Hands on: Creative's desktop soundbar, the Sound BlasterX Katana

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited May 15
We're checking out some of the higher-end desktop speakers suitable for Macs, beginning with Creative's soundbar/subwoofer combo, the Sound BlasterX Katana.

Creative Sound BlasterX Katana


The $299 Katana fixes a key problem for many desktops: how to cram better sound into a small space. Even if your desktop isn't cluttered, high-quality conventional speakers tend to take up a lot of room.

The centerpiece of the Katana system is its soundbar, shaped vaguely like its namesake sword, which houses two high-excursion tweeters and two upfiring midbass drivers. Thanks to a 24-bit DAC and a multi-core DSP it can simulate 5.1-channel surround sound, including Dolby Digital. The ".1" comes from a tall floor-standing subwoofer.

The bar has several connection options -- optical, 3.5mm, Bluetooth, micro USB-to-USB-A, and even a USB-A slot meant for playing files directly from a USB stick. You can switch between these at will using top-facing buttons, a bundled remote, or the Sound Blaster Connect iOS app.

Creative Sound BlasterX Katana


Out of the gate it should be noted that Mac functionality is mildly limited versus Windows. While it should work well, there's no native Mac client for controlling profiles, the EQ, or LED lighting. Windows users also get the advantage of 7.1-channel surround, since the Katana doubles as a sound card for that OS when connected via USB. The only other iOS control option involves changing and downloading profiles.

In our testing so far that's hardly mattered. Multiple profiles are preinstalled -- Neutral, Gaming, Concert, Cinema, and Night -- that should cover just about any circumstance you can think of. You can cycle both profiles and LED lighting via the remote, along with bass levels.

It's also quite powerful. The soundbar is rated at 75 watts RMS, 150 watts peak, which is almost obscene when sitting a few inches away. We had to crank it down to avoid disturbing people.

We've had a few days to listen to the Katana, and so far it's one of the best desktop systems we've heard. Highs and mids are clear, and the subwoofer can rattle your desk with ease. We did end up boosting bass a couple of notches, but just as a matter of preference.

Stay tuned to AppleInsider for our full review.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 667member
    Of all the square footage in my house, the most premium location is the 24 by 6 square inch rectangle in front of my keyboard. I am not giving that space up easily. If a speaker mounted on top of iMac instead, that wouldn't be a problem. I can't see any technical reason why it couldn't mount on top. It would have to make a little gap for my iMac's camera, but if there were smart, they could include a lever that let me cover and uncover my camera for security reasons. Most of the time it would be covered.
  • Reply 2 of 7
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,358member
    I'll but one if it doesn't go into standby if it doesn't get sound for a few minutes. My current speakers do that and it annoys me. I miss notifications and the first 5 seconds of videos. If I turn the volume down on the iMac, the speakers don't get enough volume and go into standby.
  • Reply 3 of 7
    deminsddeminsd Posts: 141member
    Of all the square footage in my house, the most premium location is the 24 by 6 square inch rectangle in front of my keyboard. I am not giving that space up easily. If a speaker mounted on top of iMac instead, that wouldn't be a problem. I can't see any technical reason why it couldn't mount on top. It would have to make a little gap for my iMac's camera, but if there were smart, they could include a lever that let me cover and uncover my camera for security reasons. Most of the time it would be covered.
    Technically, I can't even visualize how it would mount on top of an iMac.  But aesthetically, it'd look ridiculous to me.

    It's only a few inches deep...it could sit on the iMac stand itself so as to not encroach on the premium location in front of your keyboard.
    OR, get a stylish stand to raise your iMac a couple inches and put the speaker bar UNDER the iMAC.


    Soli1STnTENDERBITS
  • Reply 4 of 7
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,865member
    Of all the square footage in my house, the most premium location is the 24 by 6 square inch rectangle in front of my keyboard. I am not giving that space up easily. If a speaker mounted on top of iMac instead, that wouldn't be a problem. I can't see any technical reason why it couldn't mount on top. It would have to make a little gap for my iMac's camera, but if there were smart, they could include a lever that let me cover and uncover my camera for security reasons. Most of the time it would be covered.

    Soli1STnTENDERBITS
  • Reply 5 of 7
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 667member
    Two of you said or implied that my aesthetics is bad. You might be right, by your standards of beauty. But if there's one aesthetic expression I have lived by, it is "function is beauty." If something is amazingly functional, I consider it beautiful. A pregnant woman looks beautiful to me. Another reader in this thread, Evilution, explained how his speakers don't work properly. No matter how pretty they may look to him or you, I would consider them ugly. Because they don't function well.
  • Reply 6 of 7
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,865member
    Two of you said or implied that my aesthetics is bad. You might be right, by your standards of beauty. But if there's one aesthetic expression I have lived by, it is "function is beauty." If something is amazingly functional, I consider it beautiful. A pregnant woman looks beautiful to me. Another reader in this thread, Evilution, explained how his speakers don't work properly. No matter how pretty they may look to him or you, I would consider them ugly. Because they don't function well.
    Mine was more about how this isn't a Mac-centric product, much less an iMac-centric product, yet you started engineering how it'd mount on top of your iMac and a "lever" to reveal the iSight camera which gets into extreme bespoke needs category like the Homer Car. :)
  • Reply 7 of 7
    deminsddeminsd Posts: 141member
    Two of you said or implied that my aesthetics is bad. You might be right, by your standards of beauty. But if there's one aesthetic expression I have lived by, it is "function is beauty." If something is amazingly functional, I consider it beautiful. A pregnant woman looks beautiful to me. Another reader in this thread, Evilution, explained how his speakers don't work properly. No matter how pretty they may look to him or you, I would consider them ugly. Because they don't function well.
    I think by most people's standards of beauty.  But to each their own.  My point was there were simpler (even free) ways to keep that precious space in front of your keyboard empty than resorting to duct tape and "Rube Goldberg" mechanisms for managing the camera.  I did notice, though, you didn't even comment on either of my suggestions.  Doesn't really matter...you're not buying one anyways.
    fastasleep
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