The original Katana soundbar has seen great success since its release years ago – especially among the gaming crowds. And with soundbars in general getting more and more popular – it was probably time for an upgrade.
With the Sound Blaster Katana V2 compact soundbar, Creative took everything that was good about the original – and made it even better, with 68% more power, a bigger subwoofer, a wide variety of connectivity options (including HDMI Arc and Bluetooth), special gaming modes, and clear, pleasant sound.
That being said, this is still a soundbar aimed primarily at gamers – and, with it being so compact, might not be suitable for bigger living rooms. With Cord Busters being dedicated to home entertainment, my main focus in this review is going to be on the Katana V2’s performance where it comes to films, TV watching and music – and there’s certainly much to like, but also some issues. So let’s jump in…
Quick Look – Creative Katana V2
What is it: A compact soundbar (with a separate subwoofer), with Dolby Digital support and special gaming modes.
Value for Money
- Clear, powerful sound
- Very strong – but customisable – bass
- A lot of connectivity options (including BT)
- Almost every setting can be tweaked via the app
- Too small for large living rooms
- Sounds best when you sit in front of it (or very close)
- Instruction manual is lacking
Features and Specs
- Size: 600 x 95 x 62 mm / Subwoofer: 150 x 367 x 367 mm
- Weight: 1.52kg / Subwoofer: 6.4kg
- Drivers: 2x 63mm mid-range drivers / 2x 19m tweeters / 1x 165mm subwoofer driver
- Power: Up to 126W RMS (252W Peak)
- Audio Formats: Dolby Audio 5.1 / SBC
- Ports: HDMI (ARC), Optical-in, Aux-in, USB-C, SXFI-Out, 3.5mm headphones jack
- Wireless: Bluetooth 5
- Extra Features: RGB Lights / LED Status Display / Built-in microphone / 2 Game enhancement modes
The Katana V2 is like the
little compact soundbar that could: its volume levels are surprisingly high, the bass is very strong (but can be tweaked), almost every aspect is customisable, and gamers get some cool additional nuggets. But the size comes at a cost, and this will fit better in a gaming room or even a home office (Though it DOES sound better than most built-in speakers on TVs).
Table of Contents
Who is the Sound Blaster Katana V2 For?
For longtime computer users, the name Creative – and even more so – ‘Sound Blaster’ – brings up a lot of fond memories.
Creative (formerly known as Creative Labs) has been around since the 80s, creating audio products – first with the classic Sound Blaster line of PC sound cards, then moving on to audio hardware – including headphones, speakers and soundbars.
The original Sound Blaster X Katana soundbar was critically acclaimed – so Creative had its work cut out for it when it came time for an upgrade. And indeed, in terms of specs and features – the Katana V2 is a major upgrade.
But who is it for? A soundbar is almost a must for every serious TV watcher these days, as built-in TV speakers, in most cases, sound miserable. But there are lots and lots of soundbars out there, at a wide range of prices – so it’s best to look at your specific needs first.
The Katana V2 doesn’t try to be everything for everyone, and is unapologetic about its focus on gamers. If anything, just look at its super-bright LGB strip that shuffles lights and colours according to the sound it’s playing – that’s not a feature for your grandfather’s soundbar.
The Katana V2 also has two dedicated gaming modes (though they’re intended to be used when headphones are connected), an EQ preset for games, and even some dedicated EQ settings for specific titles.
And it really sounds good when you’re playing: I tested it with a PS5, and the clear audio helped me understand and identify exactly what it is I was listening to at every point – be it an enemy coming from behind, or the sound of a sword being pulled out (a Katana, perhaps?).
That being said – can you use the Katana V2 in your living room, for watching TV? Well, yes, and it even supports Dolby Digital 5.1 – but the compact size means it won’t give you the most cinematic experience one would hope for. Yes, the volume can go up real high – but it doesn’t fill the room with rich sound, as some other, bigger soundbars manage to do. In big rooms, it gets louder – but not necessarily better.
Setting Up The Katana V2
Setting up the Sound Blaster Katana V2 is pretty easy, thanks to the variety of connection ports – you just need to find out what your TV (or computer, or gaming console) supports.
In the box, you get the soundbar and the big subwoofer (it’s pretty heavy at 6.4kg!), the remote control, the power adapter, an optical cable, and a USB-C to USB-A cable. You also get two wall mount brackets, for easy wall installation (but you can just place the soundbar under your TV or computer screen).
There’s no HDMI cable supplied, so keep that in mind if it’s your connection of choice.
There are six physical buttons on the soundbar itself, so you can achieve almost anything – including changing the volume, modes and inputs – without having to look for the remote.
The flexibility continues with the ports on the back:
HDMI Out can be used either for your TV, or for a new-gen gaming console like the PS5. The SXFI-Out port is used to connect to Creative’s proprietary headphones, such as the SXFI Air (but there’s also a regular 3.5mm headphones jack on the front).
Then you get additional audio-in ports, useful for a variety of devices – USB Audio In, Aux-In and Optical In.
For most TVs, you would use either the HDMI port (it’s ‘Out’, but it supports Arc, so the audio goes both ways) or the Optical-In port.
If you have additional devices (such as streaming sticks, for example), you would then connect those to your TV (and not directly to the soundbar), with the TV serving as the “hub” for these devices, passing all the audio to the soundbar.
The one disappointment in the box is the printed manual: it only covers the basics, telling you what each port does, showing you the remote buttons, etc. But with so many advanced functions and features, it’s a shame the supplied manual doesn’t go into more detail.
Using The Katana V2
When you first turn on the Katana V2, the first two things you’ll notice are the small screen on the front – which shows you status messages/volume levels, etc – and of course, the RGB Lights strip.
Is it a useful feature? Not very much. Is it a big distraction when you’re watching a film late at night? Yes. Is it really cool when friends come over to play something on your gaming console? You bet.
Thankfully, those lights can be turned off (or dimmed) with the remote. Even the status messages on the display can be turned off. This brings us to the remote itself.
The Katana V2 remote is thin and easy to hold, despite having so many buttons. Those buttons are there for a reason – as almost every main aspect of the soundbar can be controlled via the remote.
From the EQ presets, to the input selection, light levels, and even the bass levels.
But wait, there’s more – if you install Creative’s smartphone app (available for both iOS and Android), or the Windows app, you get even more control.
You connect your phone to the Katana V2 via Bluetooth, and can then use the app to select from a long list of EQ presets, or fine-tune it yourself. You can also control the “C1-C6” shortcut buttons on the remote – and have each button select a different set of presets/commands.
While this level of fine-tuning and customizability isn’t something most users are going to need day-to-day, it’s nice to get this flexibility – some soundbars don’t even let you control the bass levels…
Katana V2 Audio Quality
Features and RGB lights are nice – but a soundbar’s main function is to, well, play sound.
As I already mentioned, your enjoyment of the Katana’s sound depends a lot on the size of your room – and your particular use-case.
I started by testing it with some music – and why not go right for the jugular with some new ABBA.
Playing their new Keep an Eye on Dan track, this 80s style song really put the soundbar to the test, with its thunderous drums and edgy synths.
Sitting off-centre made the recording feel somewhat flat, so take that into consideration if you’re not planning to sit right in front of the Katana when you’re listening to music.
The bottom end felt a little too much, but thankfully you can control the subwoofer, so the mid’s won’t be completely overtaken by the bass and kick. The overall sound was OK, but some of that hi-end “sparkle” seemed to be missing.
Moving on to the Buggles‘ Video Killed the Radio Star, this one sounded better, with a meaty rhythm section and silky vocals.
The transition from lo-fi vocals on the verse to the glamorously open singing on the chorus was surprisingly effective, and when we cranked the volume up, the Katana handled it rather well.
The overall sound is pleasant with impressive bottom frequencies and clear vocals, making the song sound good.
The next test was TV-watching. The Katana V2 has several different EQ preset modes – some accessible with the remote, while others can only be reached via the app.
The various preset modes (Movies, Music, Games, Night) didn’t do much for me – the differences between them were pretty minor. Changing the bass levels, however, did have a major effect, as the big subwoofer can reach some impressive levels (so be careful not to annoy your neighbours at night!).
When I watched effects-heavy films like Spider-Man: Far From Home, the sound was very clear, with good separation between the music, sound effects and speech, which was sharp and easy to understand.
That being said, in a living room (and not a very big one at that), everything was a bit low-key: I didn’t get that awe-inspiring sound you get from a big soundbar, and my living room at no point turned into a cinema.
Yes, the volume can get very high, and there’s no distortion – but the soundscape does stay a bit small, localised around the soundbar itself. It’s not a surprise when the soundbar is this small (if anything, the surprise is that it can reach such high volume levels) – but it really does shine in smaller rooms.
Some of Katana’s dedicated gaming features are meant to be used when you connect headphones to it: Creative’s SXFI technology, for example, which simulates surround sound, or the two modes aimed at first-person shooter gamers, “Scout Mode” and “SXFI Battle Mode”.
It’s an interesting choice for a soundbar – to give you features that require headphones. But it emphasizes Creative’s attempt to give gamers what they want, with this device.
Bottom Line: Is The Katana V2 For Me?
Some soundbars put cinematics first (check out Creative’s own Stage 360). Some focus on music, while others try to be a jack-of-all-trades.
The Katana V2 has a very clear focus: gamers. If that’s your main focus as well, then this soundbar is a winner, especially if you’re used to cheap headphones or to your TV’s tiny speakers.
If you’re a gamer, the Katana V2 will ALSO do a decent job when you’re watching films and TV, and not just for your console or computer. It’s not this soundbar’s high-point, but it’ll still be better than your TV’s speakers, or some particularly cheap soundbars that are available out there.
It’s also a winner if you’re struggling for space – it truly is compact, and provides much more volume and sound quality than its size hints at.
If you’re looking to use Katana V2 in your small or mid-sized gaming room, for playing games – and occasionally to watch some TV with it – then it won’t disappoint you. Its performance when watching films is not bad – it’s just not as impressive as what you get when you’re using it for games.
Note: The Katana V2 was supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.