Creative are a PC focussed company with their plethora of audio products. Well, that was the case a short while ago. Over the past two years they’ve been slowly invading the living room, first with their Stage V1 soundbar. Two years later, Creative are back at it again, improving on their original V1 and releasing the Creative Stage V2 soundbar. We’ve managed to get our hands on one to check out and review.
The Creative Stage V2 soundbar isn’t very big at all. The speaker part measures at 3.07 x 26.8 x 3.94 inches, while the subwoofer is very tall and skinny, measuring at 16.7 x 4.6 x 9.84 inches. Being this size makes the soundbar very universal. As an example, I have mine set up underneath my PC monitor and plugged directly into my GoXLR mixer. But if you’re going to be using it in the living room, then it’ll definitely look nice and neat on a TV unit or on the wall.
The entire front is a speaker grill, with two 2.25-inch, 20-watt speakers inside. The subwoofer has one 5.25-inch 40-watt driver and combined you have a peak power of 160 watts and an 80 watt RMS. It means the speaker can go pretty loud. and will be enough to fill a living room space for a movie night or even some kind of house party for your music. The side panels are matte grey plastic, with the right-hand side housing some controls for input and volume up and down, while the left is just plain. On top is gloss black plastic. It looks very tasteful, and will definitely match an array of modern TV units if you’re going for a mix and match setup in your living room.
Around back you’ve got a very generous array of inputs to really make this a soundbar for everything you’d need in your lounge. The first is HDMI Arc, which enables audio that’s playing through your TV to come through the soundbar. There’s also an optical input as well as an auxiliary jack for analogue sources like your PC. There’s also Bluetooth for your phone or tablet, for some Spotify music playback. The subwoofer is passive and uses its own connection to plug into the soundbar, and the main figure of eight power cable plugs directly into the back of the soundbar. You’ve also got wall mounting holes too if you wanted that clean under TV look.
There’s also a handy remote control that’s quite small in size and made from plastic which makes it super light. Controls aren’t in an abundance, but it’s nice that you can control volume, bass and treble levels, and also inputs from afar. There are no AAA batteries included, so make sure you got some handy if you want to use the remote straight away.
On the remote, there’s also access to the surround sound option which widens the soundstage of audio and also uses the Sound Blaster technology to determine multi-channel audio, and fire it out of the soundbar in a directional manner. It’s not as accurate as say a 5.1 audio system, but it definitely helps with immersion. The second option on the remote is linked to dialogue, which uses an algorithm to extract vocal audio to enhance them above the action that’s taking place on the screen. It’s a decent effect but unfortunately does allow the rumbling bass to suffer somewhat.
Watching the opening moments of Star Wars: The Force Awakens sounded absolutely wicked. It’s a quiet start, but dialogue sounded extremely clear over the accompanying orchestral track. Once the Storm Troopers arrived, the stomps from their armour running down the ramp of the dropship stood out. Laser fire was crisp but unfortunately, explosions suffered somewhat. But there were moments of excitement. When Po and Finn are trying to escape the hanger in a stolen Tie Fighter, laser fire, explosions and dialogue were all exceptionally clear.
This has come down to a couple of things. I had to maximise the bass level to five out of five, and I dropped the treble down to three out of five. I also switched on the surround sound capability too. I never opted to turn on the dialogue option, as this just reduced the bass too much, and you really lost that pounding feeling that great sound design in action scenes give you like the scene when Rey and Finn try to outrun the Tie Fighters in the Falcon… Brilliant.
But, movies aren’t all this soundbar is catered towards. Creative after all came from PC roots, so it’s safe to say that I had to run this soundbar through some gaming tests, and I did just that. I used my PC, as I am not really a console gamer, and I must say I was blown away. Playing a few multiplayer rounds of Black Ops: Cold War, I could easily hear where enemy gunfire was coming from. It’s not positional like a virtual 7.1 headset, but it still gave me a cue to turn left and right to see my foe. The soundbar really shone during the single-player campaign. I’ve just finished Echoes Of A Cold War, which saw me use silent weapons, and the thud of the silenced sniper rifle was superb, right through to the hectic machine gun battle at the end. Driving around Night City, again Jackie’s rumbling engine and the radio backing track really worked well together and sounded great. Again, I had the surround sound feature switched on and the clear voice feature switched off, as you just lost too much bass and overall volume in the games I played.
Of course with the Creative Stage V2, you’re not going to get that whole sound coming from different parts of the room type experience, nor is it compatible with the likes of Dolby Atmos, DTS or any other codecs that are sought after from audio enthusiasts. It’s just a decent sounding product that has access to Sound Blaster tech. Also, I would like to say that the feeling of the subwoofer is room size dependant. If you’ve got a sizeable living room, the subwoofer isn’t powerful enough to send bass ripples through the air to affect you while sitting on your couch. It just gets lost. If you’re at your desk though, like mine is and the subwoofer is by your feet, then it’s perfect!
Creative has a pretty decent budget soundbar on their hands, and the Creative Stage V2 will work perfectly in a small room, like an office for your PC or even a small living room where you’re not too far from your main television. The subwoofer does require some volume to really get it rumbling which is a shame, bass begins to feel a little weak at quieter volumes. If you’re someone though who wants to begin their journey into the world of external sound devices, or want to improve the knarly TV audio your TV kicks out, then there’s no reason to ignore the Creative Stage 2. It’s budget-friendly, coming in at around £99 online, and it still sounds absolutely great for what you’re getting. A solid 2.1 soundbar setup for sure. For more information, head over to the Creative website.