I may have found the ideal replacement for the cheap Taotronics soundbar that I have been using for almost two years. It's the slightly more expensive, but still very affordable Creative Stage Air V2 soundbar. Not only does this soundbar fit nicely under my monitor, it can also, if required, double up as a portable wireless speaker, with up to 6 hours of battery life. More importantly, it sounds good for its price.
- 2ch audio (20W total system peak power)
- Bluetooth 5.3, USB Audio, 3.5mm audio input
- 6-hr battery life
- Dimensions: 410 x 94 x 75mm
The Stage Air V2 is roughly the same size as the first version. Its plastic body is slightly deeper and about 200g heavier at 1.1kg. Battery life is unchanged at around six hours, but the charging port is now USB-C instead of micro-USB. Creative has also removed the Stage Air's USB port (for music playback from an external drive) from the V2. Instead, you can connect the soundbar to a computer or game console via the included USB-C to USB-A cable. Personally, I prefer the soundbar's Bluetooth connection because of convenience and limited USB ports. But note that it uses the SBC Bluetooth audio codec, which is not the best. Of course, you can also fall back to the 3.5mm aux-in jack if both Bluetooth and USB are unavailable.
I did miss two features from my TaoTronics soundbar. The first is the volume dial. The Stage Air V2 has volume, power and Bluetooth pairing buttons at the side instead. They work fine, but a dial is just easier. The Creative also doesn't have a 3.5mm headphone out, unlike the TaoTronics. A front LED light lets you know the current audio source by colour, for example, blue for Bluetooth and purple for USB. There's also an LED indicator at the back that turns red when the soundbar is charging.
Like the previous version, the Creative Stage Air V2 has two drivers and a passive radiator to enhance the bass. For a PC soundbar, it sounds good, with much better bass than expected. Trebles do seem to get lost in the mix at times. Vocals come across clearly enough, but they can get overwhelmed at higher volumes. The sound isn't wide due to its compact size. The output is also not that high, so you may need to turn up the volume. But this shouldn't matter too much for a PC speaker that's likely sitting less than a metre in front of you. And the Creative definitely surpasses my cheaper TaoTronics soundbar in terms of audio quality. The Stage Air V2 produces a fuller and larger sound.
With an SRP of S$69 (currently at S$59), the Creative Stage V2 is an affordable, entry-level PC soundbar suited for those that are not too picky about the sound. Thanks to its trio of inputs, it's versatile enough to work with game consoles, laptops and mobile devices (wired or wireless). And it's handy enough (with decent battery life) to bring to your next BBQ. Get it now from Creative. Alternatively, the Creative Stage 360 is a nice upgrade if you have a larger budget.
Note: Review unit provided by Creative.
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