For this head-to-head comparison, I'm pitting two of the hottest guitar modeling amps on the block against each other.
First, we have the robust Boss Katana 50 MK2 and then the sleek Positive Grid Spark. From build quality to tone, effects, and smart features, I'm going to scrutinize them in every aspect to see which one will work best for your needs.
I've also scoured the web for user reviews and community support to give you a comprehensive view of both amps. The goal here? To help you make an informed decision if you're caught in the crossfire of choosing between these two power-packed contenders.
Let's dive into this sonic showdown! Remember, it's not just about the best amp, but the best amp for you. Let's roll!
Positive Grid Spark
Boss Katana-50 MkII
Build Quality and Design
The Boss Katana 50 MK2 is a veritable beast in terms of build quality. This combo amp's traditional construction felt solid and hard-wearing the moment I laid my hands on it.
The traditional, rugged, design of this amp can handle knocks or drops, ideal for intense gigs and travel. To make room for this durability, it carries a bit of heft, tipping the scales at nearly 12kg (over 25lbs).
At under half the weight of the Katana, the Positive Grid Spark amp is a true featherweight contender. It's as compact as they come, making it a breeze to lug around. You won't be breaking a sweat carrying this baby to your next jam!
Its design is sleek and modern, so it wouldn't look out-of-place even in your living room. But, everything has a trade-off, right? The Spark's lightweight design might not fare as well in a face-off with tough handling or accidental drops compared to its Katana counterpart.
Tone and Sound Quality
Plugging into the Katana 50, I found this modeling amp to be the Swiss army knife of tone. It was easy to emulate Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Albert Collins, and Dave Gilmour directly from the Boss Tone Exchange.
This quick tone functionality has really paid off in my ‘80s/’90s cover band, allowing me to quickly dial in the correct tone for a large quantity of our setlists.
The sound quality is top-notch and is clear even at maximum volume due to the 12” speaker and heavy cabinet. However, I felt it favors the brighter side of tones. So, if you're a fan of warmer, bass-heavy sounds, it might not fully hit the mark.
The Spark proved very accomplished at reproducing a multitude of iconic guitar amp tones. Some that I enjoyed noodling with included Santana, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and James Hetfield.
It also did a great job of amplifying my PRS SE Paul's natural voice, getting the most out of the tonal variety offered by the twin coil-tapped humbuckers.
But, like all things in life, it's not perfect. I noticed a slight digital hint to the sound, particularly at higher volumes. Its bass reflex design makes it sound more like a good home audio device (Sonos, Denon Home) than an amplifier.
Effects and Stomping
The Boss Katana 50 MK2 is a genuine joy for any effects aficionado like myself (Vernon Reid is my hero!). Picture having over 60 of Boss' world-famous stompboxes, all tucked inside this unit.
Boss is the most popular stompbox manufacturer for good reason, and this amp delivers that quality in spades. This gave me the freedom to layer multiple effects at once, opening up a world of tonal possibilities. I enjoyed the physical inputs for tweaking on the amp rather than opening my laptop for every nudge of a control.
Add to this the 5-button pedal board options and up to two expression pedals and this really is an all-in-one package. I did like the need to not have to carry and patch separate pedals for each gig.
Switching over to the Positive Grid Spark, I found this nifty desktop amp to be no slouch in the effects department either. It's loaded with over 40 effects, enough to satisfy even the most curious sonic explorers like myself.
Adding to its charm, it includes a good number of amp modeling options to emulate those iconic tones. Whilst this practice amp offers foot control, this only has 4 buttons.
App Integration and Smart Features
The Katana linked up seamlessly, by USB, with the Boss Tone Studio app on my laptop. The desktop application is like a personal sound lab, affording me the flexibility to fine-tune my tone to the nth degree. I dug deep into the editing, customized presets, and even accessed additional effects exclusive to the software.
It's an impressive tool that turns your amp into a sound playground. However, it's worth noting that this app is computer-based, which might feel restrictive if you prefer tweaking settings on a mobile device.
On the other side, the Spark truly stands out with its intelligent Smart Jam and auto chord features. These set the Positive Grid Spark apart as a practice amp. It's like having a backing band and guitar teacher at your disposal, capable of generating tracks based on your playing style.
To add to its charm, the Spark app is mobile-friendly. That said, be prepared to spend some quality time with the app. It's packed with features and might require a little patience to navigate initially.
Versatility and “Giggability”
This Boss Katana 50 MK2 is a real chameleon. It gracefully adapts to a range of musical styles, offering a smorgasbord of tones to suit your mood. This amplifier's sturdy build and dependable performance make it a true road warrior. I felt confident using it in many gigging environments.
The power switch allows you to tame this amp to 0.5W, 25W and 50W. It also includes a headphone out so you can enjoy this at home without receiving a call from the authorities.
If you're a regular gig player with diverse tonal needs, the Katana will really win out. Do note that, if you are serious about gigging, you might prefer to look at the 100W variant of the Katana.
The Positive Grid Spark shines brightest in a home environment. It's a perfect tool for practice and recording sessions. They packed the Spark full of smart features designed to enhance your playing experience.
The lightweight design and compact size made it easy to carry and set up. While this amp is versatile and super smart, it does lack the power to gig in anything but the most intimate of venues. I felt it demonstrated its weaknesses as a guitar amp when I dialed it up to serious volumes.
Community and Support
The Boss Katana 50 MK2 comes with an incredibly supportive community of users from around the globe. They're always keen to share their experiences, pro tips, and custom tones online.
It feels like being part of an international music club where you can continually learn and develop alongside fellow Katana users. Accessing and loading these shared tones into the amp is a breeze, opening up a vast landscape of tonal opportunities. It's all about experimentation and finding that perfect sound.
Shifting focus to the Positive Grid Spark, a growing community of dedicated musicians supports this amp, always ready to share their bespoke settings and tones. I found the process straightforward and intuitive, giving me a creative and exploratory environment that was easy to work in.
Which Amp Should You Choose?
Choosing between the Boss Katana 50 MK2 and Positive Grid Spark? It's been no straightforward task! Both amps are solid performers and budget wise there is little to separate them.
Packs More Power
Compact & Versatile
If a compact, home-friendly amp is more like what you actually need, the Spark could be the ticket. It's loaded with tones and effects, and its standout Smart Jam feature adds a fresh dimension to your playing. Plus, there's a vibrant user community sharing tones and tips regularly.
Remember, each amp has its pros and cons. The Boss Katana 50 MK2 is sturdy but slightly heavy. Conversely, the Positive Grid Spark is compact and lightweight, but might not be as robust.
The Boss Katana 50 MK2 offers an extensive tonal palette but leans toward brighter sounds. The Spark reproduces iconic amp tones but can sound slightly digital at high volumes.
I will come clean and let you know that I have been a happy owner of a Katana 100 MK2 for several years, yet I have fallen for the Spark for home use. Since I practice more than I perform, I think I should also own a Positive Grid Spark. It seems better suited and more focused on practice sessions.
It would be remiss not to mention that both amp series have alternatives that provide options for budget and volume.
The Boss Katana ranges from a battery powered baby in the Katana Mini, all the way through to a serious gigging amp in the Katana Artist MK2 (available as an integrated amp or separate head/box combo).
The notable addition here has to be the Katana Air that is a direct response to the Spark range of amps as it features the new Boss Tone Studio phone app (Android and iPhone).