With the proliferation of smart televisions over the last decade, soundbars are rapidly becoming one of the most popular audio solutions on the market. Soundbars are a sleek and compact alternative to traditional home theater systems, and they offer a number of benefits that make them ideal for households. Soundbars are designed to deliver high-quality sound without taking up a lot of space, and they can be easily mounted on a wall or placed on a shelf. In addition, soundbars typically come with built-in subwoofers, which means that they can provide deep, rich bass without the need for an external speaker. Soundbars are also typically very easy to set up and use, which is one of the reasons why they are becoming so popular.
The latest soundbar launch in India — Creative’s Stage 360 — is no different, except that it brings features mostly found in the premium segment to the affordable segment of the market, perhaps for the first time in the Indian market. Launched only a few weeks ago in the country, Stage 360 has already attracted eyeballs, with glowing reviews from tech heads to metalheads.
Before we get into the specifics of performance and technology, let me state that the Stage 360 soundbar is sleek, impressive, unobtrusive, and can be easily mounted on a wall or placed on a shelf. The subwoofer is powerful and adds an extra layer of depth to the sound. It comes with a host of wired and wireless connectivity options, and the entire system can be controlled with the included remote control, which has a great range.
Dolby Atmos 5.1.2
One of the most attractive features of the Stage 360 soundbar is its Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 technology, which is very uncommon for the price range that the soundbar is selling in India. The latest addition to Dolby’s series of surround sound technologies, the 5.1.2 makes for powerful audio with a simulated three-dimensional sound that seems to come to your ears from every angle, irrespective of how large the space you are in is — a proof of its much-commended capability to deliver precise positional audio. It envelops the listener and provides a detailed and lifelike audio experience, making them feel like they are in the middle of the action.
Watching the scenes of the Battle of the Scheldt in Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s The Forgotten Battle on a Sony Bravia S90 curved 4K Ultra HD TV attached to a Stage 360 soundbar, it seemed as if we were seated in one of the Buffalo amphibious vehicles taking Canadian and British soldiers across the Scheldt in Zeeland in 1944. The only thing missing from this hair-raising experience was grease, sweat and stench, and one can’t blame Stage 360 for it.
At this point, we must mention that the addition of Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 to any soundbar does not guarantee good sound quality. We’ve had the fortune of trying many premium soundbars with the same technology, and we’ve realized that very few actually fully exploit the technology. Where many fall short is the quality of the accompanying hardware, and that is a problem even in the premium segment. But Stage 360 lives up to Creative Technology’s legacy of combining the best of technology and hardware to deliver a power-packed performance.
Stage 360 comes with an HDMI ARC and two HDMI 2.0 ports, a delight for gamers and movie enthusiasts. The soundbar gives its users the option of connecting every device they can lay their hands on, from mobile devices like mobile phones, laptops and tablets to all sorts of gaming consoles, including the PS5™ and Xbox Series X, and a Blu-ray player , set top box etc. The best part is that it allows you to connect both the PS5™ and Xbox Series X, or a Blu-ray player and set-top directly — you won’t have to manually switch between these options each time or compromise on the quality of streaming by splitting the connections. Moreover, the soundbar has an optical-in port for instant digital audio streams.
The ports are sturdy and well-spaced, which means one does not have to think twice before switching between various devices with wired connectivity or attaching multiple devices at a time. The soundbar comes with 1.5-meter-long power and optical cables. Buyers also get a 2-meter-long subwoofer cable to allow the subwoofer to be placed at some distance.
For wireless connectivity, the Stage 360 soundbar relies on Bluetooth 5.0, the latest version of the Bluetooth wireless communication standard. It was released in December 2016 and introduced a number of significant improvements over previous versions of Bluetooth. Perhaps the most notable of these is an increased range, with Bluetooth 5.0 in Creative’s Stage 360 soundbar able to communicate over distances up to four times greater than those using Bluetooth 4.0. Other benefits of Bluetooth 5.0 include higher data rates and improved power efficiency. Bluetooth 5.0 is now becoming the new standard for wireless connectivity, but most soundbars in the affordable category continue to use older versions of the technology.
Interestingly, Bluetooth 5.0 provides glitch-free wireless connectivity up to 10 meters or 33 feet in open spaces, which is unprecedented for a soundbar in the affordable segment. The A2DP profile enables the transmission of full stereo sound to other devices.
With Stage 360, Creative punches above its competitors even with the subwoofer. Stage 360’s dedicated long-throw subwoofer, 422 x 115 x 250 mm/4.5 x 9.8 x 16.6 inches in size, does not take up valuable space in your shelf. It delivers a powerful performance, generating a total output power of up to 120W RMS, which is more than many soundbar subwoofers in the affordable segment. The secret of the subwoofer’s power punch is the high excursion driver, which helps it achieve deeper bass effects that you don’t find in budget soundbars.
Hardly anyone can beat Creative Technology when it comes to aesthetics — it has the word ‘creative’ in its name and has always lived up to its reputation. The sleek and all-black Creative Stage 360 soundbar continues this tradition, with its sharp edges fitting well with the geometric interiors of most homes. It can be placed under your TV or sit comfortably on an empty desktop without taking attention away from the screen. The soundbar, which is only 565 x 88 x 75 mm/22.2 x 3.5 x 2.9 inches in size, takes far less space in your living room than the traditional soundbars in the affordable segment, which are often bulky and come with half a dozen attachments , which add to the existing clutter around your TV.
To Final Word
Creative Stage 360 is the perfect audio solution for those who want to enjoy Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 without breaking the bank. This affordable speaker system delivers impressive sound quality, thanks to its three-way design and active subwoofer. Creative Stage 360 also offers great value for money, as it includes a wireless receiver and two satellite speakers. The wireless receiver makes it easy to set up the system, and the satellite speakers provide flexibility in placement. Overall, Creative Stage 360 is an excellent option for those looking for an affordable and high-quality Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 speaker system.