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BOSS Katana Gen 3 100 Review: It’s Complicated…

Boss Katana Gen 3 Review
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The BOSS Katana Gen 3 is the latest in a long line of fantastic amps for the stage and studio. But does it really offer anything new?


ELECTRIKJAM’s #1 Pick Right Now

Katana Gen 3 100 Review: More Features, Some Oversights…

The BOSS Katana has long been one our #1 pick for amplifiers. The new Gen 3 has a lot to offer but also complicates the simplicity that we once loved.


chris horton

I have road-tested the Katana MKII over the last two years to great success. The new Katana Gen 3 has everything you want, with a few caveats that make this amp very different from its predecessors.

— Chris Horton, ELECTRIKJAM

Katana Gen 3 Review

Quality & Feel

★★★★★

Features

★★★★★

Price

💰💰

Best For

Beginner to Pros

Overall

★★★★★

The Katana Gen 3: A Long Time Coming…

The Katana has received praise from us here at Electrikjam from the beginning. Mostly, because it became my “main” amp at home and in the studio over the last two years.

It has been over 3 years, and the BOSS Katana has been a great tool in the studio. I use the amp almost daily, which is a testament to the quality of the Katana.

The Katana was supposed to be a quick review. I was so impressed with it that it has become a mainstay in my studio. I was excited to see the release of the Katana Gen 3, I mean… how could this get better?

We have written guides about Tone Studio, and even wrote a big “One Year Tested” review about the Katana. I know the Katana inside and out, using it in the studio and writing these guides.

The BOSS Katana Gen 3 was announced a little over a month ago to thunderous, internet excitement. Where many speculated a complete overhaul, many thought that the amp would receive modest tweaks.

What we got, was more conservative than the speculations. The Katana Gen 3 looks the same as the MKII, with a few QOL updates to the design. Some may even say that BOSS has “played it safe”.

So while the Katana Gen 3 is an update, I feel there were also some missed opportunities. Don’t get me wrong…I still think the Katana is the best solid-state amp you can buy.

I have somehow managed to temper my fandom for the amp and look at the Katana Gen 3 with a critical eye. In most areas, I feel like BOSS has given us what we wanted, with some caveats.

Will these caveats bother you if you are a Katana fan? You’ll have to read this article, and see if you agree with me.

Today I will give you the full rundown about what makes the Katana Gen 3 amazing, along with some thoughts considering what could make the amp better.


Katana Gen 3: Specs & Features

BOSS Katana Gen 3

The Katana Gen 3 comes in several different models, just like the amp’s predecessors. These are the same designs that we have seen in each generation of the Katana.

Katana Gen 3 Models:

  • Artist Head
  • Artist 1X12 Combo
  • 100 Watt 1×12 Combo
  • 100 Watt Head
  • 50 Watt 1×12 Combo
  • 50 Watt EX Combo (GA-FC Foot Switch Support)
  • 2×12 Stereo Combo

These are the same models that we saw with the MKII Series. Each variant offers something different, and caters to all kinds of different rigs. The head models can be used as a desktop recording option, or a full stack if you want.

The combo versions are also the same, and you may think the Katana Gen 3 is one of the previous models from afar! The design has not changed very much at all.

There are some key features to point out that differentiate the Gen 3 models from the MKII Katana. BOSS was smart not to change the overall design, opting instead to add just a few new features.

  • Tube Logic design architecture for authentic tube tone and feel.
  • Six unique amp characters, each with a selectable variation.
  • Access to over 60 built-in BOSS effects.
  • Updated and enhanced BOSS Tone Studio editing software.
  • New Bluetooth Support
  • All amps in the Katana Gen 3 series benefit from USB-C connectivity and expression pedal jacks  
  • All models from the Katana-50 EX Gen 3 upwards have a Solo boost button  
  • The Katana-100 Gen 3 amps and upwards feature an added Cab Resonance selector switch and Equalizer Contour button
  • The Katana Head Gen 3, Katana Artist Gen 3, and Katana Artist Head Gen 3 models boast the new Bloom function  
  • The Artist models see the addition of the BOSS Air Feel sound in tandem with a balanced XLR line-out connection

BOSS has listened to guitarists, and we get as many features with the Gen 3 as possible considering the price point. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that the Katana is a “budget” option.


Katana Gen 3: New Features Overview

Each of the amp’s tones received an overhaul, but the channels have not changed much. The famous “Brown” channel is still a great option for heavy tones, while the clean tones have been dialed in to be a little more pronounced.

The most exciting new feature is the new “Pushed” channel. This channel manages to emulate the famous VOX AC sound rather well to my ears. I suppose it can also be compared to a cranked vintage Marshall amp.

This new channel makes a fantastic pedal platform. If you add an overdrive, you have an “edge of breakup” tone that has been used on legendary albums.

By itself, the pushed channel responds to the volume knob on your guitar incredibly well. You can go from crystal-clean, to tube-like breakup just by using your volume knob and the gain control on the amp.

The head and Artist models also have a “Bloom” control now. This new control allows you to dial in a dedicated circuit that responds to your pick attack, adding sharpness and low end. This is usually a tone associated with tube amps.

The next thing to talk about is the effects. Most of the MKII effects that we love have remained untouched, however we have more granular control over the effects with the new Tone Studio app.

This means dialing in a precise delay parameter is easier than ever. The Tone Studio also controls your cab-sim for direct recording, or plugging directly into the board at a gig.

The biggest update to the Katana Gen 3 is the Bluetooth support. Before, we would have to keep the Katana tethered to a USB. This was never a problem for me, but many people complained about the USB.

This does not mean you can RECORD with Bluetooth. You can control the app wirelessly, but not actually record. You also need an adapter, which is not included.

All of these updated features come with a price, and I do not mean money. The Katana Gen 3 might not be for everyone, and we need to discuss why.


Katana Gen 3: Review

Katana Gen 3

So I spent the last 3 weeks trying out the Katana Gen 3. Lots of people have already released their reviews, but I wanted to make sure I formed my own opinion.

If you are newcomer to the Katana, then the Gen 3 will be awesome, I am sure. But if you are thinking about upgrading to the Gen 3, then you have some things to consider.

The new “Pushed” channel is something that I would definitely use, at the same time, I have not missed the extra amp sound going back to my MKII. In fact, I can replicate the “Pushed” channel sound with effects and gain on my MKII.

The Bluetooth connectivity is something that I was looking forward to trying, but the Katana Gen 3 does NOT come with a Bluetooth adapter out of the box. The Bluetooth adapter is a separate purchase.

The Bluetooth function will be a game-changer for some. But if you expect it to work out of the box, then you will be disappointed. This is a slight misstep for BOOS in my opinion.

As a Katana fan, I know the sounds that this amp is capable of very well. I was able to replicate all of my usual tones on the Gen 3 without having to fuss with the amp. If BOSS honestly altered these tones, it was very slight.

The build quality is identical to the MKII series, and the speaker seems to be the same as well. I can understand the perspective of guitarists that expected a “total overhaul” of the Katana, yet I am glad that BOSS didn’t go in that direction.

I love the idea of the Katana Gen 3 being a “slight tweak” instead of a total makeover of the amp. This allows BOSS to keep the price down, and offer options and features for the low cost of this amp.

The Tone Studio App has been redesigned for the better. It is still easy to navigate but it adds some more advanced features if you want to use them.

The Katana Gen 3 is an update but it is a minor one. If you were expecting a totally different amp from an MKII, you may be disappointed in the Gen 3. Everything is still the same for the most part.

The most important part of the Katana series remains intact; the Class A/B power section. This feature is why the Katana shines on stage, where other solid-state amps (Class D) will usually fail to keep up.

The GA-FC Footswitch still works with the Katana Gen 3, and the Bluetooth adapter would be the only thing you need to buy if you plan on upgrading from the MKII series.

Speaking of the Bluetooth adapter, this is a welcome feature. The Tone Studio App has been formatted to work on phones and tablets, which is something we have always wanted from the Katana.

If you like to tinker, then you will want the adapter. Personally, I set up my Katana MKII 3 years ago and I have yet to touch the settings. But I know some people like to experiment.

Speaking of experimenting…


Sneaky Amps is Gone?

Unfortunately, we could not get the famous Sneaky Amps to work with the Katana Gen 3. I think that BOSS has closed that loop for a reason.

The older Katana models shared a lot of the amp sounds with the BOSS ME series, as well as the Roland Cube. This was the only reason you could load those “leftover” profiles on the Katana.

This also made people think that the Katana is a “modeling” amp, which it really is not. It is a solid-state amp with digital effects. When the effects were added, that’s where the loophole came from for Sneaky Amps to function.

Since the Katana Gen 3 amp was redesigned, we lost the ability to “hack” the amp. This does not mean that the Katana Gen 3 uses completely different amp sounds now, it just means that BOSS closed the loophole.


Problems & Fixes

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Katana Gen 3 is a fantastic update. However, I think BOSS should have included Bluetooth outright or made it a separate model.

Adding another $100 or so to the total cost of the amp to “unlock” the Bluetooth features is asking a lot of the consumer. There could easily just be a “Bluetooth Edition” of the Gen 3 amplifier.

You already have to buy the footswitch as well if you want a functioning rig for the stage, so adding another accessory to get “the most” out of the Katana seems like a misstep.

BOSS, maybe you can make a “Bluetooth Bundle” for the guitarists that need the feature. Otherwise, it may seem misleading for new users.

Not including the Bluetooth adapter was a smart move to keep the overall cost of the Katana Gen 3 low. But all marketing has been somewhat confusing unless you watch a review.

The general public uses Bluetooth for everything. Artists working in studios or pro audio know Bluetooth is rarely used in our environment. Everything we use in the studio has a cord or USB, nothing is wireless.

Adding new features is fantastic. The Katana is so appealing because of its simplicity though, and that simple design should always be paramount.

The same can be said for the extra knobs and tone options. Again, we are looking for simplicity in the Katana. Keep it simple, BOSS.


Final Thoughts…

Katana Gen 3

BOSS has been exceptionally intelligent when it comes to the Katana series. The company has constantly updated the Katana without straying away from the original design that made the amp appealing in the first place.

Should you upgrade if you use the previous Katana as much as someone like me? I honestly cannot answer that question for you. However, I will not be upgrading unless my current Katana dies.

I suppose a lot of guitarists will agree with me about upgrading. There are plenty of reasons to continue using your MKII version. Just because something is “new and improved” does not mean what you have is now useless.

I still use my Line 6 POD HD from 12 years ago! The effects and amp models still sound great for certain applications. It is just another resource for me to shape my sound.

The Katana Gen 3 does offer a lot to newcomers. If you have never owned any of the Katana amplifier range, then now is the time to try it out! I think this is what BOSS was going for with the Gen 3, new guitarists.

If you are a new guitarist or an experienced guitarist that needs their first “powerful amp” then the Katana Gen 3 will cover everything you need to get started. No matter what genre you play, the Katana has something to offer.

If the features are so appealing that you just cannot resist, then the Katana Gen 3 is still in the perfect price bracket to upgrade. BOSS has always kept the amplifiers affordable.

In a world of constant upgrades and the chase for the “newest thing”… BOSS keeps things simple. The upgrades that the Katana Gen 3 offers are nice, but you also will not regret owning an MKII.

At the end of the day, the Katana Gen 3 doesn’t change much of the formula that has made it the best-selling amp of recent times. The Katana remains the workhorse amplifier for many guitarists around the world.


We Recommend:

BOSS Katana Gen 3 100W 1×12 Guitar Combo Amplifier
$399.00

The best-selling amp is back with an overhaul! The Katana Gen 3 offers more than ever before, at a fair price.

We recommend the 100 watt version of the amp. This little guy has the juice to play in a band, or record in a studio. Why do we think this model is the best bang for your buck?

The Katana Gen 3 100 is a combo amp, so it has a speaker and is ready to play out of the box. The 100 Series also features an FX loop, while the 50 does not.

The FX loop is important if you plan to use a looper, or any kind of modulation effect. You can also use the GA FC Footswitch with the 100 series. In my opinion, this is a great way to future-proof your rig.

The Artist Series is also a good choice, if you can find it on sale. Otherwise, the regular 100 is all you need to gig and record. At $400 it is great option to get your foot in the door.

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