Boss Katana Air EX - my thoughts so far

As someone whose gigging days are likely a thing of the past, I recently sold my AC15 (which hurt) and decided to give the Katana Air EX a try.

There were several things that attracted me to it against the competition. I own a Yamaha THR10 ii, which has served me well but somehow I never really loved it that much.

The main selling points for me were the larger wooden chassis, the wireless integration and the stereo line out/4 channel USB recording. I do a fair amount of remote recording work nowadays - I've been using plugins but honestly really dislike pretty much all of them from a UI and tone perspective.

Having played it for a bit now, my honest thoughts are this:

1) For what it is, it sounds very good...after tweaking in the app. It doesn't sound anywhere near as good as my pedalboard through my AC15, and as such when people in reviews go on about how great it sounds, it's more that it sounds good for what it is. All settings are very usable. There is definitely a better bass response.

Out the box, some of the distortion channel tones were a bit shrill, and it's only via the app that you can adjust things like presence, EQ bands, HPF, LPF, boost/cut etc.

2) The motion sensitive wireless is sooo convenient and easily its best selling point. Just makes grab and go so easy.

3) The fact that it has 4 USB sends, 2 of which are DI, makes recording and re-amping a doddle. A big plus for my line of work. And with USB you don't have to worry about input gain to your DAW or clipping, as it's all automatically handled. I also think it sounded better than any plugin i've used so far - through monitors this thing sounds fantastic. You could totally gig this going direct to PA.

4) It's Boss - so it's bulletproof and has great FX.

5) Very good range of volume, can get plenty loud.

I'm still within my return period and some things are giving me pause for thought:

1) The price - it's £500 - which is about £150 more than what it's "worth" IMO. I get the wireless aspect and power output bumps up the cost, but for a fairly feature-light practice amp, that is too expensive. Full stop.

2) The weird FX limitations. For some reason Boss makes you make weird choices whereby you can have up to 3 "FX" on at once, but only certain combinations. e.g. I can't have a compressor AND vibrato. I can't have a boost AND chorus. Why do they make you choose between a gain style fx and a modulation fx? I'm not likely to want two gain pedals or two modulations on at once, but I am likely to want a gain pedal with modulation, and yet I can't? Bonkers.

3) It's limiting and limited - this is both a pro and a con. I like it's simplicity - one thing I hate about plugins is all the options you have for stuff like mics, cabs, speakers, tubes, rooms etc. etc. just give me a good sound and let me get on with my day! 

That being said, the Katana only offers you 3 "variations" of cab sims, and they aren't massively different. You can't load IRs or anything like that.

4) Did I mention the price??

My instincts are telling me i will keep it. The convenience of the rechargeable wireless integration alone is swaying me. But I do so with a big lump in my throat when I look I my bank balance.
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  • CarpeDiemCarpeDiem Frets: 296
    Helpful review. I’ve got the Katana Air which I use for home practice and playing along to backing tracks, and it works really well for my use case. 

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  • BluesLoverBluesLover Frets: 676
    I have one (the EX) used at modest volumes as a bedroom amp. I really like it, after initially being quite sceptical. It sounds good, much fuller than the THR10 that I previously used. 
    I switch it on in the morning and it then gets used in small bursts through the day, the wireless auto power up facility is so convenient and useful, it justifies the price for that alone.
    I've never had/used a decent valve amp so don't have anything to use as a reference.
    The Bluetooth means it also gets used as a BT speaker quite a bit too, streaming from either my phone or Walkman.
    As a guitar amp, I use it on the clean setting, with the boost turned up, set to bluesdriver via the app.
    I like it.
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  • HT986M2HT986M2 Frets: 153
    How are you guys getting on with your Air EX's?  I'm currently trying to decide between this and a Yamaha THR II for quiet, wireless home practice.
    Trading feedback available here
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