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Boss Revolutionizes Home Playback once more with its Immersive Bluetooth Waza-Air Katana Modelling Headphones

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2019GPXBossWazaAirHeadphones700V2.jpg

Boss’s new launch kind of brings me full circle on when I started guitar in my teenage years. I had a great guitar at the time - an all-black Ibanez RG440 Roadstar, but you could not really get decent home practice amps in those days as far as I recall - so I ended up with a rather crappy headphone amp - which rendered a singularly flat and undynamic output which did nothing to encourage or inspire playing. In fact I drilled said guitar pretty much to destruction in changing pickups and electronics in an attempt to soup it up and make it sound better - when the fault was not with the guitar at all, but rather with that headphone amp.

 

So over three decades later Boss finally wheels out the solution that would have saved me a lot of bother back then and probably led to quite a different outcome in my guitar playing history. In the ’Waza-Air’ what you have essentially is the DSP engine from the Katana series of amps - allied to both wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, and raised up by a wholly new surround-sound technology which generates a virtual room or gig venue for you to play within.

 

Boss is calling this ’Gyro Ambience’ where an internal gyroscope within the headphones orients you towards either the virtual playback amp or the audience. When just noodling by yourself you would set it to ’Studio’ mode and the amp would sit in front of you - and as you move around within that space - the vector of the output sound changes in relation to your relative position to the virtual amp / cab. When playing to a backing track you would select ’Stage’ mode - and this time the virtual amp / cab along with the backing band as such - would sit behind you within your audio space.

 

On top of all the clever gyroscopic surround sound immersion you actually have the full Katana Amp engine resident within the Headphones - the 5 different amp types with all the effects. And you would use the Waza-Air App on your iPhone or Android Phone to set up different patches - which you could then navigate through by using the Patch Down / Up buttons on the surface of the right-hand ear-cup.

PT 2

In the above visual you can see the Bluetooth connectivity switch, signal strength LEDs, Patch Down and Up buttons, WL-T Docking Jack, and Volume dial. While on the left-hand ear-cup you can see a USB Micro-B connector for charging, and an On/Off power switch. The Tech Specs say that the Bluetooth switch is some sort of multi-function element, but as the instruction manual is not out yet - it is difficult to discern what other parameters it might control.

 

The ear-pads are elegantly fastened by neodymium magnets, while the headphones are an entirely Boss proprietary construction with their own high-frequency range 50mm driver. Approximately 3 hours of charging will give you 5 hours of playback. And you plug in the included WL-T Wireless Transmitter into the referenced Docking Jack.

PT 3

The only thing that makes me a little nervous here is the over-reliance on the Waza-Air App - where so many of your settings are controlled - and of course all the Katana-style amp-modelling sits - which you should all be familiar with by now. I'm never 100% happy when a device cannot fully function properly in and of itself and needs app-access to work. While Boss make the assurance that the Headphones do come loaded with preset patches which you can page up and down through - and that you don't have to always be accessing the app - which to be honest I'm slightly sceptical about - I've had a mixed experience in the past of devices with such capabilities - but am generally hoping for a better experience here.

 

Also in Andertons brilliant recent overview demo (below), Lee offered up the insight that the actual gyroscopic immersion came across a little artificial on the movement scale, as the output vector from the virtual amp was far too directional versus the more diffused output you would expect to get in the real world - so possibly some more tweaking is required there.

All in all though this is a pretty perfect solution for me - I by and large only like playing relatively loud through my amp - and have a special arrangement with the neighbours not to play after 8PM. This means that on many really busy days I don't always get an opportunity to play. I've tried various solutions in the past - but they always sounded relatively flat and lifeless and just really put me off wanting to play under those conditions at all. I feel these headphones are perfect for anyone who doesn't live in a distant mansion by themselves and needs to defer to the comfort of others at various times.

 

Price-wise these are relatively high - albeit not that much more than a top-quality new pair of Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones. In fact retailing now at £378 versus £330 for the Katana Air Wireless Amp. For me this is actually pretty much a no-brainer. I still had the Katana Air on my wishlist, then the Yamaha THR30IIW - which comes to near enough £500 when you include the additional Line 6 G10 Transmitter you need to make that work wirelessly (don't know why they don't include the Transmitter with the amp!).

 

So for me the fact that the WL-T transmitter is included with the Headphones - this usually retails separately for £79. Means you are really just paying £299 for the actual Headphones component - which come complete with a full-range Katana Amp built-in. Yes indeed - Boss has knocked it out of the park yet again!

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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