Creative Stage SE Soundbar Review

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Following on from my review of the excellent Creative Sound Blaster Katana SE, I have been checking out the Stage SE.

This is a compact and affordable soundbar designed to sit below your monitor and enhance the audio from your laptop or desktop PC.

It is a basic soundbar that lacks many of the features that the Katana SE has. Not only is it a smaller and less powerful soundbar, but it also lacks a microphone and integration with the Creative App.

However, it packs some impressive sound technology into a small and convenient package and with a price of just £50, it is exceptional value for money.

Key Features

  • 48W RMS power output
  • Sound Blaster audio enhancements
  • Multi-function control knob
  • IR remote control
  • Surround and dialogue audio modes

Creative Stage SE vs Stage Air V2 vs Stage V2 Specification

SpecificationSTAGE SESTAGE AIR V2STAGE V2STAGE 360
Speaker System222.12.1
Connectivity OptionsUSB AudioUSB Audio, AUX-inHDMI ARC, USB, Optical-in, AUX-inHDMI ARC, two HDMI 2.0, Optical-in
Bluetooth5.35.355
Sound Blaster TechnologyClear Dialog and Surround, Powered by Sound Blaster, Tone AdjustmentN/AClear Dialog and Surround, Powered by Sound BlasterN/A
Battery Life*N/A6 hoursN/AN/A
Soundbar Dimension410 x 108 x 68 mm / 16.14 x 4.25 x 2.68 inches410 x 94 x 75 mm / 16.1 x 3.7 x 2.9 inches680 x 100 x 78 mm / 26.8 x 3.94 x 3.1 inches565 x 75 x 88 mm / 22.2 x 2.9 x 3.4 inches
Subwoofer DimensionN/AN/A116 x 250 x 423 mm / 4.6 x 9.9 x 16.7 inches115 x 250 x 422 mm / 4.5 x 9.8 x 16.6 inches
Cable LengthPower Cable: 1.2m / 3.93 ftPower Cable: 1.5m / 4.92 ftPower Cable: 1.5m / 4.92 ftPower Cable: 1.5m / 4.92 ft
USB-C to USB-A Cable: 1.2m / 3.93 ftUSB-C to USB-A Cable: 1.2m / 3.93 ftSubwoofer Cable: 2m / 6.56 ftSubwoofer Cable: 2m / 6.56 ft
USB-C Cable: 1.2m / 3.93 ft3.5mm AUX-in Cable: 1.2m / 3.93 ftOptical Cable: 1.5m / 4.92 ft
DriverFull-range Racetrack DriversFull-range Racetrack DriversCustom-tuned Mid-range DriversCustom-tuned Racetrack Drivers
Peak Power Output48W20W160W240W

Design and Build

Creative Stage SE Soundbar Review 2

The Creative Stage SE is designed with a sleek, all-black finish that fits seamlessly into any desktop setup. The soundbar measures 41cm wide, 7cm tall and 11cm deep, making it low enough to fit under most monitors. The 41cm width also means it doesn’t take up too much desk space, it is barely wider than my keyboard.

The design includes a metal grill that wraps around the front to hide the speakers and a large knob on the right side for easily adjusting the volume and switching between USB and Bluetooth modes.

This compact product weighs just 1.22kg, making it easy to move around.

Connectivity and Controls

Creative Stage SE Soundbar Review 3

The soundbar is powered via a power adapter and supports both USB digital audio and Bluetooth 5.3 for flexible connectivity. The included USB-C to USB-A cable allows for direct connection to your computer.

The large multi-functional knob on the side of the soundbar as it lets you adjust the volume, switch between modes and power the device on and off. I like the ability to turn down the volume with a physical knob within arm’s reach, it is much more user-friendly than messing around with media keys on my keyboard or the Windows settings.

For more sound enhancement features, an included remote control offers options such as tone adjustment and activation of surround and clear dialogue modes.

Sound Quality

Creative Stage SE Soundbar Review 1

You generally get what you pay for, and at £50 you have to have realistic expectations of what this is capable of, it certainly doesn’t compete with the Katana SE.

However, I was pleasantly surprised with the impressive audio quality from Stage SE.

The soundbar houses a pair of full-range racetrack drivers and an oversized passive radiator, delivering powerful bass for its petite dimensions and superb vocal clarity. The Sound Blaster technology further enhances the sound quality and immersion, providing an all-encompassing audio experience.

Whether you’re listening to bass-heavy music, watching a movie, or playing a high-octane game, the Creative Stage SE delivers outstanding audio performance.

I thought the soundbar was able to handle louder volumes surprisingly well. I normally expect little speakers to distort badly when you dial up the volume, but this performs well. At higher volumes, you may benefit from placing the soundbar on some foam or something padded, as there was some distortion from my table.

Minor gripes would be that the mid-range can sound a little recessed at low volumes. Then at higher volumes, it can start to sound a but sharp with some tracks as the bass struggles to keep up, which is common for low-powered speakers.

For Bluetooth, this uses the latest 5.3 version, but the codec is limited to SBC. It works well and I doubt a superior codec would have provided a great deal of benefit.

Sound Blaster Technology

The Creative Stage SE comes equipped with Sound Blaster’s audio technologies – Clear Dialog and Surround. The Clear Dialog feature extracts the vocals and spoken dialogue through an algorithm, then intelligently enhances and amplifies them. This makes every syllable clear without compromising on other ambient effects.

The Surround feature, on the other hand, opens up the sound stage, providing a wider and more immersive audio experience. Like most soundbars that aim to replicate surround sound, the overall effect is somewhat limited. The soundbar does seem to do a good job of expanding the soundstage, but it is definitely not surround sound. It works well for things like gaming, giving you a bit more of an immersive experience.

Price and Alternative Options

The Creative Stage SE has an RRP of £60, and at the time of writing, it was available from Creative for just £50. At the time of writing, it was available on Amazon for £45 with the on-page voucher.

Sitting just below this is the Creative Stage Air V2 for £40, which is significantly less powerful at 20W, but it also has a built-in battery, allowing you to use it as a portable Bluetooth speaker.

One step above the Stage SE is the normal Stage, which is available for £70. This benefits from a subwoofer with a significantly higher output of 160w. The main issue with this is that it is quite old and only has Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, Optical-in and Aux.

The Stage V2 has superior connectivity with HDMI ARC, USB, Optical-in and AUX-in, but the price is significantly higher than the Stage SE at £75.

There is not a great deal of competition at this price point for PC-focused soundbars. Most of the options seem to be the unknown brands you find on Amazon.

The Redragon GS560 is well-reviewed at a similar price and includes RGB. Then, I noticed it only has 2x4W drivers, so I’d avoid it as it will sound significantly worse than this.

Trust has some soundbars that are more affordable but limited to a 12W peak output.

The Razer Leviathan V2 X  is well-reviewed but almost twice the price and more expensive than the Stage V2,

Pros and Cons

Here are the key positives and negatives of the Creative Stage SE soundbar:

Pros:

  • Compact size fits under monitors
  • Impressive audio power and bass for the size
  • Useful audio enhancement modes
  • Clever control knob implementation
  • Great value for money

Cons:

  • Lack of 3.5mm aux input limits versatility
  • Mid-range can sound recessed at low volumes
  • At higher volumes it can start to sound a little sharp as the bass can’t keep up
  • Control knob presses can shift unit

Conclusion

The Creative Stage SE packs impressive audio power into a compact and affordable desktop package. It’s an excellent option if you want to upgrade your PC sound without sacrificing desk space.

Minor flaws like the lack of a 3.5mm input and recessed mid-range at low volume are forgivable given the low-price tag. But the punchy, balanced sound makes it easy to recommend.

There is nothing I can find on the market that I’d recommend over this at a similar price.

For desktop PC and laptop users seeking an affordable audio boost, the Creative Stage SE is a superb choice.

Creative Stage SE Soundbar Review

Summary

For desktop PC and laptop users seeking an affordable audio boost, the Creative Stage SE is a superb choice. There is nothing I can find on the market that I’d recommend over this at a similar price – hence the high score

Overall
90%
90%
  • Overall - 90%
    90%

Pros

  • Compact size fits under monitors
  • Impressive audio power and bass for the size
  • Useful audio enhancement modes
  • Clever control knob implementation
  • Great value for money

Cons

  • Lack of 3.5mm aux input limits versatility
  • Mid-range can sound recessed at low volumes
  • At higher volumes it can start to sound a little sharp as the bass can’t keep up
  • Control knob presses can shift unit

Last update on 2024-06-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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