Android Central Verdict
Creative's Sound Blaster Katana V2 is a gaming-focused soundbar that does a phenomenal job. It has all the connectivity options you want, the sound quality is fantastic, and you get plenty of customizability and features that make a tangible different while gaming. The best part? It works just as well for multimedia, and you can connect it to your TV via HDMI ARC.
Elegant design with RGB lighting
Sublime sound that's ideal for gaming and multimedia
Powerful bass via 6.5-inch subwoofer
HDMI ARC, Bluetooth 5.0, and USB-C connectivity
Up to 250W of total power
Unique gaming features
Doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi
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Creative has a strong foundation in home audio, and its latest soundbar is a testament to its efforts in this area over the last three years. The first-gen Katana had a lot going for it and was designed to be a budget option tailored for gamers, and the Katana V2 follows in a similar vein, picking up a few new features that allow it to stand out a little bit more.
For starters, the Katana V2 puts out a lot more sound, and it has Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, Creative's excellent SXFI virtualization tech, and new gaming-focused features. Creative says that it incorporated ideas from the $1,000 SXFI Carrier and used it here to make the Katana V2 a much better overall product. I used the Katana V2 for over three months, and I am confident in saying that this is the best soundbar you'll find today for gaming — particularly for under $500.
Creative Katana V2: Pricing and availability
Creative unveiled the Katana V2 at the end of 2021, and the soundbar made its debut in global markets starting January 2022. It initially launched for $330, but it is now selling on Amazon in the U.S. for $380, a $50 increase.
The soundbar is also available in other countries where Creative has an official presence. It retails for £299 ($373) in the UK, €330 ($348) in Germany, and the equivalent of $370 in most parts of Asia. Creative offers a standard one-year warranty with the soundbar.
Creative Katana V2: What you'll love
The Katana V2 has a clean design that belies its price, with the soundbar featuring an all-black brushed metal design that doesn't call out too much attention to itself. Build quality is on par with soundbars that cost thrice as much, and you'll find an LCD panel at the front, which is identical to the one on the SXFI Carrier.
The screen gives you see what input is currently selected, and you'll find a 3.5mm jack next to it, ideal for plugging in a headset. The soundbar is fashioned out of plastic, but you'll find metal grilles covering the front and the tweeters that are positioned at the top. You also get buttons at the top for powering the device on or off, pairing Bluetooth devices, changing the source, mode, toggling SXFI virtualization, and adjusting volume.
While the buttons on the device are nifty, you'll be using the remote to control the Katana V2, and Creative did a great job with the bundled remote. It has an ergonomic design and lets you control all the features on the soundbar, including switching between the various modes, adjusting the subwoofer's bass, and there are six buttons that are user-configurable.
My favorite design feature on the Katana V2 has to be the RGB lightbar that runs across the bottom section of the soundbar. I tested the Katana V2 with my gaming rig, but I used it predominantly as a multimedia soundbar, pairing it with Xgimi's Aura UST projector in the bedroom. Regardless of where you're using the soundbar, the RGB lighting makes a lot of difference — if you're into that sort of thing.
If you're not a fan of RGB lighting, you can switch between other colors — the lightbar has seven sections that can be controlled individually — or just use the music sync mode to change colors based on music playing from the soundbar. Alternatively, you can turn off the lightbar altogether.
The size of the Katana V2 is something that Creative paid a lot of attention to; the 600mm width of the soundbar is designed to ensure it can slot underneath a 27-inch gaming monitor. It is taller at 62mm, with the reason for the increased height being the integrated RGB lightbar at the bottom. That said, you shouldn't have any issues fitting it in front of a monitor or TV.
Creative went with a new design for the fabric dome tweeter that allows it to deliver more detailed sound, with the Katana V2 featuring two 3/4-inch tweeters and two 2.5-inch mid-range drivers. The dedicated subwoofer houses a 6.5-inch driver, and it gets loud. Creative said that the subwoofer uses a larger cone to deliver much more sound, but that it tailored the design to produce a more detailed sound signature in line with the Carrier.
What does that translate to in real-world use? Well, the Katana V2 may just be one of the best-sounding options at this price point, and not just for gaming. The sound quality is sublime, with the subwoofer delivering rumbling bass that adds a lot of dimension to games and movies, and the mid-range drivers and tweeters do an excellent job as well.
The soundbar easily delivers room-filling sound and goes up to 250W of total power, and the sound fidelity is among the best I've heard from any sub-$500 soundbar. This isn't a Dolby Atmos soundbar like the Carrier, but it does a fantastic job with directionality nonetheless.
You also get SXFI virtualization, and it is phenomenal — it is designed for use with headsets connected over USB-C and adds a lot of dimension to the sound. Given that the Katana V2 is catered toward gamers, Creative added two features to the soundbar that leverage SXFI : Scout Mode uses in-game virtualization to let you hear sounds that are further away, and it works exceedingly well.
But my favorite feature here is Battle Mode; this feature allows you to better understand directionality so you can figure out where your enemies are in titles like Valorant. I wasn't sold on these features at first, but they do make a tangible difference during gaming. Creative said that it worked a lot on how audio cues are triggered in games to fine-tune the features.
Because you'll likely use a headset more often than not for gaming, Creative added a 3.5mm jack at the front of the Katana V2. This makes it easy to switch between a headset and the soundbar's built-in drivers, and on that note, Creative did a great job tweaking the sound signature of the Katana V2 for gaming. There's even a built-in mic here, and while it gets the job done, you'd ideally want to use a dedicated option.
As the Katana V2 carriers Sound Blaster branding, you'll find a vast array of customizability. There are three sound modes out of the box — Movies, Music, and Gaming — and you get full EQ customization, so you can adjust the sound to your liking. There's also a virtual 5.1 surround sound mode, and it worked a lot better than I thought it would at projecting sound.
As for connectivity, you'll find no shortage of options on the Katana V2. There's Bluetooth 5.0, HDMI ARC, USB-C, aux in, optical in, and SXFI out. You can easily connect the soundbar to a TV or projector thanks to HDMI ARC, and if you're using it with a monitor for gaming, USB-C is ideal for pairing it with your gaming machine.
Creative Katana V2: What needs work
Honestly, there's not a whole lot wrong with the Katana V2. The one annoyance was Bluetooth connectivity; it's not as straightforward as toggling Bluetooth on your phone and connecting to the soundbar. You'll have to go through Creative's mobile app to manually pair your phone with the soundbar, and Creative could have made it a little easier.
The addition of Wi-Fi would have made it a more feature-rich soundbar, but other than that, I don't have any issues with the product as such.
Creative Katana V2: The competition
If you're looking for a soundbar predominantly for gaming, there are a few choices available. The Razer Leviathan is a good option to consider, and while it doesn't come close to the audio fidelity that you get with the Katana V2, it takes up even less room and retails for just $190. It is a good alternative if you're in the market for a budget gaming soundbar.
And if you want an integrated option that has all the basics covered, you should take a look at the Yamaha YAS-209. This $350 soundbar is one of the best-sounding options in the market, and it comes with a wireless sub and plenty of connectivity. It's not ideal for gaming on a desk, but if you're using a PS5 and need something that pairs with your TV, it is a good overall choice.
Creative Katana V2: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if:
- You want a soundbar that doesn't take up too much room
- You need excellent sound and a dedicated sub with powerful bass
- You want EQ customization and plenty of connectivity options
- You're looking for a soundbar for gaming that works just as well for multimedia
You shouldn't buy this if:
- You need built-in Wi-Fi
Creative nailed the brief with the Katana V2. The soundbar has an elegant design, delivers incredible sound, and has all the connectivity options you want in a soundbar in this category. Then there's RGB lighting, unique gaming features, and the ability to use Creative's SXFI virtualization tech with a headset.
In short, the Katana V2 is one of the most feature-packed soundbars available right now, and it is an excellent choice not just for gaming, but also TV shows and movies. I was ready to give this a score of 4.5 out of 5 based solely on the RGB lighting, and I'm glad that it sounds great and has a boatload of other features.
There isn't really anything missing here, and the sound quality combined with the connectivity options make this one of the best budget soundbars you can buy today.
The Katana V2 ticks all the right boxes for a gaming soundbar. It has RGB lighting, unique features that give you an edge while gaming, stellar sound quality for games, movies, and TV shows, and a sleek design. To sum it up, this is one of the best soundbars for under $500.
Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.
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