Recently, I've been looking to change up the speakers on my desk to get a bit more space, and after using the Creative Stage 360 for a few months, it has become my daily driver.
As far as Creative products go, they're all essentially pretty simple and the Stage 360 is no exception. You get the soundbar itself, the subwoofer, some cables and a remote. That being said, the most important part of the Stage 360 is its size. Measuring just 56.5cm by 7.5cm by 8.8cm, it's small enough to fit in pretty much any conceivable area.
In fact, one of the requirements I'm looking for is that soundbars must be able to fit on my table right under my monitors. The Stage 360 is short enough to fit in between the stands of my two monitors pretty much perfectly, while the 7.5cm height means it won't block any content on my screens. Furthermore, the mostly black grille on the front and top might not be the most attractive, but it is actually quite practical in terms of ensuring the soundbar is discreet and not too eyecatching.
The only light elements are the metal Creative logo on top as well as the white icons printed on the buttons. As for buttons, you get the power button that also doubles up as a Bluetooth pairing button, two buttons for volume control and a source button for switching between input sources.
On the back, you get the ports; one port for the subwoofer, an optical input, two HDMI inputs and an HDMI ARC port. That's another major selling point for the Stage 360, because the inclusion of an HDMI ARC port means you get Dolby Atmos in this soundbar that costs just S$329. However, there's no 3.5mm port here, which is a tad odd, but I worked around it by just using an optical cable from my PC. That being said, Dolby Atmos is only supported when using an HDMI cable and in any case, most people would be using a soundbar with a TV, so there's not much of a problem with the ports that Creative has decided to include.
Additionally, there's also Bluetooth 5.0 support here, so music can be streamed from a phone or other device, which is pretty handy.
Another very nice touch is that in the box, Creative has actually provided two rubber wedges that slip over the built-in feet so that the soundbar is elevated at an angle so that the audio travels slightly upwards towards one's ears instead of being at chest level.
Moving on to functionality, however, one of my biggest quibbles is that the soundbar has an auto-off function that's relatively fast. That's not quite the problem though; the issue is that the soundbar itself takes a pretty long time to boot up. After pressing the power button, it can range from eight to 13 seconds. I've encountered quite a few occasions where I leave my desk for a bit to eat, then come back and realise that there's no audio when I start watching videos. It's a minor issue, honestly, but it does get a bit tiresome to constantly have to remember to turn on the soundbar again after a period of not using it. Auto-off can be disabled if it's a really big problem though, and that's what I did after a while.
As for sound, well, it's really quite impressive. The Stage 360 can get very loud, and it does fill the entire room, but more than that, you get crisp vocals that make following dialogue in movies and shows a breeze. There's also plenty of low-end thump thanks to the subwoofer even though it's comparatively lightweight.
With Dolby Atmos activated, you get an even wider soundstage with more immersive sound effects like explosions, gunshots and the likes. Despite that, you won't get the full effect of Dolby Atmos because the Stage 360 is still only a 2.1 system. For positional audio, you'll need to splurge for the SXFI Carrier instead.
As for music, it's not as great as dedicated hi-fi speakers would be, but the Stage 360 is definitely decent enough for casual listening. When the speaker is turned on and there's nothing playing, there's an audible hiss, but for people who aren't quite as sensitive to those frequencies, it's not really much to worry about. If you're planning on using the soundbar with a TV where it'll be further away, the hiss won't even be audible at all.
At this price, I'd say that this is an excellent choice if you're looking for a compact soundbar for movie nights. The room-filling volume, Dolby Atmos support and clear speech really does make it quite ideal as a midrange option for people who want to get a taste of surround sound.
Written by Cheryl Tan