Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR20 review

Tell iHome to go home: this is one Bluetooth speaker to beat

Creative Sound Blaster Roar SR20
"All by myself, I'm all by myself..."

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

With the SR20, you don't get what you pay for – you get more. It sounds like a $200 speaker should, and its feature list is about a mile long. That said, the best word to describe it is "surprising"; this Bluetooth box had a new trick up its sleeve every time I went to use it.

Sound quality

It may not look it, but the SR20's casing actually houses three drivers and two passive radiators. Ideally, the two 1.5-inch, front-facing drivers handle the highs and mids, while a top-firing driver takes care of the mid to lower registers. Finally, two side-firing passive radiators cover the lowest of the lows and rounds out the audio spectrum.

In practice, this works much like it was described, creating a balanced, clear, bass-heavy sound. Overall, it's a bit quieter than some other speakers in the same price range (e.g. the JBL Pulse), though that's not for lack of trying.

The "Roar" button – located next to the volume controls – raises the bar beyond regular volume levels and increases the projection distance to cover a larger space. Even with the added sound, I think it would work well in a dugout or dorm room. It can even fill smaller houses with sound, making it a great alternative to Sonos.

And, to the SB20's credit, it never sounds cheap. It's common to see $50 speakers rattle and shake at their volume limits, and anything past the 75% mark starts to take on an unwanted "tinny" sound. There are no such problems here, and that's to be commended.

Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Protip: Don't use the SR20 in a library. You will be asked to leave.

Internal microphone

I must admit: including an internal microphone was a risk for Creative. Call quality and voice recording could have failed due to poor internals and, instead of lifting the SR20 into must-own territory, dragged it down to the audio peripheral abyss. Thankfully, both experiences were a delight.

The internal mic works extremely well for conference calls and handles regular voice recording – for an interview or voice memo – pretty handily. Just make sure to have a microSD card on hand to plug into the back.

Unfortunately, the SR20 is a bit too sensitive to record a multiple voices, as its 360-degree mic picks up every minute sound in the room. I wouldn't recommend the speaker for any professional use, but, if you're in need of a recording device that's more powerful than your phone, this will suffice.

Faux pas features

While the ability to use the SR20 as a recorder blew me away, some features – like the siren-simulating emergency and random-noise-playing Life Saver modes – weren't all that practical.

It's tough to pan the product for what we'd consider "bonus" features, but it's hard to believe the hours spent integrating these modes couldn't have been better used elsewhere in the product.

Additionally, you can set alarms using the Sound Blaster iOS app. This would be more helpful if you could have your regular iOS alarms sync to the app. Sadly, this just wasn't possible. Using the proprietary software isn't much of a hassle, but for such a phone-centric product, there should be tighter integration at the hardware level.

Sound Blaster Roar SR20 Face

How can you stay mad at this face?

Perfect for…

The SR20 should appeal to a vast array of lifestyles, but here are a few scenarios where the Bluetooth box really excels: as a somewhat-portable speaker for laptops and phones; as an alternative to standard PC speakers; as a travel speaker – especially for the international nomad; or for use as a decent, makeshift sound bar, thanks to the 3.5mm jack.

Just be careful outside. Because it's not waterproof, the SR20 really shouldn't be taken with you to the beach or on a potentially rainy camping trip. For a speaker ideal in those conditions, check out the SR20's waterproof sibling, the Sound Blaster AXX 200.

The speaker's battery lived up to the 8-hour claim on the box, and it even works as a phone charger, thanks to the micro USB port on the back. This will, of course, drain the battery much faster, but when desperate times called for desperate measures I was thankful for the feature.

We liked

I dig the SR20's ability to maintain a low-latency, far reaching connection. Sure, this should be a given in a $200 Bluetooth speaker, but it's good to see both points are present and accounted for here.

The ability to store media via a microSD slot is useful and, the internal mic works well for leisurely chatting. Of course, the audio sounds great too!

We disliked

Because it's not waterproof, it's hard to recommend the SR20 as an actual portable speaker – at least as one that you'd want to use outdoors. Beyond that, lackluster mobile integration and a slightly unimpressive max volume were our only two qualms with an overall solid setup.

Final verdict

While it won't replace your soundbar or high-end speaker, the feature-rich SR20 is a cut above its compact competitors at the $200 price range. You'll get low, rumbly bass, pretty rich mids, and lukewarm highs. For its sleek trim and low price tag, the Sound Blaster Roar SR20 claims a spot in the pantheon of great audio equipment.

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.