Creative’s original Katana soundbar was a very popular and critically acclaimed speaker. Its sequel, the Katana V2, improved on many of the original’s features. And now, just 10 months after the release of V2 – we’re getting the brand new Katana V2X soundbar.
The Sound Blaster Katana V2X is basically a slimmed-down version of the V2, with everything that was good about that version still around – with a lot of hidden power, excellent sound quality, RGB lights, a wide variety of connectivity options (including HDMI Arc and Bluetooth), and – this time around – a subwoofer that is 40% smaller than its predecessor on the V2.
As before, this is a soundbar aimed primarily at gamers, with special gaming modes and those fancy RGB lights. Still, it’s a great soundbar for music and films as well, but due to its compact size, it’s a better fit for smaller gaming rooms or TV rooms, than large lounges.
With the Katana V2X also being cheaper than the V2, I set out to check whether the reduced price means reduced performance. Generally speaking, the answer is no – but let’s dig in deeper.
Quick Look – Creative Katana V2X
What is it: A compact soundbar (with a separate, slim subwoofer), with Dolby Digital support and special gaming modes. Price when reviewed: £259.99.
Value for Money
- Clear, powerful sound
- Robust – but customisable – bass
- A lot of connectivity options (including Bluetooth)
- Almost every setting can be tweaked via the app
- Impressive design
- Too small for large living rooms (and the bass is weaker than on the V2)
- Sounds best when you sit in front of it (or very close)
- RGB Lights are somewhat hidden
Features and Specs
- Size: 600 x 95 x 62 mm / Subwoofer: 116 x 250 x 423 mm
- Weight: 1.52kg / Subwoofer: 3.3kg
- Drivers: 2x 63mm mid-range drivers / 2x 19m tweeters / 1x 133mm subwoofer driver
- Power: Up to 90W RMS (180W 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 microphones / 2 Game enhancement modes
The Katana V2X is just as impressive as its predecessor, with surprisingly high volume levels and deep bass (despite the subwoofer being almost half the size), with almost every aspect being customisable. But the size still comes at a cost, especially with the lower power output, and this compact soundbar will fit better in a gaming room or even a home office (Though it DOES still sound better than most built-in speakers on TVs).
Table of Contents
Who is the Sound Blaster Katana V2X For?
The ‘Sound Blaster’ brand from Creative (formerly known as Creative Labs) always brings back fond memories, for those who were around computing in the late 80s and 90s.
The Singapore-based company has been creating audio products for more than 30 years – 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, which was aimed primarily at gamers, was critically acclaimed – but Creative did some fine work with the second generation, the Katana V2 (see our review from last year).
Now, somewhat surprisingly, there’s already a new version – the Katana V2X, which is almost identical to the Katana V2, with the primary difference being a slimmer (and somewhat less powerful) subwoofer, and a lower price point.
The Katana V2X, like its predecessor, doesn’t try to be everything for everyone, and is still focused on gamers. Its super-bright LGB strip, which shuffles lights and colours according to the sound – is a big tell.
The Katana V2X also has two dedicated gaming modes (though they’re intended to be used when headphones are connected), an EQ preset for games, and some dedicated EQ settings for specific gaming titles. And, it’s particularly easy to connect to either a PC or a gaming console like the PS5.
Having said that – can you use the Katana V2X in your living room, to watch TV? Well, yes, and it even supports Dolby Digital 5.1 and has an HDMI (Arc) port – but the compact size means it won’t give you the most cinematic experience one would hope for.
Yes, the volume can still go up really high, even with the reduced power output of the V2X – 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.
If, on the other hand, you plan to use it in a smaller gaming room / TV room / home office, for games, videos and music – then the overall sound, and the bass, are just right.
Setting Up The Katana V2X
Setting up the Sound Blaster Katana V2X is fairly 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 subwoofer (it’s just 3.3kg this time around – compared to 6.4kg on the original V2), the remote control, the power adapter, an optical cable, and a USB-C to USB-A cable. You also get two wall mounting brackets, for easy wall installation (but you can just place the soundbar under your TV or computer screen).
There’s no HDMI-to-HDMI cable supplied, so keep that in mind if that’s your connection of choice.
As before, 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, which are identical to those on the V2:
HDMI Out can be used either for your TV, or for a next-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).
The additional audio-in ports are 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.
As before, the printed manual is lacking: it only covers the basics, telling you what each port does, showing you the remote’s buttons, etc. But with so many advanced functions and features, it’s a shame the supplied manual doesn’t go into more detail, and you’ll have to go to Creative’s website or app for more information.
Using The Katana V2X
When you turn on the Katana V2X, you’ll immediately notice the small LCD screen on the front – which shows you status messages/volume levels, etc – and of course, the RGB Lights strip.
The location of the RGB lights is a bit odd – it’s under the soundbar, so it relies more on the lights being reflected from the table underneath them.
Are these lights a useful feature? Not really. Is it a big distraction when you’re watching a film late at night? Yes. Is it cool when friends come over to play something on your gaming console? Probably, yes.
Thankfully, however, those lights can be turned off (or dimmed) with the remote.
The Katana V2X remote is thin and easy to hold, despite having so many buttons. These buttons are here for a reason – as almost every 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 can connect your phone to the Katana V2X 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 much flexibility – some soundbars don’t even let you control the bass levels…
Katana V2X Audio Quality
With the soundbar itself on the V2X being almost identical to the V2 one, the main place to look for differences is the bass levels – as the rest of the audio is quite similar.
As mentioned, your overall enjoyment of the Katana V2X’s sound depends a lot on the size of your room – and your particular use case.
Furthermore, because of the compact design, where you sit makes a big difference – the sweet spot is right in the middle, in front of the soundbar, and if you move too much to either side, the stereo sound deteriorates.
I listened to The Cardigans’ Sick And Tired, and the vocals were nice and clean, though lacking a bit of shine.
The bass was not bad, though it’s a little on the wobbly side when it comes to consistency – some frequencies were better than others.
For its size, the soundbar managed to provide pleasant clear sound, with the stereo image somewhat limited due to its shape.
Moving on to Sunglasses At Night by Corey Hart, The opening synth riff demonstrated, again, some of the stereo limitations due to the shape.
The electric guitar was nice and beefy, and the bass was reasonably effective. Drums sounded better on mid-range but were lacking some of that high-range shine.
The Katana V2X has several audio modes – and if you’re too lazy to tweak the EQ yourself, you can use these predefined modes.
Even with music, switching to Games or Movie modes offered some EQ leeway and in some cases might even prove better for some songs – it’s a game of hit or miss.
The subwoofer – while not as big and powerful as the one on the V2, is still mighty impressive and can reach very deep levels – as long as your room isn’t too big.
When watching movies/videos with the Katana V2X, the preset modes (Movies, Music, Games, Night) didn’t do much for me – the differences between them are pretty subtle for that use-case.
As with the Katana V2, when I watched effects-heavy films, the sound was very clear, with good separation between the music, sound effects and speech, which was sharp and easy to understand.
The overall volume levels are quite impressive – in a small room, I kept the master level at 3-4 most of the time (out of 50!), and that was more than enough. In a bigger room, when you’re sitting further away, 50% was still pretty loud (and was already on the verge of upsetting the neighbours).
And yet, in a bigger lounge, the overall sound falls flat a bit with a minor soundscape – yes, it can get loud, but it doesn’t really fill the room as a big soundbar can.
Some of Katana’s dedicated gaming features are only meant to be used when you connect headphones: 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 odd choice for a soundbar – to give you features that require headphones. But it emphasizes Creative’s attempt to give gamers what they want, with the Katana line.
Bottom Line: Is The Katana V2X For Me?
The Katana line has a very clear focus: gamers. If that’s your primary target then you’re in for a treat.
Choosing between the Katana V2 and the V2X is easy – at £60 less than the V2 (as of this writing), I almost see no reason to go for the more expensive option – unless you’re a major bass freak, and plan to use the subwoofer in a big room.
If you’re a gamer, the Katana V2X will still do a decent enough job when you’re watching films and TV – it’s certainly better than most TV’s built-in speakers. But it’s not really a living room replacement for a big, cinematic soundbar.
On the other hand, it’s a definite winner if you’re struggling for space – it truly is compact, and provides much more volume and sound quality than its size hints at. And with the small subwoofer on the V2X, it’s now even easier to find space for this impressive duo.
Note: The Katana V2X was supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.