Creative Stage V2 review: The king of budget soundbars

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Creative Stage V2 review - soundbar and subwoofer

If you’re after a budget soundbar and subwoofer combo, you can’t do much better than the Creative Stage V2

Pros Extremely affordableGood audio qualityExtensive connectivityCons No HDMI or optical cable includedSubwoofer cable is a little short

The original Creative Stage 2.1 has been a mainstay on our best soundbar roundup since its release in 2019, so I was excited to get my hands on its successor, the Creative Stage V2.

On the face of it, not a huge amount has changed. It’s still an affordable soundbar and subwoofer combination offering a pleasing array of connection options. But the design of the bar has been tweaked slightly, a USB-C port has been added and there are two new audio modes.

Those additions have seen the cost of the Stage creep up by £20, but the V2 more than justifies its meagre price tag. If you’re looking for a cheap way to upgrade your TV audio, there aren’t many better options out there.

Image of Creative Stage V2 2.1 Soundbar with Subwoofer, Clear Dialog and Surround by Sound Blaster, Bluetooth 5.0, TV ARC, Optical, and USB Audio, Wall Mountable, Adjustable Bass and Treble, for TV

Creative Stage V2 2.1 Soundbar with Subwoofer, Clear Dialog and Surround by Sound Blaster, Bluetooth 5.0, TV ARC, Optical, and USB Audio, Wall Mountable, Adjustable Bass and Treble, for TV

£99.99 Buy now

Creative Stage V2 review: What do you get for the money?

For just £100, you get a compact soundbar along with a subwoofer that measures 116 x 250 x 423mm (WDH) and weighs 3.3kg. The subwoofer is of the wired variety and houses a built-in 2m cable that connects to the bar. That proved long enough to allow me to position the sub neatly alongside my TV cabinet, but it may not be long enough if you plan on tucking the sub somewhere more discreet.

Also included in the box are a 3.5mm to 3.5mm AUX cable, a USB-A to USB-C cable for hooking the Stage up to your PC, three power cables catering for various international plug types and an infrared remote control.

That selection of cables may suggest the Stage V2 doesn’t support HDMI or optical connections, but it does; Creative has simply decided not to include the necessary cables, presumably to keep costs down.

Most people will have one or the other kicking around at home so it’s not a huge deal, but it’s an extra expense for those that don’t. The remote control doesn’t come with AAA batteries included, either, so you’ll need to make sure you’ve got a couple of those, too.

I hooked up the Stage V2 to my TV via the HDMI (ARC) port, but as the Stage V2 doesn’t support higher-resolution audio formats you won’t be missing out on anything by using an optical connection instead. In addition to its range of physical inputs and outputs, the bar supports Bluetooth 5.0, allowing you to stream audio content wirelessly over the SBC codec – higher-quality codec support is not to be expected at this kind of price.

Creative Stage V2 review - soundbar connection ports

All of the ports are housed on the back of what is a sleek, compact main unit weighing 2kg and measuring 680 x 100 x 78mm (WDH). It’s a great fit for 50in TVs and below – anything larger and the bar starts to look a little out of place on your AV cabinet.

Despite its bargain price, the soundbar is well made and neither looks nor feels cheap. The metal speaker grille gives it a clean look, and the top surface of the bar slopes back down towards your TV slightly, giving it a less blocky appearance than the original Stage.

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Although you’re primarily going to be controlling the Stage V2 using the included remote, the bar does have limited controls on its right end panel. There, you’ll find power and Bluetooth pairing buttons along with volume controls, which are useful if you’re using the Stage V2 as a desktop soundbar, but they don’t give you access to its full suite of options.

The remote is more comprehensive and sensibly laid out, too. Three source buttons let you quickly switch between TV ARC/USB, optical/AUX and Bluetooth, while volume and playback controls are handled via a dial in the centre of the remote. Additionally, the remote enables you to adjust bass and treble levels, which range from -5 to +5, and engage the soundbar’s two new audio modes, Dialog and Surround.

Image of Creative Stage V2 2.1 Soundbar with Subwoofer, Clear Dialog and Surround by Sound Blaster, Bluetooth 5.0, TV ARC, Optical, and USB Audio, Wall Mountable, Adjustable Bass and Treble, for TV

Creative Stage V2 2.1 Soundbar with Subwoofer, Clear Dialog and Surround by Sound Blaster, Bluetooth 5.0, TV ARC, Optical, and USB Audio, Wall Mountable, Adjustable Bass and Treble, for TV

£99.99 Buy now

Creative Stage V2 review: How does it sound?

The Creative Stage V2 has a frequency range of 55Hz to 20kHz and is capable of generating 80W RMS (160W peak) via two 2.5in mid-range drivers in the soundbar and a 5.25in long-throw driver in the subwoofer.

That’s plenty for modestly sized living rooms, and sound quality is impressive given how affordable the Stage V2 is.

Creative Stage V2 review - soundbar

When using the default sound mode, the soundstage is reasonably wide and there’s real clarity to mid-range frequencies. The discrete subwoofer delivers low-end material with ample impact but it’s controlled, too, with bass that’s both deep and rich and stays clear of muddying the mid-range.

The first of the Stage V2’s two additional audio modes – Dialog – enhances the coherence of voices and speech, amplifying them in the audio mix to ensure you don’t miss a word. I didn’t feel the need to use the mode all that often as most onscreen dialogue was clear enough without it. However, I found it worked well, lifting dialogue effectively without hampering the overall sound quality.

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The other new mode, Surround, seeks to create a virtual surround-sound effect, despite the lack of discrete rear and side speakers. The effect isn’t pronounced enough to recreate the enveloping audio experience you’d get from a 5.1 setup and isn’t as immersive as the DTS Virtual:X technology utilised by the Denon DHT-S216.

It’s not entirely without merit, however. The V2’s soundstage is wider when the mode is engaged and positional audio cues are slightly better articulated. Indeed, it became my go-to setting when watching action-heavy movies and TV shows. Does it create a truly immersive home cinema experience? No, but it’s certainly a welcome inclusion in a soundbar costing a fraction of the price of a true surround-sound multi-speaker setup.

Image of Creative Stage V2 2.1 Soundbar with Subwoofer, Clear Dialog and Surround by Sound Blaster, Bluetooth 5.0, TV ARC, Optical, and USB Audio, Wall Mountable, Adjustable Bass and Treble, for TV

Creative Stage V2 2.1 Soundbar with Subwoofer, Clear Dialog and Surround by Sound Blaster, Bluetooth 5.0, TV ARC, Optical, and USB Audio, Wall Mountable, Adjustable Bass and Treble, for TV

£99.99 Buy now

Creative Stage V2 review: Should you buy it?

There are few, if any, better-value soundbars out there than the Creative Stage V2. Audio quality is very good for the price, the new sound modes both work well and you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to connection options.

The bar is compact enough to complement most TV setups, and although you’ll have to find space for the discrete subwoofer, its benefits are clearly felt in the Stage V2’s punchy bass.

In short, if you only have £100 to spend on a soundbar, you should absolutely buy this soundbar. You simply can’t go wrong with the Creative Stage V2.

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