Soundbars are one of the best ways to maximize your audio experience with the least amount of fuss. And if you don’t want to spend a ton on a killer little soundbar for your TV or computer, the Creative Stage V2 is where it’s at. For just $110, this thing slaps.
I’ve been using it at my computer for the last few months, where it replaced the highly acclaimed Polk MagniFi Mini. To cut straight to the chase, the Stage V2 sounds almost as good as the MagniFi for less than half the price. The biggest difference is really the active, wireless subwoofer of the Polk versus the passive, wired subwoofer on the Stage, but we’ll talk more about that later. All you really need to know is that this is a nice little soundbar for not a lot of dollars.
The Stage v2 is, as you may have guessed, the second iteration of the Stage soundbar. So, what’s different? To start, the v2 is bigger—it’s nearly five inches longer and slightly deeper, too. That makes it a little bigger and a little beefier, which leads to bigger, bolder sound (even if it’s only a little). It also moves to Bluetooth 5.0 over 2.1 and has an improved, slightly more modern remote control.
In other words, it’s nicer and more modern. While Creative still sells the v1 at just $20 cheaper, I see no reason to consider it over the v2 if you’re looking at buying one.
Features and Size: The Goldilocks Soundbar
I said it’s a little bigger than the v1, but you’re probably wondering how big it actually is. Well, I broke out the ol’ tape measure and it comes in at just under 27 inches long, just over 3 inches tall, and almost 4 inches deep. That’s a pretty good size for a small TV, but it’s also a great footprint for use at a desk (where I’ve been testing this one). For perspective, that’s a 34-inch monitor it’s sitting under. There are also mounting holes on the back if you have a wall-mounted TV and want the bar mounted below it. That’s cool.
The sub is expectedly larger, coming in at almost 17 inches tall, nearly 10 inches deep, and about 4.5 inches wide. It’s one of the narrower subs I’ve tested. Pair that with the fact that it’s also passive, and I was skeptical that it would be able to produce any sort of bass. While we’ll get into the sound details a bit later, I was understandable disappointed by its bass response.
For connections, Creative ran the gamut: It has HDMI Arc, USB-C, Optical, Bluetooth, and 3.5mm Aux. Pretty much anything you can throw at it, honestly. I tested all of the connections at various points and they all worked very well. The USB connection would sometimes cut out during quiet audio, but there’s a chance that’s an issue with my laptop and not the soundbar. Either way, it was generally less than a second and not really bothersome. On a related note, I also found that my computer wouldn’t go to sleep when the soundbar was powered on and connected over USB. Powering the bar down fixed this. A weird quirk, though one that could once again be attributed to my setup.
Aside from the various connections, the Stage v2 has built-in bass and treble controls as well as three distinct voices—Surround, Dialog, and Off. Here’s the quick and dirty:
- Surround: Increases the soundstage with virtual surround sound by “identifying and enhancing the spatial information of incoming audio via Sound Blaster’s audio filters.” In other words, it’s just Creative doing what Creative does—using its own tech to enhance the sound. And this is something Creative is very good at.
- Dialog: This setting extracts and enhances spoken word, dynamically adjusting the volume so it’s no drowned out by other things happening in the scene.
- Off: Disables both surround and dialog, offering a dry signal.
The biggest downer there is that you can’t use the surround and dialog settings in tandem—it’s one or the other.
The included remote is a nice touch, as it offers easy and quick control of the soundbar, including volume, EQ, input, and access to the bar’s surround and dialog modes. It uses a pair of AAA batteries, which Creative includes in the box. That’s a nice touch and something I didn’t expect at this price point. It’s the little things, ya know?
The size and features are both excellent for the price point of this soundbar—it’s big enough to sound good and offers truly usable features while skipping the trivial junk. An excellent value indeed.
Sound Quality: Clear, Articulate Audio without Excessive Low End
Creative isn’t the first name you think of when it comes to soundbars, earbuds, and other audio products, but man, I’m telling you—Creative knows how to produce excellent audio on a budget. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: People sleep on this company. Every Creative product I’ve tested over the last couple of years has been impressive. The Stage v2 is no different.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying this $110 soundbar is going to compete with a $1000 soundbar. You have to keep your expectations in check and realize that everything is relative. And for the money, it sounds amazing.
The audio experience is sharp and precise for everything I threw at it, including music, movies, and games. The surround feature does an excellent job of creating a convincing and encompassing soundscape that translates very well to movies and shows. I didn’t use the dialog feature much because I didn’t have a need for it (dialog seems to come through fine on the other settings), but I could see the benefit if you’re watching a podcast or livestream and want to add a little emphasis to the vocals.
And while I tested the Stage v2 on movies, shows, and games, music was how I spent most of my time using it. This is one articulate and balanced speaker. Treble is pristine and sharp without being harsh or overbearing, while the midrange is focused and balanced.
But if I had to pick one area where the Stage is lacking, it’s bass. It has a dedicated sub, but it’s passive. Passive subs are always weaker than their powered counterparts, and it shows here. That’s not to say it has no bass, because it does. It just doesn’t have as much as I prefer. If you like bass but don’t like it to be overly pronounced, then you’ll love the Stage v2.
Conclusion: I Mean, Just Buy It
Here’s the thing: It’s not the perfect soundbar, but it’s also only $110. For the money, you’re unlikely to find something better. It’s clear, articular, and can get plenty loud. I’d love the option to add a powered subwoofer, but for the money, I understand why things are the way they are.
If you’re looking for a fairly compact soundbar to add to your office or living room home theater that won’t break the bank and will leave you impressed with what you get for your dollars, the Creative Stage v2 is the soundbar for you.
Here’s What We Like
- Excellent value
- Clear, articulate sound quality
- Wall mounting option
And What We Don't
- Passive subwoofer