Sound BlasterX Katana
It’s been a few weeks since we reviewed a Creative sound product, so it’s about time we give our thoughts on something new. We have had the Sound BlasterX Katana Under Monitor Audio System for a few weeks now, and we are loving almost everything about it, from it’s fairly small footprint, to the sound it can pump out. We know we aren’t the most technically knowledgeable crew on the Internet, but we know good sound when we hear it. The Katana? That’s good sound.
The Katana was initially set up alongside my Nintendo Switch review unit in my office, where a large sound system would never work because of the available space. Thankfully, the Katana has a very small footprint, fitting nicely below my television without obstructing any of my TV view. The subwoofer fit nicely alongside my cabinet on the floor; the thin design meant that tons of space was not being allocated to it.
The cords all come out of the back of the sound bar: an optical cord going to my television, power cord to the outlet, and the subwoofer cable. All these cable easily went out the back of the bar, under my TV screen, and to the appropriate locations. There was little mess, and unlike a full sound system, very few wires and cables to worry about. The system comes with brackets should you want to mount the system on a wall. While I didn’t choose to set mine up this way, it’s nice that Creative thought of the consumer when putting extras in the box.
Once everything was in place, the setup looked very sharp. I was impressed with the design of the unit – it’s not particularly flashy, unless you want it to be – and how well it fit into the aesthetic of my office. Even before turning it on, I was really happy with what I saw.
The Katana speaker is a five driver system, four in the sound bar and one in the subwoofer. The 4 in the bar are broken down in sets of two: two speakers pumping the audio out the top of the unit, and 2 pumping the audio out the front. When you add in the 5th driver in the subwoofer, you get a great 360 degree audio experience that rivals some of the more expensive 5.1 systems on the market today. Full specifications for the unit can be found on the product page here.
For such a small unit, I somewhat expected a ‘small sound.’ After all, I think Creative designed these speakers to ideally be used with a home computer setup, making connections to a TV a secondary option. Despite being designed for that purpose, the Katana does not lack sound. It’s not often I get a noise complaint from neighbors, but I did when I turned up the speakers during a movie. It is loud!
Turning up your average, run-of-the-mill speakers isn’t usually a good idea as the louder the audio becomes, the more distorted it is likely to be. Not with the Katana. Even when I maxed it out to level 50, everything was crisp and clear. Whether I was watching war movies with huge explosion, or playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – with it’s soft tunes but bursts of explosive sound – the Katana never disappointed. I never once heard any distortion, even when the speakers reached for those very high, or very low, sounds and melodies.
Playing Breath of the Wild really showed off what this system can do. The latest game from Nintendo, on the Nintendo Switch and Wii U, has varied sound outputs throughout the entire experience. When exploring the vast world, the game provides very subtle melodies in the background to coincide with the sights and sounds of Hyrule, including birds chirping, streams flowing, waterfalls…falling, and more. The Katana does a great job pushing all these sounds to your ears, and making those random pops of sound jump right out to you, perfectly.
Storms in Breath of the Wild were the ultimate example of what the Katana can do. While doing a great job pushing the pitter-patter of rain drops on various surfaces – rocks, roofs, etc. – the bar also provided the satisfying boom over thunder claps and lightning strikes that my TV speakers were definitely not giving me. This is the type of game where a good set of speakers – or a fantastic sound bar – really pay off.
Lots of Connectivity
Like all Creative Products, the Sound BlasterX Katana has lots of connectivity options, from optical and auxiliary out, to Bluetooth. Because my iRoar is just in the next room, I didn’t take advantage of the Bluetooth functionality or test it’s range. For the best audio experience, I opted for optical out against the auxiliary out, and I’ve had no issues with those connections.
The Bells and Whistles
This wouldn’t be a true Creative product without a few bells and whistles. The most noticeable is the strip of LED lights you’ll find running along the bottom front of the sound bar itself, which can be programed – if connected to a computer, and using the downloadable software. If you strictly use it with your television, don’t fret, as Creative as built in the most important LED configurations that you would want, including a nighttime mode. At its most bright moments, the Katana’s blue glow actually does the trick of easing the eye strain when watching movies in the dark; generally, movie fans will put LED strips around the outside of their TVs. I found with this function on the Katana, it wasn’t really necessary.
The Katana system also comes with a remote, and this is one area where I feel Creative could improve on it’s products. Functionality wise, the remote works fine, but for such an expensive product, a more substantial remote might have been a better option. This current remote – which is similar to those in other Creative speaker products – feels fairly cheap when in your hands. It’s a small gripe, but a gripe none the less.
I haven’t been able to get the Katana to program into my cable remote which is fairly frustrating. I assume picking up a Harmony remote from the store would probably solve all my entertainment problems, but that also comes with an added expense. At the time of writing, I had reached out to Creative to ask a few questions about 3rd party remote support, as my system has been reacting poorly to my cable remote.
Let me explain.
I usually leave my Katana unit on 24/7. It ‘sleeps’ when not in use, but fires up right away when I want it too. For movies and video games, I’ve found the perfect audio level to be pleasing to me, but not disrupting to others. I’ve noticed over the weeks I have used this product, that if I attempt to do ANYTHING on my cable remote, there is some mix-up in frequencies and things will begin happening on my Katana unit. If I press the guide button, my audio might go down. If I click the favorites button, my audio might go up. It’s somewhat frustrating, but thankfully not that frequent. Since most people will be using this with a computer, it’s probably a mute point. But even those using it with their TVs shouldn’t worry to much as this was a ‘only once in a while’ type of issue.
We love the Sound BlasterX Katana over here at GamesReviews.com because of it’s great sound and small footprint. With more and more people realizing that owning home is very expensive, apartments are becoming increasingly popular. Often, lack of space reduces ones ability to have a quality audio system for their movies and games. The Katana definitely fixes that problem.
Whether you are using this system on your TV or your computer, the price is justified by the quality of the product. We’ve said this often about Creative, and we will say it again: they know how to make great audio products.