You know they say that first impressions really count right? Well, I’ve had a bit of an eye-opening because I was wrong. When I first pulled the Creative Stage SE from its box, I was not expecting much, mainly due to the size of the soundbar. I was expecting tinny audio, no power, no bass, and the works. And coming from the last Creative soundbar I reviewed, being the Katana V2, card up the top by the way if you wanted to check that out, I was expecting the worst. But how wrong was I. This is the Creative Stage SE, and I must say it’s a good soundbar.

As mentioned in the intro, the Creative Stage SE is small. It stands on my desk at 41cm wide, around 7cm tall and 11cm deep, and it’s low enough to fit under most monitors. It’s covered pretty much all in glossy black plastic, which is an absolute dust and fingerprint magnet by the way, and it has a metal grill wrapped around the front to hide the speakers. It has a status light on the right-hand side, a big button to change sources on the right-hand side, and a huge volume wheel which is actually pretty intuitive, especially if you’re using it sitting at your desk. It’s very easy to feel to turn down your audio and feels very solid. The left-hand side is a hole for your bass which I’ll get to in a moment, but saying this, the Stage SE can pack a punch when it needs to.

Around the back are two ports. One USB Type-C to connect it to your PC, a port for power and a USB Type-A service port. One thing it’s lacking though, and something that could be unique to me, is the fact it’s missing a 3.5mm aux input. I’m currently running a Creative AE-5 soundcard on my desktop, again card in the corner, and I would have loved to have plugged this soundbar into that so I can have a little bit more control over the type of audio I feed the device. It does have Bluetooth as well so if your desktop or laptop has it, you can connect. It also means it’ll work with mobile phones too, so if you’re not using it as a PC speaker, it makes for a pretty decent speaker for your phone.

The Stage SE is powered by Creative’s Soundblaster tech, so even though I can’t use it with my AE-5 soundcard, there are some options available which can be accessed using the small remote control that comes with the bar. The two main options are Surround and Clear Dialogue, of which Surround will try to widen your spacial audio and give you a wider soundstage. It works, not particularly well as your audio is still coming from a small speaker in front of you, but it does separate tones. Clear Dialogue ensures that dialogue detected in audio is separated from other audio. Again, it works well, but it does sacrifice some of that limited bass to do so. I didn’t turn any of these options on during the majority of my testing, I found the audio more than capable in its standard mode. There’s also the option to enhance the treble or bass, and this is called either Bright or Warm audio by Creative. Again, I found a happy medium right down the middle and left it.

creative stage se cover

And to be honest with you, if you’re not looking for a device to blast you with audio, then the Creative Stage SE is a pretty decent space-saver choice. I must say I prefer it to my Creative T20 speaker separates I usually have on my desk. I’ve just started playing Jedi: Survivor and punchy lightsaber hits sounded great mixed with blaster fire. I wouldn’t necessarily use this if you’re more of a competitive gamer, as footstep and bullet placement can be a bit hit or miss, though for your single-player RPG, action/adventure type titles, it’s a solid choice. What was interesting with the soundbar being on my desk, was the fact it made my desk rumble, and I got that sense of power that way which was decent. For music and movies, again a solid choice. If you’re not going to be blaring audio, and it’s just for a bit of background noise at mid-volumes while you’re working, I couldn’t complain.

Overall the Creative Stage SE, despite my waring first impressions is actually a very nice soundbar, and it’s great too if you’re someone who needs to save space on the desk. I wouldn’t go for it if you’re needing something for the lounge TV. There are better options out there and personally, in that scenario, I would opt for a subwoofer, but for your desk, and the fact it’s only around ¬£70 online at the moment, I’m not sure there’s much better unless of course, you want to separate your audio with a left and right speaker, but that’s another story altogether. For neatness though, the Creative Stage SE is the one. For more information, head over to the Creative website.