The SoundBlaster Katana SE soundbar is a modern soundbar on a mission to deliver a massive level-up to your gaming setup’s audio and aesthetic. Packing immersive sound, customizable RGB lighting, and a suite of easy-to-use customization options, the Katana SE challenges headset gaming by offering an exciting audio alternative.
The SoundBlaster Katana SE delivers solid out-of-the-box audio. Overall, I was thrilled with what I managed to get out of this thing, especially for the price, but there were a few nitpicking things I noticed along the way.
The low end was, funnily enough, the lowest-ranking aspect of the soundbar for me. As an enjoyer of Razer’s Leviathan—which comes with a honking subwoofer—I was a bit let down by the default bass the SE dished out. The lows just didn’t sound as defined as I’d like. Especially considering gaming soundbars need to deliver detailed audio to be useful. Luckily, the app integration, which I’ll cover more in-depth later, offered multiple solutions that turned the low-end to a high note for my review. With some tinkering, the bass became rich and immersive and didn’t muddy in-game audio cues.
Mid-highs come through with outstanding clarity and at a room-filling volume. They cut through the mix and help enhance vocal and instrumental details to deliver a surprisingly nuanced landscape.
The tweeters and mid-bass drivers, strategically placed to fire upwards and forwards, ensure that every frequency is given its due space in the mix. With 90W RMS total power, the soundbar capably fills the room with crisp and detailed sound, proving particularly adept at delivering dialogue in narrative-heavy games. The character voices and soundtracks are rendered with clarity and nuance, bringing the story to life in a way that immerses you in the gaming world.
The virtualized 5.1 surround sound was another feature that caught my attention. Although it can't replace a full surround system with physical rear speakers, it does an admirable job of providing a sense of space and directionality. This is especially noticeable in action-packed scenarios where the ability to pinpoint the direction of sounds can be crucial.
The treble response on the Katana SE is pretty great. Higher-end frequencies sound robust and full, and the soundbar doesn’t leave out any precious detail. This can be further enhanced using the Modes available in the app.
The overall output is also worth mentioning. While soundbars are best used for close-up gaming, The Katana SE worked wonders in a large-room setup. I’d be comfortable running an apartment party off this thing—as long as that friend doesn't get a hold of the AUX.
Now that we know it sounds good, it’s time to check how it looks and works.
The Katana SE showcases a premium build quality, utilizing high-quality materials that make the soundbar feel nice and sturdy. Its sleek design and compact form blend seamlessly into most any gaming setups. The soundbar measures a manageable 650 x 109 x 78mm (WDH) and weighs in at a solid 2.67kg, making it slightly larger than its predecessors, yet still compact enough not to dominate your desk space. The size is also good, allowing it to fit comfortably under monitors and TVs.
The first thing you notice out of the box is the Katana’s sleek, industrial design. Soundbars have come a long way from their boxy eyesore origins. The Katana’s metallic grill and understated branding add an elegance that places way above the glossy plastic bodies of many rivals. I liked the Katana’s bolder design much better than the Sonos Beam’s more boring, rounded approach.
When placed under a monitor or a TV, it's clear that the design team has put thought into the Katana SE's footprint, ensuring that it doesn't require the accommodation of a separate subwoofer. This single-unit design philosophy extends to its wall-mounting capability, with the inclusion of brackets making it a flexible option for those with space constraints.
The standout design feature is the RGB light strip that runs along the front. This strip emits an impressive depth of colors and brightness and gives you lots of room for personalization making integrating into your current setup easy. The accompanying app provides extensive control over the RGB lighting, allowing you to choose from various motion patterns, colors, and brightness levels.
You can also change the colors cycle-speed and make the lighting react to its sound output. Warning: the RGB lighting becomes strobe-like and distracting when set to its fastest speed.
When it’s firing on all cylinders, the RGB lighting on the Katana SE is a sight to behold. RGB fans will get a lot of enjoyment from this product and will be satisfied with its customizability.
The Katana SE offers a variety of connectivity options to accommodate various setups. The rear panel features an AUX port, an optical port, an HDMI Arc, a USB, and a power cable.
I appreciated the inclusion of Bluetooth 5.0 support, which streamlined the wireless connection to my devices with dependable stability.
The Katana ships with a power adaptor, a USB-C to USB-A Cable, an admittedly flimsy optical cable, two wall mount brackets, and a nice remote.
There’s also a 1.5m Toslink optical cable, which was a welcome touch for immediate setup. However, if you're looking to utilize the HDMI ARC functionality, you’ll need to provide your own HDMI cable.
Another nifty feature is the SXFI-out port. For those who own Creative’s SXFI Theater wireless gaming headset, this means you can plug in the dongle and dive into the world of Super X-FI holographic audio. Even without the headset, you can still experience Super X-FI by plugging any standard headphones into the 3.5mm jack located at the front.
The wall mounts are a nice touch for those limited on space or those planning to do their gaming from a wall-mounted TV.
The packaged remote is great for those who like a dedicated remote. However, I much preferred using the app to control the soundbar, which is a testament to how well-designed the app is.
When it’s firing on all cylinders, the RGB lighting on the Katana SE is a sight to behold. RGB fans will get a lot of enjoyment from this product and will be satisfied with its customizability. The LED strip along the base of the bar is split into seven distinct segments, which I found to be a brilliant touch.
You can personalize each segment using the Creative app's color wheels. It’s not just about choosing colors, you can set the ‘motion’ of the lights and adjust the speed to match your mood or the rhythm of your music.
On top of the soundbar, you'll find the LED display that informs you about the current source, active sound mode, and volume level. It's easy to cycle through sources, change sound modes, and adjust volume with physical controls that feel tactile and responsive. The power and SXFI buttons are also conveniently located here.
These controls are further complemented by the remote, which although not required due to the app’s functionality, provides a quick-access alternative for adjustments on the fly.
The Katana SE offers deep integration with its dedicated app, granting users complete control over their audio experience. Through the app, you can program specific tasks to the soundbar’s buttons, providing quick access to your preferred settings and saving valuable time during intense gaming sessions.
The app offers a range of customization options, like bass boosting and EQ adjustment. The array of EQ presets is extensive, including settings for various music genres and specific gaming titles such as League of Legends and Fortnite. The Dialog+ option within the Acoustic Engine is a standout, enhancing vocal clarity, which I found invaluable during cutscenes and dialogue-heavy sequences.
I was impressed by the EQ adjustment settings, as they allow for a truly sculpted audio experience. Beware, the bass-boosting feature can lead to some distortion if you’re not cautious. I used the EQ setting changes to put a slight emphasis on the bass and kept the Bass Boosting at +1. That was enough to get the sound to roughly where I liked. Otherwise, I kept most of the settings on default unless I was specifically testing the different modes.
There is also integration with the SXFI app, which allows for in-depth headphone usage and some of the more gaming-oriented features of the Katana SE, such as the Scout Mode, which specifically focuses on emphasizing footsteps and other directional sounds. The SXFI app offers various “modes” for games with different emphasis on sound to give you a competitive edge.
For gaming, there are general modes such as the Gaming Mode, or Battle Mode, which is a mode focused on FPS games. But there are also game-specific modes, such as an Overwatch mode and a CS:GO mode.
The ability to add up to 6 custom buttons with different functions is very convenient. For me, its best use was swapping between the different RGB functions, but it will also be handy for gamers who often swap between different games and genres.
Interestingly, the soundbar also houses dual beamforming microphones at the front, making it adept for use as a speakerphone. During online gaming sessions, the mic's ability to pick up voice while reducing background noise was impressive. These microphones also allow for voice commands, which adds a layer of convenience if your hands are occupied with gaming.
The non-gaming modes like: Music, Crystalize, Movie, and Dialogue+ are fantastic and seem to emphasize vocals. This gives a really clear and refined sound.
When it comes to gaming-centric soundbars, few are doing it like Creative, especially in this price range. The Katana SE is competitively priced within the Katana lineup, sitting just below the V2X and V2 in terms of cost. There are other options out there, such as Razer’s Leviathan V2 Pro.
The Katana SE is $50 more than the Leviathan, which boasts a dedicated subwoofer and a feature allowing for headphone-free spatial audio. Both soundbars have customizable RGB lighting, and the Leviathan is a bit more compact on the desk, assuming the woofer is below it.
Where the Katana SE outshines the Leviathan V2 is its flexibility and ability to tailor the audio experience to your needs and, more importantly, your games! Being able to pair your game and audio, like fine wine, to a tasting menu is a great feature that shows Creative understands the nuanced needs of gamers. If gaming is important to you, and you want a soundbar to elevate that, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more suitable soundbar.
Fantastic performance, and an exceptional price. The SoundBlaster Katana SE does not disappoint.
The SoundBlaster Katana SE delivers an immersive gaming audio experience, boasting customizable RGB lighting, in-depth app integration, and a sleek design. While the out-of-the-box audio quality is decent, the bass response starts to shine with some fine-tuning through EQ adjustments and bass boosting.
The soundbar’s extensive app integration enhances its functionality, allowing for button programming, bass adjustments, and seamless switching between different sound modes. The Katana SE’s build quality exudes durability and premium craftsmanship, while its versatile connectivity options cater to various setups.
With its immersive audio capabilities and personalized lighting effects, the SoundBlaster Katana SE soundbar is an appealing choice for gamers seeking to elevate their gaming experience and easily deserves the Highly Recommended Award.
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.