It has been two years since the launch of the Gen-1 Creative Stage, so an update is much expected. Creative decided to slightly increase the retail price to S$149 while improving the overall specs and design. It now feels more polished and less budget than the first 2.1 soundbar.
Comparing Stage V2 and Stage V1
Here are some noteworthy differences between the two generations.
|Creative Stage V2||Creative Stage|
|Frequency Response||55 – 20,000 Hz||55 – 20,000 Hz|
|Signal-to-Noise Ratio||≥ 75 dB||≥ 72 dB|
|Dimensions||Soundbar: 78 x 680 x 100 mm|
Subwoofer: 423 x 116 x 250 mm
|Soundbar: 70 x 550 x 78 mm|
Subwoofer: 420 x 115 x 250 mm
|Weight||Soundbar: 2.0 kg|
Subwoofer: 3.3 kg
|Soundbar: 1.2 kg|
Subwoofer: 3.07 kg
|Bluetooth||5.0, SBC||2.1+EDR, SBC|
|HDMI||TV ARC||TV ARC|
|USB||USB-C Digital Audio||USB Type-A MP3 Storage|
Clearly, the Stage V2 soundbar module is little more beefed up – 800g heavier, 13cm longer, deeper, compared to the V1 which has equal dimensions front and back. The subwoofer is a few mm larger.
Other improvements include a detachable C7/C8 2-pin AC cable, Bluetooth 5.0, digital audio via USB Type-C connector, a redesigned remote control that looks a little more upmarket with its brushed aluminum-looking plastic faceplate. The usual connectors are all located behind the soundbar.
At the right side of the soundbar, there are volume control buttons, power and the Bluetooth button. The soundbar goes into pairing mode automatically when no device is connected. Clicking the power button toggles the various input modes. The buttons do not exhibit any audible mechanical click sounds.
The remote control uses 2x AAA batteries (not included). The layout is very user-friendly: it spreads out the five input modes over 3 buttons so that you do not need to press 5 times to get to choose from the 5 modes. There are dedicated buttons for surround mode and dialog mode, but a single button to select treble or bass before using the +- button to adjust the level. There are a total of 10 adjustment steps for each band.
For devices connected with Bluetooth and USB-C, you can control the playback and track changes from the remote control. What’s missing from the original Creative Stage is the preset EQ, so I guess Creative hopes to offer a more faithful sound tuning without confounding listeners on which preset sounds better.
The sound of Creative Stage V2 is comparable to a pair of bookshelf speakers, delivering a satisfying full-range sound that is balanced, relatively neutral and without any excessive frequency exaggeration. Your results may vary depending on the placement of your subwoofer and how the subsonic waves interact with the walls and furniture. In general, I do not find the subwoofer over-pushes the sonic boundary to give that massive oomph that you might hope for when watching blockbuster shows. On that point, the Creative Stage V2 does not perform its best in a large room.
I find that the optimal listening distance is about 1.5 metres at moderate volume (around 20-25). Any nearer, the subwoofer may be too prominent and the upper treble too elevated. Yet when listened from too far a distance, it lacks focus, the subwoofer does not reverb that intensively, and increasing the volume to fill the room makes the details more messy. But they still perform better than mono-speaker units (like Huawei Sound X or Harman Kardon Aura Studio 2) due to the front-facing soundbar which throws the audio towards you to present a wider stereo imaging, and a separate subwoofer for a more natural less-forced low frequency output. If you are a sub-bass lover without the need of regard for directional sound, I would opt for Aura Studio any time.
Turning on the Surround mode brings forward the background instruments while spreading the imaging of the vocals and primary instrument which otherwise would sound generally centered. The Dialog mode increases the sibilance of vocals so that dialog is less muddy, but the efficacy depends on the source mix.
I would recommend to use the Creative Stage V2 in a small home theatre room. The Bluetooth option means I can hook it up to a projector like LUMOS Auro wirelessly without running unsightly wires. For computer desktop, I think the first-generation Creative Stage is sufficient as it is more compact.
Value-priced soundbars are a lot easier to find compared to 2 years ago. Perhaps Creative has driven other manufacturers to challenge them in the same price segment. The Creative Stage V2 offers balanced sound quality with slight emphasis on treble details that works well for music enjoyment. It delivers a little more bass support compared to 2.0 systems without compromising the clarity.