BOSS Katana MkII vs. Blackstar Silverline Amps

Two of 2019's biggest guitar amp releases happened within just a week of one another. Officially launched in early October, BOSS unveiled updated versions of its best-selling Katana amplifiers while Blackstar introduced a brand new lineup to contend with the Katana series' overwhelming popularity.

And after much demand, we've pitched BOSS' new Katana MkII amps against the stylish Blackstar Silverline series - in the ultimate battle for digital amp dominance!

Elliot Stent

Elliot Stent

Many purists still believe that valve amps are king when it comes to achieving the best guitar tones. But over the last few years, a number of leading guitar amp brands have invested heavily in developing digital amplifiers that can offer convincing tube-like sounds, while being far more affordable and reliable than their actual valve-powered counterparts.

It’s fair to say that early solid-state amps were pretty sub-par and could easily be distinguished as “digital-sounding”. They’d typically emit a lifeless and anaemic tone, with a harsh and fatiguing top-end. But in the last decade we’ve seen the likes of BOSS and Blackstar create guitar amplifiers that sound a lot more authentic and offer a more natural playing feel.

The most recent amp lineups from these well-known names are getting a lot closer to the real thing. With plenty of modern perks up their sleeves too, including various built-in amp types, effects and even emulations of real power amp tubes; today’s players are fortunate to have these versatile tonal platforms available. But when it comes to their sounds, features and value-for-money – which brand is currently making the better guitar amplifiers?

BOSS Katana MkII Amps

Boss Katana MkII Amps

Released in 2016, the original BOSS Katana amp range was a winner from the very start. These amps received worldwide acclaim for their realistic tube tones, high-quality effects, modest price-points and spine-saving portability. We’ve quite literally sold thousands of BOSS Katana amps, and they’re still firmly among our most popular products!

BOSS built on their best-selling formula and recently launched its next generation of Katana amps, which saw a number of highly-requested features come to fruition. Turbocharged with more sounds, effects and connectivity options; BOSS Katana MkII amps are all-encompassing tone tools that provide players with the flexibility to create almost any guitar sound imaginable.

With direct replacements for the Katana 50, 100 and 100 2×12″ combos, BOSS also upgraded its mighty Katana 100 head. So if you’re already familiar with the first iteration of the Katana, these new amps aren’t much of a departure size or styling-wise; they’re simply refined with more functionality.

BOSS Katana MkII Range

Amp Sounds

BOSS Katana Amps are equipped with 5 primary amp ‘characters’ that cover everything from organic vintage clean tones to modern, saturated high-gain. There’s even a dedicated ‘Acoustic’ setting that’s optimised for electro-acoustic guitars, meaning that BOSS Katanas can be used as acoustic amplifiers too. Here’s a breakdown of each of the BOSS Katana’s amp characters:

  • Acoustic – A dedicated acoustic guitar amp that supports connection of an acoustic guitar.
  • Clean – A pure and natural sound, perfect for using with external overdrive and fuzz pedals.
  • Crunch – A fat crunch tone that faithfully responds to the nuances of your picking attack.
  • Lead – Different gain settings allow this sound to cover a wide range, from crunch to high-gain.
  • Brown – A lead sound with an edge, inherited from the BOSS WAZA brown sound. Inspired by the famous “EVH” sound.

BOSS Katana MkII Amp Panel
While BOSS Katana MkII amps still retain the same primary amp sounds that their predecessors had, their new ‘Variation’ buttons allow you to change the feel and response of each amp character. This ultimately doubles the amount of tones at your disposal. And with BOSS’ ‘Tube Logic Technology’; Katana MkII amps deliver the convincing feel and harmonic content you’d expect from genuine valve amps.

In our Andertons TV video below, Danish Pete demonstrates each of the Katana MkII’s amp characters so that you can hear their differences. Making use of the Variation function too, you can hear all of these sounds in a full band context, with The Captain on bass and Tayler on drums:

Equalisation, Channels & Presets

BOSS Katana MkII amplifiers also boast 4-band EQ sections (Bass, Middle, Treble and Presence), which enable precise tone-shaping. The Katana MkII 100 2×12″ and 100 head feature ‘Cab Resonance’ functions, which allow you to further tailor the lows with their ‘Vintage’, ‘Modern’ and ‘Deep’ settings.

As you’d expect from modern digital amps, your EQ settings can be saved along with whichever amp type and effects you’ve also dialled in. Simply use the Katana MkII’s ‘Panel’ button to store your ideal custom patch.

With 4 channels (excluding the Katana 50), you can set up the perfect clean, overdrive, high-gain and lead tones to cover all of the bases. However, BOSS Katana MkII amps have a total of 8 preset slots, which allow you to save a further quartet of unique amp sounds in a second bank.

Built-In Effects

BOSS made their name from producing compact guitar pedals, and it’s fair to say that its effects units remain the industry standard. It therefore made sense for the company to cram a bunch of its famous, high-quality effects into its Katana amplifiers. However, BOSS took it to the next level with the MkII series. Players can now employ 5 different effects simultaneously rather than just 3, essentially giving users pedalboard-like power with their MkII amps.

Independent Boost, Modulation, FX, Delay, and Reverb sections come loaded from the factory, and with 3 variations of each – you have 15 ready-to-play effects to choose from. It doesn’t end there either. If you connect to the accompanying BOSS ‘Tone Studio’ software via USB, you can dive much deeper and customise the sections with over 60 different effect types. Change the order with 4 different effects chains and deep-edit parameters to your heart’s content – it’s that flexible!

BOSS Tone Studio

While tonnes of built-in effects is cool, what if you want to use your own external stompboxes in conjunction with a Katana MkII? Fortunately, these amps (apart from the Katana 50) feature effects loops that let you to make seamless use of your favourite ambient, time-based and modulation effects. This is fairly uncommon for digital amps, so it’s a great plus for these models.

Additional Features

BOSS Katana MkIIs are extremely versatile with their various amp characters and diverse onboard effects. But there are even more features that set them apart from the competition. Power scaling functionality is certainly one of them, which applies to all Katana MkII models. Although this is something that perhaps makes more sense with valve amps, it nevertheless gives you the ability to power down to half-wattage or even a mere 0.5-watts. This means that you can play at lower volumes without losing valuable tone.

Katana MkII amps also sport ‘Power Amp In’ jacks; a new feature for the second iteration. Enabling you to bypass their preamps/effects and connect straight into their ‘Tube Logic’ power sections, these inputs let you employ Katana MkIIs as powered cabinets for your favourite preamp pedals, modellers and multi-effects units. And via BOSS’ Tone Studio software, you can also optimise their power amp inputs with high-pass filter and adjustable gain parameters.

BOSS Katana MkII Rear

Lastly, all Katana MkII amps boast USB and phones/recording outputs with mic’d cabinet emulation. These let you send mix-ready amp tones direct to an audio interface for recording into a DAW (digital audio workstation), or even a front-of-house PA system for live performance. And if you want to practice silently with headphones – that’s not a problem either!

The direct sounds can be shaped with 3 different ‘Air Feel’ settings, which are accessible from the Tone Studio. This somewhat changes the virtual ambience/room size so to speak, ultimately affecting the EQ. And two-channel USB operation is also supported, meaning that you can track in true stereo for an engulfing three-dimensional sound. Recording with this method eliminates the need for an audio interface as you can just plug directly into your computer.

Blackstar Silverline Amps

Blackstar Silverline Amps

While BOSS’ new Katana MkII series amps have addressed a few of the issues that fans had with the originals, ultimately making their new models more versatile; the launch of Blackstar’s Silverline series must have still raised some eyebrows at BOSS HQ.

Building on their critically-acclaimed ID:Series technology, Blackstar’s flexible Silverline guitar amps are just as impressive as their BOSS Katana MkII contemporaries from a feature-set standpoint. Offering multiple amp ‘voices’ along with a range of built-in effects, these modern powerhouses also emulate renowned power amp tubes for extra sonic-tweaking possibilities; something that the Katana MkII series lacks.

Blackstar has taken a different approach with the styling of its Silverline amps too. Designing elegant enclosures inspired by some of the world’s most stunning boutique amplifiers, Blackstar has also gone with traditional “chicken head” knobs to capture more of an old-school vibe. This gives them a slightly less sterile aesthetic compared to their Katana competition.

But similarly to the Katana MkII lineup, the Blackstar Silverline range encompasses 50W (Special), 100W (Deluxe), 100W 2×12″ (Stereo Deluxe) combos along with a 100w (Deluxe) head. However, a smaller 20w (Standard) combo is available for those that want an even more compact option.

Blackstar Silverline Range

Amp Sounds

Whereas BOSS’ Katana MkII series models feature 5 amp characters, Blackstar’s Silverline amplifiers come equipped with 6 voices that are optimised specifically for electric guitars. While acoustic guitar compatibility would be nice, these 6 tailor-made electric guitar amp sounds cover the whole spectrum:

  • Clean Warm – Full-bodied, dynamic clean with a loose bass and glassy highs.
  • Clean Bright – ‘Boutique’, with tighter bass and chiming mids and highs; breaks up when pushed hard.
  • Crunch – Classic clean break-up to ballsy mid-gain crunch with a looser bass response.
  • Super Crunch – Higher gain, fatter crunch with a tighter bottom-end.
  • OD 1 – ‘Hot-rodded’ Master Volume overdrive with medium power amp damping.
  • OD 2 – Mid boosted, articulate hot-rod overdrive.

Blackstar Silverline Amp Panel

As we’ve mentioned, Silverline amps also incorporate Blackstar’s patented and highly-regarded TVP technology. This means that via their ‘Response’ controls you can emulate the dynamics, sag and break-up of 6 classic valve power amps, which includes British-sounding EL34 and EL84 valves as well as 6L6s and 6V6s that are synonymous with American-made amps:

  • EL84 – Bell-like full-bodied Class A with lots of compression.
  • 6V6 – Crisp Class A with high compression and tight mids.
  • EL34 – Classic British Class A/B crunch with full-bodied soft break-up.
  • KT66 – Rich and warm, vintage British ‘hot biased’ Class A/B.
  • 6L6 – Tight dynamic Class A/B with extended highs and lows.
  • KT88 – Tight, bold and dynamic Class A/B with strong low-end.

It’s therefore clear to see that Blackstar Silverline amps give users plenty of authority to play around with different sounds. In fact, you could spend hours finding your favourite combinations; making Blackstar Silverline amps absolute dreams for fastidious tone-chasers.

And just like they did with BOSS’ Katana MkII amps, Danish Pete and the rest of the Andertons Band put all of the Blackstar Silverline’s sounds into practice. Utilising different voices and power amp flavours, this video shows you just how much room there is for sonic experimentation:

Equalisation, Channels & Presets

On top of these versatile built-in sounds, you can also take advantage of a Silverline’s comprehensive 5-band EQ section. With Bass, Middle, Treble, Presence and Resonance controls, these enable complete control over the key areas of your guitar’s sound. Although the larger BOSS Katana MkII amps feature ‘Cab Resonance’ switches with 3 different settings, the sweep-able Resonance controls on Silverline amps are more intuitive and allow for precise adjustment of the lows.

It’s worth mentioning that on the smaller Silverline Standard and Special amps, some of these EQ knobs are missing from their control panels. However, they can cleverly be accessed via the ‘TAP’ button, with alternative controls adjusting those parameters. So for example, to control the Resonance and Presence you can simply press the TAP button and use the Bass and Treble knobs respectively. To alter the mid-range, you can employ the TAP function in conjunction with the ‘ISF’ control.

Speaking of which, Blackstar’s renowned and patented ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) knob further expands a Silverline’s flexible EQ. In its standard mode, this lets you change from a mid-rich British-inspired sound to a scooped American tone. There are almost no limits to the amount of tweaking that you can do with these amps!

Similarly to the Katana MkII series, all Blackstar Silverline models boast 4 channels with separate banks letting you store and recall different sets of unique sounds. But whereas Katana MkII amplifiers are limited to a total of 8 onboard tones, Silverlines can store 12 with a whopping 128 patches accessible via the compatible Blackstar FS-10 footswitch!

Built-In Effects

Blackstar’s Silverline digital amps are arguably their most comprehensive offerings ever. And alongside the various amp voices and power tube sounds that they provide, Silverlines also come with built-in effects that let you embellish their convincing core tones. Although Blackstar isn’t known for its effects in the same way that BOSS are, that company does offer a modest line of pedals and has drawn upon its experience in the stompbox world to create a palette of digital effects for its Silverline amps – based on classic, boutique designs.

With ‘MOD’ (modulation), ‘DLY’ (delay) and ‘REV’ (reverb) ‘segments’, these each encompass 4 different effects. So for example, the modulation segment lets you choose between phaser, flanger, chorus and tremolo effects. This means that you have a total of 12 built-in effects, and all 3 segments can be used simultaneously. While this gives you a lot of options, the Silverline series does fall short on effects when compared to BOSS’ Katana MkII amps. That’s because the latter feature 15 effects overall, and 5 of those can be used together.

Blackstar INSIDER Software

Blackstar’s INSIDER software lets you make in-depth tweaks to the Silverline’s built-in effects. With an interface that isn’t too dissimilar to BOSS’ Tone Studio, you can easily change certain parameters that aren’t physically adjustable on the amps themselves.

If you’ve already seen photos of Blackstar’s Silverline amps, you may have been slightly disappointed to see that they lacked effects loops. However, Blackstar has also cleverly hidden them in a similar fashion to the EQ controls disguised on their smaller Silverline models. Applicable to the larger Deluxe models only, you can use the INSIDER software to change the ‘MP3/Line In’ and ‘Emulated Output’ jacks into ‘Send’ and ‘Return’ inputs/outputs. This means that you can seamlessly use your external modulation and time-based effects with these amps too.

Blackstar Silverline Rear

Additional Features

One of the key USPs of Backstar’s Silverline amps are their SHARC digital signal processors. Used in premium amp modelling units like Axe FX, the high-performance SHARC DSP platform runs algorithms that recreate analogue circuit parameters with supreme accuracy – right down to component level. So Blackstar Silverlines are not modelling amps in the typical sense of the word, but are able to provide stunning boutique valve tones via their highly powerful and flexible digital platform.

Efficient Class D power amps are also key in the design of Blackstar Silverline amps. More customary in active PA speakers, Class D power amps are extremely dynamic and linear, and Blackstar essentially pre-voices its Silverlines’ Class D power amp stages with its digital wizardry. This is therefore what gives Blackstar’s TVP technology so much conviction, allowing the Silverline amps to achieve the dynamics and frequency responses of traditional tube amplifiers.

Celestion V-Type speakers give Blackstar’s Silverline amps more of a premium vibe too. While BOSS’ Katana amps feature proprietary speakers, these aftermarket Celestion V-Types are extremely well-made and project extremely well onstage. Celestion are considered the industry standard when it comes to guitar amp speakers afterall – so you know they’re good! This is definitely a big-plus-point for Blackstar’s Silverline amplifiers.

Key Features Compared

While we’ve explained the specific features of these similar amps in great detail, seeing their key specs directly compared makes it easier to understand if one better suits your needs over the other. And that’s exactly why we’ve created the table below, putting their features side-by-side:

BOSS Katana MkII Blackstar Silverline
Amp Sounds 5 (Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown, Acoustic), 10 In Total (With ‘Variation’ Function) 6 (Clean Warm, Clean Bright, Crunch, Super Crunch, OD 1, OD 2)
Built-In Effects 15 (Booster, Modulation, FX, Delay, Reverb – 3 Of Each Type) 12 (Modulation, Delay & Reverb – 4 Of Each Type)
Built-In Tuner No Yes
Channels 4 (Except Katana 50) 4
DSP Katana (Proprietary DSP Chip) SHARC
Effects Loop Yes (Except Katana 50) Yes (Activated Via INSIDER Software On Deluxe Models Only)
EQ 4-Band (Bass, Middle Treble, Presence), ‘Cab Resonance’ on Katana MkII 100 2×12″ and 100 Head 5-Band (Bass, Middle Treble, Resonance, Presence)
Expression Pedal Input Yes No
Footswitchable Yes Yes
Headphone Output Yes Yes (Special & Standard Only)
Line/AUX In Yes Yes
MIDI Yes (Katana 100 MkII Head Only) Yes (Except Special & Standard)
Patch Locations 8 12 (128 With FS-10 Footswitch)
Power Amp Class A/B Class D
Power Scaling Yes No
Power Amp Input Yes No
Speakers Custom Katana Celestion V-Type
Speaker Emulation Yes Yes
Software BOSS Tone Studio Blackstar INSIDER
Total Effects 60 (Via BOSS Tone Studio Software) 12
Tube Emulation Tube Logic Technology TVP Technology (EL84, 6V6, EL34, KT66, 6L6, KT88)
USB Connectivity Yes Yes

Conclusion

We’ve put two of the most advanced and hotly-debated solid-state amp ranges head-to-head, ultimately to help you to decide which amps are better. Serving as all-encompassing workhorses for recording and live performance, it’s clear that Katana MkII and Silverline amps pretty much cover all of the bases from their impressive feature-sets and specs. But is there a clear winner?

Simply answer: no there isn’t. While both BOSS’ Katana MkII and Blackstar’s Silverline amps are similar when it comes to their core functionality, there are certain elements in their designs that differentiate them. And this means that they don’t necessarily appeal to exactly the same players, perhaps as most people assume that they do.

BOSS Katana MkII Blackstar Silverline Compared

If we start with BOSS, while the sounds that the Katana MkII amps can produce are very good, I think it’s fair to say that their built-in effects are more exceptional and perhaps play a bigger part in their appeal. And with more effects available compared to the Silverline series, it’s understandable if players that are more interested in experimenting with effects would find BOSS Katana MkIIs more suitable for their requirements. Physical effects loops on all Katana MkII models (apart from the 50) also make them more tempting for those types of guitarists, especially as effects loops are only available on Blackstar’s much pricier Deluxe Silverline models.

But Blackstar Silverline amps, despite being more expensive, offer far more flexibility when it comes crafting the perfect amp sounds. Not only do they come equipped with 6 voices, they also feature Blackstar’s acclaimed TVP technology for imitating 6 different power amp tubes, and boast 5-band EQ sections with ISF controls too. So if you’re the kind of guitar player that finds it more important to create the best core amp sounds before thinking about effects; the Silverline series would be more viable. Their superior SHARC processors play a big part too, as well as their Celestion V-Type speakers.

BOSS’ Katana amps have dominated the digital amp market for a few years, and it’s clear that the MkIIs are incredibly good all-rounders that remain affordable to consumers. But the Blackstar Silverline series is definitely worth considering, especially for those looking for maximum versatility.

BOSS Katana MkII vs. Blackstar Silverline on Andertons T.V.

If you’d like to hear the BOSS Katana MkII and Blackstar Silverline amps compared directly against one another, our video with Chappers and The Captain is well worth a watch!

Want To Learn More?

Interested in finding out more about music gear and expanding your knowledge? Click here to view all of our Labs articles! For more information on the other topics mentioned in this guide, check out our related articles:

Elliot Stent
Elliot Stent
Elliot is a Senior Product Copywriter at Andertons, a guitarist and a YouTube gear demonstrator. Having studied Music and Music Technology, his interests lie equally in both performance and production. Favouring Fender instruments and Marshall amps, Elliot is also a pedal fanatic with a large collection of effects.

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