Back in the day, I had a good old Creative Sound Blaster 5.1 surround speaker system for my computer — in fact, I still have it sitting on a shelf (unfortunately) gathering dust. While it sounded fantastic at the time (I just might have to hook it back up to see how well it stands the test of time), it did take up a lot of space. Our Sound BlasterX Katana review takes a look at an extremely loud, sleek looking, under monitor RGB soundbar solution for your computer, console, or TV. Read on to see why this compact gaming soundbar earned a Top Pick of 2017 here at Techaeris.
The Creative Sound BlasterX Katana has the following features and specifications:
- 5 high-performance drivers individually driven by DSPs
- 2 up-firing midbass drivers
- 2 high-excursion tweeters
- a long-throw subwoofer in an external subwoofer unit
- Powerful 150W peak power (75W RMS) total output
- 24-bit high-resolution audio
- Doubles as an advanced Sound Blaster sound card
- Automatically analyzes and restores dynamics in compressed audio tracks in real time
- Fully customizable BlasterX Acoustic Engine audio enhancements capable of 7.1 surround sound
- Certified Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder
- USB connectivity for exceptional 24-bit/96kHz high-definition lossless audio playback from PC and Mac
- Supports USB flash drive connectivity for convenient MP3, WMA, FLAC and WAV content access and playback
- Optical input for high-definition digital audio playback from TVs and game consoles
- Bluetooth® connectivity for wireless playback from mobile devices
- Stereo 3.5 mm analog line-in
- Fully customizable Aurora Reactive lighting system with 16.8 million LED lighting
- Aluminium-reinforced monocoque chassis reduces unwanted vibrations that reduce audio clarity
- Comes with an IR remote control
- Power output
- Main unit: 45 W RMS (15 W RMS x 2 Mids + 7.5 W RMS x 2 Tweeters)
- Subwoofer: 30 W RMS
- Total: 75 W RMS / 150 W Peak
- Frequency response
- Main unit: 150 ~ 20,000 Hz
- Subwoofer: 20 ~ 150 Hz
- 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
- 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)
- Soundbar: 1.5kg (3.3 lbs)
- Subwoofer: 4kg (8.8 lbs)
- System requirements
- Wireless Streaming: Compatible Bluetooth devices that support the Stereo Bluetooth Profile (A2DP)
- Wireless Control: Compatible Bluetooth devices that support the Bluetooth Remote Control (AVRCP)
- 7.1 Virtual Surround Audio Playback: Windows PC
- Digital 5.1 Audio Playback: Optical-in
- High-resolution 24-bit 96kHz Audio Playback: PC via USB Connection
- 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.
- Sound Blaster Connect
- 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)
- Direct Connection to AUX-in Jack: Analog audio devices with a 3.5mm output
What’s in the box
- Sound BlasterX Katana Soundbar
- Sound BlasterX Katana Subwoofer
- Power Adapter
- USB Cable
- IR remote (battery included)
- 2x Wall Mount Brackets
- Warranty & Technical Support leaflet
- Quick Start Guide
- Safety & Regulatory leaflet
- 1-year limited warranty
Like its namesake, the Katana sword, the Sound BlasterX Katana has a nice sleek looking design. Considering Creative is marketing this as an under monitor audio system, that sleek look and design are needed.
On the top of the Katana, you’ll find your control buttons in the middle of the black brushed metal top plate, just below the Sound BlasterX logo plate. The buttons consist of the power/Bluetooth button & indicator, volume down button, volume up button, source button, and the audio/lighting preset button. On either side of these buttons, closer to each end is an up-firing 2.5″ midbass driver with a slightly concave speaker grill.
While the back of the Katana is straight, the front speaker grille angles out towards each edge, giving it a sharp look. Contained within these angled edges are the high-excursion tweeters which are optimized for low crossover frequency. The placement isn’t an afterthought either as it allows you to set the Katana behind a laptop without obstructing the sound output. Centered under the control buttons is your LED status display.
The back of the Katana is where you’ll find all your inputs and connections. From left to right you’ll find your power port, subwoofer out jack, mic in jack, headset jack, line in jack, optical jack, USB flash drive port, and USB port for connecting to a computer for high-res 24-bit/96kHz digital audio playback. Notably missing are an HDMI in and out port. I’m not sure how much extra engineering would be required to stick one in, but it would definitely expand the capabilities by being able to hook this up to a TV and use it as a TV soundbar as well. While you can do that with the optical audio, not all TVs have that feature.
Finally, the bottom of the soundbar houses the fully programmable 16.8 million color LED light bar comprised of 49 separate LEDs. Also located on the bottom are removable feet which allow you to fit the Katana into a wall or console shelf should you choose to do so. When the feet are attached, the Katana is angled slightly upwards projecting the sound towards you.
Given that the Sound BlasterX Katana soundbar is just under 2 ½” high and just about 2′ wide, it should fit nicely on most desks under the monitor.
The subwoofer is nice and slim at just over 5″ wide but is taller and fairly deep and best suited for placing under your desk. Black as well, the subwoofer consists of a specially tuned wooden enclosure with a port tube for the 5 ¼” long-throw driver. While it isn’t the smallest of subwoofers, it’s thinner footprint allows it to be nicely tucked away and out of the way.
The Katana also comes with an IR remote which has 16 buttons to control your system. It includes your typical power, mute, media control, and source buttons, as well as a lighting preset, bass, and LED button.
Ease of Use
Setting up the Sound Blaster X Katana is pretty easy. Once you’ve figured out where you’re going to put it, connect the subwoofer to the soundbar, then plug it into your computer using the included USB cable or your console or TV via the optical audio jack. Plug in the sound bar, press the power button, and you’re off and running.
Once you’re set up, press the power button to switch it on (or off). When on, the indicator light around the button will glow white. The power button also doubles as the Bluetooth button and holding it down for three seconds will enter pairing mode. When a Bluetooth device is connected to the speaker, the indicator light glows blue. As expected, the volume down and up button control the volume of the speaker. The source button cycles between computer, Bluetooth, AUX, Optical, and USB drive inputs. Finally, the audio lighting preset button cycles through the audio and lighting preset.
Each of the above functions can also be easily completed with the included IR remote control which is handy if you’ve connected the Katana to your console and placed it under a TV or some place that’s not within arm’s reach.
While the Katana works well out of the box, you’ll want to download the Sound Blaster Connect software to take full advantage of the fine tuning and LED customization that’s available.
The Sound BlasterX Katana takes advantage of the Sound Blaster Connect software on Windows computers. The Dashboard lets you choose from a number of pre-installed presets such as Concert, Gaming, and Cinema, or choosing even more from a downloadable library. These include game specific presets for games like Battlefield 1, Overwatch, DOTA 2, and others created by the BlasterX Pro-Gaming Team. You can even save your custom presets to this library. Each preset lets you customize lighting, enable/disable the equalizer, set the Immersion, Crystalizer, Smart Volume, and Dialog+ BlasterX Acoustic Engine settings, Voice noise reduction and morph, and Dolby intensity.
The Immersion setting produces virtual speakers around, above, and below you and when set to Ultra Wide it really does provide for some stellar immersion in a regular sized room. Crystalizer helps make sure every audio detail is heard, while smart volume minimizes abrupt volume changes by automatically adjusting the loudness of your audio playback. Finally, Dialog Plus enhances voices in music and movies for clearer vocal ranges.
The Dolby dial allows you to use Dynamic Range Control with wide volume to customize the volume swings between loud and quiet sounds to match your listening preferences. Finally, the equalizer lets you adjust 10 frequencies between 31Hz and 16k Hz, as well as adjust the overall bass and treble.
If you have a microphone or headset connected, you can enable noise reduction and morph your voice into a number of other characters including male, female, orc, emo, chipmunk, marine, and others.
The last setting, Lighting, is arguably the most fun. With this, you can select from nine different presets that utilize six different motions, four directions, seven color zones (each can be set to one of 16.8 million colours), and speed. You can also create your own and specify all the same settings to customize the look of the LED lighting under the Katana soundbar.
For starters, this thing is INSANELY LOUD. Caps intended. The highest I was able to push it without going deaf was 20, which translates into 40/100 on the Windows volume scale. During regular gameplay and other computer tasks, a volume of 6 was more than sufficient in most cases. Even though it’s listed as a 2.1 sound system, when connected through optical audio you can achieve 5.1 surround sound and when connected via USB to a PC, you can experience high-resolution 24-bit 96kHz audio playback and virtual 7.1 surround sound.
Our primary tests were via USB and optical audio connections to a PC, as well as Bluetooth streaming from a smartphone. In all three scenarios, there was a good balance of sound in games, movies, videos, and music. The different audio presets and software definitely make a difference and allow you to set up your sound exactly as you desire. The balance between lows, mids, and highs is fantastic out of the box, and being able to toggle audio presets and tweak sound via the software definitely enhances the audio experience.
While the sound is crisp and clear, once you start heading past 24 or so, it can get muddied depending on the music and your settings. After some minor adjustments and tweaks though, the same clarity can be achieved as at lower volumes. Honestly though, unless you are really hard of hearing, you’ll never need to have your volume that high. The Sound BlasterX Katana is still deserving of a perfect sound score as it is more than loud enough at a volume level of 20 and can be tweaked to remain clear, crisp, and has a nice balance across low, mid, and high tone ranges across all volume levels.
With an MSRP of $299.99USD, this soundbar isn’t exactly cheap. Given the sound quality, design, build quality, and various inputs including Bluetooth support, it’s not overly expensive, but it is also currently on sale on Creative’s site and Amazon for $249.99USD, giving it more bang for your buck.
If you’ve been looking for a compact gaming sound solution for your desktop computer, the Sound BlasterX Katana delivers fantastic sound for games, movies, and music in a solidly designed package.