Creative SoundBlaster Katana V2 is a wicked 2.1 soundbar and we love it (review)

The SoundBlaster Katana V2 is a wicked soundbar (in such a good way). It is loud, has low distortion and has several inputs, including HDMI ARC.

I like Creative SoundBlaster gear – it never ceases to surprise me with fully-featured products at often insanely low prices. The SoundBlaster Katana V2 has everything a PC (or mac) enthusiast wants and sounds good enough to compete with brand name soundbars at higher prices.

In fact, on that front, its sound signature is fantastic – a neutral blank canvas. You can feel it from about at 50Hz, where it is solid and flat (good) right through the sound spectrum to 20kHz. More later, but this is highly unusual for soundbars (again, in a particularly good way).

 SoundBlaster Katana V2  Model MF8380

WebsiteProduct page
Price$499.95
FromCreative online and CE/IT resellers
Warranty12 months ACL
Country of OriginChina
CompanySingapore based Creative Labs (Est 1981) makes class-leading PC soundcards and, more recently, speakers and headsets. Its Super X-Fi launched in 2018, is just beginning to take hold to produce spatial sound from stereo technology.
MoreCyberShack Creative news and reviews

First Impression

It is well packaged and quite heavy at nearly 10kg. I was expecting a small soundbar, and fortunately, it is at 600 x 95 x 62 mm x 1.52kg with the standalone sub-woofer 150 x 367 x 367 mm x 6.4kg. Perfect for a computer desk but as we found, it can do so much more.

It is an unusual design modelled after the Japanese Katana sword blade with two up-firing 63mm mid-range drivers, two forward-firing 19mm tweeters, and a separate 165mm (6.5”) cabled sub-woofer (no power – just an RCA plug cable).

It is angled back so the RGB lighting can shine underneath. The Aluminium chassis has an acoustic metal grill and an LCD front panel that displays the source and mode (music effect).

On the back are many source ports (more later) and power (24V/3A/72W) – that is a lot for a small soundbar (more on that later).

The sub-woofer can be placed anywhere on the floor – as long as the cable reaches it (and you could buy an extension female RCA to male RCA cable).

Finally, there is an IR remote with customisable shortcut buttons.

Connectivity

  • HDMI ARC 1.4 for TV and devices supporting that, including the Xbox Series S/X and PS5. It supports uncompressed 5.1 Dolby Audio downmixed to 2.1. ARC means most TVs can use the TV remote. Also compatible with
  • Optical-In for older TVs and Xbox One or PS4
  • 3.5mm AUX-in for smartphones and PCs with a headphone jack
  • USB-C (and HDMI) is capable of 24-bit/96kHz high res
  • BT 5.0 SBC codec
  • Dual beam-forming mics
  • 3.5mm 4-pole headphone/mic socket

There is also a USB-A report specifically for Creatives SXFI-out via a dongle.

Setup

It is plug and play with several onboard presets/modes. It does not need an App, but you can download the Creative App for Windows or macOS that adds even more features to the onboard feature set of movies, gaming, and effects on/off.

The modes include adventure and action; Apex Legends; Arena of Valour, Battle Royale, Call of Duty series, CounterStrike, CyberPunk 2077, Death Standing, Doom Eternal, Driving  Simulation, Escape from Tarkov, Fortnite, FPS, Genshin Impact, League of Legends, Metal Gear Solid, MOBA, Overwatch, PlayerUnknown, Project Cars, Real Time Strategy, Red Dead Redemption 2, Rocket League, RPG, Stadium, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Tom Clancy Rainbow 6 Siege. I understand that more profiles are coming.

There is an SXFI app. It maps the head and ear and allows you to experience audio as if it is coming from outside the headphones. Regrettably, the only two user comments are one-star so consider this work in progress.

The Acoustic engine has settings for surround (psychoacoustics), as the artist intended (hence the flat neutral sound signature), smart volume (for night TV watching) and dialogue for Crystal voice clearer sound (typically for 3.1 systems, but it seems to make quite a difference).

There is a customisable EQ for the various modes and several music genres, including one curiously called Footsteps enhancer.

Lighting control has seven patterns, six speeds and three directions, and a music reactive mode.

There is also a basic mixer desk.

Hi-Res as well

Hi-res depends on the original content, input source and audio codec/format. You can select 16-bit/48kHz (CD) to 24-bit/96kHz (DVD+). Headphones and speakers can be stereo or 5.1 surround. Similarly, the mics can be 16 or 24-bit, 48kHz.

My take – you really need to be a nerd if you want to venture into this App. Fortunately, there is a reset button to undo any Frankensound mistakes.

Sound quality – superb

We know sound quality – How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key – guide), and this has it in spades. All our tests were at default settings, and as you see, the App has incredible flexibility.

This has five amps driving Tweeters 2 x 13W, mid-range 2 x 20W and sub-woofer 1 x 60W for 126W RMS. That explains the need for a 72W power brick, but in our tests, it sleeps at .5W and music/system sounds at normal levels are 8-10W. If you max it out, it can get to 20W. Its power use is negligible.

Maximum volume depends on the connected device. Smartphones tap out at 80dB, PCs at 85 or more dB and gaming at 90+dB. It is usable sound – no evident harshness (in fact, it slightly recesses the 6-8kHz band to do that).

Our white noise generator verifies frequency response is 50Hz to 20kHz. That means you get all the critical bass (and you can feel it via the sub-woofer, very strong mid and low treble, recessed mid-treble to remove harshness and then strong upper treble that adds vitality and sound direction.

The sound stage is massive – a good meter on either side of the soundbar. Playing 5.1 is quite good, with well-defined psychoacoustics surrounding you with sound.

CyberShack’s view – the Creative SoundBlaster Katana V2 is a wicked

No, make that an astonishing, small form factor soundbar with big aspirations. It is not just a PC, Mac, laptop or even a gaming smartphone upgrade. It is better than that.

Maybe it is because I mainly tested using USB-C with this on my desk – barely a meter away from my ears – but the quality of sound, the 2.1 or expansive 5.1 sound stage, and the neutral sound signature impress me. Yes, it is that good.

When tested with a TV (HDMI ARC), it filled a decent sized room (10 x 10m), and the settings for 5.1 Dolby Audio were excellent. Clear dialogue (especially for the hearing impaired) challenged the best any 3.1 or more system could provide. The only issue is that you need to set this up in the App and download it to the soundbar.

Bluetooth has SBC and AAC codecs. Its Creative Digital Signal Processor cleans that up for decent BT streamed music, although mid-bass is a little more recessed.

Our take – Perfect for gamers. Buy it for your PC but don’t forget its excellent TV and music credentials.

Pro


Con

Nothing

Creative SoundBlaster Katana V2 2.1/5.1 Soundbar

$499.95
9.5

Features

9.5/10

Value

9.5/10

Performance

9.5/10

Ease of Use

9.5/10

Design

9.5/10

Pros

  • Outstanding connectivity – just missing Wi-Fi
  • So many sound modes - Creative App is fully-featured – and then some
  • Neutral sound signature means it is a blank canvas to create what you want
  • Easily one of the better 2.1 and 5.1 compatible TV soundbars
  • Gamers will love it

Cons

  • The App is very flexible but needs some care to avoid Frankensound


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