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Table of Contents
The Katana series is meant for a beginner or intermediate guitarist who wants to experiment. If you’re a beginner, you’ll enjoy how easy it is to find a usable tone. The interface is extremely straightforward and minimalistic, which helps a ton when all you’re trying to do is simply dial in the right tone for the song you’re practicing. 5 amp models and 2 channels allow you to go from clean to heavy metal in a flash. Though this is a 50-watt amp, 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 half-watt with just a turn of a knob – without sacrificing your tone! There’s also a headphone jack for silent practicing.
For the intermediate guitarist who’s starting to branch out and learn different genres, you’ll enjoy the 58 effects the Katana has to offer. You might know Boss from their world-renowned lineup of effects pedals, so you know you’re getting the good stuff in this amp. 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. Along with the 50 watts of power behind this amp, you can play just about anything in any venue. The only limit is your imagination.
Looks and Build
At 18.6 inches, the all-black Boss Katana stands tall. On the front, 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 cabinet. At the top, you’ll notice a carrying handle for easy portability.
Technology and Effects
Though this is a solid-state amp, you would hardly know it at first listen. The distortion sounds fantastic! There are multiple models on the amp to quickly change the character of your tone with the 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.
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.
Knobs and Jacks
At the top of the Boss Katana is the control panel, divided into 4 sections.
The ‘Amplifier’ section contains the guitar input jack, and the familiar gain and volume knob. It also has 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 rock and metal. ‘Acoustic’ lets you cleanly amplify an acoustic-electric guitar.
The Equalizer section is the familiar 3-band EQ for adjusting the nuances of your tone. Using the Tone Studio app, you can set this EQ to apply to every preset, or you can individually apply a custom EQ to each channel separately for added versatility.
The Effects section controls the essential parameters of the Katana’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. If you’re new to the world of guitar effects, check out our Guitar Effects Guide for learning 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 panel contains the ‘Tone Setting’ buttons to change the channel of the amp. You can save up to 4 custom presets and switch between them using the ‘Ch2’ and ‘Ch3’ buttons. It’s great for quickly switching between one preset and another during one song. To 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. Finally, there’s the Power switch for turning the amp on or off.
On the back of the amp, 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. A headphone jack lets you play in 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 the Boss FS-5L, Boss FS-6, or Boss FS-7 footswitch (sold separately), allowing you to quickly change the amp channels remotely.
Power, Speaker, and Cabinet
5o 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 kick the wattage down to 25 watts for smaller venues or band practice and 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, giving you more control over your tone so there are no surprises when it comes time to play live.
The speaker configuration on the Katana is 1×12, meaning a single 12-inch speaker. Custom-designed by Boss, it complements the Katana well. We’ve seen reports that some guitarists have been unhappy with the 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 great. 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 prefer the versatility of swapping out different speakers, you can always purchase the 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 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. You have a choice of either using the USB jack or the headphone output. With the 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 thorough review for great quality sound samples and demonstrations of the effects and software that come with the Katana.
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.
You’ll find guitarists of all levels on YouTube raving about how versatile and great this amp 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 in the amp recommendations for beginners.
Conclusion and Ratings
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.
Boss Katana KTN-50 Review Summary
- An insane 58 top-quality Boss effects
- Built-in power attenuator lets you rock out anywhere
- USB jack for professional-quality recording
- Convenient headphone jack and aux inputs for silent jamming
- Occasional minor bugs with the Tone Studio software
- Built-in speaker is not as dynamic as other amps in the same price range