Creative Sound BlasterX Pro-Gaming Katana Desktop Soundbar Review
Peter Donnell / 9 months ago
Desktop audio is something worth caring about, from being able to hear the footsteps of your enemies in multiplayer shooters, to simply rocking out to your favourite songs while working, pretty much everyone has a need for good quality sound at their desktop. Creative have long been one of the biggest names in desktop audio, with many years of experience of creating fantastic speaker setups for everything from day-to-day office use, to movie fans, to gaming. Now they’re back again with one of their proudest creations, the Sound BlasterX Katana, a multi-channel gaming soundbar and subwoofer that’s set to give you the enthusiast grade audio processing, drivers and bone-shaking power you desire.
“Named after the sword that’s sometimes referred to as the Soul of a Samurai, the Sound BlasterX Katana exhibits the same sleek sophistication and formidable strength in its design and audio prowess.The Katana fits right under your monitor with a slimness that’s unmatched by other gaming soundbars, making it the world’s first true Under Monitor Audio System (UMAS). It also features the Aurora Reactive lighting system, a series of 49 programmable LED lights lined from edge to edge of the Katana chassis, making it the perfect addition to fully optimize and customize your PC and desktop setup.”
Featuring a powerful 24-bit DAC, five drivers powered by a tri-amp design, and each driver runs through individually controlled DSP-amps, with a plethora of connection options, Dolby Digital 5.1 support, as well as the truly fantastic BlasterX Acoustic Engine technology and software, the Katana is set to impress, and we’re eager to get it out of the box to see (and hear!) what it has to offer.
“The Katana gives you an immersive audio experience for your games and movies with the BlasterX Acoustic Engine and Dolby Digital 5.1 Decoder. This audio system embodies the perfect combination of our most powerful 24-bit high resolution DAC and sophisticated 5-driver system. Housing a tri-amplified design where the 5 drivers are individually powered by DSP-controlled amplifiers, the Katana delivers ultra-precise audio at each part of the audio spectrum. Equipped with a plethora of connectivity options, you can trust the Katana to be one of the most versatile and most powerful speakers to ever grace your desktop.”
- For Wireless Streaming:
Compatible Bluetooth devices that support the Stereo Bluetooth Profile (A2DP)
- For Wireless Control:
Compatible Bluetooth devices that support the Bluetooth Remote Control (AVRCP)
- For 7.1 Virtual Surround Audio Playback:
- For Digital 5.1 Audio Playback:
- For High-resolution 24-bit 96kHz Audio Playback:
For PC via USB Connection
- For Playback via USB Flash Drive:
Up to 128GB formatted in FAT16/32/exFAT.
Common audio formats such as MP3, WMA, FLAC and WAV.
(MP3 and WMA up to 320kbps and FLAC up to 1.3Mbps).
- For Sound Blaster Connect:
For Windows® OS
Intel Core™2 Duo processor 2.2 GHz, AMD Athlon 64×2 Dual Core or equivalent processor
Microsoft® Windows 10, Microsoft Windows 8.1 32-bit or 64-bit
600MB of free hard disk space
Available USB 2.0 or 3.0 port
Internet connection (optional)
- For Direct Connection to AUX-in Jack:
Analog audio devices with a 3.5mm output
Packaging and Accessories
The box is pretty huge, but that’s to be expected given it houses a subwoofer and soundbar, as well as plenty of protective packaging to ensure the items are protected. On the front, you can see a few of the main spec, as well as features like the Aurora Reactive RGB lighting.
Around the back, you can see a quick breakdown of the main features, and it’s immediately clear there are a lot of them!
In the box, you’ll find international power cables, two USB cables, wall mounting brackets, a remote control, as well as the usual setup and warranty documentation. Now, let’s get the big bits out of the box and take a closer look!
A Closer Look
Taking the Katana out of the box, it’s immediately apparent that this is something pretty special. It’s pretty darn heavy despite its relatively compact size, and boy does it look sexy. It’s got a huge slab of black brushed aluminium with meticulously finished edges that give it a very high-quality look and feel.
There are two drivers right up top, giving you the mids, and they have ports on the front aswell to give you a very open sound.
Tucked into the angular front edges, two more drivers, which act as your main left and right speakers, but also throw the sound out for that surround effect, if you want that, it’s all tweakable in the settings of course.
As you can see, the finish is flawless, and it’s going to look great on your desk, no doubt about that. Aluminium up top, and very tough mesh on the speakers, so no chance of the kids pushing their fingers into the speaker cones here.
The main control panel is right up on top, with master power/Bluetooth pairing, volume, source, and SBX profile switching. There’s a remote control included too, so if you don’t want to get fingerprints on the top, you could always use that instead, or even control everything through the SBX software on your desktop.
Around the back, there are a few ventilation ports for the amplifiers, and given that there’s three of them crammed in here, I’m sure they’ll need to breathe.
Connectivity is very good, with USB, optical, AUX, headphone, Mic, Sub and power ports all tucked into the rear recess.
On the base, you can just about makeout the LED lighting strip, which runs the full width of the base for the RGB underlighting effects.
There are two small feet, each with rubber grips. You’ll notice they’re screws on too, you can remove them and there are wall mounting brackets included. For those who have a wall mounted display and want this floating under it, they’re going to be epic!
So what about that subwoofer? The unit stands 13-inches tall and just 5-inches wide, so fitting it on your desktop, or tucked down the side of your desk should be pretty easy. It has a sideways mounted driver, with a large bass port on the front.
It’s pretty minimalist and nicely designed, so should blend in with its surroundings quite well.
The unit is passively powered through the Aux cable that comes hard wired, with the amp in the soundbar doing all the heavy processing on its behalf.
Just to get everything on show, I whacked the sub right up on my desktop, this isn’t where it will be for testing, it’ll be hiding under my desk where it belongs, but it does look pretty cool there anyway, don’t you think?
The sound bar fits under my monitor nicely, it’s just a little bit under the width of my screen, but given my monitor is 27″, that’s not bad going and it pairs up nicely.
Changing source, lighting profiles, volume, SBX profile, etc from the buttons or the remotes causes a hidden display to light up in the front mesh, giving you an easy visualisation of your settings.
The RGB lighting is gorgeous too, and while it’s not overly bright since it’s a downlight, not a forward light, it gives some nice effects. There’s an RGB picker in the software, and you can turn it off or set it per-profile, so lots of tweaking available here.
Right, so onto the performance testing, and I’ve got that sub tucked down under my desktop now too. There’s a cool promotion going on right now that gets you a free copy of Warhammer: Vermintide with a purchase of the Katana, and I’m not about to pass up on a free game. The game is actually a really good demo of the gaming capabilities of the Katana, with brutal combat, surround sound effects, team chat, and just general multiplayer carnage.
The SBX EQ settings built into the Katana are fantastic, with Neutral, Gaming, Concert, Night, all ready to rock. However, you can create your own with just a few clicks, and even have many extra ones stored into the software. Drag and drop them onto the Katana box in software and they’re instantly uploaded to the device, so you can really make it your own with ease.
For gaming, I like a bit of a boost on the bass and treble, the range set to ultra-wide, and some boosts on clarity and a bit of smart volume to stop things getting too out of hand. The difference between this and neutral profile is profound. The bass is bone shaking, the vocals are pin sharp and the sound wraps around you with amazing power and detail. I’m a big fan of my surround sound setup, but this is just something I wasn’t expecting to sound as good as it does; the Katana will rock your socks off.
If anything, I think the Katana is TOO POWERFUL! On the volume scale of 1-50, I rarely push it past 5 for day to day use. I had the audacity to turn it up to about 30 for testing, at that point, it was risking breaking my windows… you have been warned. It works really well through USB, but we suggest using optical, as you can take full advantage of the surround processing, and also control desktop volume independent of the Katana volume, giving you more control and helping tame the powerful drivers for quieter listening scenarios.
For movies, music and gaming, the Katana excels. I’m a big music fan and rocking out to a few of my favourite albums or 20 every single day is important to me. The Katana certainly has the chops to bring out the details in your favourite albums, from classical to death metal, it doesn’t falter. Of course, for music, I leave it on the Neutral profile, although a slight push to the mid range on the EQ does give it a nice warmth that’s not to be missed. The dialogue enhancements work very well too, especially on movies and even more so in night mode, making it a hell of a lot easier to listen to the dialogue without the thundering explosions waking the kids up.
The Creative Sound BlasterX Katana Soundbar System can found at many retailers, with prices ranging from about £270-310 depending on where you shop, and it fluctuates too, so best to have a dig around for a good deal. For example, Amazon was cheaper, but now it’s not at £310, and I expect that to change to cheaper again soon.
Let’s get straight to it, this isn’t a cheap setup, but it wasn’t ever designed to be affordable, it was designed to be an amazing sound system first. Fortunately, Creative has not let their customers down and has delivered a premium quality product here, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a gamer, music lover, or just want your daily YouTube binge to have banging sound, the Katana will not disappoint you.
Is the Katana perfect? No, it’s not, it does have a few minor faults with it, but they’re not really deal breakers for everyone, and for others, they’re likely something you can live with anyway. The biggest one for me is that the headphone jack is on the back, tucked into a recess. This is not easy to get to on a night when I want to switch to my headphones so I can game while my partner watches something on TV or I have a skype call, and you can’t toggle between headphones and speakers in the software, which is annoying. I can move the unit out and fumble for the port, but I’d rather have it on the side of the unit or anywhere else for that matter.
The next is the fact it doesn’t sit on my desk. I actually have it on my monitor stand, so the left and right 1/4 of the unit is actually floating just a few millimetres off the desk, which means that its feet aren’t doing anything. I think having them height adjustable would fix this problem for the many people that have large monitor bases. This is less of a problem if you have a deeper desk than myself, though, as mine is only 60cm deep.
A few minor faults aside, which are fairly subjective, the Katana is a great product. The use of multiple drivers and the tri-amp design means that it can deliver a huge sound in a fantastic form factor. The stereo performance is powerful, and the width of the surround sound is nothing short of impressive too. I often review things for a few days, box them back up and move onto the next, but the Katana is still on my desk well over a week after testing began and I see no motivation to stop using it. I guess my Creative T20 stereo speakers have now been replaced after many years long service!
- Extremely powerful
- Flawless sound quality
- Excellent surround processing
- Multiple profiles
- Easy to use and powerful EQ settings
- RGB LED lighting
- Headphone/microphone support
- Bluetooth pairing
- Compact design
- Easy to setup and use
- Remote control included
- Great for all kinds of multimedia
- Headphone jack placement needs improving
- Height adjustable feet would be a nice improvement
“The Creative Sound BlasterX Katana is as much of a deadly weapon as its namesake. It may be compact and slim, but it gives a stellar performance that’s sure to put a smile on anyone who cares about high-end audio performance in their favourite movies, music, games and more!”