It has only been a week since Line 6 dropped the Catalyst, and people already want a comparison between these two amps. Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana, who will win? Today we analyze the two amps, in depth.
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana: A Difficult Comparison… At First!
Last week we got to take a look at the brand new Line 6 Catalyst 100 amplifier. At first, I wanted to do a direct comparison with the BOSS Katana, because Line 6 isn’t fooling anyone here. Even the names have the same alliteration, and there is no denying that Line 6 took some aesthetic design notes from the Katana. But instead of making last week’s article a “Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana” type of article, I stayed neutral and reviewed the amp alone.
I made no comparisons to the Katana in that review, because I thought that would be very unfair to Line 6. The Catalyst is a new product, and it deserved its own review without comparison. I’m glad I went about it that way, because it turns out that while the Catalyst is very similar to the Katana, they are actually quite different in the way they operate.
But there is no doubt that these amps are very similar, and they will be compared by the consumers. So while they may be different to someone like me that has had the opportunity to try them both out, the average guitarist looking for an amp will probably compare these two. People want to know they pros and cons between the two. “Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana” is something that needs to happen. Because this can get confusing really quick since both amps are so similar.
Over the weekend, I spent time with both amps at my local affiliate store, and I did all of these comparisons side by side. To eliminate any variables I decided to bring a guitar that I know really well, that has a lot of tonal options. I used my Schecter NJ HSS to test both amps since it has single coils, and a humbucker.
When it came to sounds, I tried to be as consistent as I could be, making them the settings the same on both amps. The same goes for effects, and I ran into a problem with this that we will discuss later. Both amps were the 100 Watt Versions. The point is, I tried to keep it as close as possible for both. So let’s dive in to the Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana, and see which one comes out as the victor!
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana: Construction Quality
This is a hard one, because I think both amps are made very well. Both 100 watt versions feel about the same weight, but the Catalyst is just a little bit bigger in frame. Both have front facing logos, with a similar grill cloth covering. In my initial Catalyst review, I had a problem with the Line 6 logo at the bottom, as it seemed a little outdated in appearance. The Katana looks a little cleaner to me.
Both amps also have a similar cabinet design, with an open back. This open back feature has always been a favorite for me with solid state amps. It seems to help with the bass response for me, as there is a place for the air you’re pushing to be released. Some people prefer closed back cabinets, and I think that works with dedicated speaker cabs on tube amps. But not with a solid state combo.
Both models have similar plastic knobs, and the amp model select has LED lights for both amps. The Line 6 is a circle, and BOSS has a half circle design. Both have a top mounted control panel, and this is a good thing for those plastic knobs! If the amp ever falls face first, the knobs usually get broken. With both of these amps, you never need to worry about that!
Neither amp is made of solid wood, and I wouldn’t expect that from an amp at this price point. This is plywood/particle board style of wood. It feels solid, but it is lightweight. Both amps weigh in at just around 30lbs, making both amps highly portable. They each have a special speaker built in, and these speakers are designed to work with this amp specifically. Unless the speaker breaks, changing the speakers might be a bad idea!
The FX loop, Line out, USB and all other controls on are the back of the amps. Both have the capability to be a power amp for an amp modeler, Line 6 uses a switch and BOSS has a dedicated port. Both have a line out for recording or for headphone use. The FX loops also work the same, so your pedalboard can be used seamlessly with either amp. I did not test the emulated line out for recording, but I imagine these are great on both.
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana Construction Verdict: Both of these amps are nearly identical in construction, with the Catalyst being slightly bigger in stature. The Katana does have more control of the amp from the top knobs, but otherwise these amps are incredibly similar. We weighed both on a postal scale, and both were right at 32-33lbs.
The carrying handle on both amps is solid. Both handles are fixed to the amp with a four screw method that makes sure they wont slip. The Line 6 Catalyst has the screws covered with a metal plate, while BOSS has the screws in the open. For other safety issues, both have solid corner protectors, and rubber feet on the bottom.
BOSS does have the wattage selector on the top of the amp, while Line 6 chose to put this in the back. I don’t think this really makes a difference, unless you accidently bump the Catalyst in transit. But I am sure you would notice the volume change if you bumped it by the time you get to sound check! Both amps are easy, and that’s the main appeal right?
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana: Preset Sounds
Well, these certainly look very similar don’t they? These are both the 100 watt models viewing from the top in the picture above. The two amps get the most comparison from the aesthetics, and they do share similar layouts. But the Line 6 Catalyst is a little less crowded, and has less that you can control from the top. BOSS may look crowded, but it works rather easily.
But both knobs have a “tone preset” knob on the far left that controls the amp model sounds. They are similar, but very different here.
Line 6 Amps:
- High Gain
This is the hardest part to compare when it comes to the Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana, because the Line 6 has more amps to choose from at first glance. But the BOSS Katana added the “Variation” button for the MKII series, so technically you have 8 different models. We are taking the “Acoustic” setting out of the comparison, because we are using an electric guitar. So Line 6 has 6 different amps, and BOSS has 8 to choose from, technically.
Let’s compare the ones that have the same names, and are trying to make the same type of sounds before we get to the differences between the choices. I kept both amps with the EQ at noon, without any effects. I also used a Katana that was off the floor, because mine has been tweaked and changed through the edit programs. This comparison will be based on the “out of the box” sounds. Let’s start with the default Clean tones!
Clean Setting: The Line 6 Catalyst has an pretty great clean tone that is obviously built around a Fender Twin, or similar clean amp with massive headroom. This is a great way to start building a tone because the Clean setting is pretty basic. I think this is totally on purpose, so you can color this channel with effects from external pedals. Since you can also use the Catalyst with pedals, or something like the HX Stomp. In fact, this is encouraged!
The Line 6 Catalyst is a perfect pedal platform with this channel. So I don’t really find the channel on its own very interesting, but you can surely get by with this as a clean tone for recording and live purposes. The massive amount of headroom allows you to have tons of volume without the signal clipping. The Clean setting lacks a little bit of character, but I think that is intentional.
The BOSS Katana has a pretty rich Clean setting. This is based on another amp that was made by BOSS, the Roland JC Series. These amps are also known for having a ton of headroom, and makes for a great pedal platform. The variation channel has a little bit more midrange to my ears, but both clean channels are very good models of the Roland. Metallica used the Roland JC on several albums for clean tones!
To my ears, the BOSS Katana has a better sound than the Catalyst for “just a clean” channel. But it depends on what you need it for. Line 6 designed the Clean setting for pedals and effects to be added, while I feel like BOSS did a better job at making a clean amp sound that you would use standalone. So I can’t really say which one is “better” since they are made for different uses, I believe.
Many players want the versatility of a modern DSP-based amp while keeping the simplicity of traditional controls. The Line 6 Catalyst 100 is a 100-watt, dual-channel, 1x12 combo. The Catalyst 100 is ideal for everything from the practice room to medium-sized venues, as well as shining in the studio. Combining traditional controls with six original amps designed with their industry-leading HX system, Line 6 delivers the amp guitarists have been dreaming of.
Crunch Setting: The Line 6 Catalyst Crunch tone almost took my head off the first time I heard it. There is a lot of gain dialed into the preset, but if you dial the gain back to noon you get a much better tone. With everything set at noon, this is a great mid-focused sound, with a high end that really cuts. This will work great in a band situation, where you need to cut through the mix. It sounds massive, and single coil sounds are very close to a Fender Blues Jr.
The Catalyst Crunch reacts really well to volume controls on your guitar, as well as tone. You don’t lose any playing dynamics at all when you lower the volume on the guitar. So it acts very much like a tube amp in response. Line 6 has nailed this for a long time, and even the POD HD series responded well to dynamics. This setting is also harmonically rich when you play big, open chords. Each note rings out very well, and there is some great sustain with humbuckers.
The BOSS Katana is a little more tame in the preset. This is also a massive sound that has a midrange focus that has a AC/DC sound. For me, I think this sounds better with a humbucker, as it cleans up a little too much with single coils. Without fiddling with the knobs, this tone doesn’t cut as well as the Catalyst.
But the BOSS Katana Crunch is also harmonically rich, and has fantastic dynamic response. The Katana has a little more “oomph” compared back to back with the Catalyst. The bass response keeps up with the guitar’s volume control, and your playing dynamics like pick attack. In the Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana debate, this one is hard to compare. Both Crunch settings are different, but equally usable.
The BOSS Katana has the variation button though, and this adds a different flavor to the Crunch setting. The variant is a little more dynamic to me. It responds slightly different, and the sound is very subtle in difference. But I could tell that the variant channel is the one that I like the best, and its the one that I use the most. Chords sound bigger, and the sound is throatier to my ears.
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana Verdict: With both amps, I feel like they are on equal footing with these two settings. They may be different, but they both offer similar sounds that work the same. In fact, an employee and I jammed on both channels, and they are different enough to compliment each other using the same settings. This will be up to you, and your ear ultimately. They are very similar in sound and dynamics.
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana: High Gain Tones
This is a tough call for me, so it deserves its own section in the Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana comparison we are doing today. Line 6 is known for making some of the best high gain models on the planet with the Helix products. The Catalyst takes all of the great high gain tones and blends them together, while the BOSS Katana has two different options for high gain. For this test, changing the knob settings was necessary.
Catalyst: While the Catalyst may only have one dedicated high gain channel, it is crazy versatile when you change the knob settings. For instance, you can get a great Mesa Boogie tone when you turn down the midrange. With more mids added, you have something akin to a 5150 to me. Adding treble and presence gets you that “djent” tone with a hard noise gate. There is a lot built into this one channel.
With the Catalyst being a two channel amp, I imagine people will use this High Gain setting for their second channel for playing solos. See, the Catalyst is a a two channel amp at the heart of it all. You could program the Clean setting or Crunch for the first channel, and High Gain for the second. So the High Gain option can really be dialed in however you want. It chugs with the best of them, and it really pushes air through the speakers as the mids get turned down.
The interesting thing, is if you back off the bass with the Catalyst, it never gets woof-y but still pushes air. There is more gain than you will ever need on tap, and a slight turn of the knobs can really change how the harmonic richness comes through. You can get a high gain sound out of the Dynamic setting too, but it isn’t as easy to control as this dedicated channel. At half volume, I was shaking the walls and the Catalyst remained clear.
Katana: The BOSS Katana has two unique high gain channels. One is the Lead channel, and this doesn’t have a real life amp comparison to me. The Lead channel is a pretty unique high gain channel, and it is still dynamic like the Crunch. Like the Line 6, you really need to play with the Mid knob to get the different versatile tones out of the Katana. It goes from low chug, to singing solo tones with the turn of a knob. This has a variation, and it very subtle again. Like the amp has more sag (if it had tubes).
The Brown channels is designed after EVH clearly, and it sounds like it! This is a Marshall amp that is on its way to blowing up in my opinion. It sounds huge, and it is incredibly dynamic. Your pick attack and volume control makes a huge difference with this channel. This works well as a rhythm channel, but it was made for crazy solos. I didn’t even try this with single coils, because it was made for a bridge humbucker!
Again, we have surprising bass response that is actually a little tighter than the Catalyst. The catalyst can be tight, but at high volumes there is a tiny bit of flub. Not with the Katana, and this is a personal choice as to what you prefer. Some people want a bit of looseness with the high gain sounds, while other want the bass response tight. Dial back the bass knob the louder you get and you will dial out all of the “woof”.
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana Verdict: When it comes to Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana, Line 6 has a very distinct sound that was created brand new for this amp from the HX software. This is great, if you like the usual tones that Line 6 offers. BOSS on the other hand lets you have two channels that offers a little bit more user control, and it has a slightly tighter bass response. So it depends on what you need, with high gain. If you need one solid versatile sound, Line 6 has it. If you need more than one high gain tone, BOSS wins this round.
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana: Final Verdict On Amp Tones
I feel like both amps are going to be for different types of players. Line 6 offers more options for clean and medium gain tones. For example, the Chime channel on the Catalyst is very much like a VOX AC15, and this is not really a tone that is immediately available on the BOSS Katana. Sure, the BOSS can dial in something similar, but it doesn’t have the same dedicated setting. The Catalyst has several options for clean to medium gain.
You can get these sounds that are clean/ in between with the Katana, but you will have to program them yourself. The Katana on the other hand has more options for high gain tones. You have two high gain channels with 2 variants of each setting. So if you are a metal player, I can see the Katana being more popular. Both Katana high gain sounds are extremely versatile, and I have probably 10 different settings for both saved on my computer.
The Catalyst has more of a “do it all” kind of appeal. We talk about “do it all” kind of products a lot, and for some guitarists the Catalyst is going to be perfect. For example, someone who plays in a blues band and a heavy rock band, the Catalyst will cover both of those gigs for you. The Katana will as well, but it will take some tweaking. Catalyst does this right out of the box.
So when it comes to tones, it comes down to what you need as a player. I play a variety of music, and the Katana has yet to fail me, but I spent a day programming it to get there. With the Catalyst, you can set the two channels however you want and toggle between the two sounds. For example, I would set the amp for Clean and Dynamic for a blues gig if I used the Catalyst and never need to edit it.
So I am sorry that I don’t have a solid answer to which is “better”. Personally, the Katana fits my needs so much better. But both amps have equally good tones, but the tones will appeal to different genres. I think Katana excels in high gain applications, without a doubt. The Catalyst is better for clean/crunch tones from what I have gathered, and there are more options for those sounds with the Catalyst.
As far as the quality of the tones? Again, both sound incredibly natural and respond to dynamics amazingly. But neither of them sound like a tube amp. They are both very close to tube quality, but lets not be delusional here, these are budget modeling amps. For a trained ear, a tube amp will sound better 9/10 times. But for what these amps are, they are both incredible. This is a tie, for me. I like both tonal palates that these amps have to offer.
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana: Effects And Editing
Now you don’t have to download software to enjoy either of these amps. Both right out of the box are programmed with some great tones that are ready to play as soon as you turn them on. But for some of us, we need to deep edit our patches to cater to how we use the amp. For example, I have patches programmed to record with, and patches for playing live on my BOSS Katana.
For the sake of fully covering these amps for the whole “Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana” comparison, the editors need to be addressed.
Line 6 is known for its high quality effects and for some people, the whole appeal of Line 6 is the vast library of effects. Well, the Catalyst has all of this built in, and in my rundown of the Catalyst, I listed every single effects it has. Line 6 has programmed about 25 different effects into the Catalyst in every category of effects types. But that seems a little…sparse?
The BOSS Katana has a digital representation of all of the famous BOSS pedals from over the years. BOSS has replicated over 65 different effects pedals for the Katana. But most of these are only accessible from the editor. Out of the box, there are 3 different effects for each bank on the top of the amp.
So this is where the Katana really shines in my opinion. The Katana can run 5 different effects at the same time when you include the boost/overdrive function. Including the boost, the Line 6 Catalyst can only run 3 effects at the same time. And this where the Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana argument gets complicated. Well, not really…Boss wins this section hands down.
When I decided to make a Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana article, I knew this was going to be a point of contention. Because BOSS absolutely wins when it comes to effects. Especially when it comes to editing the effects from the amp itself. It’s not so easy to do that with the Catalyst. In fact, you need the editor with the Catalyst, because using the control panel/knobs is tedious.
The BOSS editor is very straight forward, you can assign 3 different effects per control bank. So 15 effects per tone setting, if you want. You can also choose the signal path, with modulation before or after the amp. You can choose from any of the 65 effects to program each bank, as well as the “variation” of each amp setting. That’s…a lot to take in. Almost too much, for me.
The Catalyst offers 25 effects, and you can only use two at a time, and a drive function. This was the deal breaker for me, since one effects must be reverb. The other effect can be any of the modulation choices. It is baffling to me why Line 6 only offers two effects at the same time, as well as half of the effects being novelty layovers from the POD HD series. These aren’t even new effects, and while they sound good, I expected some sounds from the HX series built into the Catalyst.
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Both amps have the same quality of effects, and tap tempo delay controls. But line 6 has some more interesting reverb options than BOSS, however that is where the comparison ends. BOSS dominates the effects category. The BOSS pedals that are replicated here, are all awesome and sound professional. Line 6 has five effects that are pitch modulation out of the measly 25, and I found them to be a novelty. You will probably never use those live or on a recording because they are toys, almost. Boss wins in the effects department, but that comes at a cost.
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana Editors: The BOSS editor is simple to use and program, but getting there can be hard for people who are not tech savvy. You need to download the driver, update the katana unit itself, download the editor, and then you can plug the Katana up to the computer. Updating the Katana is a combination of holding down buttons, while running a file through USB. Overall, it is a huge pain in the ass to get working.
The Line 6 Catalyst download is all in one, you download the program and plug up the amp. It will auto-update if it needs to, and there is not much else for you to do. Line 6 has always been easy when it comes to downloading the editing software, and it is just as simple here. One click, and you’re done!
The BOSS editor, once you get it working, is very intuitive. There are 3 cabinet options to choose from, but the rest is all about setting effects for each channel, and each of the 8 personal patches. There is global EQ, but I never mess with this option. By default, the Katana ships with the noise gate off on every channel, which is a strange choice. The noise gate needs to be activated by the software, as it isn’t on the amp itself. Each channel is leveled though, and its easy to edit the effects.
The Line 6 Catalyst editor can be confusing, and I mentioned this in the review. There are too many options in the editor for cabs and microphones. Besides the default cab/mic, all of the mic settings made the amp sound worse to my ears. The sag and bias controls are also subtle, and are an afterthought. Both of these features could be omitted. Where the Line 6 Catalyst editor excels, is dialing in the different effects, as it is very easy to do. A pedal graphic appears, and you just set the knobs.
This is where the Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana debate can be very divisive. Only having two available effects on the Catalyst is a deal breaker for me. Line 6 is known for effects, and they are almost ignored with the Catalyst. You have a few good effects on the Catalyst, where the Katana has a myriad of options. Even with an easier editor, Line 6 loses this one.
Something else to note, BOSS has a tone community where you can download famous tones from different artists and songs, and it is built into the editor app. With Line 6, you need to access the community outside of the editor app. Overall, I feel pretty let down by Line 6, especially since the company is known for its effects.
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana: Live Use/Gigging
This is another nail in the coffin for the Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana debate. Being able to use an amp for gigging as well as recording is paramount to me. In fact, I would say it is the main feature of both of these amplifiers, as guitarists will probably want to use these amps live. They have the power to do so, and they are both built for it.
Volume wise, both amps are pretty equal. The Katana feels like it is a little bit louder than the Catalyst, but this could be placebo. They are equally matched in volume, and both are designed to cut through the loudest of band mixes. Even if your drummer is a heavy hitter, either of these amps will keep up without any issues. These are loud as hell, so no need to worry about volume.
But then we have the issue of recalling all of those patches that you have spent crafting with your computer. The Katana uses the Roland GA-FC controller. This allows you to scroll through all of your banks and user patches, turn effects on and off, and even switch back to the panel knob for control. This means you have 9 different selections that you can pull up from the footswitch. This footswitch is $150, but you will need it for live use unless you stay on one channel and use your own pedals.
The Catalyst is essentially a two channel amp. You can pick any two sounds from the amp models to be your two channels, but that’s all. Line 6 offers a two button footswitch, that allows you to switch between the channels, and the other button controls effects. Again, this is a gigantic oversight for Line 6. Surely they could come up with a footswitch especially for the Catalyst.
Line 6 has lead me to believe that the company expects you to integrate your HX products with this amp. Which is fine if that’s what the design is for. But Line 6 isn’t advertising this as an accessory for the HX/Helix products. The Catalyst is being sold as an “all in one” option for the stage and studio. But without pedals, or an HX product, you have two channels and that’s all. But I think I have this figured out now…
Boss wins again for live use and playing gigs.
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana: Final Verdict
This is the deal everyone: These amps are not really comparable in the end. Everyone is calling the Catalyst a “Katana Killer” or saying that Line 6 is coming after BOSS. But this isn’t the case at all, as we have discovered today. You cannot compare these two amps past the idea that they are amp modelers. These amps really don’t have much in common, despite what recent marketing and advertisement may tell you. But this isn’t a positive or negative thing.
These two amps are for two totally different guitar players, and I didn’t realize this until today. The BOSS Katana is made to be an all in one solution for guitarists, especially with the footswitch. You have everything you need to create any tone you want, and the ability to control it. You can use your own pedals, sure. But that isn’t the appeal of the Katana.
The Line 6 Catalyst is absolutely for people that have a full pedalboard, or they use the Helix/HX for most applications. The limitations of the Catalyst is just a huge problem for someone like me that wants everything in one package. But if you have pedals, and want a two channel amp… then the Catalyst is for you. I can break it down even easier:
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana: Function
- 65 Effects, all you need.
- 4 amp models.
- 9 different channels/patches.
- Easy to edit on the fly.
- Takes pedals well.
- Loud enough for gigs/good for recording.
- Fully controllable through footswitch as a single unit. For people that don’t want external pedals.
Line 6 Catalyst:
- 25 Effects.
- 6 amp models.
- Only two effects at a time/One must be reverb.
- Two Channels.
- Takes pedals well.
- Loud enough for gigs/good for recording.
- Made to be used with pedalboard/HX Series. Lackluster without external effects.
These two amps are incredibly different from each other. I can see why people thought that the Catalyst is taking after BOSS. But in reality, they are designed for totally different applications. You can use the Katana like you use the Catalyst, but you cannot do it the other way around. The design, marketing, and the prices might mislead you. These two amps are not alike at all, except in a few features and appearance.
So in closing, these are two amps for two different people. If you want an amp that can do it all, and be controlled by a footswitch as one unit; The Katana is for you. If you want a two channel amp that is built to be used with external pedals or Helix floor pedals, the Catalyst is for you. I am glad I got to do this comparison, because they have very little in common when you break it down. In my opinion, BOSS has nothing to worry about, because the Catalyst isn’t in the same category.
Line 6 Catalyst VS BOSS Katana Which One Is Better?
These two amps are made for different applications. The Katana is more of an “all in one” solution that has lots of choices for live and studio use. The Line 6 Catalyst is much more restricted, and meant to be used with other Line 6 products.
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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