Submitted March 27, 2020 by ALLAN B in Tempe, AZ
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I've been a big fan of Boss since the 80's. When the Katana first came out a few years ago I grabbed the KTN50. It was an amazing value and I couldn't believe they could get all of that in a $200 amp. The Artist takes all of that to the next level and is half the weight of my tube rig to carry around. I play in a cover band of old guys (myself included) that goes from The Beatles to Blink 182 so I wanted something really versatile and easy to dial in. It has everything I need as an all-in-one small to medium gig rig, but when I add my HXFX in 4CM with MIDI it becomes the ultimate for me. It goes from djenty prog to chimey Vox-like tone with a push of a button and is plenty loud enough to keep up with the rest of the band. If you haven't had the opportunity to hear one of these yet by all means check one out. There's a lot to like with very few compromises. I don't think you will be disappointed. If ya are, zZounds has a no questions asked 45 day return policy that I've taken advantage of a few times with zero hassle. They are great folks!
I've had the original KTN50 and also own the KTN100 Mark II. To my ears compared to the standard Katanas the Artist is a little more refined in its tone and doesn't have quite as much harshness as the standard when heavily overdriven. It projects much better in clean and crunch as well. I assume the semi closed back and the Waza Craft speaker are what make the difference. While extremely close, it lacks a little bit of the warmth that a tube amp delivers but it still sounds excellent. The effects are all top quality and sound great as you would expect from Boss. I like several of the onboard effects better than my Line6 HX FX. It also takes pedals really well. I run the L6 HXFX in 4 cable mode and mix and match. I like the combination of the L6 drives with the KTN gain channel. It sounds amazing.
So many features!! By now just about everyone is familiar with what Katana is all about so I won't go into that too much. The Tone Studio software is the same as it always has been. If you've used it for any other Boss product then you should be quite comfortable with it. It does require version 1.02 so if you have a MKII already you still need to update. MIDI implementation is a great add on to the Artist and quite useful if you have a MIDI enabled pedalboard. It is MIDI in only and doesn't have complete MIDI control but you can change amp channels, turn FX banks on/off with PC and some CC commands to change effect parameters. I was disappointed that there's no MIDI control for the Amp Solo function but you can turn it on individual boost pedals. I use an FS-5L with a standard TS cable plugged into the GAFC/SOLO jack on the back and it works fine but a MIDI toggle would be much better and save space on my pedalboard. Speaking of the GAFC, if you are going to use this amp as an all in one solution I highly recommend the GAFC. It's well worth the extra $120 to get the most out of the amp. Another great feature is the Power Amp in. I sometimes play live with just a Boss GT-1000 and can use the Katana as either a personal monitor or use it at home to create and tailor GT-1000 sounds.
Ease of Use
A lot of modern solid state and digital amps rely heavily on apps. Katana is best of both. If software tweaking is your thing, you can dive in deep with Tone Studio. If knobs are more appealing, most of the features are accessible from the front panel. I typically use the sofware to get a good clean, crunch, and drive channel set up and add the effects I want to the bank. Then if I need to make tweaks on the fly I can adjust the front panel and then long press the channel button to save. Another often overlooked ease of use feature is the weight. Compared to a tube amp of the same size this is at least 20 pounds lighter than my 60 watt Blackstar. At my age that makes an enormous difference.
As with every Boss product I've owned, the Artist MKII appears to be very well constructed. The covering is smooth and fit and finish is excellent. The knobs and pots are smooth and do not feel cheap. The amp has an overall high quality look and feel.
Value is always a tough one. I've seen a lot of forum posts asking if the Artist is worth the upgrade price. For me the extra $240 over the KTN100 was worth it for both aesthetics and sound quality. The Artist feels much more roadworthy like it can take the bumps and bruises of getting gigged regurlarly. Compared to similar offerings from Blackstar and Fender I believe it's still an excellent value. The GTX and Silverline series are digital modeling amps. The Katana does not model amps, it's a true solid state amplifier and only the effects are modeled. I think that contributes heavily to the success of these. They have their own unique sound instead of emulating someone else, which always lacks a little something.
Never needed it
The Wow Factor
All of this for $600 USD? Wow!
Played over 45 years. Still kicking around in a band
Rock, Prog, CCM
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