Hands on: Creative's desktop soundbar, the Sound BlasterX Katana
We're checking out some of the higher-end desktop speakers suitable for Macs, beginning with Creative's soundbar/subwoofer combo, the Sound BlasterX Katana.
The $299 Katana fixes a key problem for many desktops: how to cram better sound into a small space. Even if your desktop isn't cluttered, high-quality conventional speakers tend to take up a lot of room.
The centerpiece of the Katana system is its soundbar, shaped vaguely like its namesake sword, which houses two high-excursion tweeters and two upfiring midbass drivers. Thanks to a 24-bit DAC and a multi-core DSP it can simulate 5.1-channel surround sound, including Dolby Digital. The ".1" comes from a tall floor-standing subwoofer.
The bar has several connection options — optical, 3.5mm, Bluetooth, micro USB-to-USB-A, and even a USB-A slot meant for playing files directly from a USB stick. You can switch between these at will using top-facing buttons, a bundled remote, or the Sound Blaster Connect iOS app.
Out of the gate it should be noted that Mac functionality is mildly limited versus Windows. While it should work well, there's no native Mac client for controlling profiles, the EQ, or LED lighting. Windows users also get the advantage of 7.1-channel surround, since the Katana doubles as a sound card for that OS when connected via USB. The only other iOS control option involves changing and downloading profiles.
In our testing so far that's hardly mattered. Multiple profiles are preinstalled — Neutral, Gaming, Concert, Cinema, and Night — that should cover just about any circumstance you can think of. You can cycle both profiles and LED lighting via the remote, along with bass levels.
It's also quite powerful. The soundbar is rated at 75 watts RMS, 150 watts peak, which is almost obscene when sitting a few inches away. We had to crank it down to avoid disturbing people.
We've had a few days to listen to the Katana, and so far it's one of the best desktop systems we've heard. Highs and mids are clear, and the subwoofer can rattle your desk with ease. We did end up boosting bass a couple of notches, but just as a matter of preference.
Stay tuned to AppleInsider for our full review.