Boss Katana 50 Review

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I've had the Katana 50  for 3 months now. But lets start from where I'm coming from....

... Up to this point of been a purely valve combo user, my last two amps being a Cornford Roadhouse 30 and a Fender Blues Junior III.

I used the Cornford's own overdrive which towards the end nagged as being rather 'mushy' ,with the EQ not being dramatic enough to tweak.

With the Fender (as a clean platform) I really struggled with it's headroom, yes it was loud enough, but setting up a usable boost for solos proved VERY problematic. 

With this is mind, I had nothing to lose with trying the Katana 50. I wanted a clean platform that would be loud enough to gig with and portable. The price was also too good to be true.

First impressions are night on perfect.  Compact, light, neat build, good looks.

The first play-through was a revelation really, with all the inbuilt models in FX it making for the ideal practice tool. In this scenario it's a great sounding amp, clean, overdriven and distorted, natural and organic sounding, responsive and with a range of sensibly voiced FX at your fingertips.

I had my doubts about volume until the first band practice. Volume to spare, easy setup. All was good with the world. Maybe an A/B test with a valve amp would reveal shortcomings, but in isolation it was doing the job nicely and I didn't care.

And then, gradually, the drawbacks of the Katana begin to dawn on you.

Once our informal practices turned into rehearsals and we started to get serious, the Katana started to struggle with the pace.

My tone needs are simple really, a basic light/medium OD, cleaning up with the guitar volume, a bit of delay, chorus, and flanger for different songs, and a vol/gain boost if required for any solos.

I'm afraid when push came to shove, contrary to what BOSS say, the Katana really struggled to cut through and I started to disappear in the mix. (ME-80 OD straight into front end).

I tried to adapt, adding more volume and maxing the MIDS as you would, but such loudness doesn't really sit well either, especially with the vocals. When really pushed, the Katana starts to come apart.

I just seems to be in the wrong EQ band somehow, and getting a decent tone was becoming a chore.

The flexibility of course is built into the Katana, but to get into it requires you to hook up a PC, install drivers etc, you can't fix things on the fly in a real band situation, so I put together a plan of allocating the PARAMETIC EQ to the FX slot, hoping to add increasing amounts of LOW MID gain with a twist of the knob....

.... It didn't work, as the Parametic EQ automatically drops the level as you increase the gain, and I could overwrite this back to my Katana.

Further to this, after a few not so heavy bangs, you can see the clean, solid lines of the Katana are purely cosmetic. The structure won't withstand anything major, in fact it's already looking a little shabby.

I'm now looking back to my valve amps, I never really had to tweak those, yeah they had there limitation but the core sound was always usable and punched through.

It was easy to get a sound from these. It's hard to get a sound out of the Katana (in a loud rehearsal at least).

I'll close with some context, you really do get a LOT of amp for £160. The ultimate practice amp really, with enough volume at least to gig with. It's thoroughly modern, flexible, adaptable, but with a pleasingly non-digital, organic, guitarist friendly range of core tones.

As a rehearsal, stage amp, I haven't given up with i quite yet, maybe it's not even the amp at all and it could be down to my ME-80, maybe I just need to deep dive into the EQ and figure out why setting aren't being saved.

I would have loved to have seen some sort of mobile app control, along the lines of the Marshall Code etc, which would have allowed much needed on-the-fly tweaks, but I understand it needs to arrive at a cost, so maybe that's asking too much.  

What's certain is I got to my sound a lot easier and quicker with valve amps.

Even with it's faults I still love this amp and I'll keep it for practice even if I need to upgrade to something else for stage use. It just has too many features and applications to ignore.

I won't upgrade to the 100 though as it's not volume that's the issue.

Whatever happens, It's still the best guitar-related purchase I've ever made.











The Blogging Musician ;https://adamharkus.com/
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Comments

  • LegionreturnsLegionreturns Frets: 5527
    edited April 2018
    Interesting read. 

    I'll just mention this even though I've said it elsewhere. I ditched my ME80 almost as soon as I got my first katana (100w 1x12 which I later upgraded to the head) as it just plain didn't play nice with the Kat. Couldn't get a good sound out of it or balance the relative volumes of different fx at all. 

    Having tried it with both a traditional pedal board, (and my line 6 Pod hd500 pretending to be a traditional pedal board) and the built in effects using a GAFC I've found it much better. I would definitely recommend trying it with either if these methods instead of the ME80.  

    My Trading Feedback    |    You Bring The Band

    Just because you're paranoid, don't mean they're not after you
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  • ^This...

    You have to remove any variables upfront before you can truly criticise it.... who knows what the ME80 could be doing.

    My trading feedback

    is it crazy how saying sentences backwards creates backwards sentences saying how crazy it is?

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  • Solution : Master at Max on the ME-80 allows the cleanest, strongest signal into the Katana. On the 50W setting however, it's too clean, too polite, swittch to the 25 W setting and bingo! Punch AND clarity :)
    The Blogging Musician ;https://adamharkus.com/
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  • baldybaldy Frets: 146
    Possibly a stupid suggestion but I have read several posts where people have said that their Katana"s wouldn"t cut through in a gig situation.
    It seemed that they were all just putting the amp on the floor but when they used the little built in tilt stand to angle the amp, or put it on something to lift it off the floor then the Katana did cut through. 
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  • My Katana 50 Combo cut through as well as any valve amp I’ve used. That was using the stock clean channel with pedals, Blackstar HT Dual pedal for drive sounds. All EQ on the amp at 12 o'clock.

    Im using a Helix at the moment but if I decided to go back to an amp. I know I could rely on the Katana to deliver.
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  • baldybaldy Frets: 146
    I have had my Katana 50 for about 4 months now, & as a home practice amp I can"t really fault it TBH.
    I have not felt the need yet to hook up the lap top to it as I find I can get so many usable tones straight from the amp, & quickly.
    I watched a band a few weeks ago where the guitarist was using one & it was cutting through no problem.
    He had his on a low table.
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  • baldybaldy Frets: 146
    Stumbled across this (long) youtube video yesterday where the reviewer got some excellent tones from the Katana just using the amps onboard controls 
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  • ShrewsShrews Frets: 351
    Had been very much sold on buying one of these for my first electric guitar purchase (it's coming today!) but one final question.

    This will be my first ever amp.  I've never even twiddled a knob on an amp before let alone anything technical and I'm really looking for something simple to begin with, with a bit of scope for the future. I want it to maximise the quality of the sound I'm producing.

    If the guitar is decent quality and the amp is decent quality then if it sounds crap then it's my playing - that's my theory!

    So, how simple is this to use?  Will I just be able to plug in and play, twiddle a few knobs and get a decent sound or do I have to do a load of twiddling and manual reading to get it to sound any good?
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  • Really simple without a computer..  but sounds good too
    My trading feedback

    is it crazy how saying sentences backwards creates backwards sentences saying how crazy it is?

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  • ShrewsShrews Frets: 351
    Really simple without a computer..  but sounds good too

    Ok cheers.  I'm decent enough on a computer, so would get my head around it but wouldn't want it to be too fiddly to begin with.

    Loving the scope it has to provide plenty of enjoyment though.

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  • kennedydream1980kennedydream1980 Frets: 246
    edited October 2018
    When I had my 2 Katana 50's I never went near a computer, I just used them as stand alone amps and they sounded great  
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  • baldybaldy Frets: 146
    I haven"t hooked up the laptop to my Katana yet in my 7 months of ownership as I have been more than happy with the tones available from the amps control panel.
    If you watch that youtube video I have posted he gets some really good convincing tones just from the amp controls & the settings he used are under the video so you can copy them.
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  • baldybaldy Frets: 146
    Here are his settings for anyone interested, all just using the amps knobs.

    John Frusciante setting Crunch mode Gain 0 Volume 10 Bass 0 Middle 0 Treble 0 Booster - Green - 3

    Clean Mode Gain 10 Volume 10 Bass 0 Middle 2 Treble 2 Jimi Blues Lead Mode Gain 5 Volume 10 Bass 2 Middle 0 Treble 0

    SRV Lead Mode Gain 3 Volume 10 Bass 5 Middle 5 Treble 0

    Dave's full gain goodness Brown Sounds Mode Gain 10 Volume 10 Bass 0 Middle 0 or 2 if you want it a little brighter :) Treble 0

    Acoustic Mode Gain 8 Volume 10 Bass 3 Middle 0 Treble 4

    Peter Green esc tone Lead Mode Gain 3 Volume 10 Bass 2 / 5 depending Middle 5 Treble 0

    Classic Rock tone Crunch mode Gain 10 Volume 10 Bass 0 Middle 2 Treble 2

    Gary Moore Esc Brown Mode Gain 10 Volume 10 Bass 2 Middle 2 Treble 0

    Jerry Cantrell esc tone Lead Gain 10 Volume 10 Bass 2 Middle 3 Treble 0

    Metallica / Pantera tone Brown Mode Gain 10 Volume 10 Bass 2 Middle 0 Treble 4

    IMHO the Katana 50 is a truly brilliant bit of kit for around £160 new
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  • ShrewsShrews Frets: 351
    What settings would you advise for Sex Pistols @Baldy?






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  • baldybaldy Frets: 146
    Hi Shrews, if you post a thread in the guitar section stating that you want to get a tone like Steve Jones using a Katana & whatever guitar it is that you have I am sure that someone far more experienced than me will give you some pointers.


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  • Shrews said:
    So, how simple is this to use?  Will I just be able to plug in and play, twiddle a few knobs and get a decent sound or do I have to do a load of twiddling and manual reading to get it to sound any good?
    Very simple. Just choose one of the amp types (clean, lead, etc.), turn the pre-amp volume up max, Bass, mid, treble, gain etc can go at 12 o'clock, leave the effects off (maybe just a touch of reverb), and use the master volume and power selector to decide how loud you want it. Simple. Tweak it from there if you feel the need.
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  • BarrySW19 said:
    Shrews said:
    So, how simple is this to use?  Will I just be able to plug in and play, twiddle a few knobs and get a decent sound or do I have to do a load of twiddling and manual reading to get it to sound any good?
    Very simple. Just choose one of the amp types (clean, lead, etc.), turn the pre-amp volume up max, Bass, mid, treble, gain etc can go at 12 o'clock, leave the effects off (maybe just a touch of reverb), and use the master volume and power selector to decide how loud you want it. Simple. Tweak it from there if you feel the need.
    I thought the 50 combo sounded better with the Master volume up full, and controlling the overall level using the regular volume control. In fact I remember reading somewhere that one of the amps designers recommended running the amp this way. 
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