Boss Katana 50 MK2 Review
Verdict and Review Summary
The Boss Katana 50 MK2 is capable of emulating much larger rigs, with an aggressive - yet versatile - distortion profile, a solid roster of basic effects, and multiple wattage settings. For me, it made a great alternative to my larger Mesa Boogie tube rig when I wanted a simpler setup.
I had played these amps a handful of times and have always been really impressed with them. But now I've finally got a chance to have one in my office to spend a significant amount of time with. As of right now the Katana series is my favorite small-form modeling amp, due to their simple operation and tone quality.
If you don't want an overly digitized or solid state sound, the Katana gives you some excellent tube-esque tones, particularly from the Brown amp model.
So after spending some time testing and just jamming on this combo amp, here's my full Boss Katana 50 review.
If you have questions, you can jump to the comments section whenever you want.
Our Boss Katana 50 MKII review was conducted after testing the amp in our office. All our reviews are based on real-world experience, thorough research, and first-hand accounts. Note that we support ourselves through partnerships with Sweetwater and other great musical instrument retailers. If you make a purchase, consider doing so through our orange buttons, which cost you nothing extra.
Compare to Other Solid State Combo Amps
Here are a few additional amps of similar style and price range that you can compare to the Katana 50.
Boss Katana 50
Fender Mustang LT 50
Marshall CODE 50
Blackstar ID:CORE 100
For most of our product reviews we take our own photos, in-house. Thank goodness for portrait mode. For those interested in using these photos, that is completely fine with us as long as you give us credit and don't claim the work as your own. Simply linking to guitarchalk.com near the photo is totally fine.
Bonedo's Video/Audio Demo without Talking
Boss Katana 50 MK2 Price Guide
Price updated Mon, October 02nd, 2023.
Pricing from Sweetwater
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Price History Graph
Price History for Boss Katana-50 MkII 1 x 12-inch 50-watt Combo Amp
|Current Price||$269.99||September 29, 2023|
|Highest Price||$279.99||August 24, 2022|
|Lowest Price||$229.99||November 2, 2022|
Last price changes
|$269.99||January 9, 2023|
|$229.99||November 2, 2022|
|$269.99||September 14, 2022|
|$249.99||September 7, 2022|
|$279.99||August 24, 2022|
IDEAL FOR: Recording, indoor practice, lessons, beginners, those wanting to have an alternative to a larger amp, and versatile style environments
Overall Tone Quality
The Boss Katana 50 has five total amp models, four of which apply to the electric guitar. They include:
The fifth amp model is an acoustic option, which I did not test with my electric guitar. As you move up towards the Brown amp model, the gain control gets heavier and more aggressive. On the Clean amp model, you won't be able to get much breakup at all.
But overall, this amp sounds incredibly good over a wide spectrum of tone. I loved the clean tone in particular. It was warm, rich, and blended great with the onboard reverb and delay.
It reminded me of my Mesa Rectoverb, albeit you can't really compare the two.
Yet - to my ears - the Katana seemed closer to a properly modeled tube amp sound than a lot of other modeling/solid state amps I've tried.
Particularly on heavier gain settings with a little bit of reverb - it just sounded really good.
It's not at all what you would expect from an amp that doesn't even eclipse $250.
Aside from the gain control, there are only two categories of onboard effects that come with the Boss Katana 50 MK2:
- Ambience (delay)
Reverb is listed with a separate, single knob, but would also fall under the category of ambience.
With delay and modulation you have two knobs each, controlling different aspects of the effect. On the modulation side you get what sounds like chorus, phaser, and flanger - the basics.
The effects control scheme involves two knobs, one inside the other, and a small button that turns colors depending on the mode you choose.
All the effects sounded really good and similar to the familiar Boss pedals they're modeled after.
But one thing I didn't like was that there was almost nothing in the way of labeling. So when you hit the button behind the knob, you really didn't know what kind of effect you were selecting.
It's a small complaint, but definitely makes the process less functional.
Control and Flexibility
I like the Katana's control scheme because it's relatively simple.
Part of the simplicity is that Boss has scaled down the onboard effects in favor of relying more heavily on their Tone Studio Software.
But my personal preference is to have less to control onboard with better quality, which is what we get in the Katana 50. As I mentioned, effects are broken up into categories that can be controlled by knobs and then buttons:
- Knobs (one per effect within a given category)
- Buttons for selecting specific effect type
It's a little hard to picture if you don't see it.
The buttons turn color each time you press. If I remember correctly, each one has three versions of what each knob controls.
- Modulation (chorus, phaser, flanger)
Reverb is a single knob with a button to give you a few different algorithms.
All told, it gives you plenty of onboard flexibility without too many controls to worry about. I was definitely sold on the combination of simplicity and sound quality.
The Boss Katana has a standard three-band EQ with bass, mids, and treble. There's a lot of low end naturally, which - as I pointed out earlier - gave us some really nice clean tones.
But it's nothing fancy.
Does the job and I'm happy with that.
Amp and Power Control
Amp type, gain, and preamp volume are in their own section, all the way to the left of the panel. It's helpful the way they have everything broken up with four sections total.
You can see the full panel here:
Lastly you have the power amp section all the way to the right of the panel, with master volume, power selection, and channel selection. I like having the power control on the front (we often see it on the back of amps with this feature).
Value and Price
I often point out that size, wattage, speaker count, and speaker size have more to do with a guitar amp's price than just about anything else. And I get the additional material cost - but to me, these features are not the reason I buy an amp.
Many of us don't need large amps. It's the number of channels, type of circuit, tone quality, and other sound-related features that motivate our purchase.
Either way, this results in small to mid-sized amps being excellent deals.
If you can go without the size and volume of the higher wattage options, you can get the circuits, tone quality, and controls of much nicer and more expensive amplifiers. And that's what we get with the Katana 50 MK2. At such a low price point (check the price guide above for updated numbers) I have zero complaints.
It's one of the highest-value solid state combo amps we can recommend, and can be a good fit for any skill level.
Ideal Fit and Context
I've been playing guitar for nearly 30 years (hard to believe) and I find the Katana 50 to be a great fit for my office. I'm setting it up to use when I want to play with headphones - or just quieter with lower wattage - and to make it easier to record. My Mesa Rectoverb is what I usually use, and the Katana is just a nice alternative if I want something simpler.
At the same time, I can see my six and nine year old boys - who both have their own guitars - using this amp as well. It's just very easy but also gives you a lot of flexibility and tone quality.
It's one of the few amps of this nature that I'm comfortable recommending for such a wide range of playing skill.
Otherwise, it's a good fit for indoor practice, basic recording, making YouTube demos, and rigs with fewer pedals.
Had Boss asked $350 for the Katana 50 instead of the current $229 retail (again this may have changed so check the pricing tables), I would have said all the same things I'm saying now.
They've done a great job with the Katanas and the Waza Craft pedal series. Boss is just sort of on a roll right now, melding what we've always loved about their brand with some interesting and engaging innovation.
The Katana 50 MK2 is a solid representation of their progress.
We'd recommend buying confidently.
If you have questions about our Boss Katana 50 review - or our review process - drop them in the comments section below and I'll help out.
Thanks for reading.