Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware
The second revision of the Creative Stage is an updated design that improves on the original one. In terms of similarities, there are still many aspects that match between the first Creative Stage and the V2. For one, we have the same front mesh grille all across with a Creative logo on the left side. The top and bottom retain a glossy finish which leads to easily visible dust particles and fingerprints. However, you might notice that the Creative Stage V2 soundbar is a bit larger overall. Measuring at 680mm in width, 78mm in height, and 100mm in depth, the soundbar is 13cm wider and almost a centimeter taller than the original one. In addition, while the original one was more like a rounded rectangular prism, this one is more like a wedge with the grille angled slightly upwards. Considering this either sits under your television or computer monitor, I like the fact this directs the drivers slightly more towards the audience. This soundbar alone is also heavier, which is unsurprising considering the larger dimensions, at 2.0kg or 4.4lbs. The whole soundbar is made up of plastic with the exception of the metal mesh on the front. However, the soundbar feels quite solid and I would not be too afraid of its durability.
Behind the front grille is a typical layout for a soundbar. In the middle is a set of two seven-segment displays, similar to the original Creative Stage. This shows different information such as current input, system status, or volume. To the right of the display is an infrared receiver for the remote. A pair of 2.25" drivers can be found on the soundbar with one on each side. With the V2, Creative has added some of their special Sound Blaster sauce in some new equalizer modes like Surround and Clear Dialog. Both of these are self-explanatory in their names, but Surround should provide an expanded soundstage and spatialized audio. Meanwhile, Clear Dialog should enhance the vocals and spoken dialog in a way to amplify them without affecting other ambient effects. The whole frequency response of the Creative Stage V2 is 55Hz to 20KHz. Signal to noise ratio is specified at ≥75dBA. We will see how these effects and numbers translate into actual performance later on in our review.
Just like the original Creative Stage, this is a 2.1 setup which means we have a slim subwoofer included. This should increase the amplitude of lower frequencies that normally cannot be reproduced by the tweeters alone. The subwoofer has dimensions of 423mm by 116mm by 250mm and a weight of 3.3kg. Internally, we have a 5.25" subwoofer long-throw driver. Otherwise, the rest of the construction is the same as the original, with an MDF enclosure and a flared port tube on the front. The right side of the enclosure also has a fabric mesh opening for the aforementioned driver. A single fixed cable comes out the back of the sub to connect to the soundbar. This cable measures 2m in length and carries both power and signal.
From this perspective, you can get a picture of all of the inputs for the Creative Stage V2. There are a total of four physical inputs on the Stage V2. On the left side of the back, the first is a USB Type-C input, which lets you plug any source that offers a USB Type-C output, such as a game console or your computer. Next, we have HDMI with audio return channel, or ARC, which is useful for inputs like televisions. Thirdly, we have a 3.5mm AUX connection. On the right side, there is an optical connection, which again can be used for a variety of sources. The subwoofer connection port can be found underneath the optical port. This is not a standard plug, which means you will probably only use this soundbar with this subwoofer. The last plug on the right side of the photo is for AC power. Creative has included a detachable cable this time around, which I prefer for easier cabling. Finally, you can see there is a mounting hole on each side of the Stage V2, which lets you mount the soundbar to the wall. This time around, Creative did not provide any mounting gear to do so, which is a bit disappointing.
The right side of the Creative Stage V2 soundbar is where we have the only buttons on the whole system. These are the Power, Volume Up, Volume Down, and Bluetooth buttons. The actions are pretty self-explanatory, but these buttons have some extra functionality. When the soundbar is turned on, pressing the power button will cycle through the different available inputs. A long press of this power button will turn off the Stage V2. The Bluetooth button will automatically jump to the Bluetooth input selection. Furthermore, holding it down while it is in the Bluetooth input will cause the Stage V2 to enter pairing mode.
Speaking of which, the Creative Stage V2 supports Bluetooth 5.0 operation with an internal antenna. It is limited to SBC, or Subband Coding, protocol, which means we miss out on support for other codecs like AAC or aptX. For your reference, SBC is the default Bluetooth audio codec that offers decent audio quality and low processing power requirements. Both AAC and aptX codecs were meant to improve both audio quality and latency. Internally this is a powered soundbar, so there is an amplifier located inside the soundbar. Each tweeter provides 20W of power, with another 40W of subwoofer power. This system can deliver a total 80W RMS and a peak power of 160W. Power is supplied with a 100 to 240V internal power supply.
Above is a photo of the extra cables and remote control provided with the Creative Stage V2. Interestingly, Creative gave us two power cables, though this could have just been a packaging mistake. I do hope someone else out there is not missing a power cable, haha. Otherwise, you can also see the 1.2m audio and USB cables for you to plug different devices into the back of the soundbar. As for the remote control, this one is definitely more refined with a sleek brushed metal finish on a plastic shell. It is powered by two AAA batteries that you need to include. These buttons are marked in a pretty clear manner, but I will go over this remote. The top area under the power and mute buttons are used for input selection. Underneath, we have a circular pad that lets you change volume, as well as go to your Previous Track, Next Track and Play/Pause. These last three functions only work when you are using a Bluetooth source. Finally, at the bottom is where you can pick enable the Surround and Clear Dialog modes. You can also change the bass and treble levels. In the middle is a reset button to let you reset all of the equalizer settings and the volume.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis