Boss Katana KTN-50: Our Favorite Amp... Ever!
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Named after the sword carried by the legendary samurai, the Boss Katana KTN-50 is a force to be reckoned with. Like its namesake, this amp is powerful, versatile, and precise. If you're just starting out playing guitar, the Katana packs everything you might need from an amp into an affordable, durable, and easy-to-carry package. With 58 effects, 5 amp models, and a built-in power attenuator, you'll sound great whether you're jamming at home in your underwear or rocking out on stage. Keep reading to see why we gave the Boss Katana KTN-50 the highest rating on our Best Beginner Amps list.
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The Boss Katana is meant for a serious beginner or intermediate guitarist who wants to wants the complete package. If you're a beginner, you'll enjoy how easy it is to quickly find a usable tone. Its interface is extremely straightforward and minimalistic, which helps a ton when all you're trying to do is dial in a good tone. 5 amp models and 2 channels allow you to go from clean to heavy metal in milliseconds. This is a 50-watt amp, so running it at full-tilt at home is a good way to get evicted and earn the contempt of your neighbors. Luckily, Boss had the foresight to give you the ability to tame the volume to a bedroom-friendly 0.5 watts with just a turn of a knob - without sacrificing your tone! There's even a headphone jack for practicing in complete silence and an aux input for jamming along to your favorite music.
You might know Boss from their world-renowned lineup of effects pedals, so you know you're getting the good stuff in this amp. For the intermediate guitarist who's starting to branch out and learn different genres, you'll enjoy the 58 effects that the Katana has to offer. With up to 15 effects running at the same time, you have full freedom to carve out your signature sound and create your own music. Combine that with the 50 watts of power inside this amp and you can play just about anything in any venue. The only limit is your imagination.
On the front of the KTN-50, you'll notice the Boss and Katana logos on the speaker grille accompanied by 4 metal screws that keep it in all place. Two gray strips run horizontally, adding visual interest and contrast. Black corner protectors and a thin black Tolex-like plastic coating add durability and protection to the lightweight, 18.6-inch tall cabinet. At the top, you'll notice a durable carrying handle for easy portability - great for taking the amp to practice sessions or to gigs.
Though you would hardly know it at first listen, the Katana KTN-50 is a solid-state amp. Boss worked hard to make sure this amp sounds great and they succeeded. The KTN-50's distortion sounds fantastic thanks to its great modeling capabilities! There are multiple models on the amp that quickly change the character of your tone with a simple turn of a knob. Go to the Boss Tone Central site and you'll find presets for amp models and effects that will instantly make you sound like a pro without having to fiddle around with any knobs or settings. This is great for impatient users who don't like spending time fiddling around with settings. With USB recording and Boss Tone Room Software for advanced settings editing, the Katana is quite technologically advanced.
A total of 58 effects are available on the Katana - an insane number that gives you so much room for customization and experimentation. Just connect to the Boss Tone Studio app and you can fine-tune every aspect of your sound. Many guitarists would consider Boss to be the gold standard for guitar effects, so when you buy the Katana, you're basically getting a professional pedalboard at no extra cost.
At the top of the Boss Katana KTN-50 is a control panel that's divided into 4 sections.
The 'Amplifier' section consists of the guitar input jack, and familiar Gain and Volume knobs. There's also an 'Amp Type' knob that changes the voicing of the amp. Clean, Crunch, and Lead settings adjust the character of the distortion. Clean is transparent, while Crunch is gritty and hot. Lead takes your gain up to the next level for singing solos and legato shredding. Brown is a high-gain type of sound popularized by Eddie van Halen - great for hard rock and metal.
If you play acoustic-electric guitars, you'll be happy to know that you don't need to lug around a separate amplifier. The Katana's Acoustic setting lets you cleanly amplify an acoustic-electric guitar. This is super helpful if you're trying to minimize the amount of gear you carry around to gigs.
The Equalizer section contains a standard 3-band EQ for adjusting the nuances of your tone. Using the Tone Studio app, you can set one EQ to apply to all channels, or you can choose to apply a separate custom EQ to each channel for added versatility.
The Effects section controls the essential parameters of the Katana KTN-50's built-in effects. These knobs work in conjunction with the Boss Tone Studio app on your phone, allowing you to fine-tune and adjust as you see fit. There are a ton of effects to choose from on the Boss Katana and it might be overwhelming for a novice. If you're new to the world of guitar effects, check out our Guitar Effects Guide to learn all about the history, types, and sounds of all the different effects you'll come across on the Katana and more.
Finally, the last section of the KTN-50's control panel contains 'Tone Setting' buttons that change the character of the amp. You can save up to 4 custom presets and switch between them using the 'CH1' and 'CH2' buttons. This makes it super quick to go from one preset to another during a song. To bypass the selected preset and go back to the settings currently dialed in on the amp, press the 'PANEL' button. You'll also notice a 'Master' knob for controlling the master volume, as well as a Power Control for cutting down the wattage of the amp based on the noise requirements of your environment (you'll want to set it to '0.5w' for home practice so you don't disturb the neighbors). Finally, there's a Power switch for turning the amp on or off.
On the back of the KTN-50, you'll find the power connector and even more jacks. An auxiliary input allows you to plug in a source of music to jam along to. A USB jack provides connectivity to your computer and direct recording abilities (which we'll touch on a little later). A headphone jack lets you play in complete silence. You can even use the headphone jack to record by plugging into an audio interface or recording console. Finally, the footswitch input is where you plug in a Boss FS-5L, Boss FS-6, or Boss FS-7 footswitch (sold separately), allowing you to quickly change amp channels hands-free.
50 watts of power means this amp can scream even at medium-sized gigs. The Power Control knob on the top of the amp allows you to half the wattage down to 25 watts for smaller venues or band practice. You can lower it down further still to just half a watt for bedroom practice sessions. The great thing about this feature is that you can still get power amp distortion at any volume. It won't negatively affect the tone of the amp - just the volume! The amp will respond and break up similarly at each setting so there are no surprises when it comes time to play live.
The speaker configuration on the Boss Katana KTN-50 is 1x12, meaning it has single 12-inch speaker. Custom-designed by Boss, it complements the KTN-50 well. We've seen reports that a few guitarists have been unhappy with the factory speaker and replaced it with one they felt was better. However, we don't recommend this. We've listened to the Katana mic'd up and think it sounds fantastic as it is. Unless you know what you're doing, replacing the speaker could be dangerous for you and your amp and will void your warranty. If you like to tinker and prefer the freedom to swap out different speakers to really customize your sound, you can always purchase the Boss Katana head and cabinet separately.
You'll notice that the back of the Katana's cabinet is open. This gives your tone more ambiance and presence than a closed-back amplifier. The cabinet is also made of composite wood, but it's still fairly light. It's covered in a thin Tolex-like black plastic and has corner protectors for added ruggedness.
You have a couple of options when recording with the Boss Katana KTN-50. You can choose from either the USB jack or the headphone output. Thanks to the amp's version 2 software update, you get even more control over the sound recorded from the Katana. The Boss Tone Studio software allows you to add cabinet resonance and 'microphone distance' emulation, giving your recordings more depth and character. If you prefer, you can always go the old-school method of mic'ing up your amp, but it seems a waste to go through all that hassle when you have so much control using the high-quality USB.
The KTN-50 weighs about 26 pounds, which is not too bad for such a powerful amplifier. The convenient carrying handle makes this combo amp a breeze to carry while putting around town for gigs or practice sessions.
The Boss Katana is an extremely versatile amp. Its multiple voicings and a plethora of effects combine to create an amp that can play everything and sound great doing it. Check out Rabea Massad's video below for great quality sound samples and demonstrations of the effects and software that come with the Boss Katana.
You'll find guitarists of all levels on YouTube raving about how versatile and great the Boss Katana is for its price point. It's very highly rated on Amazon, Guitar Center, Sweetwater, and Musician's Friend, with a lot of praise directed to the quality of the effects and sound. Some reviewers have had issues with the Tone Studio software installation, but this seems to be in the minority. Over on Reddit, the amp is lauded for being one of, if not the, best available beginner amplifiers. You'll see it recommended over and over again for beginner and intermediate guitarists.
The Boss Katana series had some teething issues when it first came out a couple of years ago. The amp's effects were acting strangely, and the Tone Studio software had a few annoying bugs in it. Thankfully in October 2017, Boss released a software update that remedied most complaints. It even added a couple of effects and recording options that we've touched on previously.
The Boss Katana KTN-50 is one of the ultimate beginner and intermediate guitar amplifiers on the market today. Combining slick styling with a ton of horsepower and quality effects turns out to be a recipe for success. Add in the budget pricing and you've got yourself a winner.