I’m a fairly long-time acoustic guitar player, mostly just chords and accompaniment. I’ve had an electric guitar for about 10 years now, and I got a Fender Mustang I when I bought it, but I never really did much with it. I’ve now retired and I really want to get a bit more into electric, but I want to get a new amp. The Fender is OK, but I find it really fiddly to get a sound I like, and most of the presets are way too distorted for the sort of music I want to play. Also the FUSE software is now discontinued, and doesn’t work at all well on my PC. The end result is that I’m not motivated to play, and any time I do I come away frustrated.
I don’t particularly want an amp I can gig with, I’ll be pretty much exclusively playing at home for myself. And I’d like something small and easy to move around, as I don’t really have a dedicated room for playing. I’ve been looking at the Boss Katana Air, which seems to tick all the boxes - small, portable, with a good sound and a reasonable number of built in effects to try out, but not overwhelming or hard to set up. And the wireless seems like a big benefit - I can pop the amp down in the living room, and play on the sofa without wires trailing. Reviews seem great, although I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about the app. But it is quite pricey. The cheaper portable amps seem to all be battery-only or very limited in features (or both), though.
Are there any other options I should be looking at? There’s the Yamaha THR series, but they seem like they are at least as expensive, and the cheaper ones lack the wireless. I’ve seen mixed reviews of the Positive Grid Spark, but it feels a bit “gimmicky” for me. I’m not keen on the full Boss Katana, as it is physically bigger and heavier than I want. I thought about getting a cheaper limited-features amp, plus a multi-effects pedal, but that seems like running before I can walk…
What advice do people have? I have a feeling that I could end up buying a lot more stuff over time, but I want to start small and simple, and focus on playing better rather than on gadgets…
Hi Paul. Welcome to the Community. As a starting point I’d suggest you read through the other posts in this topic. There is a load of information there on the amps you’ve mentioned and others too of course. You might find your questions have already been answered.
These are all good amps which I own or have owned.
If you want a small amp of the THR or Spark sort of size then you will either spend more or have to make some compromises.
The THR sounds great and is my favourite small amp. Yes the wireless is more money, but it’s not an option on other amps in the price range, like the Spark.
Yes, the Spark is gimmicky and, IMO, overhyped. It’s not a bad amp though. Personally, for the money, I would get a THR or a Katana.
The Katana is the best bang for buck in my opinion and if you don’t mind a full-sized amp then it’s the best of those in that short list. There are others like the newer Mustang and the Line6 Catalyst but they are similar in size, capabilities and features to the Katana. If you want a more compact living-room friendly device I would go with the THR.
If you don’t mind something bigger, the Katana will sound better and give you more options (or look at Mustang, Catalyst, etc.).
Yes, if I was looking for a full-sized amp I’d almost certainly go for the Katana. But small size is a key thing for me, so I was looking at the Katana Air, which has a number of good reviews elsewhere, but not many people round here (that I can see) mention much.
There do seem to be a lot of fans of the THR, though. One thing I can’t quite tell from the specs I’ve seen - for wireless, it says “compatible with” the Line 6 Relay G10T. Does that mean I need to buy that as well, to get wireless connectivity?
A quick check on Amazon shows the Katana Air at £339. I can’t get the THR10IIW from Amazon, but Anderton’s have it at £399, with the Line 6 Relay at £99. So that’s nearly £160 difference, and probably puts the Yamaha out of my price range
Yeah, I think I need to plan a trip to Manchester or Liverpool
I have zero personal experience of the Katana Air, so I can’t really comment on it other than saying it is pretty well regarded. If wireless guitar capability is important for you, then the Katana Air comes with it, whereas it is an additional option on the THR.
I will say that, although I have no experience of the Katana Air, I’m a fan of the Boss stuff in general, having had a Katana, a Boss GT-1, GT-001, JS-8, and a Pocket GT. So I don’t think you can go far wrong with the Katana Air.
Hi Paul, I have a Yamaha THR30Wii. I like its simplicity and it produces good tones. I use it whenever I have to travel (e.g. going on holiday) - most of the time at home, I use my Fractal FM3 (the most expensive bit of kit I own, including all my guitars added together!).
Yikes! You jumped right over the next level cleans from the Mustang’s '65 Twin Reverb emulation? Check that setting out and then report back. I’ve played that amp sim and it is chocked full of chimey goodness. This was recorded outside with an ambient mic: Pan-damn-demic porch tele time twang around
Hi Paul, welcome to the community. You might want to look at the Spark Mini, not as gimmicky as its’ big brother, but very small and can be very loud. Also the Blackstar Fly, somewhat basic but small and loud. Hope that helps.
The presets either don’t include that or they add effects like strong echo that make it not seem “clean” (to a beginner, at least). I did discover a lot more about the underlying features once I started digging into the FUSE software, but as I say, it’s as buggy as heck on my PC so I can barely save a new preset, much less experiment with it.
So yes, if the software worked, I’d probably be able to get a lot more out of the Fender. And I’ll definitely keep it for the occasions where it’s worth fighting with the software to get a sound I want. But for day to day use, it’s just way too frustrating.
I have the Katana air and in general it’s great. The only downside I’ve found is the wireless transmitter will turn off after a few minutes if it doesn’t move at all. This isn’t an issue if you only plug it into your guitar but not so great if you want to use with a pedalboard. I used two transmitters for input from my guitar and output to the Air but the output transmitter kept turning off unless I remembered to keep giving the board a kick
good advice from everyone here on potential options. I have a Katana (all be it the 100) and as others have said you can’t really go wrong. The Boss Katana basically became the go to starter/intermediate (even gigging) modelling amp…it really kicked the modelling amp on just like Fender did originally with the Mustang…a big pull is the quality of it’s core sound (requiring little tweaking) and the ability to use a multitude of fx…with an easy selection of some of these from the controls.
Personally I now rarely use my amp and instead use my MFX. The main reason is that a) tweaking presets, building different pedal/fx chains etc is far easier on the MFX (and doesn’t need a laptop) b) its easy to switch between fx and presets using the pedal buttons on the mfx. Now that is essential for me as I gig, probably not essential if you only want to play at home ALTHOUGH it can be handy.
So a setup for me would be MFX and a Full Range Flat Response Speaker (FRFR) like a Headrush 108 or 112.
Honestly, look at the Positive Grid Riff. It is small, emulates all the options you want. Plugs into your phone, tablet or laptop for power and the bias fx2 software. Has a built in looper and can be plugged in to any powered speaker if you want, even you fender.
So small, portable, very versatile with gazillion s of pedal and amp models, headphone friendly for around the house and if you need a speaker you already have the fender.
Oh, and less than half the price of the Yamaha.
Another thought is the Katana head. The small speaker is pretty good. Form factor is similar to the Yamaha. Cheaper than the Air, same as the Yamaha.
Too bad you are across the ocean. I am selling one for close to half retail price!
That makes sense, get a new amp because you want a new amp. The Mustang is a fine practice amp and most of the settings can be dialed in with just the knobs. There is a learning curve with all of the modeling/solid state amps.
It should be noted that pressing the power and tap button at the same time gives you a totally clean amp, bypassing all presets, which gives you a decent pedal platform as well. I did just that for this track (and others): #short rat blues
Just a rat clone and a digital delay in front of a clean Mustang.
Ask members to share some clips of them playing the amps they recommend.
All that aside, I would lean toward getting a tube amp to compliment your Mustang. Tube amps aren’t hyped enough here, Just sayin’.
I have a Fender Mustang GTX50 (one of the newer ones) and it’s amazing. I think they sorted out a lot of the problems with earlier ones. The Fender cleans are particularly good, but all round just tonnes of good sounds. It’s a mobile app now and I can instantly download tones to the amp, so if I play AC/DC, I search AC/DC in the app and in a few seconds I sound like AC/DC. So awesome.
However having said that, from everything you’ve said I agree with Keith/Majik. It sounds like a Yamaha THR is likely to provide what you want. Simple to use, wireless desktop amp.