Top Hat PC vs. Star Nova

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by Jet Rink, Jan 28, 2006.


  1. Jet Rink

    Jet Rink Member

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    OK folks, need some input here.

    I can't get direct access to either of these little guys, but man, am I Jones'n for a low-watt amp... I've got it pretty much down to two:

    Top Hat Portly Cadet and the Star Nova.

    Now, both have great build quality, both are highly portable and both have very similar specs, save for a 10" vs. an 8". Both 6v6. Similar pricing.

    Any advice? My hope is that one stands out as a bit more "gainy" and punchy (I love a hard Brit tone to build off of).

    I've ruled out the following: Orange AD15 (can't find 'em); the Cornford Harlequin (can't find 'em, price point is too high for this level of group); Reeves Custom 6 (too big - but love the build quality).

    One other strong contender is the Bumbox Lead 1 in a combo (I can get a 12" with this one).

    Many, many thanks.

    Jet
     
  2. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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    I haven't played either amp. But just a note that Brian @ TopHat will put the PC into a 1x10 cab, if you want.
     
  3. Jet Rink

    Jet Rink Member

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    Didn't know that - good advice.

    Thanks for the response.

    Jet
     
  4. DWB1960

    DWB1960 Senior Member

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    I own a Star Nova and it is incredible. Tons of amazing tones. The way the two tone knobs interact is way cool. And the second input is like having an OD pedal built inside the amp. Mark Sampson is a genious!
     
  5. Jet Rink

    Jet Rink Member

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    Thanks Donnie.

    Jet
     
  6. dbx

    dbx Supporting Member

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    Hey Jet...

    I don't have any actual experience with the Top Hat PC, but I do own the Star Nova and I'm definitely with Donnie B. on it. I read some of the experiences of the PC on the HC Amp review page, and I can't say that I've ever experienced any "farting" out or flattening out of the tone at the maximum levels of the Nova's volume, quite the opposite. It actually can get kind of spanky with single coils if you like that tone or just down and dirty with HBs, or jazzy clean...the tone controls are really amazing...

    To be fair you if you're going with the PC, get the 1x10 version...1x8 will just not be able to push much air past a certain point accounting for that flabbiness or flattening out. It seems counterproductive to spend so much $$$ for a top shelf amp only to start having to mod/swap components to make you tonally happy...

    I read the HC reviews on the Nova, and I have to challenge the one review about the tone being thin until the back was removed. Don't know what was going on there, but I do believe there was some thought behind the size and shape of the port in the back. I run mine with it on. It's interesting to note that I have the same Italian Jensen P10R on both my Skylarks and they don't sound like it does on the Nova...

    I guess it comes down to what you intend to do with the amp...from reading the features on the PC...it seems really stripped down for the $$$ compared to the Nova. The Nova has a line out, 1/8" headphone out (a "true" tube powered headphone amp), 2 inputs, 2 volumes (gain, clean), master volume, 2-band EQ, 1x10 speaker. I think the stock PC has 1 input, volume, bright, boost, 1x8 speaker. I have to reiterate that I think the Nova is a helluva value for the equivalent $$$. No pedals needed to get you in the tone zone but it accepts them readily and willingly...in fact the fidelity is so great on the Nova, you may find yourself going through your collection to see what that pedal "really" sounds like because you can experiment with clean, on the verge of breakup, or raging without breaking your ears...put your "sounds like a tube amp breaking up" pedal against the amp actually doing that...it's pretty revealing (btw the BJFE Little Green Wonder is amazingly accurate in that regard...)

    I rarely gush over gear, but the Nova has knocked me out and I take every opportunity to share the joy with any of my player friends, real or virtual...in fact everytime I play the Nova, I try to find a bad sound in it, haven't hit it yet...

    BTW...stopped by the Bad Cat booth at NAMM and thought it interesting that the original Mini-Cat has been discontinued for the Mini Cat II, and James had the new 7.5W Alley Cat, 2 channel, 2xEL84 combo in the booth, not sure what size speaker. Didn't really check it out as he got busy while I was there and didn't want to take up buyer time...I think amp makers are re-discovering the small watt market out there, lots of new models are coming up, but I think the Star Nova is up for the competition...of course your experience will vary...good luck with it...

    http://thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=122564

    http://thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=123874&highlight=star

    BTW, what part of the world are you in?
     
  7. Jet Rink

    Jet Rink Member

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    dbx - you are the man. I really appreciate your advice and time here.

    I talked to James last week re: the Mini II and was intrigued, but the Nova sort of trumped it. Value-wise/component and design-wise it was darn close. Price decided it.

    And I got to play through a Mini Cat too and wasn't blown away.

    My reference has always been a 3(?) watt Supro I shoulda bought a few years ago. Darn good, clean warmth and a nice breakup when cranked. That, and the rep of Top Hat led me to them - and a tube rectifier.

    Your endorsement is strong my friend. I'm psyched either way.

    Thanks!

    Now, about spendin' all that time at HC... :p

    Jet
     
  8. dbx

    dbx Supporting Member

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    Hey man, happy to be of service, I've learned alot in my short time here and enjoy turning it back around...I hope you can try the Nova where you are, or maybe there's a TGP member near you that can let you check theirs out (where in the world ARE you)...I have confidence in what I experience but everyone hears things differently, hate to have anyone spend their hard earned cash on my recommendation only to be disappointed (but I don't think that would happen)...we could blame it on Donnie B. ;)

    Seriously it's a $$$ decision so try to get as empirical as possible. Oh regarding HC, I started my forum forays there many years ago and did learn alot there also. It's an interesting collective but as with these things you have to consider the information for what it is and make up your own mind...bottom line you have to try something for yourself to know for sure...I actually have made a couple of good online friends over there. Not to slag it or anything but I'm finding the informational content waning for me there so you're seeing my virtual mug around here now. I'm clear that time is of the essence for me so I need to get to the short list. You TGP'rs are amazingly knowledgeable and even more GAS intensive than I am :D so I feel I'm in good company...initially I thought TGP might be too staid for me but you guys are crackin' me up...LeonC and the MM fray was crazy, and you can't beat this for entertainment:

    http://thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=116835

    Hope you find your amp...:AOK
     
  9. KarlH

    KarlH Supporting Member

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    Got my Nova at www.supersoundmusic.com

    Great prices, and Brian is great to deal with.

    I liked the nova tons more than the mini cat and the mini z. It was no contest for me.

    good luck!
     
  10. dbx

    dbx Supporting Member

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    3 out of 3 TGP'rs agree ...
    :BEER
     
  11. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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    hey dbx......there is nothing on the Star Amps website about the Nova. Can you please tell us about the controls, tubes, speaker?

    Thanks!
     
  12. dbx

    dbx Supporting Member

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    Yeah, they have to update their site...Italian Jensen P10R 8 ohm, "...line out, 1/8" headphone out..., 2 inputs (gain, clean), 2 volumes (gain, clean), master volume, 2-band EQ..." For tubes there's a one sheet signed by Mark that says the tubes are 2 x JJ 12AX7/ECC83, 1 x EH Russian 6V6...he also suggests trying other types and NOS, but if this is how he specs it from the factory, it's good enough for me...(I actually haven't cracked open the back to verify but I think I did notice the JJ logo through the port...)

    :cool:

    (what are you up to? haven't seen you around the boards...)
     
  13. Jet Rink

    Jet Rink Member

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    Thanks you guys - very good and useful stuff.

    Surprising nobody's weighing in on the Top Hat. Man, these have been beloved amps for a long time.

    I'm fired up about a new amp! I'll contact the SuperSound guy too.

    Jet
     
  14. dbx

    dbx Supporting Member

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    Hey Jet...you have PM (ooops that sounded kinda off...)

    ...um got your message, reply sent...

    :cool:
     
  15. riffmeister

    riffmeister Gold Supporting Member

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    Ask about the Club Royale or Club Deluxe...... ;)
     
  16. Jet Rink

    Jet Rink Member

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    I know Riffmeister - I passed on a Club Royale about a year ago and maybe this is the revenge!

    I've decided though that I'm going to sell all my gear for a sharkskin suit and a night with one of those coffin case girls in that Namm thread...

    dbx - you're it, bro!

    Jet
     
  17. KarlH

    KarlH Supporting Member

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    If you cant find info on the star amps website, there is info at www.supersoundmusic.com thats where i first learned of the details of the amp myself
     
  18. dbx

    dbx Supporting Member

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    Back atcha' :cool:
     
  19. MoRawk

    MoRawk Member

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    I've always wondered how the Swart Tweed 5 watter would compare to those. Never been able to find clips of it to hear how it sounds. Just only read stellar reviews. But I suppose it's a different animal then the Tophat and Star Nova british sound.
     
  20. Jet Rink

    Jet Rink Member

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    My goodness. Check out the steelbender site and you'll see the Swart mojo in action and they've got clips somewhere there too. Wow. Amazing workmanship and a great looking amp.

    Jet
     

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