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Review

Boss Katana Head Version 2 Upgrade

Issue #53

Using Boss Tone Studio, users can now also select between three different speaker resonance curves for shaping the low-end response and tone of the amplifier.
Tom Quayle

PROS:

Superb updates to an already impressive amp

Update is totally free for all Katana owners

Easy update procedure with instructions provided by Boss

CONS:

None at all, if you own a Katana…it's FREE!

Guitar Interactive star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Boss Katana Head - Version 2 Upgrade

MSRP £ 385 (UK)  $429 (US)


We were hugely impressed with the Katana amplifiers from Boss when we reviewed them on their initial release. With a version 2 software update available across the Katana range, adding a whole host of new options and features, it’s time for Tom Quayle to see if Boss has improved on their already impressive amplifier.

Designed to be a highly affordable solid state amp with true Class A/B design that feels and sounds just like the expensive, non-master volume tube amps that guitarists love, the Katana took Boss' tonal knowledge derived from the Waza amp and distilled it into a small, much more affordable package.

One of the most impressive elements of Boss' modern ethos is the company's willingness to support their products with firmware updates, often providing considerable upgrades to an existing product entirely for free. For October 2017 Boss has produced a Version 2 update for the Katana range, which includes a slew of new features that add incredibly useful and generous features to the Katana.

Updating the firmware is a relatively simple procedure involving hooking the Katana up to your computer via a USB cable and downloading the update from Boss' website. It took us all of 5 minutes from start to finish with easy to follow instructions provided on the download page.

A feature that was highly requested from users was to extend the number of presets available from the amp and, as such, Boss has doubled the number of preset slots onboard for live use. These can be selected from the front panel or from any Boss footswitch and allow users to store more presets without the need for a computer hooked up using Boss Tone Studio. Three new effects have been added, bringing the total to an incredible 58 at this point. The brand new Phaser90E and Flanger 117E expand the modulation options, while a model of Roland's highly regarded SDE-3000 rack delay gives classic digital delay options straight from the 1980's. All three effects sound superb in use and are worthy additions to the already impressive range on board.

The Line Out has also been upgraded with new options for the 'feel' of the signal fed from the Line Out, Headphones and USB recording out. Effectively giving you access to three different microphone voicings via the Boss Tone Studio software, Rec, Live and Blend modes offer three different feels/sounds for DI'd recorded tones or for live use when running the Katana to the front of house or for monitoring on stage. The Live mode adds 'air' to the signal for a more authentic live feel that is very impressive in use, while all three modes feel superb to play with a very realistic 'mic'd amp tone' that belies the price point of these amplifiers.

Using Boss Tone Studio, users can now also select between three different speaker resonance curves for shaping the low-end response and tone of the amplifier. For our review unit, the Katana head, this allows you to tailor the speaker resonance to more accurately match the cab you are using. Vintage, Modern and Deep offer increasing levels of low-end thump and are a highly effective and easy way of adding or removing low-end grunt to your tone.

The EQ on the Katana series was already excellent, but for this V2 update, Boss have added even more options. A Global EQ can now be placed Pre or Post your effects chain, and EQ effects have been added to both the MOD and FX pedal slots for a further two EQ effects that can be placed anywhere in the signal chain you desire, one of which is footswitchable if required. In addition to this, the Reverb mode has been updated to provide Delay, Reverb and Delay and Reverb only modes per patch. This allows for two delays and reverb to be utilised in a patch for some truly creative ambient sounds. Finally, the effects loop has been upgraded, allowing the FX Loop volume to be stored per channel and moved Pre or Post the reverb block for even more flexibility.  

This impressive and highly useful feature list would be worth paying for, so the fact that Boss is offering all of this for free is remarkable and shows a huge amount of dedication to their product line.

Of course, all the other great features of the Katana range are still intact. Four amp types, Clean, Crunch, Lead and Brown, an Acoustic mode, 58 effects, Speaker Drive method derived from the Waza amp, Power control for 100w down to 5w operation, Silent USB recording - the list goes on.

The amps also take pedals extremely well with a front end designed to take drive and boost pedals just like a tube amp. This is due to excellent A/D conversion and high quality tube simulation derived from the Waza amp, without any of the aliasing problems that can occur with lower quality circuits, removing the dynamic range and feel from the signal path. Proper gain staging and power amp design allows for natural feedback that blooms like a high gain tube amp at gig volume, something that other solid state amps can struggle with. Our 2x12 Katana cab comes loaded with custom 12" speakers again influenced by the R&D work that went into the Waza amp costing almost ten times the price of the Katana range. Coupled with the superb tube-simulation and Class A/B design of the Katana Head, you get true 100w tube power with incredible tone for the price Boss are asking, even at lower volume levels.

The Katana was already a highly impressive product - this V2 update makes it even more so and places Boss in an incredibly strong position within the budget amp section of the market. The 100w Katana range is easily good enough for serious gigging, especially when paired with the 2x12 cab, representing incredible value for money. But just as importantly, Boss is supporting and constantly updating their product range, providing, even more, value for money for the end user. It's exciting to own a great sounding amp, but even more exciting to know that it will constantly be updated with new features. This V2 upgrade makes the Katana range pretty much irresistible for live use, studio use or for teaching. Fantastic stuff from Boss!

SPECS

2 footswitchable channels,

4 x channel tone settings

3-band EQ

Multiple amp voices

For more information, please visit:

www.boss.com

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