Creative Labs is well known in the PC and audio space thanks to a very long, rich history of making components like sound cards and DACs for computers. They’ve branched out since then, but ultimately they’re an audio component company that focuses on premium sound quality.
Creative still makes sound cards and the like, of course, but they also make some regular speakers and headphones for a broader variety of consumers, too. We got our hands on their iRoar Go Bluetooth speaker which blends high-end, premium sound quality into a (relatively) small package.
Is the speaker worth bragging about for Creative? Let’s find out.
The design of the iRoar Go is a definite throwback to some of the bigger speakers of several years ago. We review lots of portable speakers, and we’ve seen some small and svelte designs, but Creative made a big compromise here. The iRoar Go is big and blocky and about twice as large as your typical, regular sized Bluetooth speaker.
There are two passive radiators on both sides of the speaker and a speaker grille that makes up most of the front of the box. Underneath the speaker grill are two high-frequency drivers sandwiching a subwoofer, making up a total of five drivers in the entire package. As far as I know, this is one of the only compact Bluetooth speakers with that many drivers on the market, and it’s certainly the only one I’ve ever used.
On the front of the box you’ll get a variety of buttons and LEDs, with a power button and volume buttons at the top left and indicators for which input source you’re using on the top right, plus a battery indicator. The top of the device features playback buttons and a Record button so you can actually use the iRoar Go as a voice recorder. You can even connect a microphone if you really need the higher sound quality. The ports are covered by rubber flaps to keep things waterproof so you can carry this thing around with you wherever you are.
Speaking of those ports, the iRoar Go uses a charging pin instead of something like microUSB to charge, which is something I really hate. I already have regular USB cables hooked up all over my house, and having to use one specific cable for one specific device is just a pain. The iRoar Go even already has a USB A port for connecting and charging other devices, and a microUSB port to allow it to connect to things like a PC or even your PS4, but these won’t charge the device. It’s a small complaint, sure, but I just hate more kinds of cables.
Okay, it’s big and blocky with standard playback controls, but how does it sound? Oh boy, I’m excited to tell you.
This thing is legitimately too heavy and clunky in 2018, but man it sounds so good. That five driver system isn’t just for show, and Creative Labs knows how to tune speakers to sound massive. There’s a good amount of bass without overdoing it, the mids are crisp and clear, and there’s a ton of volume in this speaker. By default the highs are maybe a bit too bright, but there’s a companion app with EQ settings to tone that down at higher volumes.
With or without the volume cranked, the iRoar Go pulls off some clever software tricks to keep your music sounding great. TeraBass, for example, is a special processing mode that compensates for the lack of low end perception in human hearing at low volumes. That sounds like fluff, but it means the speaker still sounds like it has some serious low end punch even at low volumes, and it works really well.
It also can intelligently adjust the soundstage based on how you position the speaker and where it’s at relative to your ears. Keeping it vertical on a table, for example, creates a wide stereo soundstage. Putting it at ear level enhances that further, but placing it horizontally creates a dispersion effect that does a better job of filling the room with music. Not as great for listening to music by yourself, but better for parties.
Part of what helps the iRoar Go sound so great is its bi-amplified design that uses two amplifiers instead of one, with one driving the highs and the other handling the lows and mids of your music. Like the five driver system, I’ve never seen a bi-amp speaker of this size, and I’ve definitely never used one, but now it’s hard to go back.
And for those of you that want to take their sound quality the extra step, the iRoar Go supports local playback via USB or microSD card, and it can play FLAC files. Audiophiles, rejoice.
As far as battery life goes, Creative says you’ll get about 12 hours of playback on a single charge before you need to hunt down that stupid, non-microUSB cable, assuming you don’t use the speaker to charge your phone or another device. That measure sounds about right, although I feel like I was getting a bit under 12 hours partly because I was constantly using Bluetooth and I kept the volume pretty loud most of the time.
The companion Sound Blaster app will double as your MP3 player if you’re using physical media to play music, but you can also change the way the speaker sounds to suit your tastes. There are four different voicings for the speakers (neutral, energetic, warm, and superwide) that all sound noticeably different, but you can also apply your own custom EQ to the speaker if you want to fine-tune things. The app itself isn’t fantastically designed, but it gets the job done.
Creative didn’t build a speaker with a ton of fluff features. There’s no FM radio, there’s no voice assistant control, and you can’t daisy chain a bunch of speakers together or anything. But what they did do is craft a speaker that blows away most of the competition in the “speaker” category and punches well above it’s $199 weight class. This thing rivals some cheap home theater systems I’ve heard, barring the lack of true surround sound.
If you need a ton of features, it’s a tough sell. I get it. But if you just want a speaker that’s going to be a speaker and do that one thing really well, don’t sleep on the iRoar Go.
Buy it now: Amazon