Recently introduced in 50- and 100-watt combos and heads, the new Katana series amps from Boss are highly affordable and loaded with features. The models on review here are the 100-watt Head and 1x12 combo, and while they share most of the same features, the Head differs by having a MIDI jack (allowing it to be controlled by a MIDI foot-controller or multi-effects unit), a speaker output (8Ω minimum), as well as a 5” internal speaker for practicing or rehearsals—all handy features that bump up the price by only $20! We were able to audition the Head through a variety of speaker cabinets, including a Mesa 1x12 recto cab and a Bad Cat 4x12. The combo version does not allow for an extension speaker, and its stock ceramic-magnet 12 is hardwired to the solid-state output stage.
Setting aside for a moment the effect of different speakers—which may be reason enough to opt for the Head if you already own a few cabinets—both of these amps proved easy to dial in for the styles they’re designed to handle. The Clean sounds are crisp and have good dimension, and the Crunch mode serves up dynamically responsive tones that work well for blues solos and heavier rhythm playing. The Lead and Brown settings have tons of gain, and the latter—which is borrowed from Boss’ Waza amp—delivers ballsy, slicing distortion tones that center on hard rock and metal. The Katana’s reverb sounds very good and comes in three flavors—Plate, Spring, and Hall—which are selected with a button above the Level control that illuminates in green, orange, or red depending on the type of reverb you choose. The Booster/Mod and Delay/FX knobs work exactly the same way, putting a variety of effects at your fingertips, including boost, two distortions, chorus, phaser, flanger, delay (digital, analog, tape), tremolo, T-wah, and octave. There are 15 effects inside the unit and three can be used simultaneously. There are also four Tone Setting buttons that can be used to store all the knob settings (except the Master) by pressing and holding any of the buttons for one second. This allows for up to four channels of instantly accessible amp sounds when the amp is connected to the optional GA-FC foot-controller, which also lets you select effects, tap in delay times (something you can also do on the top panel), and bypass the effects loop. You can also connect an optional expression pedal to control volume or manipulate an effect. A second jack on the back of these amps, labeled Foot Control, allows users to switch between Tone Settings 1 and 2 using a basic A/B switcher like the Boss FS-5L.
Both of the Katanas kick down such a wide range of tones that it would be hard to imagine a style that they couldn’t be used for. I wasn’t able to trim the Tape Delay repeats enough via the knob for a convincing slapback echo sound, but, by connecting the Katana’s USB jack to a computer and logging onto bosstonecentral. com you can edit the effects, backup or restore sounds, and download dedicated effects. Via the software, users can select which of 55 effects they want to reside in their Katana.
Overall, and considering the price of these amps, I found the quality of the amp and effects sounds to be quite satisfying. There’s good touch responsiveness on the higher gain tones, and these 100-watters are definitely capable of holding their own in a band. The noise floor is very low, even on the most overdriven and effected settings, and the Katana Head’s built-in speaker works surprisingly well for practicing and lower-volume rehearsals. Having this feature on a head is so convenient that’ I’m surprised more manufacturers don’t include it on their own amps. Ditto for the Katana combo’s tilt-back stand, which is located on the underside of the open-back cabinet.
Boss obviously put a lot of thought into the Katana series amps, and based on what we’ve seen here, they are gig-worthy products that should have a lot of appeal for budget-minded players who want one amp that can be a veritable tool chest of tones.
KATANA-100 AND KATANA HEAD
PRICE $329 street; Katana Head $349 street. (Katana-50 $199 street; Katana-100/212 $499 street)
CHANNELS 4 with 5 amp voicings: Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown, Acoustic (for use with acoustic-electric guitar)
CONTROLS Gain, Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble. Effects Section: Booster/Mod, Delay/FX, Tap, Reverb (each with a corresponding button to select effects), Presence, Master
POWER 100 watts, switchable to 50 watts and .5 watts. Standby mode maintains all settings while muting the output.
EXTRAS Built in distortion, modulation, delay, reverb, and other effects. Switchable FX loop. Aux In and Line Out jacks. Recording/headphone jack. USB port. Expression pedal control jack. GA-FC foot-controller jack. MIDI In and speaker out jacks (Katana Head only). Combo models have a built-in tilt-back stand
SPEAKER One 12"; Katana Head has a small built-in speaker
WEIGHT 32 lbs; Katana Head 19 lbs
KUDOS A very flexible amplifier that can field a multitude of styles. Good-sounding amp and effects models. Connecting to a computer allows users to choose from 55 Boss effects.
CONCERNS GA-FC foot-controller or a basic A/B switcher must be purchased separately.