You probably already know how great the BOSS Katana amp range is – the proof is all over the internet and in the hands of users all over the globe since Katana took the amp world by storm in 2016. Due to its immense popularity, the Katana family of amps has rapidly grown to encompass SEVEN distinct models (and an extension speaker!). Furthermore, in 2019 the Katana platform was turbocharged with the brand new MkII series, encompassing both hardware and software upgrades across the core stage-ready range.
If all this information overload has you wondering, “which Katana is right for me?” then you’re in the right place! Today, what this article is going to do is talk through the BOSS Katana amp range. We’ll see how each one might suit your needs, from the teeny tiny Katana Mini all the way up to the Katana Artist flagship combo.
Contributed by Ed Lim for Roland Corporation Australia
It’s all in the name. It’s the baby of the family – tiny, super portable and runs on batteries. You get 3 amp modes (Clean, Crunch, Brown) and a tape-style delay. Everything you need for a practice or warm-up amp, and nothing you don’t. It’s got a custom 4-inch speaker that sounds mightier than you’d think – just ask these guys.
It even boasts a fantastic cab-emulated Headphones/Recording Out that can be used to great effect, as seen in the following video:
Probably one of the most exciting new product releases in the Boss Katana amp range! Announced recently at Winter NAMM 2018, the KATANA-AIR is the world’s first truly wireless amp. What exactly does that mean? Exactly what it says on the tin:
- A newly developed custom wireless transmitter means no more tangled instrument cables
- Editing patches is done via Bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet with the BOSS ToneStudio app. And you can stream music from your phone to the Air to play along to!
- Last but not least, it can be battery powered for on-the-go use (though an AC adaptor is included as well).
Not to forget that you get five great amp channels to choose from and over 50 types of effects!
Katana MkII – The Evolution of a Modern Classic
In 2019, Katana-50, -100 (both 1×12″ and 2×12″ versions) and the 100W Head were updated to the new MkII platform, bringing with it a host of new features including:
- Newly voiced variations for all five amp characters (for a total of 10 amp voicings!)
- Onboard effects have been expanded from three simultaneous effects to FIVE, for maximum versatility and creative options
- Stereo Expand out to link with a second Katana MkII (available on 100-watt models only)
- New direct power amp input for modellers and multi-FX, updated editor software and many other enhancements
KATANA-50, 100 and 100/212 (MkII)
It makes sense to think of these 3 combos as their own little subset of the Katana family. After all, they were the pioneering trio that set off the Katana revolution! They all share a similar feature set, with a couple of key differences, which will make it pretty easy for you to decide on which of these will work best for you.
The KATANA-50 is the foundation of the Katana combos. It’s the most affordable, but with no less ability to rock out! Also, it’s the most portable, housed in a relatively small combo box. The perfect practice amp – ask Rabea.
If you’re looking for the Presence knob, don’t worry – you can use the Tone Studio editor to gain access to the amp’s internal Presence control.
The next step up is the 100w combo. Aside from the obvious wattage bump, it lives in a slightly bigger box and has a speaker with a beefier magnet, which does inherently mean that it’ll sound just that bit punchier and bigger. You also get a Presence control on the top panel and an FX loop.
With the ability to use the BOSS GA-FC foot controller, you can easily switch between 4 presets and control all five effects individually. You can also connect two expression pedals as well as additional footswitches to control tap tempo. It really does open up your possibilities for controlling the amp in a live situation a lot more!
Bigger box, more speakers! Pretty straightforward – if you need to move more air than the 112 combo, then the 212 is what you need. If you’re used to playing through a 4×12″ cab but are sick of lugging a quad box around, the 2×12″ format can provide you with a similar playing experience but at half the weight!
For the new MkII platform, the 100/212 also inherits the Cab Resonance switch from the flagship Katana Artist which allows you to tailor the resonance characteristics of the amp/cab, from Deep thump to Vintage style snarl or the Modern setting which sits somewhere in between.
The Katana-Head contains all the features of the 100W combos, with the addition of MIDI control. Pair it with the matching 2×12″ extension cabinet, or you can add your own favourite cabinet to the mix. A Katana-Head through a great 4×12” cab is something to behold. Check out the Katana-Head going head-to-head (haha) with a classic late 70s British amp, (both going into the same cab) right here:
And if you want to leave your hefty 4×12” at the practice space, just take the head home with you – you can still practice through the in-built 5” speaker!
Think of this as the mostly highly-optioned Katana. This is the heated leather seats, SatNav and sunroof package*.
At Winter NAMM 2020, we unveiled the new flagship Katana Artist MkII. As with the original Artist, it takes every awesome feature from the MkII Katana head/combos, and adds a few new tricks:
New Tone Shaping Controls
The new CONTOUR switch works like a mid EQ shift, giving you three options to really fine tune the character of your mids:
- Position 1 is like a deep switch (more low mid beef)
- Position 2 is like a cut/scoop contour
- Position 3 is like a sweet switch which gives you great singing/high mid slightly “nasal” tones for soloing
Many players in the Katana community have been dialling in their tones and the desired response of the amp and then using a global EQ to tailor the overall sound to a specific gig or stage situation.
For example, if you’ve tuned your sounds at home in a lower volume environment, chances are that when you crank it, you’ll hear a lot more of the highs than you did at home (which can be undesirable). Instead of having to make another preset for live use, you can simply have a Global EQ setting that rolls off the highs a little, which you only activate at the gig.
Building on this, Katana Artist MkII puts 3 different Global EQ settings at your fingertips (set the EQ via Tone Studio and cycle through the three settings via front panel button).
The most versatile amp just got more versatile and gig worthy. Instead of worrying about changing your levels you can now kick in an adjustable solo boost from your footswitch. Just long press whichever channel you’re currently using on the GA-FC to turn the solo boost on or off.
Stereo Expand + Dual Link
100W MkII models all have STEREO EXPAND which allows you to run wide stereo effects easily with just one cable. Katana Artist MkII adds an additional DUAL LINK functionality, which allows you to connect two Artist combos and control them via one central GA-FC, while running totally different settings on both amps (which can be awesome for a huge sounding wet/dry type rig, with spacey ambient sounds on one side and huge drive tones on the other!).
And just to recap, the original core features that differentiated the Artist from the rest of the range:
- Newly designed semi-closed back cabinet. It’s tough and road ready. If you put them side by side, its dimensions are on a similar scale to the Katana 100W 212 combo – so it won’t be shy of air to push either!
- Inside the cabinet is a BOSS Waza G12W, taken directly from the fantastic WAZA Amplifier cabinets and based on classic “green” 60s/70s speaker designs with higher power handling and BOSS consistency and quality built-in.
- Cabinet Resonance front panel controls revoice the amp’s resonance characteristics to mimic the sound of Vintage/Modern/Deep cabinets.
(*the Katana-Artist does not have heated leather seats, SatNav or sunroof)