids and highs. At the highest volumes, any warmth within the audio spectrum is progressively lost, turning the speaker into a blaring box. In that, however, is an opportunity the Roar 2 does improve on. The smaller form factor makes this a more portable product, and as such, more ideal for locales that don’t need the speaker turned up to 11. Despite its name, this speaker is at its best when it isn’t pushing itself to make noise.

Sound Blaster Roar 2
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Proximity was also no surprise. The original Roar was in an enviable position in that its shortcomings weren’t noticeable at a distance. It was when really up close that all the artifacts and imperfections grew evident. The Roar 2 doesn’t hold back, either, offering the same listening experience from start to finish.

Everything Else

More than just a simple Bluetooth speaker, the classic Roar surprised us with the bevy of interesting features it offered out of the box, and the Roar 2 follows suit. It can act as an audio recorder and speakerphone, for example, as well as a DAC (digital audio converter) when connected to a computer. Recording audio is fine for interviews or phone calls, but is pointless for music because it maxes out at a terribly low 64kbps bitrate.

It’s rated for eight hours, but that’s not going to happen once the volume goes up.

The DAC is an interesting way to amplify and improve audio quality from a PC or Mac, though we found it to be more useful for gaming or watching content on a big all-in-one desktop. The free Sound Blaster Control Panel software maintains the same equalizer controls as in the first model, which can give the Roar 2 a little more precision.

The USB port can charge a smartphone but can’t play audio from one connected to it. It’s also still a 1amp output, so tablets only get a slow trickle charge. But regardless of what mobile device you plug in, it will charge even when the speaker is off. The Aux-In jack offers another way to play with an old school 3.5mm cable. Playing music straight off a memory card is yet another way to go, though without a screen to navigate through a big list, it feels primitive and clunky, similar to how car audio decks first supported MP3s burned to CDs. For longer playlists that don’t need a DJ to manage, this is a cool feature, but not one we clamored for.

Creative packed in the same size battery here, with predictable results. While eight hours is the rated lifespan per charge, that’s not going to happen once the volume goes up. We noted the exact same six-hour range we had with the classic Roar.

Conclusion

The best way to look at the Roar 2 is to simply consider it the same as the original Roar, albeit looking better after dieting for a few months. (Maybe it should have been called Roar 1.5?) Some cosmetic changes give it a slight makeover, but it’s what’s inside that counts, and this speaker packs the same guts. We’re not complaining about that, since we found its predecessor so interesting, but we can’t help but feel Creative could’ve made things really interesting by nipping and tucking on the components inside as well, to possibly impact fidelity.

We also can’t argue with the price. At $170 direct from Creative ($200 everywhere else), it’s cheaper than a number of other Bluetooth speakers that either don’t sound as good, or don’t offer anything beyond simple music playback and speakerphone. Even if you don’t care too much about the ancillary features, you may come to need them sometime. The Roar 2 scratches that itch, and then some.

Highs

  • Still loud, despite smaller frame
  • Roar and Tera Bass now one button
  • Bluetooth and portable
  • Two color schemes
  • Great value

Lows

  • Uneven audio quality
  • About 6-8 hours of battery life
Product Review

Vizio’s latest 2.1-channel soundbar boasts sweet cinema sound on the cheap

With a slim subwoofer, simple connections, and the ability to easily customize your sound, Vizio’s new SB3621n-GB 2.1 Soundbar System is an excellent, affordable way to beef up your TV’s terrible audio.
Movies & TV

It: Chapter Two trailer brings Pennywise back with plenty of nightmare fuel

Warner Bros. Pictures has released a new, terrifying trailer for It: Chapter Two, the upcoming sequel to the 2017 film It. Both films are based on the novel of the same name written by Stephen King.
Mobile

Keep your phone flipping with the best Asus Zenfone 6 cases

With a seamless display and the innovative flipping camera system, the Asus Zenfone 6 is a unique device that proves not every phone needs to look the same. Protect it with one of the best Asus Zenfone 6 cases.
Home Theater

Don't get it twisted! These are the best true wireless earbuds you can buy

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.
Apple

Klipsch T5 True Wireless vs. Beats Powerbeats Pro: Battle of the premium earbuds

The Klipsch T5 True Wireless offer many of the same features as the Beats Powerbeats Pro, but at a significantly reduced price tag. Which pair of wireless earbuds is better for you? Let's find out.
Music

Don’t let spotty Wi-Fi keep you from Spotify. Here's how to download your songs

Did you know you can download up to 3,333 songs on your device with Spotify Premium? The process is incredibly straightforward, too, and literally takes seconds. Here's how to do it.
Mobile

The humble cassette player gets a modern-day makeover, sort of

If you've been wondering what it was like to live in the 80s, or want to experience for yourself the joys of owning a portable cassette player, then this modern-day effort from Ninm Lab may be of interest.
Home Theater

Sony aims shrink ray at noise-canceling headphones with its WF-1000XM3 earbuds

Sony has announced its latest pair of true wireless headphones, taking a shrink ray to the same excellent noise-canceling technology in its over-ear WH-1000XM3 to create the new WF-1000XM3 model.
Music

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've hand-picked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.
Deals

JBL Charge 3 waterproof Bluetooth speaker now 40% off ahead of Amazon Prime Day

Prime Day may still be a few days away, but there are already plenty of deals to be found on electronics all across Amazon, including that perfect summer speaker, like the JBL Charge 3 waterproof Bluetooth speaker, now just $90.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
News

How to watch Taylor Swift’s blockbuster Amazon Prime Day concert tonight

Amazon plans to celebrate its first 48-hour Prime Day sale with a blockbuster concert featuring Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, Becky G., and Sza on Wednesday, July 10 -- and Prime members can watch the whole thing live.
Music

Amazon Music Unlimited is fastest growing music streaming service, report says

Amazon Music Unlimited is the fastest growing music streaming service, ahead of both Spotify and Apple Music. It has been booming recently, with a massive 70% growth in the last year which brings its total subscribers up to 32 million.
Deals

Early Prime Day deals: MacBook, 4K TV, AirPods, and Apple iPad discounts

Prime Day 2019 is coming fast and great early deals pop up every day. We've been tracking the hottest categories including smart home devices, 4K TVs, laptops, and headphones pulling out the best deals.