Creative Technology recently sent its latest soundbar, sold as the ” Creative Stage V2 2.1 Soundbar and Subwoofer with Clear Dialog and Surround by Sound Blaster for TV and Desktop Monitor”, out for review. Priced at just $109, it’s easily going to be one of the least expensive soundbar solutions on the market.
Bearing that in mind, my hopes weren’t too high for this particular audio solution. In fact, I expected that it would fall utterly flat, even compared to my TV speakers. And I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong.
That, of course, leaves several questions to be answered. Not least of all, why should you spend the money on this soundbar rather than simply using your TV speakers? And can this soundbar and subwoofer solution really improve your experience all that much? Put simply, the answer to both questions is yes. But the answer to such questions is rarely that simple.
So let’s take a closer look at what makes Creative Stage V2 such a great offering.
This is hardware with only a few complaint-worthy pain points and a lot to love
On the hardware front, I was immediately impressed by the quality of this soundbar and subwoofer with only a few exceptions. For instance, I noted when opening the Creative Stage V2 for this review, that the cloth on the subwoofer does not feel as high-quality as it looks. The covering on the speaker does feel incredibly premium. So that was a bit of an annoyance.
The company also didn’t pack in an HDMI cable or an Optical Cable.
But, setting those matters aside, this is actually a great-looking system. The soundbar and subwoofer are primarily composed of plastics. But Creative opted for a two-tone design combining matte and glossy finishes. And it left all fasteners exposed and out in the open too.
The result is a somewhat industrial look that really kind of fits with the brand.
In terms of quality, there’s no flex in any of the plastics. And they all have a firm feel to them, helping give the sense that this soundbar is going to last a long time. The ports and plugs, all tucked neatly along the back, are firm as well. Cables snap satisfactorily into place and don’t wiggle at all. And that’s exactly what I wanted to see since that means connections will be solid and should stay that way for the life of this speaker.
Also around the back of this soundbar, Creative has included mounting holes. So, with a couple of fasteners and/or drywall anchors, it would be easy enough to position the soundbar up and directly underneath a wall-mounted TV.
When discussing the hardware here, it’s also going to be important to discuss the included remote control. Not only does that feature a comfortable-to-hold and comfortable-to-reach-buttons design. And not only is it aesthetically pleasing thanks to its wood-grain finish. It offers easy access to some of the best features of this hardware.
For instance, there’s a talk-bubble-shaped icon on the remote for kicking off Clear Dialogue mode. That, as its branding implies, makes speech within the media being played easier to hear. And beyond that, the remote provides an easy way to switch inputs on the fly, turn on or off surround mode, control playback volume or playback itself, and adjust bass or treble. As well as an easy way to mute or reset the soundbar.
Of course, there’s also a learning curve to the way each mode is portrayed on the speaker. Creative includes an LED display that simply shows a couple of letters. And you’ll need to cycle through those to discover what they all mean. But that’s hardly a massive issue since it’s something most soundbars bring to the table.
The remote buttons, conversely, are nice and soft without feeling too squishy. Although a bit more clickiness would be appreciated. And that remote serves as the only way to change modes or adjust the speaker too. Which can be a bit of a problem for those that tend to lose remotes. But the hardware here is still an exceptional value for the price.
Getting connected is easy with Creative Stage V2 and there are plenty of options
When it comes to getting connected with Creative Stage V2, this speaker and subwoofer setup was one of the easiest I’ve had, review device or not. There’s a power cable to plug in on the soundbar itself. Then users simply need to attach the subwoofer — which is wired — via the included cable. Creative provides plenty of cable length here too. So I could feasibly have set this subwoofer much further from the soundbar than I did. At least 10-feet away, in fact.
Once all of that was done, it was simply a matter of choosing which connectivity method I wanted to use. Creative Stage V2 provides options for HDMI (ARC), Optical Cable, 3.5mm audio jack, and USB-C. And, of course, Bluetooth 5.0 is available as well. In case you’d like to use Stage V2 as an oversized Bluetooth speaker — or integrate it into your Google smart home setup since that’s supported to some extent.
I opted for Optical Cable for my installation since I already had one of those cables and neither HDMI nor Optical Cable is included in the box. But I also hooked up the included USB-C to USB-A cable to my Playstation 4. And that could have just as easily been hooked up to my Nintendo switch or a PC if I’d chosen to use it that way. I also left the included 3.5mm audio cable hooked in for phone users in my home. And hooked up to my Pixel 5 via Bluetooth.
While HDMI (ARC) is easily going to be the best way to connect to this soundbar, I found no complaints in any of the other connectivity options. The plugs are each snug and feel durable. And the quality of audio over those plugs was on-point too. Which, it almost goes without saying, is a massive bonus for a soundbar priced at under $200, let alone nearly half that cost.
Is the quality from a $100 speaker really going to beat your new TV’s speakers?
We’ve all been there at one point or another. We purchase a brand new television, turn it on, and start playing some media to test it out. The picture, of course, is better than ever. And so is the sound. In fact, the sound is incredibly good for a television’s stock speakers. There’s no way it’s going to be worth it, spending several hundred dollars more on a soundbar or speaker system.
But, every time that path is taken, it turns out to be incorrect. TV speakers are still just nowhere near as good as a dedicated audio system. Or at least that’s typically the case as long as one doesn’t cheap out on their audio system. Creative Stage V2, based on my review, changes that.
Unless you’re planning a home theater of epic proportions or have several hundred dollars to spare just laying around, this speaker will get the job done. And then some. While audio quality will vary based on the connectivity option chosen, and that variation is entirely predictable since those work exactly as expected, this little soundbar set out with something to prove. Namely, you don’t need to double down on the cost of your TV or spend half as much at least to get good sound.
Generally speaking, in fact, there are only a few complaints worth noting. First, Creative Stage V2, in a test I performed, only seems to work down to around 40Hz.
So the very lowest of low tones isn’t going to shine through. But you’d be hard-pressed to find any song or movie that really utilizes the range below that point. And human hearing only goes to 20Hz. The audio is still clearly audible and powerful all the way down to around 45Hz. And it stays that way all the way up to 20kHz, at the upper end of the human hearing range.
Looking past that, Creative Stage V2 really excelled under review. While I have used sub-$200 soundbars in the past, Creative includes its Sound Blaster technology in this one. And although you won’t get home-shaking bass from this sound system, it offers crystal clear, accurate audio with great balance and plenty of ‘thump’ — where that’s appropriate. Just like the company’s well-reviewed headphones. And without any muddiness to speak of.
Should you buy Creative Stage V2?
No TV, old or brand new, should be without a quality soundbar. TV audio components simply aren’t up to the task of creating an immersive, wide audio experience. And that’s going to hold true whether you’ve purchased one that costs $200 or one that’s priced a $2,000 or more. In fact, just about any soundbar will do for the purpose of making the audio better.
The issue at hand, of course, is that soundbars can be almost as expensive as TVs. So spending the extra cash can seem frivolous, at best. Especially since there are dozens of offerings at below $200. Most of those are going to only marginally improve the sound quality and volume. And some of those could improve volume but degrade audio quality.
If my review of this gadget has shown me anything, it’s that if you want the most bang for your buck and don’t have a lot to spend, Creative Stage V2 is a better solution than many others. Or at the very least, better than just about anything you’ll find in its price bracket. And that’s including soundbars costing all the way up to around the $300 to $350 range. At a fraction of the cost of those devices.
As already covered here, there are definitely some quirks to Stage V2.
Not least of all, there’s a learning curve when it comes to figuring out exactly which audio mode you’re actually using. And the quality of the materials used in the subwoofer cover isn’t the best. The audio itself, on the low-end of the spectrum, isn’t quite as rumbly as might be hoped either. But it does still thump well enough to be felt rather than just heard. All in a compact package that can be wall-mounted or left on a TV stand with equal results.
If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a soundbar solution but want a truly great experience for the money, Creative Stage V2 has you covered.