Hands-On with the Creative iRoar Go: Portable Speaker Perfected
An audio heavyweight disguised as a flyweight.
Let me be bold right up front. Creative's iRoar Go is as close to perfection as I've seen in a portable waterproof speaker.
It's hard not to become emotionally attached to this feature-rich black box. I found myself listening to news through it in the mornings, taking it to the gyms in the afternoons, and using it as a PC speaker with my laptop. This powerful, portable, adaptable, connectible, customizable speaker fills so many roles it risks putting a run on adjectives.
iRoar's Little Brother
The iRoar Go is the latest in the Roar speaker series. Brand new, it's been running under the radar, partly because the tech world is still absorbing the larger iRoar, which came out earlier this year. That speaker generated a lot of positive reviews. But the iRoar Go is just as deserving of attention as its bigger brother. It has, in fact, already won an award for design.
Compact, Convenient, Cartable
The iRoar Go, as its name suggests, makes portability job one. It's quite small, even for a portable speaker. Measuring 2 X 7 X 3 inches, it's 40 percent smaller than the iRoar and can easily fit in a suitcase, a small bag for the beach, or a knapsack. Creative underscores its purpose by including three interchangeable plug adapters for international use.
This is the first speaker in the Roar line to be water resistant with an IPX6 rating, meaning it can withstand splashes and even a blast from a garden hose. So if the French Riviera is your destination, you're covered.
It'll Land At Any Port
The iRoar Go is a connectivity powerhouse with a wealth of ports. It includes Bluetooth, micro-USB, USB, Aux-in ports, and even a microSD slot.
Pairing the speaker with my phone was a seamless experience, and it worked great with all of its various ports and connections (the only mode I didn't have the opportunity to test was NFC...but yes, NFC is supported, too).
A Source button cycles you through the various source inputs, and a green light appears above the source that's active so you can easily tell which one is active. Also helpful: When connecting or disconnecting from Bluetooth, a female voice announces "connected" and "disconnected."
It Sounds Sensational
At the risk of buying the lead, the iRoar Go delivers geat audio and can get very loud. It manages to pack five drivers into a tiny space: Two 1.5-inch tweeters, a 2.5-inch subwoofer and two passive radiators for boosted bass and a wider soundstage. It's fun watching those passive radiators pulsate. The movement is accented by the Creative logo etched into them.
The speaker also includes two amplifiers. Creative contends that this takes the pressure off a single amp having to deliver all the audio. In the iRoar Go, one amp is dedicated to the lows and mids and another to the highs. The result is a well-balanced sound throughout the audio range.
You can stand the speaker up vertically or lay it horizontally. Two rubber strips protect the back in the latter case.
The iRoar Go is Creative's first speaker to boast what the company calls SuperWide technology, which it claims "stretches ... the limits of conventional acoustic design laws." It's one of these things that's difficult to verify. All I can say is that the sound filled the room. It doesn't sound like a portable speaker but like a multi-speaker system.
There's also a feature called Roar. It boosts loudness and uses the speaker's DSP (Digital Signal Processor) to widen the audio output. There's a button on the speaker to turn it on and the difference is noticeable.
You can also customize sound in the equalizer which is accessed through the iRoar Go's Sound Blaster app. The interface is a representation of a sine wave which lets you adjust lows, mids and highs. There are also preset audio profiles to choose from. The app works with PCs, Macs, iPhones and Android phones.
The iRoar Go has several other nifty features. Perhaps the best is that it can double as a public address system by plugging a microphone into the Aux-in port.
It will work as a recorder. You will need to insert a microSD card to record your voice.
It will double as a speakerphone, too. If someone calls in while you're listening to music you can answer by pressing a button on the speaker.
It's a charger. Just plug your phone into it via the USB port. The iRoar Go has plenty of charge to spare with a respectable 12-hour battery life. A quick visual cue as to the state of your battery charge is the color of the power light. Green is full. Orange is half full. Red is low. I found this to be a welcome feature.
Gripes & Grumbles
There's little to take issue with when criticizing the iRoar Go. One small quibble: It can be difficult to open the tightly sealed rubberized covers to access the ports. The first time I actually needed a business card to pry them off.
More serious, though, is the speakerphone. I tested it with several people and while I heard them loud and clear, none were particularly happy with the way I sounded. One person even asked me to "Please get off whatever you're talking on." So the internal mic on the iRoar Go is problematic if you want to use it for calls.
At the end of the day, the iRoar Go is a visually appealing portable speaker that delivers powerful sound and terrific compatibility. It offers something for everyone. It's a device that once you have it, you discover more uses for it. This is one loaner that's going to be hard to let go.
The iRoar Go normally retails for $200, but is currently on sale for $180.