There’s no hiding that the Creative Katana range of soundbars is aimed at gamers. The last time we had one on our desk was the Katana V2X which offered a single soundbar with left and right audio and a separate subwoofer. But this time around, Creative have ditched the subwoofer and added two drivers to the rear of the soundbar to give it that punch. Is it worth the upgrade from the V2X? Not really, But if you’re looking for a soundbar solution for your gaming setup, you can’t really go wrong with the Katana SE either.
So the Creative Katana Stage measures at 650 x 109 x 78mm, slightly larger than the V2X so keep that in mind when it comes to real estate on your desk. It’s covered in a gunmetal-type grey plastic coating with an almost black front grill which wraps around the sides. On top, you can find two up-firing mid-range drivers which pair with two tweeters inside on both left and right, and around the back are two sub-drivers which can pack a punch when needed. There’s an RGB strip which comes with a few customisations, including an audio reaction mode, and this can be customised inside of the Creative App for your desktop, or it can be turned off completely if RGB isn’t for you. Overall you’ve 90 watts of RMS from the soundbar, and I must say this thing can get pretty loud.
There’s a whole host of connectivity options available to you too which include Bluetooth for your wireless connections, an HDMI ARC input, a 3.5mm aux input as well as USB Type-C to connect to your desktop or laptop, a Toslink input for your optical cable, and finally an SXFI-out for Creative’s SXFI Theatre headset. The only cables included in the box are for power, your optical cable and a USB Type-C to Type-A cable for plugging it into your PC or laptop. There’s no HDMI or 3.5mm aux cable which is a shame. Finally, there’s a headphone port on the front left-hand side of the screen for easy access.
On the front, you’ve got a pretty generous screen which is bright and easily readable so you know which input you’re currently on. This is paired with a number of buttons on top for your power, volume settings, source input, and Mode which cycles through different EQ sound settings for gaming, movies, music and a flat EQ. The final button on the right activates SXFI. Unfortunately, SXFI can only be activated if the soundbar can detect and SXFI input, like from the port on the back. I’ve currently got mine set to Aux as I’m using this soundbar with a Creative AE-5 soundcard in my gaming rig, and I must say I am truly impressed with the audio quality I am able to achieve with this setup. To give you a quick idea of my soundcard settings, I’m not using a profile, I’ve got it set to a Vocal profile to boost voices in audio and media, and on my playback settings, I’ve set it to headphones, as there’s only one aux input here, though my audio quality is set at 32-bit, 96 kHz.
In terms of audio performance though, the Creative Katana SE I believe does a fantastic job of rendering good-quality audio. It does an exceptional job with the clarity of the mids and highs and has enough punch to fill a room. Sure it’s not quite as deep as say the V2X with its separate subwoofer, but if you’re filling a small office, gaming room or bedroom, then the Katana SE will definitely be enough. While watching the film Reptile on Netflix, the voices from the actors were exceptionally clear, and there was a nice thud when the actors were firing their guns. Gaming offers very similar results. I’m currently playing through Cyberpunk’s new Phantom Liberty DLC, and if you’ve played it, you know that A LOT of it revolves around having conversations with various different characters. The sound design on that game is good, but the Creative Katana SE offers a decent audio separation to highlight character voices over the background ambience. Gun sounds and engine hums also come across nice and beefy thanks to those two drivers in the back.
Looking through the Creative App, the software offers several decent customisations that you can make to the overall performance and sound quality of the Katana SE. The first I want to point out is the Acoustic Engine, which allows you to put a few audio effects onto your audio, being a virtual surround sound option, a crystallizer which enhances background audio and a dialog+ setting to enhance voices in various media. Scout Mode is intended for multiplayer game use, to aid in footsteps and bullet direction in first-person shooters. It’s alright, but not as accurate as wearing a set of headphones. And finally, you’ve got an equalizer for presets or custom EQ settings to fine-tune your audio, and also a mixer which can be used to pan audio, or set the microphone and audio levels independently. The Katana Stage does have a built-in microphone that’ll get you through a Zoom call with work, but it’s nowhere near the quality expected from livestreaming or creating content. Get yourself a separate microphone for that.
Overall though, I am extremely impressed with the quality of the Creative Katana SE. It’s a snazzy-looking soundbar that looks great on the desk and can give you a seriously decent audio experience. Sure it’s missing the sub of the V2X which some people might not like, especially for that really deep bass, but for smaller space-conscious setups, the Katana SE is a great pick. It’s good for people if they want to plug it straight into their PCs, but I for one would definitely recommend pairing it with an AE-5 soundcard or similar, to really push this great soundbar to the max. Creative are selling them for around the £249 mark which in comparison to the V2X with the sub is around £50 cheaper, so weigh up what you need. But I absolutely loved the Katana SE during my testing, and it’s even replaced my Stage SE which was good, but nowhere near as beefy sounding as this. Oh, and a final note… Creative, don’t be so stingy with your included cables next time. Give users everything they need to get up and running from the box. Check it out on the Creative website here.