Creative has just launched its latest audio product – Creative Stage series is a new line of under-monitor soundbars for PC and TV systems. The 21-inch Creative Stage (RRP S$119) with 160W power comes with a subwoofer with wall-mount accessory and can connect to TV via ARC (HDMI), optical-In, 3.5mm AUX-In or Bluetooth. I have with me the smaller model, Creative Stage Air, for review.
The Creative Stage Air is modern conservative-styled speaker with metal grilles and piano-gloss plastic. The main controls is on the right of the speaker: the power button doubles as a mode switch, while the Bluetooth button is also a play button. It is a fantastic solution to desktop PC owners who do not have built-in speaker on their monitors. After I returned the ASUS Designo Curve monitor (with built-in speaker) a few weeks back, it has been a hassle to listen to sounds when using my computer. Most other portable speakers lack the stereo imaging. Compact 2.1 speaker systems like the SonicGear SPACE are cumbersome because of messy wires and require space to place the speaker units.
In contrast, the Creative Stage Air keeps the table tidy. The best part: it runs on battery, so I do not even have to plug a power cable to get it working. Since I don’t use it very often, I can afford to charge it once a while. Even better, if your monitor or TV has a USB port, you can plug to the Stage Air to keep it powered permanently.
A traditional soundbar is permanently fixed and might end up becoming a white elephant, just like my current TV soundbar of 8 years. But the Stage Air weighs just 910 grams, so I can just move it anywhere I want to charge it or to repurpose it, and that is the greatest advantage of a portable speaker solution.
With just 20W of peak power, the sound is not as bombastic as 2.1 speakers, so if you need the full cinematic experience, the Stage Air cannot achieve that. The speaker delivers adequate bass presence but does not rumble at the sub-bass range given its physical limitations. Treble is sufficiently clear for close-range listening, while lacking the pristine high-fidelity sizzles compared to the Creative Metallix. And honestly, Jazz and vocal music sound way better on the Metallix.
A small issue is that soundbar will auto-mute when no audio signal is detected, but when sound begins to stream, it does not unmute instantly, resulting in the loss of initial audio. Also, the soundbar does not support speakerphone, so when you receive incoming calls, music will stop and you can answer from the phone. After hanging up, the audio continues from the soundbar.
The Creative Stage Air is a pretty useful stereo speaker for the compact home. I like the size and weight: if it’s too small then it cannot achieve the stereo spread, if it’s too bulky or AC-powered then I cannot port it around. The audio balance is not too boomy nor too muffled nor too harsh. They go very well with general music listening, no particular bias towards any music genres. Classical genre is kind of weak, while modern genre lacks the bass impact.
Nevertheless, the Stage Air is a brilliant and convenient add-on to the desktop PC experience for the occasional speaker user like myself, and at the same time I can use it anywhere around the house. It supports line-in, Bluetooth, USB MP3 files. If you often listen to music, watch movies and play games on the PC, then you need something better. At S$59, the Creative Stage Air makes a meaningful house gift for any occasion, and sold exclusively on Creative online store.