Creative Stage review: Crazy-cheap sound bar is good for small TVs, great for desktops

Computer speakers = terrible. $ 80 computer speakers = still pretty awful. Right?

Creative’s excellent 2.1-channel system, the Stage, disagrees. This stylish soundbar offers a compelling mix of sound quality and features, including HDMI and subwoofer, at an ultra affordable price. It achieves something Creative has been striving for for the past 20 years: transcend the PC and enter the living room.

In other words, it’s also great for smaller rooms and TVs if you’re on a budget. Its sound will beat the built-in speakers of almost any TV.

That said, it’s better as a desktop PC or gaming system than a TV soundbar due to its small size. I found it difficult to distinguish left to right when sitting on the sofa, and only felt the full weight of the small submarine when it was placed at my feet. If you are looking to integrate your TV’s audio and have the space to do so, the Vice SB3621 worth the extra money on stage.

The stage is ready

Sound bars like the excellent Vizio SB362An-F6 they drew the map for soundbars under $ 100: it should have Bluetooth, an optical input and an internal subwoofer.

The Creative Stage not only lights this map on fire, but then eats the smoking map fragments. The soundbar includes both a separate subwoofer and a HDMI ARC entrance.

07-the-creative-stage-soundbar

Sarah Tew / CNET

Connections also extend to mandatory Bluetooth wireless and an optical input, and Creative introduces a USB port for playing MP3s from an external drive. While it still betrays its desktop roots, the Stage differs from similar multimedia systems in that it won’t act as a USB sound card – you’ll still need to use an auxiliary output from your computer.

This is a very compact system. The soundbar is 21 inches wide, but it doesn’t look out of place with large screens, thanks to its cute industrial design. And unlike the inscrutable points of the Vizio, the Creative has a two-symbol display that makes selecting input a breeze.

12-stage-creative soundbar

Sarah Tew / CNET

Like the soundbar, the 40-watt subwoofer is small; at 18 inches tall, it’s the size of the slim desktop PC. At this price you can’t expect wireless connectivity and it’s connected by an 8ft cable that allows the sub to sit at your feet or on the TV.

The system is equipped with a full remote control, which includes four sound modes and independent sub volume. If you lose the remote, there is a three button panel on the side of the soundbar. If you tap the power button it changes the input.