If you’re a guitarist, you know that the amp you use matters just as much as your guitar when it comes to tone. You could be playing a ’59 Les Paul, but if it’s hooked up to the cheapest amp you could find on Amazon, it’s not going to sound like much.
But what kind of amp do you need? Tube amps are legendary for their warm tone, but they’re often expensive, putting them out of reach for some. On the other hand, the Boss Katana is one of the world’s most popular solid-state amps. In this article, we’ll compare a few Katana amps with their tube counterparts.
These higher-powered amps are great for playing gigs or practicing alongside other musicians. Let’s compare the two.
Best Solid State Amp for Gigging
|Boss Katana Artist|| |
Best for Classic Tube Tone
|Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb|| |
Boss Katana Artist 100-watt – Best Solid State Amp for Gigging
This is an amp that can do it all. The Katana Artist has five separate amp voicings, including clean, lead, crunch, Brown (based on the Boss WAZA amp), and an acoustic setting for acoustic-electrics. But the customization doesn’t stop there–you can choose from over 58 effects and customize them using Boss Tone Studio, which you can access by connecting your amp to your computer via a USB cable. The amp itself can store up to 15 effects, and you can use up to three at once, making this effectively an amp and small pedalboard combo. If you want to use the amp with pedals, you can place them in front of the amp or in its effects loop.
While this is a high-powered amp, you can also adjust power levels to make it effectively 50W or 5W, letting you dial back the power to practice at home or record. If you’re looking for a relatively affordable amp that will let you explore different tones, it’s worth a look.
Do we recommend it? Yes, if you plan on gigging or otherwise need an amp with a lot of power. It’s also good if you’re in the process of dialing in your preferred sound.
- You can use the full 100W or adjust power settings to get cranked sound at 50W or 5W
- Different amp models let you play with different sounds
- Included effects library is useful for exploring
- While it’s impressive, this amp doesn’t have the legendary tone of a Fender tube amp
- Unless you need to play in medium or larger venues, you likely don’t need an amp this big
Fender ’65 Deluxe Reverb 22-Watt – Best for Classic Tube Tone
It might seem odd to compare a 22W amp with a 100W one. But tube power tends to go a long way compared to solid state power. The Deluxe Reverb is a classic when it comes to creating fat tube tone, and it excels when playing clean. Its reverb and vibrato are both tube-driven, giving you a sound that pedals can’t recreate. And when driven hard, it delivers the classic tube overdrive that many players love.
This amp is especially well-suited to blues and country playing, but it’s also great for rock music. It doesn’t give you all the effects options of a Katana Artist, but it’s important to remember that these are amps with different purposes. The Katana Artist is an amp for exploring a world of different tones, while the Deluxe Reverb is for players who want a specific, world-class sound.
Do we recommend it? Yes, if you’re someone who’s looking for Fender sound. This amp isn’t typically used in metal and similar genres.
- Great tube sound
- Tube-driven vibrato and reverb
- Loud enough for the stage without being overpowering
- Has been used in several famous recordings, including Abbey Road
- It’s much more expensive than the Katana Artist
- It doesn’t include amp modeling options, which some players might want
These nect two amps aren’t quite as powerful as the ones above, but both have plenty of effects and amp models to offer.
Best Tonal Variety
|Boss Katana MKII|| |
Best Multi-effect Tube Amp
|Fender Super Champ X2 || |
Boss Katana MKII – Best Tonal Variety
This amp is essentially an updated version of the Katana Artist. With 50W of power, it’s enough for most gigs, but it’s still a useful practice amp. It has a headphone jack that can be used as a line-out for recording. Notably, this output is cab-emulated, meaning that you get full, natural sound even without using the speaker.
The Katana MKII also expands the tonal options you have–it has the same five amp models as the Katana Artist, but with more settings for each. Boss also overhauled their Tone Studio options, so you can connect to your computer via USB and download professionally-created settings or create your own using Boss’s 60 effects. There’s also a power amp input, so you can connect a favorite external preamp, too.
Do we recommend it? Yes, if you want to explore different tones.
- Offers more tonal options than the Katana Artist
- Is powerful enough for gigging or practice
- Cab-emulated headphone/line out
- While it models different amps, it doesn’t sound quite as authentic as the real thing
Fender Super Champ X2 – Best Multi-effect Tube Amp
If you want authentic tube tone in a smaller package, this amp offers just that. It’s loud enough for small gigs, but it also has an output for plugging into a sound system. But this amp really shines in the effects department. If you like the variety that the Katana gives you but want tube tone, this is a great option. It offers 16 amp types you can choose by turning a voicing knob, and you also get 15 effects with a tap tempo.
The Super Champ is also useful for recording–connect to a computer via USB for digital recording. Like the Katana MKII, this amp’s output is cab-emulated, so you get an authentic and natural tone. In the world of tube amps, it’s a rarity–you seldom see so many effects on an amp that isn’t solid state.
Do we recommend it? Yes–it’s affordable as tube amps go, and it offers plenty of opportunity for experimenting with sound.
- Offers authentic Fender tube tone
- Has a wealth of amp models and effects
- Cab-emulated output is great for recording
- Line out lets you connect to a sound system for larger gigs
- Effects aren’t tube-driven, so the sound isn’t quite as rich as on the Deluxe Reverb
Mini amps may not be ideal for gigs, but they’re a great choice for practice and recording, especially if you prefer recording with a mic’d amp instead of with a line out.
Best small Amp
|Boss Katana Mini|| |
Best 5 Watt Tube Amp
|Marshall M-DSL5CR-U|| |
This little 7-watt amp is great for home practice or playing on the go. You can even power it with batteries. (A note: it doesn’t come with a plug-in power supply, though you can purchase one separately.) And despite its small size, it still has several options for tonal exploration. You get three amp voicings, but this amp doesn’t come with all the effects of larger Katanas–it only has delay.
It does have a fun practice feature, though–you can connect a music player via an aux input for jamming. And like many amps on the list, it also has a speaker-emulated output for headphones or recording.
Do we recommend it? Yes, if you don’t need all the effects of bigger Katanas and want a smaller, very portable practice amp.
- Can be battery-powered for portability
- Speaker-emulated output
- Multiple amp voicings and aux in make it a fun amp to jam with
- Doesn’t come with a power adapter
- Doesn’t have all the effects of other Katanas
Marshall is a legend when it comes to making amps, especially if you love crunchy rock tones or playing blistering leads. And even though it’s a tiny 10W amp, this mini Marshall has a surprising amount of features. It has both a high power mode and a low power mode, letting you shape volume level and tone for any environment. It also has two channels–classic gain and ultra gain.
This little amp also has a speaker-emulated output, but it’s an especially accurate one–Marshall partnered with Softube to create an output that accurately re-creates the sound of a Marshall 1960 speaker cabinet. You can use this output for practicing with headphones or for recording. This isn’t the most effects-rich amp, but the digital reverb is studio-quality.
Do we recommend it? Yes, especially if you play rock or metal music or if you want a high-quality line out for recording.
- Two channels give you different gain options
- Top-notch line out is great for recording
- Precise EQ lets you shape just the right tone
- Effects loop lets you easily pair this amp with pedals
- Tones are more suited to high-gain genres like rock and metal, so it may not be the right amp for everyone
- It doesn’t have all the effects options of some other amps
Boss Katana Amp VS Tube Amp –Buying Guide
We’ve just been through several amp varieties, but what if you aren’t sure exactly what you need? In this section, we’ll help you decide what you want in an amp, whether it’s a tube amp or a Katana.
Are Tube Amps Louder?
It’s commonly said that if you have a tube amp and solid state amp of the same power, the tube amp is louder. Technically, this is untrue. But tube amps sound louder. This is because as tube amps enter into overdrive, they produce additional harmonics that trick your ears into thinking they’re up to 12 decibels louder than they actually are. So when you choose an amp, keep in mind that a 22W tube amp is going to sound louder than a 22W solid state.
Choosing a Power Level
When selecting an amp, power level is important. And as you’ve seen, higher-watt amps tend to be more expensive (and sometimes much more expensive) than low-watt amps. Especially if budget is a concern, you’ll probably want to get the lowest-watt option that can still deliver all the power you need.
But how much power do you need? Generally, if you plan to use an amp for gigs, it’s good to have at least 15 watts of power if you’re playing small venues. However, most amps have some degree of distortion when the volume and/or gain is all the way up, and for most music styles, this isn’t ideal. If you’re playing in larger venues or in a louder band, you might prefer something between 50W and 100W.
This is not a hard and fast rule, though. It’s entirely possible to gig with a small amp. Many options have a line out that can be run into a PA system. And alternatively, you can mic your amp, with the mic running into the PA.
What Are the Benefits of Getting a Modeling Amp?
Modeling amps are amps that can effectively model the voices of other amps, and many have built-in effects. The Boss Katana is a prime example of a modeling amp. And while they aren’t for everyone, these amps have some distinct advantages:
- They’re light. If you’ve ever picked up a tube amp, you know how heavy they are. Solid state amps are much lighter, even at high wattages. This makes them a lot easier to gig with.
- There are no tubes to replace. Tube amps are known for their incredible tone, but the tubes within don’t last forever. They become worn with age, and they eventually go bad, but the change is gradual. Often, they create noises and compromise tone before they fail completely. With a solid state, you avoid this particular hassle.
- They’re a lot of fun to practice with. These amps let you experiment with the voices of many different amp models, which is especially helpful when you’re starting out and still deciding what style you want to play.
- You get effects without pedals. Many modeling amps have plenty of effects. This lets you see what types of effects you like without having to purchase individual pedals.
What Are the Benefits of Getting a Tube Amp?
Plenty of players in search of the perfect tone have come to find that nothing beats a quality tube amp. After all, the first guitar amps were tube-driven, and solid state amps are a newer, more affordable development. Here are some of the benefits of choosing one:
- They’re responsive. Your playing style is unique to you, and tube amps let that style shine. Based on the way you play, the tubes in an amp will produce subtle sonic differences. Their response to nuance creates an authentic, natural sound.
- They have great clean tones. The sound of a clean tube amp is often described as “warm.” The differences between a tube amp and a solid state may not be readily apparent when you play with heavy distortion, but many players think that a clean tube amp outshines a solid state.
- They’re the top choice of many pros. Many iconic records were made using tube amps, and most professional guitarists choose them.
The Boss Katana is a unique, interesting amp that lets you explore new sonic landscapes. It’s also very affordable given its functionality. However, most musicians will agree that a well-made tube amp simply sounds better. Tubes impart a warmth and character to your tone that a solid-state amp simply can’t. If you love tube tone but are short on cash, there’s still hope–Fender has recently developed cutting-edge technologies that flawlessly re-create tube-amp sound in a digital amplifier, bringing that beloved sound to even the most cash-strapped guitarists.