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 ;
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  • LegionreturnsLegionreturns Frets: 5092
    edited April 18
    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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  • bloodandtearsbloodandtears Frets: 474

    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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  • AdamHarkusBlogAdamHarkusBlog Frets: 112
    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 ;
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  • baldybaldy Frets: 70
    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: 70
    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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