Creative Stage 2.1 V2

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Creative updates its Stage V2 2.1 sound system. Better sound tuning and slightly longer, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C digital audio. Full-range balanced audio sound. Supports USB-C for digital audio. Easy pairing with Bluetooth 5.0. LED display only shows 2 characters.

Does not include wall-mounting screws. 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.

Here are some noteworthy differences between the two generations. 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).

Verdict

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.

Audio Quality

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.

Comparing Stage V2 and Stage V1

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.

Creative Stage V2. Creative Stage V2. I purchased this product because it was listed as "Amazon Choice". However, the speaker has a special design, which automatically stops when it cannot detect signal.

This is very annoying, because I do not want to have a high sound volume when I am alone. Thus, the speaker stops in every a couple of minutes.

Related

You must tune the volume again to retrieve the sound. The supporter webpage provides a firmware to tune this feature off. However, I tried multiple times to install and remove it following the instruction.

It never worked. I eventually had to return it.

The seller refunded me but the product wasted a lot of my time.

Still, the Surround mode is more compelling. The name is a little ambitious — the soundstage is nice and wide in spite of the Stage V2’s modest size, but it’s not eveloping enough to pass for digital surround sound. Even so, this particular setting makes everything sound bigger, bassier and more exciting. What you lose in high-frequency sparkle is gained in a richness that’s usually alien to such affordable soundbars — a quality that elevated the shootouts in Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 and made the production-added crowd noise in soccer games a little more believable.

In comparison to switching between Surround and Dialog modes, tapping the remote’s Bass and Treble button produces more subtle changes. Selecting Treble creates a slightly cleaner sound, but Bass will get you closer to the cinema sound you’d likely want from a soundbar and subwoofer — if only modestly. I also preferred Bass mode for music playback, as it added a little extra energy without spilling over into distracting boominess.

The closest thing to a fault here is that the Stage V2’s sound isn’t quite as detailed as that of premium soundbars. Even so, that’s not a surprise, and is vastly outweighed by the various ways in which this combo punches above its weight.

Creative Stage V2 review: Verdict

Some low-cost soundbars are worth buying specifically because they’re cheap, or because they can fill a certain niche; the LG SK1, for example, is well-suited to small TVs for which larger and more expensive soundbars would be overkill.

The Creative Stage V2 is different. It’s affordable, but also a very good soundbar in its own right, with strong performance and extensive connectivity. By all means, spend more if you want features like Dolby Atmos, or perhaps the ability to add wireless speakers for true surround sound. But on sheer value, the Stage V2 might just be one of the best soundbars around right now.

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