Saturday, November 6, 2021

Creative Stage V2 Soundbar with Sound Blaster Technology: Detailed Review

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Sound
Features
Value for Money
Creative Stage V2 Soundbar offers 160 watt power through 2.1 speaker configuration using Sound Blaster circuitry for surround sound & dialogue enhancement. It has HDMI ARC & Bluetooth 5.0. It enhances gaming & movie experience though surround feature is not that great. It is a good enhancement over TV speakers.

Verdict

Creative Technology Ltd, a leading producer of digital multimedia products for computers has launched the 160 Watt Creative Stage V2 Soundbar in December 2020 in India to expand its consumer base beyond computer users. The Creative Stage V2 Soundbar of 2020 is an enhanced version of Creative Stage Soundbar of 2019. The Creative Stage V2 has Bluetooth 5.0 and Sound Blaster circuitry delivering decent virtual surround & clear dialogues. It is clutter-free and simple to install. Its separate subwoofer offers impressive bass and enhances movie watching and gaming experience. The surround audio is not that great. Overall it is a great enhancement over your TV speakers.

  • Compact clutter-free installation- direct AC supply. Subwoofer powered by soundbar
  • HDMI ARC
  • Bass & treble level adjustment
  • Proprietary subwoofer cable limits subwoofer placement
  • No Dolby Digital/ DTS

Creative Makes Amazing Electronics

Creative Technologies Limited is a Singapore headquartered technology multinational with offices all across the globe including Creative Labs in California, the US. It commenced operations in the mid 1980’s by making peripherals for Apple and IBM.

It moved to digital audio technologies and launched its Sound Blaster sound card in 1989 and the Sound Blaster Live! In 1998. 

Creative was amongst the first to launch portable digital audio player. Its first offering was the NOMAD which was launched in 2000. The Apple’s iPod was launched in October 2001. Creative went on to launch MuVo and ZEN portable media players. Creative held the patent for the invention of user interface for portable media players. Apple and Creative settled the matter after a lawsuit.

Creative has been making and marketing computer hardware and peripherals and is a seasoned and respected player in the consumer electronic market with best selling hardware such as earphones, headsets, sound cards and speakers. 

The soundbar market has exploded lately and with the launch of the updated version of its soundbar, Creative has shown that it is here to stay. Though it will face competition from Sony’s extensive soundbar range.

Creative had launched its Creative Stage Soundbar in 2019 and now in 2020 it has launched its upgrade, the Stage V2, which is longer & heavier with an upgraded Bluetooth from 2.1 to 5.0.

What is in the Box

  • Creative Stage V2 soundbar and subwoofer (1)
  • IR Remote Control (1)
  • 3.5 mm AUX-in Cable (1)
  • USB-C to USB-A Cable (1)
  • Power Cable (1)
  • Quick Start Guide (1)
  • WW Warranty Leaflets (1)

No mounting hardware has been provided. No batteries have been provided. No HDMI cable has been provided.

First Looks

Soundbar Unit

The soundbar unit is made of black ABS plastic with a wraparound metal mesh grille protecting the speakers. The top is black piano glossy finish and prone to fingerprints.

Creative Stage V2 Soundbar

Creative logo has been pasted on top of the metal grille.

The soundbar has been assembled and mounted on a grey thick plastic back plate and held with screws which gives it a sturdy well-made look. Look-wise it is a definite enhancement over the 2019’s Stage Soundbar.

The Soundbar unit of the Creative Stage V2 Soundbar weighs 2 kgs as compared to the Creative Stage’s 1.2 kgs. The soundbar unit is longer and wider as well. There are no air outlet ports. 

It has a rhomboid cross section with the long edge facing the user in an upward tilt configuration.

Creative Stage V2 Soundbar

All physical controls are on the soundbar at the right side. It has 4 buttons, POWER ON, VOLUME +, VOLUME – and BLUETOOTH.

An LED display has been provided at the front behind the metal mesh grille. It displays basic information in cryptic symbols. 

The soundbar unit is powered using normal mains power with the help of included power cord. There is no separate DC adapter and all AC to DC conversion happens inside the soundbar unit. Since there are no DC adapters dangling about, the installation is easier and looks neater as well.

Subwoofer Unit

The Creative Stage V2 Soundbar comes with a 3.3 kg, tall configuration, 40 watt (RMS) subwoofer. The subwoofer does not have to be supplied with power separately. The soundbar unit provides power to the subwoofer. It has just one connector cable that goes to the SUBWOOFER OUT port of the soundbar unit. 

Creative Stage V2 Soundbar
Courtesy: Creative

The subwoofer has a forward firing air outlet port which allows it to be placed close to the wall.

The subwoofer cable connector is proprietary. It is tethered to the subwoofer and is approximately 2 meters long. So the subwoofer cannot be physically placed more than 2 meters away from the soundbar unit. This may be a point worth considering while buying the Creative Stage V2 Soundbar.

The subwoofer has a 5.25 inch side firing driver covered with speaker cloth.

The subwoofer has 4 rubber feet for slip-free setup.

Interested in soundbars without subwoofers? Check the review of Xiaomi Mi Soundbar.

Installation and Wiring

The Creative Stage V2 Soundbar can be placed on your TV unit or work table (for PC) as well as hung on the wall using standard screw installation. 

Creative Stage V2 Soundbar
Courtesy: Creative Stage V2 Quick Start Guide

The subwoofer has to be placed near the soundbar unit at a maximum 2 m distance. Connect the subwoofer with the soundbar using the tethered cable.

Provide power to the soundbar using the provided power cable that goes directly to the AC wall socket.  When the power is switched on, the soundbar is in the standby mode. Use the remote to turn on the Creative Stage V2 soundbar. 

Creative Stage V2 Soundbar
Courtesy: Creative StageV2 Quick Start Guide

Connecting with 3.5 AUX IN

Connect the TV using the AUX cable (provided) and select auxiliary mode using OPT/ AUX button on the remote. The TV sound now comes from the Soundbar. If the Soundbar is switched OFF, the sound output stops. TV speakers are not active. 

Connecting using HDMI

Connect the TV with the Soundbar using HDMI (not provided) and select HD mode using the TV ARC/ USB button on the remote. If the Soundbar is switched OFF, the TV speakers become active.

Review of Creative Stage V2 Soundbar

Features & Usage

  1. The soundbar has 80 Watts rated power including the 40 watt subwoofer 20 watt x 2 nos. stereo speakers in the soundbar. It has peak power of 160 watts (RMS)
  2. Connectivity options– USB C, HDMI ARC IN, AUX IN, OPTICAL IN, Bluetooth v5.0. 
  3. BASS and Treble can be adjusted independently using the remote. BASS ranges from -5 to 5. Treble ranges from -5 to 5
  4. To enjoy movies, you can switch on the surround mode by pressing SURROUND on the remote. You can adjust surround mode level from 0 to 10.
  5. For TV usage or news etc. a dialogue mode has been provided that enhances voices. This can be switched on using the DIALOGUE button on the remote. You can set the dialogue level from 0 to 10.
  6. The default settings are all set at maximum for bass, treble and surround. The RESET button on the remote takes the settings back to default values (Bass at 5, Treble at 5, Surround at 10, Dialogue at 10)

Sound: Movies

The movies are enjoyable and audio is clear and precise over HDMI ARC. The Creative Stage V2 Soundbar cannot process Dolby Digital or DTS. Instead, it uses surround technology powered by Sound Blaster circuitry to deliver the surround stage. Creative claims that its technology is capable of identifying and enhancing spatial information of incoming audio via Sound Blaster’s audio filters, and optimizes the listening experience for 2 channel and multi-channel source content.

The SURROUND mode of Creative Stage V2 fills the room with virtual surround no doubt. But like claimed, it is not able to provide the immersive experience as delivered by a true 5.1 setup. Movies over online streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime etc. are good. But do not expect Dolby Atmos like experience. 

Movie dialogues are clear and vocals come out nicely in movies even over ambient sound effects.

See how this Soundbar compares with Bose Solo 5 TV Sound System.

Creative Stage V2 Soundbar
Courtesy: Creative

Sound: Music

The Soundbar is able to deliver fairly good stereo separation. The SURROUND mode is best left untouched for music as it diffuses the sound source.

The bass level can be increased (-5 to 5) using the remote. The subwoofer holds steady at high bass levels also. The bass level is precise, clear and balanced at normal levels. Do not expect thumping bass though. 

Sound dynamics are good. The soundbar can play at loud volume. It is able to fill a small to mid sized room without trouble. 

The vocals are clear and refined. Female voices sound on the brighter side. 

Altering the bass and treble levels distorts the sound hence the levels are best left untouched. 

Overall the Soundbar performs satisfactorily and delivers fairly accurate and pleasing music, though not audiophile quality.

Sound: Games and Daily Use

Creative has been marketing the Stage V2 Soundbar as an ‘under monitor or TV soundbar’. This Soundbar does a great job of replacing your computer speakers. The sound output for games is far superior with the punch of 5.25 inch subwoofer thrown in. 

Games audio is very enjoyable. The occasional game voice audio is clearly heard over all the game action even at high volume. 

The DIALOGUE mode is helpful in enhancing voice for listening to daily news and audiobooks.

Bluetooth

The Soundbar has Bluetooth 5.0. Connection is easy. Press and hold the Bluetooth button on either the Soundbar or IR remote control for 2 seconds to enter Bluetooth Pairing mode.

Built-in LED will start blinking in blue. Select “Stage V2” from the list of discovered Bluetooth devices to pair. Once paired with a device, soundbar’s LED will remain blue in static state.

Creative Stage V2 will automatically connect to last paired device when in Bluetooth mode. To pair to a new device, press and hold 2s to enter Bluetooth Pairing mode again. Press the Bluetooth button once to exit Bluetooth Pairing mode.

Remote

Remote is nice and clean and made of plastic with brushed aluminum finish. Buttons are smooth and clicky and not soft rubber-like.

Creative Stage V2 Soundbar

The remote is not wireless, just IR. Dual function buttons make the remote simple to operate.

Specifications of Creative Stage V2 (2020) vs Creative Stage (2019)

ParameterCreative Stage V2Creative Stage
US PriceMSRP: US$ 109.99MSRP: US$ 89.99
Online: US$ 79.99
India PriceMRP: 17,999
Launch Price (Dec.’20)- Rs. 9,999 
MRP: Rs. 15,999
Online Price: Rs. 7,499 
Configuration2.12.1
India LaunchDecember 20202019
PowerMain unit: 2 x 20 W
Subwoofer: 1 x 40W
Total System Power: Up to 80W RMS
Peak Power 160W
Main unit: 2 x 20 W
Subwoofer: 1 x 40W
Total System Peak power: 160 W
DriversDual 2.25″ Soundbar Speaker Driver, 5.25″ Subwoofer Speaker DriverNot available
Frequency Response55–20,000 Hz55–20,000 Hz
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR)≥ 75 dB≥ 72 dB
DimensionsSoundbar (LxDxH): 680 x 78 x 100 mm (26.8 x 3.07 x 3.94 inches)
Subwoofer (LxDxH): 116 x 250 x 423 mm (4.6 x 9.84 x 16.7 inches)
Soundbar (LxDxH): 550 x 78 x 70 mm (21.6 x 3 x 2.75 inches)
Subwoofer (LxDxH): 115 x 250 x 420 mm (4.5 x 9.8 x 16.5 inches)
Cable LengthUSB-C to USB-A Cable: 1.2m (47 inches), 3.5 mm AUX-in Cable: 1.2m (47 inches), Power Cable: 1.5m (59 inches)AC Power Cord: Approx 1m; tethered to soundbar, Subwoofer Cable: Approx 2m; tethered to subwoofer
WeightSoundbar: 2.0 kg (4.4 lbs), Subwoofer: 3.3 kg (7.28 lbs)Soundbar: 1.2 kg (2.64 lbs), Subwoofer: 3.07 kg (6.8 lbs)
Bluetooth5.0AVRCP (Bluetooth Remote Control), A2DP (Wireless Stereo Bluetooth2.1AVRCP (Bluetooth Remote Control), A2DP (Wireless Stereo Bluetooth
Supported CodecsSBCSBC
Input ConnectorsBluetooth, AUX IN, Optical-in, USB-C, HDMI ARC INAUX IN, OPTICAL IN, HDMI ARC IN
EQ PresetsNil.Bass & Treble levels can be controlled separatelyMusic, Cinema, Concert, Gaming

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