BOSS Katana 100 MKII Review: The ULTIMATE 1 Year Review!

Boss Katana 100 MKII
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The BOSS Katana 100 MKII modeling amp has become a staple of many guitarist’s rigs these days. There are so many ways to use it, and today we take a look at all of them. So let’s dive in to everything that makes this a monolith of an amp!

BOSS Katana 100 MKII: A Retrospective…

Editor’s Note: Before we begin, right after I published this article, BOSS updated the Tone Studio Software. This makes the features I mention even MORE versatile! Check it out HERE.

It seems a little crazy that the guitar community rants and raves about a modeling amp like the BOSS Katana 100 MKII. The first version was an amazing accomplishment for BOSS, and the company knew it had a hit. The newer MKII amps added just a few features, and kept the heart of the Katana in tact. Most reviews sing praises of the Katana, and mine today will be no different. Except it has taken me a year to write this review.

It has been just a little over a year since I bought a BOSS Katana 100 MKII. I spent a lot of time researching the amp before I ever considered buying one. When I say a lot of time, I mean I think I looked at every video on the internet. I read every review, and I tried it out at the store for a couple of weeks before I pulled the trigger. Which is a little silly, considering how budget-friendly these amps are.

So if you are looking for a basic review, and rundown of specs, you can click here, or here. This review is about the finer details and things you don’t really notice until you have spent some considerable time with the Katana. I have played a lot of amps in my almost 30 years of guitar. None of them have quite been this… unique.

The thing is, I had played tube amps for my entire adult life. My favorite amp ever made was the Blackstar HT40, and I used that amp for gigging over three different bands. It was so versatile, that I was playing Blues-Rock, Metal, and even a little Jazz with the Blackstar. So to say that the BOSS Katana 100 MKII had a lot of competition when it came to impressing me, is an understatement. It had to do everything the Blackstar did and more, to get me to buy it.

Because versatility and usefulness is paramount when it comes to my gear, and my interests in music are varied. I might play Blues as often as I play progressive Metal, and my gear reflects this. I certainly wasn’t new to modeling technology. I had been a Line 6 user for years, and I even recorded with Line 6 stuff all of the time. I have also used AxeFX and MOOER in the studio. But the studio is different in application when it comes to real life amps.

Almost always for live use, a tube amp was more preferable. I have often mentioned in other reviews that you can measure the merit of an amp buy plugging directly into it and playing. No pedals, no multi-effects units, no tricks at all. Just plug up your guitar, dial in the amp, and play. The amp should have an immediate “wow” factor. The BOSS Katana 100 MKII had that factor, but it has so much more to offer as you dig deeper.

This is the main appeal of the BOSS Katana 100 MKII, and the entire Katana series in general. Yes, you can program all the presets you like, and even download some that other users have made. But you can also just plug up to the amp and play, without programming anything. In fact, when I practice, I usually only use the “Panel” controls on the Katana. I have presets for recording purposes, but most of the time I am just plugging directly into the amp.

So it has been a little over a year with the BOSS Katana, how do I feel about it now? Let’s dive into this unique review!

BOSS Katana 100 MKII: Features And Specs

Boss Katana 100 MKII

I call this review “Unique” because when it comes to testing products, we rarely get more than a day or so to test them out. The BOSS Katana 100 MKII is different, because I actually bought the thing after reviewing the 50 watt version! So this is a little different than most reviews, since I have lived with the Katana for over a year now. I know it inside and out, and I have explored almost everything that you can do with it.

Ask anyone that reviews guitar gear, and most of them will tell you it is a rare occurrence to actually keep/buy a product that you are reviewing. It has to be something really special, since I get to play with new “toys” all the time. The BOSS Katana 100 MKII was not an amp that I had planned on buying.

We recently covered why you would want the Katana 100 over the 50 watt version. You can click here to see all of those very important reasons why one is better than the other for some players. So I will revisit those features, but only briefly since it was covered in so much detail in the other article. But we can take a look at what I have discovered over the last year, that might make this review a little different than what you would find in other places.

The BOSS Katana 100 MKII has been my main source of guitar tones for the last year. Sure, I use STL Tones and some Line 6 Helix stuff when I am recording. But when I want to just pick up my guitar and play, I go for the Katana. On paper, it literally sounds just like every other modeling amp:

BOSS Katana 100 MKII Features

  • Stage-ready 100-watt combo amp with a custom 12-inch speaker
  • Tube Logic design approach produces class-defying power, authoritative punch, and cutting presence
  • Five unique amp characters (Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown, and Acoustic), plus newly voiced variations for each
  • Five independent effects sections (Booster, Mod, FX, Delay, and Reverb), with three selectable variations in each
  • Dedicated Pedal FX for foot-controlled wah and pedal bend
  • Updated BOSS Tone Studio software for customizing your sound with over 60 different BOSS effects, channel and global EQs, adjustable routing, and much more
  • Power Amp In for preamps, modelers, and multi-effects
  • Stereo Expand out to link with a second Katana MkII (100-watt models only)
  • Eight Tone Setting memories for storing and recalling all amp and effect settings
  • Power Control for achieving cranked-amp tone and response at low volumes
  • Three Cab Resonance options (Vintage, Modern, and Deep), selectable in BOSS Tone Studio
  • Mic cabinet emulation on the line, USB, and phones/recording outputs, with three Air Feel settings available in BOSS Tone Studio
  • Optional GA-FC foot controller provides complete amp control, including Tone Setting selection, effects on/off, expression pedal control, and more
  • Connections for up to two footswitches or an expression pedal
  • Effect loop, with selectable series/parallel operation and adjustable level in BOSS Tone Studio

Like I said, it seems like every other modeling amp when you just list the features. What makes it so different from the Line 6 Catalyst? Well, we went over that whole fiasco too. The thing is, BOSS even used some older tech to model the sounds that the Katana is known for. There really shouldn’t be anything remarkable about this amp, but there is. So that is what we are going to talk about today, since other reviews cover the basics.

BOSS Katana 100 MKII: Why Is It Special?

BOSS Katana 100 MKII

Most people that own a Katana will have different reasons and different answers to the question of what makes this amp series so special. There is even a Reddit forum group that focuses solely on the Katana, and people share their experiences and tones that they craft. This amp seems to be a “hit or miss” situation for most guitarists. Some tube purists will never like an amp like the Katana, but for those of us that love it…

It can be hard to break down exactly what separates the Katana from every other modeling amp on the market. Blackstar had a big hit with the Silverline, Line 6 has the Spyder and Catalyst, Fender has the popular Mustang Series. These are all great modeling amps that will get the job done in most cases, and they have a ton of great features as well. So why is the Katana so special?

Well, there are a few reasons that most reviews skip over. Most reviews are just there to go over the specs and show off the amp(which is fair). But the features that really set the Katana apart from all of the other modeling amps are what we are talking about today. I feel like the following features are just as important as what most reviewers will tell you about regular specs. In fact, these features are more important.

Class A/B Power Section

This is the first thing I want to talk about regarding the Katana, because this is much more crucial than you would think! Most solid state amplifiers use a Class D power section. This is not a good or bad thing, but it is the most efficient way of powering an amp. Unfortunately, with a Class D power section, you loose a lot of important frequencies. This is something that audiophiles will talk about all day. But it can be broken down into simple terms:

  • Class A: Highest fidelity and sound quality, least efficient power
  • Class B: More efficient, but prone to distortion, lacks headroom
  • Class A/B: Efficient power, but retains high fidelity sound
  • Class D: Most efficient and reliable, but lacks character

The choice to make the BOSS Katana 100 MKII, and the series as a whole, a Class A/B amp has more impact than you would think. Most modeling amps use Class D because it is easy, and some would say that solid state amps don’t really benefit from having a different power section. But the power section IS an important factor. Ask anyone that works on amps, of any kind.

But this is the reason that the Katana sounds so different. The Katana can fit in a band situation much better than most solid state amps for this reason too. The midrange that is so important to guitar amplifiers really shines with the Katana. Most solid state amps can’t keep up with tube amps on stage, but the Katana can. This means you get more subtle characteristics of your guitar’s sound out of the Katana.

But it isn’t just about the quality of the sound. The response to volume knobs, tone knobs, and the overall harmonic overtones all rely on the amplifier as a system. A sum of its parts, just like a guitar. The BOSS Katana 100 MKII is one of most-used amps when I see local bands play at bars. Sometimes they are paired with a tube amp, with the band’s other guitarist should be drowning out the Katana. But it doesn’t, and it has a lot to do with the Class A/B power section.

Compare two similar presets between the Katana and the Blackstar Silverline in the same room, at the same volume and you will be surprised at how much better the Katana cuts (no pun intended). The Katana is going to cut through the mix, even with a full band. It also seems to make a difference when recording in my experience. I have done plenty of comparisons when doing reviews, just out of my own curiosity.

The usual Class D modeling amps all sound great, and I am not saying that they are inferior. But the Class D amps seem to make some great tones all by themselves. It sounds fine when you’re playing alone. The Class D amps sound like the amp model that they are trying to replicate, but that doesn’t always fit in a band situation. The Class D amps sound great by themselves, but the Katana sounds more at home in a full mix than its competition.

I often use the BOSS Katana 100 MKII in the studio, and I use it a couple of different ways. There are multiple ways to record with the Katana, and this diversity is another great feature. Most people I know use the USB feature to record, since you can have Tone Studio running at the same time. But there’s a lot more than that, if you dig deeper…

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BOSS Katana-100 MkII 100W 1×12 Guitar Combo Amp

The BOSS Katana MKII 100 watt combo amp is a stage ready beast! You get 8 preset slots for different tones, as well as a dedicated FX loop for all of your pedal needs. The built in attenuator allows you to play quietly at home, or full stage volume with the turn of a knob. Get our #1 pick for any guitarist!

BOSS Katana 100 MKII: Recording

Boss Katana 100 MKII

Recording with the BOSS Katana 100 MKII has been an absolute joy, and I use it quite often for overdubs to get a different guitar frequency in the mix. Now, surely you can do a whole mix with Amp Sim software if you really wanted to, but I always hear something missing in the frequency spectrum when using sims alone. Sometimes you just need something to fill the gaps when recording guitar. Sometimes this means using a different guitar, but most of the time it means using a different amp/sound source.

Now the obvious answer with the Katana is to just use the USB into your computer, and we have talked about to record guitar at home with this method. Then of course, you also the “Line Out” method from the back of the amp. I often use the line out option when I need to get something down quickly. Both the line out and the USB are great options if you cant be loud, since both options turn the speaker off by default.

But I feel like running a mic in front of the amp is also a great way to record. Not many people talk about the BOSS Katana and recording this way. But if you have the opportunity, this is a great way to capture the characteristics of your favorite programmed patches. I really enjoy recording solos this way, and if you tap into the “Global EQ” in Tone Studio, then rhythm tracks can sound awesome too.

I have yet to do a full song with the BOSS Katana 100 MKII, but I do use it for solos and overdubs all the time. While it works great for this using just the panel settings, it is even better when you turn up the midrange and bass in the “Global EQ” setting. You can get some seriously heavy tones that amp sims and processors just can’t do…at least to my ears. So try putting a mic in front of your Katana sometime if you can!

Note: You can now save up to 3 Global EQ settings with the BOSS Tone Studio update! This update happened right after I wrote this review, so the Global EQ is even MORE important now! To check out the new features, you can read all about the BOSS Katana MKII V2 Software HERE.

The speaker was designed to work perfectly with the Katana, and I know some people change the speaker for live use/recording. Usually, I will preach about how important the speaker is to your overall tone, and upgrading is the easiest way to get a better sound. But the Katana speaker works just fine, and after throwing a Celestion in mine, I didn’t notice any considerable difference. Maybe the Celestion made it a little more clear, but the results were negligible.

I think this is because all of the magic is happening behind the scenes. Between the global EQ and power amp, you have full control already over how the amp sounds. Usually having this much control can be confusing. But this leads us to the other reason I think the Katana really hit the mark.

Global EQ/User-Friendly Options

Boss Katana 100 MKII

The BOSS Katana 100 MKII really surprised me with this feature, and while I knew about it for a while, I had no idea how important this feature would become. I have a couple of different global EQ settings saved, because this can drastically change the way the amp reacts. But with that being said, this is how I like to use the global EQ setting:

  • Patch 1: Live Use, high mids and lower bass
  • Patch 2: Solos, high mids and treble to cut
  • Patch 3: Recording with a mic
  • Patch 4: Recording USB

The Global EQ should definitely not be overlooked with the BOSS Katana 100 MKII, or whichever model you may have. Out of the box, the Katana EQ is pretty balanced with each of the amp models. It sounds great loud, or at a low room volume. But this changes depending on what you plan on doing. For example, programming a patch while playing loud through the speaker may sound different when you use that same patch to record with USB.

The Global EQ is something I didn’t think would ever be important to me, but here I am! Recording guitars is definitely an art itself, and everyone has different methods. The BOSS Katana is super unique to have this setting, and you can tailor the EQ to whatever your situation might be! Having this amount of control on an amplifier is crazy.

I said that I use the Katana for overdubs a lot, and the global EQ is one of the main reasons. I can carve out whatever frequency is missing in my mix, and use the Katana to fill it in. The frequency spectrum when recording is like looking at a coloring book, and each section needs to be filled in with a different color for your mix to sound full. I have even used a visual spectral analyzer to see what is missing, and then filled it in!

Other built in features that you can access through Tone Studio are also very useful. The noise gate is fantastic for taming the high gain tones. Lots of modeling amps have this feature, but it is more of an “Off or On” situation. The Katana has a fully customizable noise gate, so it isn’t just made for heavy sounds. I use the noise gate on almost every patch I create. I had no idea that I needed the Katana, I just thought I was buying a fun amp to play with!

There are tons of options for the Katana once you get set up in the Tone Studio app. The global EQ option just stands out more than others to me, because I have never been able to “fine tune” my amplifier. Some of my patches sound pretty bad when you play them alone, but that’s because they are meant to fit in a mix.

All of the built in effects are next level, in my opinion. Some of the legendary BOSS pedals are recreated here, giving you the option of having a virtual pedalboard. Other modelers do this as well, but I feel like something like the “Blues Driver” is hard to replicate. BOSS managed to recreate some of the most famous pedals it has to offer, as well as some that never existed.

The speaker options are also simple and you only get three options: Vintage, Modern, and Deep. This has always been a point of contention with me and modeling software. I hate having a million speaker options, and BOSS managed to simplify that system. I don’t really have one that I prefer, and the difference is very slight unless you have the amp cranked.

There are also some amazing BOSS effects not accessible from the “Panel” initially, accessible in the Sneaky Amps app. Over all, the theme here is customization. You have so much control over your tone, and it is never overwhelming. I usually get lost with Line 6 products when it comes to the myriad of options, but the Katana is very user-friendly. Most of the menus are easy “drop down” style, and all of the controls are like having a physical knob on a pedal. The whole Katana is basically “idiot-proof”.

BOSS Katana 100 MKII: Final Thoughts…

Boss Katana 100 MKII

So those are the reasons that I think the BOSS Katana 100 MKII is special, and why it is the amp of choice for me. As technology continues to close the gap, I am sure we will eventually see a Katana MKIII. But I hope BOSS never forgets the small details that make this amp so special. The devil is usually in the details, and “details” are something that BOSS absolutely nailed. Even the MKI edition hit the mark for most players.

When I first saw the Katana advertised, I thought it was just another internet fad. There always seems to be a piece of gear that reviewers say is “too good to be true”. But the Katana Series lives up to the hype, and delivers in spades. This is a cheap amp that is worth way more than the price tag in my opinion, and BOSS has made a customer for life with me.

Most designers wouldn’t think too hard about a cheap solid state amp when it comes to the power amp, yet BOSS definitely did. Most wouldn’t really put too much thought in the editor either, and some companies put too much thought into the editing options. The Katana is a perfect balance in that department as well.

I know a lot of pro-level guitarists that own a BOSS Katana, and they use them all the time. I have seen them start popping up in larger studios as well. But on the other hand, it is the perfect beginner amplifier that can introduce new players to effects and amp models. Players of all kinds of genres and walks of life seem to enjoy the Katana. That is a serious testament to this cheap little amp, and I have enjoyed the last year immensely using it daily. What do YOU like about your BOSS Katana?

Make sure to download the newest version of Tone Studio, as it expands everything I loved about the Katana! Read about it here!

Our #1!
BOSS Katana-100 MkII 100W 1×12 Guitar Combo Amp

The BOSS Katana MKII 100 watt combo amp is a stage ready beast! You get 8 preset slots for different tones, as well as a dedicated FX loop for all of your pedal needs. The built in attenuator allows you to play quietly at home, or full stage volume with the turn of a knob. Get our #1 pick for any guitarist!


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