Looking to upgrade your practice amp to something stage worthy? A 50 watt amp will provide the best of both worlds in terms of being gig ready whilst also accommodating home practice. In this Boss Katana 50 Review we’ll look at the features of the Katana 50 along with it’s pros and cons. Finally we’ll sum up whether the Katana 50 is a contender for your next noise box.
Background to Boss and The Katana
Roland / Boss began in the early 1970s. Founded in Osaka, Japan. Roland produced it’s first JC series guitar amplifiers in 1975. Incredibly these were equipped with stereo chorus effect and these amps are still used by guitarists today. Boss is a division of the Roland Corporation, which has been producing keyboards, synthesizers and drum machines since the 1970s.
“Katana” is the name of the sword wielded by Japan’s Samurai warriors. Boss gave this amp name because a katana is a symbol of honor. Reasonably new to the amplifier market in comparison to other names such as Marshall and Fender, the WAZA range debuted in 2016. WAZA translates to “art” and “technique”. Boss built on the WAZA range with the Katana range, which includes the Katana Mini (7 watts) right up to the 150 watt Katana Cabinet. The symbol on each Katana amp signifies honor, precision and artistry. Here’s an overview video of the Katana 50.
Overview of The Boss Katana 50
The Katana 50 comes with 5 amplifier types, which basically allows you to set the mode and get on with playing. One thing I really like is the dedicated acoustic amplifier type, which enables you to plug in an acoustic guitar. When I first started gigging I had to buy a separate amp to cater for my acoustic, which cost me an additional $500. The fact that this amp will cater for both your electric and acoustic guitars is incredible. You can play 5 of the in built effects at anyone time, giving a lot of versatility in tone. The Katana 50 has 4 memory patches over two banks, which enables you to save up to 4 of your custom tones. The tones can be precision managed using the Boss Tone Studio Software, which is free to use. I talk more about Boss Tone Studio and Boss Tone Central in my post about the Boss ME 80 multi-effects pedal.
Boss uses it’s “Tube Logic” technology to create the driven, distorted tones of a genuine tube amplifier. Unlike a tube amplifier, you don’t need to crank the volume to hit the sweet spot. The Katana 50 can moderate the tone so that you get the same punch at lower volumes. That’s perfect for home practice sessions.
A footswitch or expression pedal can be connected to the Katana 50 to enable you to call up your custom tones. The footswitch isn’t included and so you’d need to buy that separately. If you want a footswitch you can go with the Boss FS-5l, the Boss FS-6 or the Boss FS-7. Alternatively the Hosa FSC-385 is cheaper and will work with the Katana 50. With any footswitch you’ll also need a TRS cable, which can be picked up for around $15.
A USB B port allows you to connect to your PC or Mac directly. From here you can perfect your tones and send them to the Katana 50’s memory. You can also record straight into your favorite Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software. The in built Mic’d cabinet emulation provides production ready recording directly.
With 50 watts of output provided by a 12 inch speaker, you’ll be able to keep up with a drummer on stage making the Katana 50 viable for small to medium sized venues. The fact that you don’t lose any punch when you dial the volume back also makes it great for home practice. The Katana 50 is a very versatile and weighing just 11.6kg it’s on the more potable side for a larger amp.
How Does Boss Katana 50 Work?
When you first set eyes on the Katana 50 you’ll see some fairly standard features and some you may not have come across before. Firstly there’s the 1/4 inch input for your guitar. Moving swiftly on the next knob allows you to set the amp type. There are 5 different types to select from:
- Brown – Provides a lead guitar sound with a bit of an edge. It’s a popular tone with most guitarists
- Lead – You can get quite dynamic here using the gain settings. This type can produce crunchy to high end tones
- Crunch – A thicker tone that responds to your picking style
- Clean – Clean and natural. Use the booster for a solo or lead part
- Acoustic – Dedicated type for when you want to plug in your acoustic
Next we have the standard gain and volume knobs, which you’ll no doubt be familiar with. Equally standard are the bass, middle and treble knobs in the “equalizer” section. Here’s where it gets a little more tricky. Under the effects section there are 5 buttons and 3 knobs. Each button will activate the effects type. Here’s how it works:
Booster button: Green light:
- Bank A = Blues Drive
- Bank B = Clean Boost
Booster button: Red light:
- Bank A = Overdrive
- Bank B = Mid Boost
Booster button: Orange light:
- Bank A = Distortion
- Bank B = Treble Boost
Mod button: Green light:
- Bank A = Chorus
- Bank B = Flanger 117E
Mod button: Red light:
- Bank A = Flanger
- Bank B = Compressor
Mod button: Orange light:
- Bank A = Phaser
- Bank B = Limiter
Delay button: Green light:
- Bank A = Digital Delay
- Bank B = SDE-3000
Delay button: Red light:
- Bank A = Analog Delay
- Bank B = Digital Delay
Delay button: Orange light:
- Bank A = Tape Echo
- Bank B = Modulate
FX button: Green light:
- Bank A = Tremelo
- Bank B = Phaser 90E
FX button: Red light:
- Bank A = T.Wah
- Bank B = Flanger 117E
FX button: Orange light:
- Bank A = Octave
- Bank B = Pitch shifter
Reverb button: Green light:
- Bank A = Plate reverb
- Bank B = Tape Echo & Plate reverb
Reverb button: Red light:
- Bank A = Spring reverb
- Bank B = SDE-3000 & Plate reverb
Reverb button: Orange light:
- Bank A = Hall reverb
- Bank B = SDE-3000 & Hall reverb
You then use the assigned knobs to control the depth or level of the effect. At this point you can also connect the amp to your PC or Mac and download dedicated effects directly to the amp from Boss Tone Central.
The power control knob allows you to select the power output of the amp. If you want to dial it back a little you can select 25 watts for bedroom practice, or go the full 50 watts if your neighbors are out! You can also switch to standby mode, which mutes the output but enables the unit to remain powered. If you’re looking for a beginners amp, take a look at my post detailing some of the best small amps for guitar available.
The final set of controls relates to the memory banks. The Katana 50 has two banks of two, giving you space to store 4 tones. To access each bank hold the panel button down for a second. The channel button will then start to blink. If bank B is selected the light blinks more slowly. You can also use Boss Tone Studio to adjust the tones via your PC or Mac.
Pros of the Boss Katana 50
- Tonal integrity is maintained even at low volumes
- Lots of built in features
- Boss Tone Studio Software – allows for precise manipulation and interaction with the Katana 50
- Loud enough to play with a drummer
Cons of the Boss Katana 50
- Footswitch isn’t included. The Hosa FSC-385 with a TRS cable is a cheap combo for a compatible footswitch. FS-6 will cost around $60 plus you need the TRS cable (about $15)
- Can be a bit cryptic to get your head around how the effects work at first
- There’s no display for the memory, so you’ll need to remember what’s programmed into each bank if you don’t have your Katana connected to your computer
Final Thoughts on Boss Katana 50
50 watt amps are generally for those looking to start gigging or for those wanting to upgrade from their first practice amp. The key features for a 50 watt amp are practicality for home practice and ability to perform with a band in small to medium venues. Some amps lose tonal quality at lower volumes, which is incredibly frustrating, especially if you want to take advantage of features that often appear only on larger amps.
The Katana 50 appears to be very well engineered and importantly maintains tonal quality even at lower volumes. The amp type feature is great for those who just want to plug and play and the Acoustic type is really great for those who might use it to perform with both their electric and acoustic guitars. The on-board Boss quality effects are a bonus, as is the ability to refine tones and download directly to the amp using Boss Tone Studio and Boss Tone Central.
It’s disappointing that the Katana 50 doesn’t come with a footswitch. To use the amp on stage you’ll need a footswitch to access your custom tones. It’s not possible to stop, hold a button for a second and then check that it’s accessing the correct memory bank when you’re playing live. That said you can circumvent this issue in an affordable fashion if you get the Hosa FSC-385 and a TRS cable, which will probably total no more than $40. I think finding your way around the effects can prove to be a little tricky at first too, but you’ll soon get used to it. The fact that you’re getting built in Boss quality effects in a quality amp will actually save you hundreds of dollars.
Overall the Katana 50 is a quality, versatile and feature rich amp. Definitely a contender for your next upgrade. I hope you’ve found this Boss Katana 50 review helpful. Please feel free to leave a comment, or alternatively get in touch using my contact page. Please share with those who are looking for their next amp too. As always happy strumming 🙂
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