When it comes to making inexpensive Bluetooth speakers, I’ve always had good experiences with Creative Labs. But the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana isn’t just a Bluetooth speaker. The Katana was designed for gamers to be the first under-monitor speaker system for anyone who wants to up their setup.
Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a gamer (mainly because I don’t have a PC), but I do dabble in the occasional game on my PS4 and am rapidly approaching level 30 in Splatoon 2 on my Nintendo Switch. I know, I know, pretty impressive. But despite my lack of gaming cred, the system shouldn’t affect how the speaker sounds. So when I got a chance to check it out, of course I said yes.
The Creative Sound BlasterX Katana isn’t what I would consider cheap at around $300, but is it actually worth the money, or just a glorified Bluetooth speaker?
Who’s it for?
- Gamers (obviously). This should go without saying, but the gaming under-monitor soundbar is perfect for gamers because of its slim design that can go right on the desk. I actually used it with my PS4 and had no issues thanks to an optical input on the back.
- People in small apartments/college students. Because of the small size of the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana, it’s easy to find a place for it in a small room. Plus, it can double as the sound system when watching movies because of how loud it gets. And playing music over Bluetooth allows anyone to pair and play DJ.
Is the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana built as tough as the legendary weapon?
No. But that doesn’t mean it’s cheap either. Though both the soundbar and the subwoofer are mainly constructed from plastic, the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana soundbar seems well put together. It resembles an oddly shaped spaceship more than it does an ancient Japanese weapon, but it still feels nice to touch.
Judging by the giant box that it comes in, you might expect the speaker to be somewhat large—but that’s only because of the subwoofer. The actual soundbar is roughly 60cm in length (about 24 inches) and weighs surprisingly little. I had no problem during setup, because I could just pick it up and spin it around to find the necessary ports. The subwoofer is a different story, standing 30cm (13 inches) tall; it definitely deserves a spot under your desk for itself.
Up top, the soundbar is a smooth, brushed aluminum that maintains a minimal look, despite the buttons and dual speakers. Unless you lose the included remote, you probably won’t have to use the buttons too much, and that’s a good thing because they’re probably the worst part of the build quality. The buttons look fine at first, but once you start touching it: you’ll notice the super-plastic feel that lets you know this is where some corners were cut. On either end of the soundbar, you’ll get two 63.5mm upward-firing midbass drivers to complement the dual 34mm tweeters that face forward through the grill. For everyone keeping track at home: that’s four drivers plus the sub (which has a 133mm driver), making it a 5.1 setup.
On the back, you’ll get all the inputs needed to connect everything together. But the stand-out feature is what Creative calls the Aurora Reactive lighting system. For the rest of us, they’re just the LED lights all along the bottom of the soundbar. At first glance, I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough. If there’s one thing you want to do to attract the gamers, just throw some LEDs on it, right? But I have to admit, it’s awesome.
It’s supposed to go along with your RGB keyboard and gaming mouse, but as I’ve mentioned, I have none of that. And as the sole piece of tech on my TV stand with color, it’s really a slick looking speaker. I thought the lights would be very in-your-face, but they’re fairly subtle and you have the option to turn them off completely. You can switch between a few different color modes, too; so if you get tired of having all the pulsing colors of the rainbow, you can switch it to a constant dark blue (my personal favorite).
All of the inputs are along the back, and it’s a pretty basic layout depending on your setup. From left to right you get the power input, the subwoofer connector, mic in, 3.5mm headphone jack, aux in, optical input, and a USB input if you have music on a flash drive that you want to play. You can also play from a playlist if you have the Sound Blaster Connect desktop app, but it’s only available on PC. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test this part out.
I connected my PS4 via the optical input without issue and was playing in minutes. I didn’t even need to go digging through any menus to change settings. The speaker has Dolby Digital 5.1 decoder (which came in handy while watching movies), and it has a 24-bit high-res DAC that you can take advantage of via the USB connection. Then you can also connect via Bluetooth 4.2 if you want.
The range is a standard 10m, which is fine as long you stay in the same room as the speaker. Once I left and began walking around the house, there were a few stutters, but that’s to be expected.
When it comes to how the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana sounds, one thing that surprised about it was just how loud it gets. I wasn’t expecting the output to be too loud based on its size, but I was wrong. At max volume, you can easily hear everything from a few rooms away, so if you have roommates or live with other people, try to not be that guy.
Still, this setup definitely lives up to my past experiences with Creative products. Despite the fact that the only Bluetooth codec of note is AAC, it manages to sound really good. This is probably because of the subwoofer, which does a great job separating out the low end from the rest of the elements in the song. The bassline in the song Egyptian Fantasy by Bria Skonberg easily creeps underneath the brass instruments exactly as it should, without ever masking any of the percussion elements going on.
In songs that have a little more going on, like Get Free by Major Lazer, the low notes are a little more powerful. But because of the separation between drivers, it still manages to be strong without getting in the way of the other softer elements in the song. I will say that some of the highs seemed to be lacking in clarity.
The intro to the song What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye made me think that I had left the TV on in the background, because the talking people didn’t even sound like they were coming from directly in front of me. It obviously isn’t going to rival a full surround sound setup, but like I said, for such a small sound bar meant to be placed on your desk I was impressed.
If you couldn’t tell by the overall tone of this review, I really enjoyed my time with the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana. Normally, I’d categorize something like this as a “good sound for what you’re paying” type of situation, but that doesn’t really work here. The Katana just straight up sounds really good. It’s still a pretty hefty investment for anyone looking to use it strictly for gaming, but if you also use it as your main setup for movies and maybe music, it definitely seems to be worth it for me.
If you’re looking for a setup to put in your brand new home theater room, this isn’t for you. You’ll probably be better off looking at something like the LG SKY10 soundbar. But I can see the Katana working wonders in a dorm room or apartment situation because of its small size and big sound. If you’re looking to step up your audio game, this might be the move.