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Boss Katana 50 Review

Boss Katana 50 Review

BOSS is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable brands in the music industry. They are responsible for introducing some of the most iconic pieces of gear ever, such as the DS-1 Distortion, CE-1 Chorus, or even their reliable tuner, which you have probably seen on dozens of professional pedalboards.

In this BOSS Katana 50 Review, we are going to see why this brand is not just about effect pedals.

These affordable amps have something useful for everyone, and I’d recommend it to a beginner just as easily as I would recommend it to a pro, it just depends on what you’re looking for at the moment.

What Do I Like the Most (and Less) about the BOSS Katana 50?

An Amp Type for Every Player and Genre

The Katana Series comes equipped with 5 different amp types: Acoustic, Clean, Crunch, Lead, and Brown. The MkII version of this amplifier improves upon this by adding an alternative to each of these amps (Acoustic 2, Clean 2, Crunch 2, Lead 2, and Brown 2).

I am not unhappy about the first 5 models, but having a slightly tweaked option to them is a fantastic, useful addition in my opinion.

My favorites out of these five are undoubtedly Clean and Crunch. I have used the Acoustic amp with an electro-acoustic guitar I’ve got, but only because I was in a pinch and that was the best solution I had. It turned out to be better than I was expecting!

I’m certain that I’ve used the Clean amp for the vast majority of my time playing the Katana 50. I play a lot of funk and soul, so I need to have a clean amp that does not distort when I turn it up. The Princeton Reverb wouldn’t be a great candidate for this because of its low headroom, for example.

The Katana can get warm and round, all the way up to a piercing, cutting-clean sound, so you should have no problem pairing it with all kinds of guitars. This amp type is the one I find to work best with pedals.

I frequently pair it with the Analogman King of Tone, the JHS Angry Charlie, the Ibanez TS-9, and the Hermida Audio Dover Drive.

Crunch is the perfect amp type for rock & roll lovers. It can do very light overdrives up to a solid crunch that works wonderfully for rhythm parts inspired by AC/DC, Boston, Aerosmith, and other classic rock bands.

I like to pair it with a light overdrive used as a boost, such as the TS-9 with the Level up and the Gain down. This works great for solos or a nice volume increase. After this amp type, I don’t like using overdrive pedals as much, as I find that everything starts sounding too saturated and heavily compressed, which I dislike.

Lead is meant for blazing solos that have enough sustain for days. I typically get this kind of saturation from stacking overdrive pedals, but if I found myself in a situation in which I didn’t have any, I’d hop over to this amp type, or the Brown channel.

Brown, the last amp type on the Katana Series is also a high-gain algorithm that will get you in the EVH ballpark. In my perspective, there isn’t a world of difference between this one and Lead, so I’d advise you to jump between them for a while and see which one works best with the rest of your setup.

As far as tweaking your sound goes, the MkII version of this amplifier comes with dual knobs, just like you’ll find on some BOSS pedals like the JB-2 Angry Driver or the VO-1 Vocoder.

They fit two knobs into one, allowing you to quickly adjust several parameters. Although I like the fact that you can get deeper into crafting your sound, this only works well for me when I already know the controls very well, or I’m in a calm environment where I have time to check everything carefully.

Adjusting these in a live situation with less knowledge of how the knobs interact is certainly more challenging.

If you experience a lot of noise while using any of these amp types, particularly the ones with more gain, I’d suggest opening up the BOSS Tone Editor and using the noise gate that you’ll find there, as it can help with the noise issue significantly.

Effects Galore, Because it isn’t All about that Clean Tone

boss katana 50

The Katana 50 has more built-in effects than you could fit into Pedaltrain’s biggest pedalboard model, even with small pedals.

I don’t tend to use a ton of effects, but I like having them available in case I want to try something out. I also consider this abundance to be especially useful to new players, as they can start to tell the most common ones apart slowly.

One of my first amps also had a huge effects section, and that was how I learned how to use a chorus, a phaser, a flanger, and many more.

´There are also a few different delays and reverbs, and you can configure everything to your liking via the BOSS Tone Editor. If you have the footswitch for the Katana, you can jump between presets seamlessly, opening up a new world of possibilities.

If you take a look at the MkII version of the Katana, you’ll find that BOSS has made space for even more effects. You can save up to 65 effects on the MkII, which to be honest is a tad much for me. I don’t need all that, so this improvement doesn’t translate into a much better quality of life for me as a player.

Portable, Yet with Enough Power for Everyone and Quiet when Needed

At 50W of power, the Boss Katana 50 is ready for the stage. It can put out enough volume to keep up with a loud drummer, but at the same time, it isn’t the kind of amp that you can’t take anywhere because of its excessive volume. It sits in a perfect spot for me: not too loud, but enough power to handle every situation I’m typically in.

For me, one of the top features of the Katana Series is the power attenuator that can drop the wattage from 50W to 25W and even to 0.5W. This last setting is perfect for when you’re playing at home, especially if you live in an apartment and your neighbors might complain.

This flexibility paired with a lightweight amplifier makes the BOSS Katana 50 an amazing choice for people who need an amp that can perform in many different circumstances.

Edit to Your Heart’s Content with the BOSS Tone Studio Editor Software

boss katana 50

The BOSS Tone Studio Editor Software is the missing puzzle piece that allows you to dive even deeper into the Katana’s features, controls, and much more. It allows you to access effects that aren’t accessible otherwise, you can configure a noise gate to help control noise levels on higher-gain patches, among others.

I haven’t used it extensively because I own other amplifiers and I am not a huge fan of spending time configuring things on my computer, but I certainly acknowledge what a powerful tool it is. If you’re into editing and polishing your patches to perfection, I’m sure that you will thoroughly enjoy the BOSS Tone Studio Editor Software.

On the MkII versions of the Katana Series, you’ll find that this software was revamped to give you even deeper control over every aspect of your sound. Nowadays there are hundreds of quality plugins, amp simulators, and other kinds of software, so I think it is great that BOSS is keeping up with the times and improving their already released software.

More Connectivity than Ever

When you take a look at the back of the Katana 50, you’ll see an AUX input, which is perfect for playing along to songs or backing tracks. My tube amps don’t have this, so it is nice to take advantage of this feature when I want to practice something quickly.

You will also see a Headphones/Rec Out. Using headphones when playing at night has saved many people from having trouble with their neighbors, especially those who live in an apartment. I haven’t taken much advantage of the Rec Out because I’m already used to my recording setup, but it is always great to have.

The USB port is used to update your amp’s software and firmware to the latest version, which you should check regularly.

Lastly, there’s a Foot Control input, which is used to connect a footswitch for the Katana so you can jump between sounds effortlessly while playing.

I also haven’t used this much because instead of saving presets on the Katana, I tend to use the Clean amp while performing, and adding most of the drive and effects via separate pedals that I’ve bought over the years.

BOSS Katana 50 Pros and Cons

boss katana 50

Pros

  • Moderate Size and Weight: The Katana’s modest dimensions and moderate weight make it an excellent candidate for gigs, rehearsals, and jam sessions. Say goodbye to your aching back for good!
  • Variety of Amp Types and Effects: It is going to be hard to think of an effect that you can’t get with the BOSS Katana Series. They aren’t top-notch quality but they are very decent and I’d use them live if I’m not carrying my pedalboard.
  • Attenuator and Headphones Input: The attenuator present on the Katana Series is undoubtedly one of its best features, allowing you to play at half power (25W) and even 0.5W. At home, I’m always using one of these two options. Whenever I need to go completely silent, the headphones’ output is my best friend.
  • Augmented Possibilities with BOSS Tone Studio Editor for the Katana Amp Series: This software brings advanced editing to the table, allowing you to access more effects, tweak more parameters more meticulously, and supercharge the Katana’s versatility.
  • Satisfying Dynamic Response: It feels good to play an amplifier that reacts similarly to a tube amp. The Katana does a great job of responding to your picking technique, attack, dynamics, and to the guitar’s volume knob.

Cons

  • No Effects Loop on the 50W Version: While the lack of an effects loop does not bother me, it might be detrimental to players who rely heavily on one.
  • Some Sounds Require Extensive Tweaking: Even though it isn’t difficult to obtain a decent sound, achieving a satisfying high-gain tone is a bit more challenging in my opinion.
  • Challenging to Pair External Drive Pedals with Onboard Dirt and Effects: Combining the Katana’s high-gain amp types with external overdrive and distortion pedals is trickier than on my tube amps. My usual workaround is to achieve high-gain by stacking pedals on the Clean or Crunch amp types.

Other Amplifiers to Check Out as an Alternative to the BOSS Katana 50

Don’t get me wrong, I love the BOSS Katana to death and I am extremely happy that I have found a good solid-state amplifier for a reasonable price. I am a sucker for tube amps such as my Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe Reverb or my Supro Black Magick, but a smaller, lighter, and less fragile amp is a joy to have in many situations.

With this in mind, I have put together a small list of alternatives to the BOSS Katana for you to check out. They are not all in the same price range, but the features and sound are also different.

Yamaha THR5

yamaha thr5

I decided to include the THR5 in this list because of its amazing price/quality ratio. I wouldn’t advise it to someone who’d be using it primarily for gigs because it is not as powerful as the Katana 50.

However, if you’re planning to use it mainly as a practice amp at home, it blows most of them out of the water. It is small, extremely portable (it can even be powered using batteries), and it sounds surprisingly good for something so small.

It features stereo speakers, 5 amplifier models, 4 modulation effects, and 4 delay/reverb styles. That’s a lot for such a small package!

Sweetwater Music – Yamaha THR5 2×3″ 10-watt Modeling Combo Amp

Marshall Code 50

marshall code 50

If the THR5 is not your cup of tea because of its lack of volume, I’d recommend taking a look at the Marshall Code 50.

Marshall is one of those names that you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve seen it on stages, studios, and other musical contexts worldwide.

The Marshall Code 50 is a digital amp that delivers 50W of power through a 12″ speaker that was specifically designed for it.

It features a whopping 14 preamp models that were inspired by classic Marshall amps such as the JCM800, Bluesbreaker, and the Silver Jubilee. On top of that, there are 4 power amp models, 8 speaker emulations, 24 digital effects, and many more useful features such as an AUX input and a headphone output for practice and recording.

If you’re all about rock n’ roll, the Code 50 might be an excellent option for you.

Sweetwater Music – Marshall Code 50 1×12″ 50-watt Digital Combo Amp

Laney LG35R

laney lg35r

The Laney LG35R is my suggestion to guitarists who don’t like overly complicated controls and would rather have a simple interface that won’t keep them fiddling with the knobs for a long time.

It has 35W of power, a clean and a dirty channel, as well as all the tools you need to sculpt a desirable tone for your practice sessions, rehearsals, or small gigs.

The 10″ speaker produces a punchy response, the built-in reverb is a nice touch, and the headphone out allows for silent practicing whenever you need. The AUX input is there to allow you to play over your favorite backing tracks or songs easily.

If you’re not into the modeling amp scene, the LG35R would be a great addition to your amplifier arsenal.

Sweetwater Music – Laney LG35R 35-watt 1 x 10-inch Guitar Combo Amplifier

Fender Mustang GTX50

fender mustang gtx50

I’ve become a big fan of the Fender Mustang Series because the school where I teach most of my classes has a bunch of them in their classrooms, so naturally, I had to become familiarized with the amp and how its controls interact.

The Mustang GTX50 is completely packed with features. Maybe you’re not going to use everything, but you never know when they may come in handy.

With 50W of power, it has a 12″ Celestion G12P-80 speaker that pairs nicely with the amp.

It can save up to 200 presets, and you can even control it via the Fender TONE 3.0 smartphone app (free download), as well as use its Bluetooth connectivity for audio playback. Fender also sells an optional footswitch that will expand your options even further.

In terms of amplifier emulations, the Mustang GTX50 packs 40 different amp models, dozens of effects that include compressors, drives, delays, reverbs, modulation effects, and much more. A looper is accessible with the Mustang GT footswitch.

Out of the 5 suggestions I’m offering in this guide, I think the GTX50 is probably the amp that can get closer to the possibilities, versatility, and variety of sounds that the Katana Series offers, without being overly complicated to operate.

Sweetwater Music – Fender Mustang GTX 50 1×12″ 50-watt Combo Amp

Line 6 Catalyst 60

line 6 catalyst 60

Line 6 has been a name that I have associated with modeling amplifiers for many years. When I was growing up and browsing amps, the Line 6 Spider Series used to come up constantly.

The Catalyst 60 puts most of them to shame due to the technological advances that were made during the last few years. This 60W amp features 6 amp models that go from clean to high-gain, 18 built-in effects, and a separate reverb knob that has 6 different reverb algorithms.

Just like the Katana 50, this amp has an attenuator that can drop the power to half (30W) or 0.5W, making it as silent as a whisper. It can also be used as a 4-channel USB audio interface for convenient recording.

Line 6 also offers an editing app for your tones, called Catalyst.

Sweetwater Music – Line 6 Catalyst 60 60-watt 1 x 12-inch Combo Amplifier

Boss Katana 50 Review: FAQs

Question: Is the BOSS Katana 50 Loud Enough for Rehearsals and Live Performances?

Answer: In my personal experience, the 50W version of the BOSS Katana is more than loud enough for most gigs and rehearsals. If you’re playing small to medium clubs (anything other than big stadiums/arenas), this amplifier should get the job done. In any case, if you still have doubts, the 100W version is surely loud enough for anyone!

Question: Is the BOSS Katana 50 a Versatile Amplifier?

Answer: Absolutely. The Katana Series delivers solid clean tones, convincing edge-of-breakup sounds, and it has a few great overdrives and distortions. The fact that it has a lot of effects that can be further edited means that you can use it for virtually any music genre.

Question: Can You Further Edit Your Sounds and Presets Crafted on the BOSS Katana 50 Using External Software?

Answer: Yes, every Boss Katana owner should download the BOSS Tone Studio for Katana, as it will allow them to make the most out of its amp models, effects, and make microscopic tweaks and adjustments that would be impossible to make using only the amp’s knobs.

The Final Verdict – 4/5

I have found that it is an amazing blend of power, versatility, and an affordable price tag. If you’re looking for a solid-state amp that can do virtually anything, make sure you check this one out. In my perspective, it strikes a great balance between having a lot of available sounds and being easy to use, as I’ve come across too many amplifiers that had me working the controls for too much time.

Although it is not my favorite amp to pair with my pedalboard, it is still usable, and to be fair, many people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway.

This is the main reason why I didn’t give it a higher score, alongside a couple of missing features that BOSS included in the MkII version of this amplifier (more amp types, more control over every parameter, improved tone editing software).

It comes with so many functions that I’m sure that it has something for every guitarist, so make sure you try one out as soon as you can!