Design of the Year 2014
Sound Blaster Roar SR20
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Designer
Creative Technology Ltd
Vince Ang
GiGi Cho
Eddy Toh

Vince Ang, who leads Creative Technology’s product and industrial design team, calls Sound Blaster Roar “the mother of all portable Bluetooth speakers”. He says: “The design allows it to produce fantastic audio. It can actually replace the home theatre system”.

No larger than a portable booklet, the speaker delivers powerful, precision-tuned, high-fidelity sound. While most portable speakers use only one amplifier which compromises high frequencies in favour of low and mid ones, the Sound Blaster Roar boasts a bi-amplified design. With one amplifier for lows and mids, and another for high frequencies, it transmits uncompromisingly clear, high definition, well-balanced sound.

In designing the Sound Blaster Roar, the team had to consider a solid chassis that can withstand a high surge of acoustic output. “This translates to less energy wastage and better audio quality. The outlook of the design suggests a clean, high quality built with careful consideration for details”, Vince explains.

The speaker also delivers audio with space-filling dispersion. Its far-field high frequency drivers project audio further than most other speakers in its class. Thanks to its box-style layout, listeners hear “non-sweet, spot-specific audio and amazing tight bass”.

The product also comes with Roar, a feature that delivers instant additional audio power. A listener wanting sheer audio power can simply press the ROAR button to instantly boost audio loudness, depth and spaciousness.

There were challenges the team had to surmount to produce the Sound Blaster Roar, Vince reveals. For example, the device needed a big battery without increasing the speaker size. It also had to be more “feature-rich” than other speakers, with more components, circuits, buttons – without increasing speaker size. Ultimately, the speaker had to outperform those more than twice its price.

After several dozen design proposals were rejected, the team was left with models ACE1 – ACE4, each of which had one of the following four attributes: small and portable; great aesthetics; powerful with good sound; intelligent. The decision was to focus on ACE3, but incorporate the qualities of the other three models.

In Vince’s opinion, Sound Blaster Roar fulfills the President’s Design Award’s vision of design making a difference to people’s lives. “Singaporeans want the best of everything in life at the best value for money. We strived to create something that reflects this, and the Sound Blaster Roar is the result. It boasts killer audio, killer looks, killer features and a killer price. It is an excellent example of a well-designed, innovative speaker product that allows not just Singaporeans, but everyone, to enjoy premium quality wireless audio in music, videos, movies and games – anywhere, anytime”.

ABOUT THE DESIGNER

Established in Singapore in 1981, Creative Technology, helmed by founder, chairman and CEO Sim Wong Hoo, had the vision that multimedia would revolutionise the way people interact with their PCs. Since enjoying huge success with its Sound Blaster sound cards and setting the de facto standard for PC audio in 1989, the company has been able to leverage its cutting-edge audio technology, a huge user base of 400 million people, and its strong solid brand name to expand into the lifestyle Personal Digital Entertainment market.

Its products and solutions are marketed to consumers and systems integrators through a worldwide distribution network that includes traditional marketing channels, original equipment manufacturers and the Internet.

After finding the perfect balance between form and function, the company has been continually striving to make every product “a sensory feast for the eyes and ears”.

Creative Technology is currently blazing the trail for new product categories with Sound BlasterAxx audio enhancement devices and solutions, Sound Blaster Roar portable wireless speakers and its Signature Series of modular Bluetooth wireless speakers, Aurvana premium headsets, Sound Blaster wireless gaming headsets, and cross-platform Sound Blaster Recon3D for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC or Mac.

In its approach towards a project, the team tries to “create an environment where nothing is personal. We’re all striving to produce the best and so we understand that sometimes some ideas work and some don’t. It’s not about who did what, it’s what we do collectively as a team. Everyone in the team has his or her own strengths, and we see our results as the combined efforts of all our strengths”, says Vince. “The Sound Blaster Roar is a great example of this approach”, he adds.

Commenting on the significance of the President’s Design Award, he notes that it puts on display the best that Singapore has to offer in terms of design, as well as the designers behind them. “This sends a message that great levels of creativity exist in Singapore. That’s something we can be proud of. It’s an inspiration and a benchmark for upcoming designers. They can hear the stories of what inspired these designers, and the journeys they took to get to the top. It shows the level of perfection that we should strive towards and lets us believe that we can achieve the very best”.

Advice to emerging designers:

“Don’t give up just because the challenges are great. With inspiration and tenacity, you can create something amazing, even in the face of incredible odds.”

JURY CITATION

This is a premium wireless speaker that is extremely well priced in a competitive market. As an example of industrial design, this is as good as it gets. The execution of the design is seamless and should be held as a benchmark for others to follow.

The Sound Blaster Roar’s compact form, design language, simple user interface, material selection, branding, packaging and detailed engineering of the internal components, all show that this is a world-class product.

Its sound quality is phenomenal and will challenge similar products on the market. The unit has an excellent user interface, with a considered approach to the grouping of function buttons. The use of integrated moulded rubber in the design has been meticulously detailed and gives the product a premium quality.

The Jury commended the designers and praised the end-to-end design professionalism demonstrated in the project.

NOMINATOR CITATION

Shintaro Kitazawa
Industrial Designer
Creative Technology Ltd

Sound Blaster Roar SR20 delivers powerful, precision-tuned, high-fidelity sound from a compact, portable, booklet size speaker, which features a bi-amplified design with two amps. Most portable speakers utilise one amplifier: the demand for them leads to the production of the low and mid frequencies, compromising the delivery of the highs. Sound Blaster Roar SR20 utilises two amplifiers (one for driving low and mid frequencies, and the other for high frequencies) for uncompromisingly clear, high-definition, well balanced music. The speaker also delivers audio with space-filling dispersion, unlike other portable speakers.

Its far-field high frequency drivers project audio further than most other speakers in its class. And with its box style layout, listeners experience non-sweet spot-specific audio and amazing tight bass. Sound Blaster Roar SR20 also comes with Roar, a feature that delivers instant additional audio power. Most portable speakers focus on audio power thus compromising audio fidelity, or vice versa. Sound Blaster Roar SR20, by default, produces balanced, high-fidelity audio. If sheer audio power is needed, pressing the ROAR button instantly boosts audio loudness, depth and spaciousness.