Creative Sound Blaster Katana Review

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Creative makes some of the best audio products around. Creative was founded in 1981 and set out to create products that would revolutionize the way people interact with their PCs. They are mostly famous for their Sound Blaster line of sound cards and premium audio products. They lately have specialized in creating creative gaming solutions for PC gamers. I will be looking at a new product called the Sound Blaster X Katana. This is a multi-channel gaming soundbar that was created with the intent of giving gamers superior audio without taking up too much space. The product is named after the famous katana sword that is perfect in structure and demands sophistication. Can this gaming sound bar stand up to being the perfect audio solution for your PC? Let’s dive into what makes this soundbar so unique and why it’s branded as a gaming soundbar.

Why buy the Katana soundbar?

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The Creative X katana was designed to fit under tight spaces and produce audio that is in a league of its own. The soundbar is powered by Creative’s multi-core audio DSP which titles itself as the world’s first true under the monitor or TV audio system. Creative likes to label this UMAS (Under Monitor Audio System). You can expect an immersive audio experience with the BlasterX Acoustic Engine and Dolby Digital 5.1 Decoder. It runs at a powerful 24-bit resolution and is has 5 individual drivers powered by DSP amplifiers. This UMAS offers all the connectivity options you will need for your TV or desktop to improve your gaming audio.

System specifications are as follows:

System Configuration
2.1 system
Dimensions (H x W x D)
Soundbar: 60.0 x 600.0 x 79.0 mm (2.4 x 23.6 x 3.1 inches), Subwoofer: 333 x 130 x 299 mm (5.1 x 11.8 x 13.1 inches)
Weight
Soundbar: 1.5kg (3.3 lbs), Subwoofer: 4kg (8.8 lbs)
Bluetooth® Version
Bluetooth 4.2
Bluetooth Profile
A2DP (Wireless Stereo Bluetooth)
Supported Codecs
AAC, SBC
Connector Type
Bluetooth, AUX-in, Optical-in, USB FlashDrive, USB Audio, Mic-in, Headset out
Color
Black
Remote Control
Infrared

System Requirements

  • 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:
    Windows PC
  • For Digital 5.1 Audio Playback:
    Optical-in
  • 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
    1GB RAM
    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

Shipping

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The product packaging here is just awesome. I really like how the subwoofer towers the soundbar and like the Aurora lights background. It really is trying to advertise the reactive Aurora lighting for under the soundbar.  You can also see a few more advertised features on the front like 24-bit Digital Audio and 150W peak performance. The back of the box labels everything before you even open the box, so if you are wondering what something does just look at the back of the box. It goes over some of the best features provided by the Katana like DSP-powered drivAurora Aurora lighting, and tri-amplified design. I have to give it to creative when it comes to product packaging as they always know how to promote their products well.

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The included accessories are:

  • 1 x Sound BlasterX Katana Soundbar
  • 1 x Sound BlasterX Katana Subwoofer
  • 1 x Power Adapter
  • 1 x USB Cable
  • 1 x IR remote (battery included)
  • Warranty & Technical Support leaflet
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Safety & Regulatory leaflet

The one thing that I love about this soundbar is the included remote. This is a fantastic feature that makes this even more useful when using the soundbar under a TV. This can be used either way in either situation and I love that they didn’t make this all about the PC. It offers good audio for both console and PC gamers and this is why this product will do so well. The main difference is you can control more with the PC software but hopefully, that won’t translate into a difference in audio quality across platforms. The optical in for the TV does only produce 5.1 surround sound vs the USB sound card for PC offering virtual 7.1 surround audio.

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The included remote is really a game changer for this product and makes it even easier to use. You can sit back and enjoy your movie with the Katana’s built in IR remote control. The remote controls everything from different lighting modes to selecting the right input. It is really thin and rather small, so keeping track of it may be troublesome if you have kids but its functionality is what makes it so great. I actually liked that I didn’t have to download the Katana software for PC just to change the different lighting effects. Everything works well right out of the box. This makes setting up the Katana extremely easy for TV use.

Design

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The Katana’s best features are its ability to fit into tight spaces and offer a slim profile shorter than 60mm. The chassis uses brushed aluminum for a nice sturdy industrial look. This also helps minimize harmful vibrations that can reduce sound clarity.

The Katana also incorporates the Aurora Reactive lighting system. It has 49 programmable LED lights from edge to edge and has 16.8 million colors. This can elevate your gaming or viewing experience and offer an accent ambiance to your setup. You can control different built-in lighting profiles from the remote or customize your options further with the creative Katana PC software.

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The katana uses a 5-driver design and each driver is powered by a DSP-controlled amplifier. You have 2x up-firing midbass drivers on the top, 2x high-excursion tweeters on the front, and your long-throw subwoofer driver. The 2.5″ midbass drivers are dynamic and provide a wider soundstage. The tweeters are 1.3″ and can resonate surrounds with low frequency. The subwoofer long-throw driver is housed in a CARB-compliant MDF cabinet for increased output.

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The Tri-Amplified design has a total output of 75RMS/150W peak power. This will provide clean high-definition audio throughout your room.  The amplifiers are DSP controlled by Creative’s proprietary multicore Digital Signal processor (DSP). Two are for the high frequency, another two for mids, and one for the bass.

In addition to the DSP-powered amps, the Katana also has high-resolution 24-bit audio. This will provide lossless clear audio and is a certified Dolby Digital decoder that converts analog stereo sound to 5.1 over optical, 7.1  Virtual sound over the USB sound card which has a bit rate of 96kHz.

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The connectivity option for the Katana:

  • Aux
  • Bluetooth
  • USB
  • Computer
  • Optical-In

There is an actual USB port on the rear of the Katana which will allow you to use it as an integrated audio player. You can play music off of your flash drive just by hitting the play button.

The built-in Bluetooth uses Bluetooth v4.2 and allows you to connect devices with a range of up to 10 meters. This adds an even further listening dynamic and provides great wireless audio. At this point, I’m beginning to think what doesn’t the Katana offer?

Optical in provides a Dolby Digital experience with 5.1 audio for console gaming and movie nights. Personally, I have found more use for this hardware as a TV soundbar replacement as it provides excellent audio quality for both my gaming and movies needs. I tend to steer more towards high-end headphones for my PC like Creative’s Sound Blaster H7’s.

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What the USB sound card provides is virtual 7.1 surround sound with 24bit/96kHz over the USB connection.

If you have a family like I do or grouchy neighbors this is going to disrupt someone with all this audio power but it doesn’t have to. If you like to paly games at night or don’t have any time to do so until then the built-in headphone jack is a game changer.  The built in dedicated headphone and microphone jacks work with most headsets so you can game at any hour of the night.

Testing

Testing audio is never easy and can require expensive equipment. I wanted to make things a bit simpler to help you understand the audio quality of this device. I use the Katana as my main soundbar for all my audio needs for my TV. I have recorded a game clip from my XBOX ONE while playing DOOM. This should give a clear indication of the audio quality you can expect. I used a fiber optic cable to achieve the 5.1 surround sound over the sound bar. For the 7.1 test, I captured audio from Star Wars Battlefront to help distinguish the surround sound and sounds you can hear from Creative’s built in software. The PC audio was captured using an experimental build of Geforce Experience. I was not able to provide an exact link to the experimental build because it hasn’t been released yet.

My test bench is as follows:

  • ViewSonic XG2703-GS Monitor
  • Motherboard- EVGA Z170 Classified K
  • CPU: Intel Core I7 6700K
  • Network Card- Netgear AC 1200 USB
  • Cooler- EKWB Predator 280mm AIO
  • Memory- Avexiir DDR4 3000 MHz
  • Video Card: Nvidia GTX 1060
  • Storage-  Zotac Sonix 480GB (Boot Drive) / Toshiba VX500 512GB  / Seagate 3TB
  • Power Supply- Corsair RM650X / Sleeved CableMod red/black cables
  • OS: Windows 10 x64 Pro
  • Sound Bar- Creative Katana X

Software

The software really only applies to the PC side of things. You do have built in profiles for easy switching while connected to your TV. The most noticeable built in profile is “Gaming” and improves the audio for your console games.

The built-in TV profiles and default RGB lights are:

  • Cinema – Orange RGB
  • Night- Blue/Purple color shift
  • Neutral- RGB off
  • Gaming- Blue RGB wave
  • Concert- RGB Rainbow wave

The test above showcases some audio from the game DOOM and is in 5.1 surround over an optical cable.

To set up the virtual 7.1 and control the Katana with your PC you need to download the Sound Blaster Connect software. You can find the download here.

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The creative software available for the Katana gives you total control over the sound bar. You have options to change RGB lighting effects, Sound profiles, and voice control.

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The sound settings allow optimization over EQ settings, Dolby, and Creative’s own Acoustic Engine.

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The main “Dashboard” give you a more immersive experience. You can switch up a ton of options here with profiles. You have the built-in installed profiles on the speaker and under “Library” specific optimized game profiles. It’s nice to even see newer games like Overwatch.

The above audio clip of battlefront indicates the virtual 7.1 surround sound from the PC side of the Katana. You should be able to hear the subtle differences between the 5.1 over optical versus the PC’s 7.1.

Conclusion

The creative Katana offers easy access to excellent audio. You can experience the power of creatives technologies and Acoustic Engine on your TV or PC. Setup was extremely easy and requires little efforts. I really appreciate all the connectivity option included with the Katana. You can listen to your music over Bluetooth, Play games and watch movies on your TV, or use it as a dedicated soundcard on your PC.

This sound bar is a must have for any gamer or audio enthusiasts. The Katana blew me away with its performance! The compact dimensions make it fit in tight spaces and offers some of the best audio I have heard from any sound bar. You can buy the Katana right now from Creative for $299.00 on the Creative store.

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Creative Sound Blaster Katana Review

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