A nifty little soundbar at a great price point.
Remember Creative? The Singapore-based company’s Sound Blaster was probably the first sound card for a lot of us in India. Creative was a name we trusted and loved. Along with the sound cards came computer speakers, initially just a pair for stereo and then gradually adding a subwoofer and eventually full surround sound.
Well, Creative is back in our lives sorting out a simple problem created by the fancy designs of new TVs which are so thin that packing in good sound is really difficult. For the hardcore movie and gaming buff nothing short of a full home-theatre would do but for many, there’s neither the space nor the money for that. One way to solve the issue is with a simple soundbar. Creative sets the stage with its latest product the Creative Stage V2. A nifty little soundbar at a great price point.
The Stage V2 is actually a 2.1 soundbar and subwoofer. In the box you get the soundbar, the subwoofer, a remote and all the cables to get you connected. It is extremely easy to set up and get going. All you need to do is connect the subwoofer to the soundbar, connect the soundbar to a source (TV, laptop etc.) and finally connect the soundbar to power.
The soundbar is just short of 27” and fits very neatly under most TVs. It does come with wall-mount brackets if you feel you want to install it on the wall. It is fairly light at approximately 2 kgs and the subwoofer at around 3 kgs.
In terms of features, the Stage V2 has a lot to offer. It is powered by Sound Blaster audio and it sounds great for something that small. It has Bluetooth for connectivity with any source. We tried it with a TV and a couple of phones and it worked quite well. But the standout feature was Clear Dialog: A single click on the remote and you get enhanced voice clarity which is great when people are talking softly in a movie or when you want the news to be sharp and clear. I even used it with music to quickly increase the treble. It also has a one-click surround sound for a more immersive experience but that is not as noticeable as is Clear Dialog.
For connectivity the Stage V2 offers a TV ARC, Optical, USB-C, Bluetooth 5.0 and an AUX in. This would suffice for most users. We did try all the options and finally settled on using TV ARC along with Bluetooth for some devices. It seemed to provide the best quality of sound. It was also the most convenient as with HDMI CEC turned on, the TV remote was able to control the volume of the soundbar and the soundbar would power-on/off along with the TV.
Speaking of remotes, the Stage V2 remote is simple and elegant in its design with a stress on functionality. All the appropriate buttons for control are there without being overwhelming. The remote is all plastic but does have a nice brush-metal finish to it.
In the middle of the speaker is a little two-character LED display which shows the mode, volume levels, Bass and Treble, Surround and Clear Dialog indications. For Bluetooth, a little blue light comes on indicating that is being used or flashing while waiting to be paired. There are also controls on the side of the soundbar, though the remote would be the best way to actually control it.
The most important thing for a soundbar apart from design and features is of course what it sounds like. The Stage V2 is a very rich and well-balanced sound. Not too much bass and not too much treble, but just the right amount of both. In fact, the beauty is that does not distract you from the main issue which is watching content on the screen, it just blends in. Yet when you need it you will feel the sound. Watching an action movie with surround does expand the stage a little bit and the bass while not quite stomach thumping will give you just the feeling of being heavy. Even just listening to music, the sound is great. We threw a variety of genres at it including Jazz, Classic Rock, Hindustani Classical and even some EDM and it held up very well. Of course, in a large room it would get a little muted but in an average TV viewing space it was just perfect.
Some of the downsides of the Stage V2 include the indicator which could have actually been put to better use. It should have had more characters and could double-up as a clock or even be a ticker, displaying the tracks being played while streaming music. Continuing to nitpick, it is very surprising that the remote was shipped without batteries. I am sure there is a good explanation, but it is very rare to find remotes without batteries these days. Finally, multipoint Bluetooth would have been great to have. Pairing with only a single device is not something you expect these days, specially since this will be a family device with multiple users.
Overall, the Stage is a good soundbar for good audio, be it music, movies or any audio that you may wish to consume and that too from multiple sources. The Stage, which is the predecessor to this model, was smaller and essentially meant to be an under-monitor soundbar. Its rich and balanced sound now has the addition of Clear Dialog and Surround, making it a much nicer buy. Great value for money as well. Priced at an introductory price of ₹ 9,999/- it will certainly give other soundbars some serious competition.
Price: ₹ 9,999/ introductory price
Pros: Simple design, good sound, Clear Dialog a good feature, value for money
Cons: Indicator not very useful, no multipoint Bluetooth, batteries not included
First published by Hindu BusinessLine: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/specials/technophile/creative-stage-v2-setting-the-scene-with-elegant-simplicity/article33325738.ece