Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
Reviewing audio devices require extensively trained ears and lots of experience. Even for audiophiles, it may prove challenging at times to obtain an accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as a simultaneous reference. While I am not going to even try to claim that I am the only trustworthy or best reviewer for sound, it is fact that most computer review sites have editors who are insufficiently trained in reviewing audio equipment. Give them practically anything and all you will read about goes along the line of "good bass, nice midrange, awesome treble, really clear sound, 10/10". While there are many knowledgeable audio reviewers at various respected online media outlets, they are by far the minority.
As I have mentioned in my past audio reviews, there are really no true objective measurements for speaker sound quality. As the reviewer, however, I will put it through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating possible -- yes, it is a paradox, haha. On the wired side, tests were conducted primarily on my computer via an optical audio cable directly connected into my ASUS motherboard. For Bluetooth wireless tests, I used a Google Pixel 3a XL. After over 50 hours of break-in time -- well above typically required period -- we put the Creative Stage V2 to the tests. The equalizer was set to the default setting. All tracks on our devices are uncompressed CDs, FLAC, or high bitrate LAME encoded MP3s.
Once again, the Creative Stage V2 started off by surprising me with its decent subwoofer. I really should not be shocked, especially in light of the original Stage, but the amplitude in the low-end is quite good. It is a bit limited by its size, but this subwoofer pushes out the low-end in a good way. That being said, the bass sounded a bit muddy at times due to its missing coverage below 55Hz. The middle-bass was more audible and pronounced, but as a whole, the bass still lacked the fullness of a punchy bass. As such, deep kicks to the bass drum felt a bit hollow, while bass guitars provided a good amount of groove. Even so, I was happy with what Creative Stage V2 was capable of, given the subwoofer's physical dimensions.
Moving to the midrange, the Creative Stage V2's middle region felt a bit recessed. For what was present, they sounded mostly warm. However, similar to the original Stage, there were some notable missing portions in the midrange that detracted from the detail and thickness of the sound. Instruments like pianos and acoustic guitars were still played with warmth and provided their natural wooded resonance. Vocalists sounded slightly dry and their singing was reproduced with a bit of muffle. There was also a bit of sibilance heard in the S-noises. With the Dialog mode active, the middle regions are more emphasized for clearer speech without distorting other sounds. I have to say Creative did a good job at implementing this effect without adversely affecting the rest of the sound.
Finally in the treble, the Creative Stage V2 was capable of driving a lively and bright sound. Despite the pair of smaller drivers, the sound was boosted to a sharper and more vibrant sound. Instruments like violins or higher pitched vocalists came through easily, but felt a bit shrill at times. The dryness we heard in the middle region was also heard here. Overall, the whole sound signature was a slight V combined with dips near the lowest of the bass and in the middle region and boosts in the middle- to upper-bass and trebles. This makes for a generally fun-sounding signature, which is perfectly fine for a soundbar combination set. It also is capable of delivering on the room-filling sound, which is really great to hear.
When it came to soundstaging and imaging, the Creative Stage V2 was again quite decent. In a small- to medium-sized room, the soundbar was able to create a decently wide image despite its physical limitations. The two tweeters are still confined to a certain distance apart, but I was impressed by its overall width and depth. It is an improvement on the original Stage too. With the Surround mode active, the sound was made virtually deeper and wider. While you can tell this effect is not natural, it performed as expected without too much of an artificial feel. I would say the Stage V2 created a neutral and natural image.
In terms of layering and frequency separation, the Creative Stage V2 was capable in handling separation while keeping detail. In more complicated music, the Stage V2 did struggle a bit to maintain the multiple voices with detail and clarity, but I would say it was an improvement over the original Stage. Transitions between frequencies had some chunks recessed, especially in the transition from the bass to midrange. In addition, I still think there could be work done to improve clarity in heavily layered music. There is a bit of muffle in various regions.
One improvement I am really happy to see is the cutoff fix. The first Stage suffered from an issue where sounds would stop playing if the input was below a certain threshold. While this is typical for speakers to implement a power saving, standby-like feature, I felt like this was a bit too aggressive. This second Stage however has increased its sensitivity for softer noises, which meant the speakers did not randomly cut out during quieter portions for TV shows or in music. All in all, the Creative Stage V2 offers a generally improved experience over the original Stage. It keeps its surprising amount of bass and bright trebles for a V-shaped signature. It also gets loud without becoming distorted. There were minor improvements in its soundstaging and layering capabilities, too. Overall, I was quite pleased with this second Creative Stage.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis