Creative Katana SE: Two Minute Review
Creative Katana SE is a very good, almost excellent, all-in-one audio solution for PC gamers. It has a series of characteristics that differentiate it from many of the best computer speakers. And, although the Creative Katana SE is the only model among the company’s Katana soundbar offerings that doesn’t feature a subwoofer, it still offers a surprising amount of noise that you probably won’t find in inferior alternatives, whether you’re considering speakers, a sound bar or even the best gaming headphones.
If you are looking for one of the best sound bars, it is important to remember that Creative Katana SE is aimed specifically at gamers. Although it has functionality beyond that, many of the settings are only available through the app, so you’ll be somewhat limited when using it with a TV.
The Creative Katana SE isn’t a radical departure from the soundbar design. At first glance it appears to be a slightly more ergonomic version with its sloping sides and slightly upward angled front grill, which I can only assume is Creative’s assumption that it’s more likely to be used with a computer setup where your ears are. . located above the sound bar.
However, there are quite a few details here that not only set this sound bar apart from many other options, but also justify its slightly higher price.
Instead of just two forward-facing drivers, there are also two large tweeters facing upward from the top of the unit, giving the Creative Katana SE some physical spatial audio capabilities. There are also two passive radiators on the back that give this soundbar its huge bass response.
And finally, RGB lighting lines the bottom of the grill to give it some color. My favorite part of RGB lighting is its ability to adjust the brightness according to the actual volume of whatever media is currently playing. Of course, you have to set it up through the app.
As far as port selection goes, it is decent with an optical, auxiliary and USB port on the unit. It also has a headphone jack on the front and an HDMI output with SXFI and ARC support on the back with the other ports.
I wish there was also an HDMI to allow a single pass-through connection from the computer to a monitor or TV. There’s also no subwoofer output, so you’re limited to the ample bass response the unit provides.
When it comes to using Creative Katana SE, setup and use are very easy. It comes with a USB and optical cable and is basically plug-and-play with several buttons on the top of the unit to cycle through sources, modes and adjust volume. There is a remote control that does that too. Downloading the Creative app offers even more control (more on this later).
Once in use, the Creative Katana SE provides a large amount of volume, enough for use in a small home theater setup. The sound quality, although not audiophile, is quite good.
The most impressive part is the bass response. Thanks to those two passive radiators in the rear, the noise is there. While it’s not on par with a real subwoofer, the bass is quite substantial. Whether it was the oomph of explosions in games or the bass in music or movies, I was initially surprised by how good the bass is.
The mids are full and rich, maybe even too rich, while the high end has enough detail to hear everything clearly but without the sharpness that more hi-fi equipment would provide. At its core, the sound quality is good for the price, but it’s not a game-changing soundbar.
The soundstage is quite wide for a soundbar and the sound imaging is quite accurate. But at the end of the day you still experience a stereo image. And, since you can’t adjust the speaker placement like you would with real computer speakers, it won’t match the soundstage of properly placed computer speakers.
However, what does improve the sound are those upward-pointing tweeters. While they don’t actually provide surround sound, they work in the same way as Dolby Atmos: they send the audio upward, providing a vague dimensionality that makes everything sound better. The best way to describe the experience is that the audio sounds louder. However, you still get a stereo image. That said, I prefer this to virtual surround sound, as it usually sounds like there is some reverb in the audio signal.
Interestingly, the soundbar has a built-in microphone which, while convenient, sounds a bit thin and nasal. While there are some notable and useful tweaks to the app, such as background noise reduction, I would suggest investing in one of the best usb microphones instead. That is, unless you want your voice to sound like it’s coming from a rotary phone from around 1998.
Regarding the Creative app, its navigation is quite intuitive, although there is a bit of menu navigation. When you first open it, you are mainly presented with a bunch of boxes and clicking on any of them will open a specific set of options. Once I got the hang of it, I found that there are many settings available, from a ten-band equalizer to various presets, including some for specific games; I was able to try those of Cyberpunk 2077 and rocket league.
There’s also a scan mode that brings up sound elements like footsteps, as well as the ability to use the SXFI feature, which customizes audio by tracking your head. This means you also have to download an app on your phone to set it up. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what’s available through the Creative app.
Creative Katana SE: price and availability
- How much does it cost? $299.99 / £299.99 / AU$509.95
- When will it be available? Available now
- Where can you get it? Available in US, UK and Australia
Calling a soundbar like the Creative Katana SE, which retails for $299.99 / £299.99 / AU$509.95, mid-range may seem a little strange, given that something like the Creative Stage Air V2 costs $49. .99. But that 20-watt soundbar has only a couple types of connectivity and doesn’t show up in many ways. After all, the Creative Katana SE offers a maximum power of 180 watts and much more bass thanks to the passive radiators, as well as a more immersive sound thanks to the upward-facing speakers that provide some spatial audio.
Instead, a better comparison is a sound bar like the Razer Leviathan V2 Pro, which costs a little more: $399.99 / £399.99 (around AU$600). As impressive as that soundbar is, it costs more and doesn’t include a physical spatial audio component like the Creative Katana SE.
That said, if you don’t mind all the extras, you can spend a lot less on an audio solution that gives you plenty of volume and bass, like the Release BMR1 computer speakers. While they’re obviously not a soundbar, they’re small enough for most loud, bass-heavy gaming setups, although you’re skipping all the spatial audio and app-related features, among other things.
Creative Katana SE: Specifications
|Drivers:||2 x 4.3-inch midrange drivers, 2 x 2.1-inch tweeters|
|Supported Connectivity:||USB, Optical, HDMI Analog, Bluetooth|
|Audio inputs:||Bluetooth 5.0, optical input, auxiliary input, USB-C|
|Departures:||HDMI ARC, SXFI output|
Should you buy Creative Katana SE?
|Worth||Although it is not cheap, its price is quite reasonable considering all the offer it offers.||Four. Five|
|Design||The upward-firing speakers, passive radiators, and RGB lighting are welcome additions.||4.5/5|
|Performance||Powerful bass and spatial audio elevate the audio of this soundbar, although the end result is not of Hi-Fi level.||4.5/5|
|Average score||A good number of features along with solid audio at a reasonable price make this a good choice for anyone looking for an all-in-one gaming audio solution.||Four. Five|
Buy it if…
Don’t buy it if…
Creative Katana SE: Also Consider
|Row 0 – Cell 0||Creative Katana SE||Razer Leviathan V2 Pro||Beyerdynamic Tygr 300 R|
|Price:||$299.99 / £299.99 / AU$509.95||$399.99 / £399.99 (around AU$600)||$129 / about £98.54 / about AU$188.62|
|Frequency range:||55-20,000Hz||40Hz – 20kHz||80Hz-24,000Hz|
|Drivers:||2 x 4.3-inch midrange drivers, 2 x 2.1-inch tweeters||5 2-inch full-range units, 1 5.25-inch sub with downward firing||2x 2 inch balanced mode radiators|
|Supported Connectivity:||USB, Optical, HDMI Analog, Bluetooth||Digital, Analog, Bluetooth||Analog, Bluetooth|
|Audio inputs:||Bluetooth 5.0, optical input, auxiliary input, USB-C||USB||3.5mm stereo jack, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Departures:||HDMI ARC, SXFI output||3.5mm||3.5mm headphone jack with pass-through, aux out/sub out|
How I tried Creative Katana SE
- Used regularly for a week.
- Tested with all types of games.
- Tested all included features
I used Creative Katana SE regularly for a week. I used it with several games, including Cyberpunk 2077, Control, Far Cry 6, and Rocket League. I also used it to watch some streaming videos and listen to music.
I looked at other aspects beyond performance, of course. I played with its customizable features, including different modes, spatial audio, and RGB lighting.
I’ve tested a lot of tech gear over the years, from laptops to keyboards to speakers, and so I’ve been able to use my experience to give an honest and fair opinion, not to mention a critical eye, on any product I test.
Read more about how we test
First review in November 2023