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Creative Stage Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v1.2
Reviewed Jan 25, 2024 at 11:14 am
Latest change: Writing modified Feb 19, 2024 at 01:41 pm
Creative Stage Picture
6.0
Mixed Usage
6.2
Dialogue/TV Shows
7.0
Music
5.4
Movies

The Creative Stage soundbar is an affordable 2.1 setup with a dedicated subwoofer. Its small size is ideal for those who want to fit a soundbar underneath their computer monitor or a smaller TV screen. As with most budget-friendly bars, it's limited in terms of features and sound enhancement options. Notably, this bar only supports 2.0 PCM content, so you're pretty limited in terms of audio format support.

Our Verdict

6.0 Mixed Usage

The Creative Stage 2.1 isn't bad for mixed usage. This small, budget-friendly bar is designed to be used underneath a computer monitor or TV stand. It doesn't support a lot of audio formats, but it's still suitable for 2.0 PCM content. Out-of-the-box, you get a boomy sound with lots of extra bass, though you can make up for this a bit with its bass and treble adjustments. As with most budget bars, there are a limited amount of sound customization features on hand.

Pros
  • Bass and treble adjustments.
  • Gets loud.
Cons
  • Lacks low-bass.
  • Downmixes surround sound into stereo.
6.2 Dialogue/TV Shows

The Creative Stage 2.1 is acceptable for dialogue-heavy content like TV shows. Though this 2.1 setup lacks a discrete center channel, it can still reproduce voices with relative clarity. Audio is a bit muddied due to the overemphasis in the bass, though you can adjust for this a bit using its bass and treble tools. Unfortunately, you won't find a dialogue enhancement feature or other more premium customization features.

Pros
  • Bass and treble adjustments.
  • Gets loud.
Cons
  • Audible compression.
  • No dialogue enhancement tool.
7.0 Music

The Creative Stage 2.1 is decent for music. Out-of-the-box, this budget-friendly soundbar has a boomy sound with lots of extra punch in the bass. It muddies voices and lead instruments a bit, so you may want to use its bass and treble adjustments to get a more even sound. Unfortunately, distortion is audible, even at more moderate volumes. It doesn't have as many sound customization tools as more premium models, either.

Pros
  • Bass and treble adjustments.
  • Gets loud.
Cons
  • Audible compression.
  • Lacks low-bass.
5.4 Movies

The Creative Stage 2.1 is poor for movies. This 2.1 soundbar only supports 2.0 PCM content, so you can't take advantage of more immersive formats like Dolby Atmos or Dolby Digital. Still, dialogue is clearly reproduced, albeit with some extra boom in the high-bass. The bar gets loud but can't provide a clean low-bass like more premium setups.

Pros
  • Gets loud.
Cons
  • Lacks low-bass.
  • Limited audio format support.
  • Downmixes surround sound into stereo.
  • 6.0 Mixed Usage
  • 6.2 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 7.0 Music
  • 5.4 Movies
  1. Updated Feb 19, 2024: Added market comparison with the Hisense HS214 in the Audio Format Support: Optical box.
  2. Updated Jan 25, 2024: Review published.
  3. Updated Jan 22, 2024: Early access published.
  4. Updated Jan 17, 2024: Our testers have started testing this product.
  5. Updated Jan 16, 2024: The product has arrived in our lab, and our testers will start evaluating it soon.
  6. Updated Jan 15, 2024: We've purchased the product and are waiting for it to arrive in our lab.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

This bar is available in Black, and you can see the label for our tested model here.

If you come across another version of this soundbar, let us know in the forums so we can update our review.

Compared To Other Soundbars

The Creative Stage 2.1 is an affordable soundbar with a small footprint for smaller rooms. It's a good choice if you're looking for a simple upgrade over your existing computer speakers, but it doesn't offer as much audio format support as other budget-priced bars. Plus, there's some compression present that impacts the clarity of audio reproduction, even at lower volumes.

See also our recommendations for the best budget soundbars, the best soundbars under $100, and the best small soundbars.

Sony HT-S100F

The Creative Stage and the Sony HT-S100F are both budget-friendly soundbars. The Creative has a dedicated subwoofer, so it can reproduce more low-bass. It has a better stereo soundstage, too. However, it's not as well-built as the Sony soundbar and doesn't support as many audio formats. Plus, there's less compression with the Sony's sound, so you get cleaner audio reproduction.

TCL Alto 3

The TCL Alto 3 and the Creative Stage are both very affordable soundbars. The Creative has a dedicated subwoofer, so it can reproduce more low-bass. It also has a better stereo soundstage, along with bass and treble adjustments for greater sound customization. However, it doesn't support Dolby Digital content like the TCL.

TCL Alto 6+

The TCL Alto 6+ is a better budget soundbar than the Creative Stage. Out-of-the-box, the TCL has a more neutral sound, which some may prefer. It has less compression and distortion for a cleaner audio reproduction, too. Plus, it supports more audio formats than the Creative. You may prefer the Creative if you want a smaller soundbar, though.

Vizio V Series V21x-J8

The Vizio V Series V21x-J8 is better than the Creative Stage. The Vizio is a bit more expensive, but it's better built and can reproduce more low-bass. Plus, it comes with more sound enhancement features and support for more audio formats. It offers less compression and distortion, too.

Hisense HS214

The Creative Stage and the Hisense HS214 are both budget-friendly soundbars with different strengths. The Creative Stage is more designed for use with computers, and it comes with a subwoofer, so it can bring more thump and rumble in the bass range. This soundbar can only playback 2.0 PCM content, which is quite limiting, especially since the Hisense supports Dolby Digital.

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Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style - Bar

The Creative Stage is a budget-friendly soundbar that's designed to go under your computer monitor. You can also set it up with your TV if you prefer. It has a rectangular design with square-shaped sides.

Design
Style - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
No
Enclosure
Ported

The sub is tall and thin, and it appears to be made from particle board. There's a port at the front made of plastic. It has to be wired to the bar to work.

Design
Style - Satellites
Satellite Wireless
No
Design
Dimensions - Bar
Width 21.7" (55.0 cm)
Height 2.8" (7.0 cm)
Depth 3.5" (9.0 cm)

This soundbar is small enough to fit between the legs of a 65" TV stand. It also fits perfectly beneath a 27" monitor, which is great if you want to use it with a computer instead.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Width 4.7" (12.0 cm)
Height 16.6" (42.1 cm)
Depth 9.8" (25.0 cm)

The sub has a uniquely tall and thin design, so it can sit underneath your desk. You'll have to connect it to the bar, so you'll have to keep it under your desk or close to your TV stand.

Design
Dimensions - Satellites
Width N/A
Height N/A
Depth N/A
Design
Mounting
Mountable Bar
Yes
Bar Brackets Included
Yes
Mountable Satellites
No
Satellite Brackets Included
No

You can mount the bar to the wall using the included brackets.

6.5
Design
Build Quality

This soundbar's build quality is okay. It's a budget-friendly bar that's mostly made of plastic, which feels quite cheap and collects fingerprints with use. There's a metal grille in front of the bar, though it also feels quite thin. You can also see the bar's internal components, which cheapens its look. The sub doesn't have a very premium build, either.

Design
In The Box

  • User manual
  • Wall mounting screws and anchors
  • Remote
  • 3.5 mm aux cable (length: 3.8 ft / 1.2 m)
  • Optical cable (length: 4.9 ft / 1.5 m)

Sound
7.2
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
Tested Preset
Music
Slope
-1.57
Std. Err.
4.65 dB
Channels
2.1
Low-Frequency Extension
41.8 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
19.9 kHz

The Creative Stage soundbar has a decent stereo frequency response. Out-of-the-box, you get a boomy sound with lots of extra punch in the bass range. This bleeds a bit into the mid-range, resulting in a muddier sound with voices and sound effects in your favorite games. The bar seems to be missing some brightness in the treble, too, though this is likely because of the overemphasis in the bass. Some distortion is noticeable, especially in soundtracks with a lot of low-bass, like Stay from the Interstellar movie.

7.4
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response With Preliminary Calibration
Suggested Preset
Music
Suggested Bass Setting
-5
Suggested Treble Setting
5
Slope
-0.30
Std. Err.
3.20 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
46.9 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
19.9 kHz

If you prefer a more balanced sound with stereo content, adjust the bass to -5 and the treble to 5. The resulting sound is more even, so you notice less boom in the bass range and more brightness in the treble. Voices and dialogue are less muddy, too. You can only increase or decrease the bass and treble up to five, so these are the maximum settings available.

6.5
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
3.68 dB

The bar's stereo soundstage is okay. The soundstage is perceived to be about as wide as the bar itself, but it doesn't have any tricks to make it stretch past that. Focus is decent, too, though this is mostly because of the bar's small size. There's only so much space for sound to come from, so there's likely to be some overlap with effects in games.

7.4
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
94.1 dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
2.45 dB

The Creative Stage 2.1 gets loud enough to fill larger and more open rooms with sound. However, as you increase the volume, there's more compression in the mix.

6.5
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 80dB
1.11
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
3.83

Distortion falls within pretty good limits at an average listening volume, though it jumps significantly at a louder volume level. While distortion is hard to hear with real-life content, especially if you're a more casual listener, we also subjectively noticed distortion in our audio content with this soundbar.

5.5
Sound
Center
Localization
Phantom
Slope
-2.22
Std. Err.
6.03 dB
SPL @ Max Volume
89.5 dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.72
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
2.77

The Creative Stage is a 2.1 soundbar, so it doesn't have a dedicated center channel to improve vocal quality in the mix. Instead, it uses its left and right stereo channels to simulate a "phantom" center. The resulting sound is more diffused and less clear. Voices are slightly muddied, too, due to the overemphasis in the bass on this channel.

3.0
Sound
Surround 5.1
Localization
Stereo (Downmix)
Slope
-2.21
Std. Err.
5.98 dB
SPL @ Max Volume
86.7 dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.52
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
2.57
7.1 Rears
No

This 2.1 soundbar has to downmix surround sound content into stereo to play it back. The resulting sound isn't quite as immersive as what you get with more premium bars with dedicated surround channels. Sound effects seem like they're coming from a speaker placed in front of you rather than from all around your room. The boomy sound profile on these channels muddies voices and other effects a bit, too.

0
Sound
Height (Atmos)
Localization
Not Supported
Slope
N/A
Std. Err.
N/A
SPL @ Max Volume
N/A
Weighted THD @ 80dB
N/A
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
N/A
2.4
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
No
Dialogue Enhancement
No
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
No
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
No
Bass Adjustment
Yes
Treble Adjustment
Yes
EQ
Presets
Surround Level Adjustment
No
Rear Level Adjustment
No
Height Level Adjustment
No
Virtual Surround
No

The Creative Stage soundbar doesn't come with a lot of sound enhancement features, which is to be expected given its budget-friendly price. You can adjust its bass and treble or choose between different EQ presets like Music, Cinema, Concert, and Gaming.

Connectivity
Connectivity
Inputs/Outputs - Bar
Optical Audio In
1
HDMI Out
ARC
HDMI 2.1 Class Bandwidth
No
Full HDMI In
No
Analog Audio In 3.5mm (Aux)
1
RCA In
No
USB for Files
1
Ethernet
No
Subwoofer Output
No

You can connect the bar to your TV or computer monitor using an Optical or HDMI connection. Without a Full HDMI In port, though, you can't use the bar as a hub between devices for video passthrough.

0.3
Connectivity
Audio Format Support: ARC/eARC
Dolby Atmos
Not Supported
Dolby Digital
Not Supported
Dolby Digital Plus
Not Supported
Dolby TrueHD
Not Supported
DTS
Not Supported
DTS:X
Not Supported
DTS-HD MA
Not Supported
PCM Channels
2.0

This soundbar only supports 2.0 PCM content. It's disappointing, especially if you want to experience more common surround sound formats like Dolby Digital or DTS.

0
Connectivity
Audio Format Support: HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
Not Supported
Dolby Digital
Not Supported
Dolby Digital Plus
Not Supported
Dolby TrueHD
Not Supported
DTS
Not Supported
DTS:X
Not Supported
DTS-HD MA
Not Supported
PCM Channels
Not Supported
2.0
Connectivity
Audio Format Support: Optical
Dolby Digital
Not Supported
DTS
Not Supported
PCM Channels
2.0

Similarly, the bar only supports 2.0 PCM content over an Optical connection. For a similarly-priced soundbar with Dolby Digital support, check out the Hisense HS214.

7.1
Connectivity
Latency
ARC
45 ms
Optical
139 ms
Full HDMI In
N/A

The bar's AV synchronization is decent. You're more likely to notice a delay between the audio you hear and the visuals on screen over an Optical connection. Some apps and TVs compensate for this differently, though.

0
Connectivity
Video Passthrough To TV
1080p Max Refresh Rate
Not Supported
1080p @ 4:4:4 Max Refresh Rate
Not Supported
4k Max Refresh Rate
Not Supported
4k @ 120Hz @ 10-Bit
Not Supported
4k @ 4:4:4 Max Refresh Rate
Not Supported
8k Max Refresh Rate
Not Supported
HDR10 Passthrough
No
HDR10+ Passthrough
No
Dolby Vision Passthrough
No
HDMI Forum VRR Passthrough
No
FreeSync Passthrough
No
G-SYNC Passthrough
No
ALLM Passthrough
No
6.0
Connectivity
Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
Yes
Wi-Fi Playback
No
Chromecast built-in
No
Apple AirPlay
No
Spotify Connect
No

You can wirelessly stream audio from your mobile devices to the bar via Bluetooth.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
Yes

A small display in front of the bar shows various settings like the source, the EQ preset, and the volume level as you change them. It dims slightly after your command is registered, but otherwise, it's always on.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

On the right side of the bar, there are a few controls to help you adjust its most basic settings. You can power the bar on/off, change the input source, and adjust the volume. Other features like the bass and treble adjustments are accessible through the remote.

Additional Features
Remote

The remote is pretty simple and easy to use. Since the bar doesn't have a companion app, this is the main way to adjust its features.

Additional Features
Voice Assistants Support
Amazon Alexa
No
Google Assistant
No
Apple Siri
No
Microphone Mute
No