Creative Sound BlasterX Katana Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware

Whoever that wrote the promotional material for the Katana is quite an artist in their use of language. With this soundbar named after a sword "so technologically perfect in structure and so demanding in its creation", the company claims it "exhibits the same sleek sophistication and formidable strength in its design and audio prowess". And what do we have here? The Sound BlasterX Katana is a sleek and slim speaker designed to go underneath your monitor. Measuring in at 79mm in depth, 600mm in width, 60mm in height (46mm without the legs), and tipping the scales at 3.3 lbs, this soundbar looks great in person. The clean lines in conjunction with its sturdy, brushed aluminum panel exhibits an air of modernity. It is cold to touch and solid to behold. The choice of material is functional as well; where its construction promises to minimize harmful vibrations that reduce sound clarity.

Hidden behind the metal speaker grille that wraps the extends on every vertical side other than the back of the Sound BlasterX Katana soundbar is an infrared receiver for the remote and an eight character, seven-segment display in the middle used to show information such as current input, system status, or volume. On both the angled off sides is a pair of 1.3" high-excursion tweeters with inverted alloy dome diaphragms and wide polymer surrounds. Creative claims these tweeters are capable of extending into the midrange at a much lower frequency than conventional tweeters for better sound cohesion. At the top, two 2.5" up-firing midrange drivers inside a ported enclosure promises transparent midrange and a wide soundstage. Each driver is individually chambered inside the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana soundbar.

Five buttons adjacent to the Sound BlasterX branding on the top provides direct control of the system. From the left to the right, we have power/pair, volume down, volume up, source, and mode. All of these should be self-explanatory other than the mode button, which I will talk about in just a moment. The two outside buttons are LED lit around their perimeters. The LED around the power/pair button dims when the system is off, glows bright white when the system is on, and changes to blue when a Bluetooth device is connected. The LED for the mode button remains bright white at all times.

A slim subwoofer is included to fill in the lower frequencies otherwise not reached by the quad drivers located on the soundbar itself. The subwoofer has dimensions of 333mm by 130mm by 299mm and weighs in at 8.8 lbs, which houses one 5.25″ driver inside. The long-throw driver features a "super stiff" paper cone and low loss surround. The enclosure cabinet is made out of MDF with a flared port tube.

Here is a shot at the back of the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana powered soundbar. By "powered", it means it comes with an internal amplifier. What we have here is an internal amplifier located inside the right speaker that produces a combined output of 75W RMS. There are actually three DSP-controlled amplifiers inside the soundbar, where one stereo amp powers the tweeters, a second stereo amp powers the midrange drivers, and a third mono amp powers the subwoofer. The multi-core 24-bit/96kHz DSP supports Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding. Power is supplied by a 100 to 240V external power supply.

As you can see in our photo above, Creative offers a generous array of input connectors on the Sound BlasterX Katana. There is an auxiliary 3.5mm jack, optical, USB flash drive, and PC USB. Unlike many powered computer speakers with multiple inputs I have used in the past, you can select between auxiliary, optical, USB, computer, and Bluetooth separately, which is very useful for those who plan to hook up some newer cable boxes that cannot be turned off or muted. One unique feature when reading off a USB drive directly is the Katana supports virtual 7.1 surround. There is a 3.5mm microphone input when you are using this soundbar with your computer on USB. On the output side, there is an amplified RCA subwoofer jack. A 3.5mm output is also available to automatically mute the speakers when you connect a pair of headphones.

On the wireless side, its Bluetooth 4.2 operation depends on an internal antenna. To start, simply hold down the power/pair button to enter into pairing mode. Once a device is paired, switch to Bluetooth for the input. The AAC protocol is supported over Bluetooth in addition to SBC. SBC, or Subband Coding, is the default Bluetooth audio codec with reasonably good audio quality and low processing power requirements.

Creative includes a remote control to go with the Sound BlasterX Katana, shown in our photo above. The remote control is made out of plastic, powered by a single CR2032 battery, and has a relatively simple layout. Everything should be self-explanatory other than a select few. The "X" logo underneath the power button is the same as the mode button on the soundbar itself that allows you to toggle between EQ presets, which includes Neutral, Gaming, Concert, Cinema, and Night. The button labeled "Display" toggles the seven-segment display on or off. Lastly, the "LED" button is used with the Aurora Reactive Lighting System. The Katana is equipped with 49 programmable LEDs underneath the soundbar to provide RGB underglow effects with 16.8 million colors. Preset lighting effects include Wave Ice Blue, Wave Rainbow, Solo Orange, and Aurora. These lighting effects are independently set and associated with different EQ preset modes. They are not user-customizable, nor does it have visualizer effects. Of course, you can turn them off if you find it distracting.

With all this in mind, it is now time to put the Creative Sound BlasterX Katana through APH Networks' infamous subjective audio tests.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis
4. Conclusion