Tophat Supreme 16 vs Matchless Lightning vs Bad Cat 15

wrxplayer

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Looking for the relative strengths/weaknesses of each from those who's played them. Goal is one amp for home and gigging.
 

flcmcya

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Supreme 16 is one of my fav's... You can A/B the two channels.

My guess is the Badcat or Matchless may be louder as the lil 15 I had was LAF!
 

hacinador

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The supreme is the most vintage sounding amp of this trio. Very Voxy (unlike the Bad Cat and the Matchless). Very rich compression, so natural and fat sounding. Can be little muddy sounding with humbucker pickups. The Celestion Blue adds compression when the amp is played as it should be (loud). Great clean sound even at home, great edge of break up to crunch with a drummer.

The Matchless is modern sounding amp with such a unique voice. It's great amp for gigs, but it can be really a bad solution for playing at home. It's Master Volume is completely useless, the amp really wants to be played loud. Most people use these amp as a clean pedal platform, pots settings are usually Volume at 9 o'clock and MV at 10 o'clock - what a nice transistor like sound with stupid harsh highs. Maybe it's great for some worship sound with a ton of digital delays etc, but the True Matchless sound is VERY different - it's edge of break-up heaven. Use your boost pedals and guitar volume for clean to mean. Most Matchless use ceramic speakers - the G12H Anni. or the G12H Heritage. I like early Matchless amps that use Vintage 30 speaker - but it's me.

The Bad Cat Cub I and II is VERY similar to Matchless. Both were created by the same designer Mark Sampson. They sound nearly the same as the Lightning when the same cabinets or speakers are used. The Lightning can be more bright and "open" sounding. Early Bad Cat Cubs have the same construction as the Lightning, the same impedance ratio ot the output transformer, point-to-point wiring, same components (carbon comp resistors, polyester Mallory style caps etc.). Early Bad Cats have also that stupid Master Volume that kills the amps tone, but when the amp is set right and it can breathe (MV off), then it's a mind blowing orgasm! Early Cubs has modified Vintage 30 speakers, amps made from 2006 or 2007 use special Bad Cat Celestion speaker, which sounds more toppy sounding, but can be problematic when played too hard (promlems with a cone cry).

The current Cub III is very different to it's older siblings. It has a turret board, uses different components, it has a different impedance ratio for the output transformer. The amp is modern take on the previous design. Much more options for tweakers (EF86 channel, boost), much better Master Volume. There are some pcb because of those "modern twists", but who cares... The amp uses the special designed Celestion speaker from older model.

I would go with the Supreme for that true Vox sound and the most vintage character.

All Cubs and the Lightning are much better for more modern sound or unique voice.

From the trio of Cubs, the newest is like a hot rodded version of the Lightning. It's not built the same way and might not be so great for hard core amplifier building purists or old timers, but I would say that it's the most suitable for home playing. The earlier Cubs and the Lightning are point to point amps without any modern twists, they are really like some reincarnations of those old amps from sixties and someone (me) likes it that way, that impractical way.
 
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72Telecaster

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I haven't had a true Lightning but had a Lightning clone and have owned the Supreme 16. The two channels on the S16 are a big plus, if you want versatility. From what I remember, the EF86 side (I believe just volume and cut?) was one of the best straight-forward sounding channels I've ever played for that Vox tone. I remember not being able to bond with the other side (which I believe is just the Club Royale circuit?)...but I had a CR previously and couldn't bond then either - a little too stiff for me.

You can't go wrong w/ quality on any - each TH I've had was built like a tank, and the Matchless amps are *overbuilt* bulletproof amps. I will echo that virtually any Matchless amp will be a poor "at home" amp as they are just so loud (or should be run loud).

The Cubs I've played have sounded really nice. Similar to the Lightning, but a little more tame/mellow in the highs. All 3 are superb amps.
 

wrxplayer

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@hacindor - Thanks for the detailed information. I currently have a very early BadCat 15R and was hoping to get an interesting comparo.

I pulled the trigger on a Supreme 16 head. It should arrive by week's end and I'll have a nice chance to enjoy it's features at a gig we have on 1/7, though volume restrictions will limit the test. I'll have a couple of weeks before the bill comes so I'm going to use January to make a decision and hopefully get down to one amp and be done with it for a while.
 

boo radley

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2,399
I have a Bad Cat Cub II, non-reverb, and it sounded similar (as I vaguely remember) to both a Matchless (not sure of model) and actually, a Dr Z Maz Jr. I've never personally played a TopHat of any model.

This combo is ridiculously heavy for a 1x12 -- maybe 55lbs? It seems massively overbuilt like all the amps in your list. Sometimes the Cub sounds amazing, and I'm surprised to see I don't have my reverb pedal on, and sometimes I get ear fatigued - it's got an extremely bright, almost metallic, voice. *Somewhat* Voxy; hard to describe.

It likes LOUD, and is really on the borderline of being house-friendly, depending on family and neighbor tolerance. You can knock it down to 7.5 watts, but I find it sounds best at the normal power setting, not using the MV, nor individual tone controls, and setting the tone selector to '4'.

Humbuckers sound much, much better through this amp: you can get a great liquid, jazz fusion sound. I wish I knew why single coils didn't sound better.

I sold a DRRI (and a PRRI, before that) for this amp, and miss the warmer, 'blackface' sounds, and probably need to get another one -- would be a nice complement.
 

hacinador

Member
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764
@hacindor - Thanks for the detailed information. I currently have a very early BadCat 15R and was hoping to get an interesting comparo.

I pulled the trigger on a Supreme 16 head. It should arrive by week's end and I'll have a nice chance to enjoy it's features at a gig we have on 1/7, though volume restrictions will limit the test. I'll have a couple of weeks before the bill comes so I'm going to use January to make a decision and hopefully get down to one amp and be done with it for a while.

Oh, you have the Cub :) I think it's great to choose the Supreme then :)

Btw your Cub is really a great amp, it's designed by Mr Sampson, it must be great!

And the Supreme... Be careful about your speaker choise. Amps that are voiced for the Celestion Blue sound great only with the Celestion Blue... So be prepared to buy one!
 
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sickboy79

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Huge fan of all three brands. While I haven't played any of these three models, you honestly couldn't go wrong with any of them.
 

wrxplayer

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7,973
Oh, you have the Cub :) I think it's great to choose that Supreme :)

Btw your Cub is really a great amp, it's designed by the Mr Sampson, it must be great!

And the Supreme... Be careful about your speaker choise. Amps that are voiced for the Celestion Blue sound great only with the Celestion Blue... So be prepared to buy one!

I like the Cub a lot. Primary downside is its weight. I actually ordered a Neo Creamback for it and will install it for me little comparo.

I've seen in several places that Brian is a big fan of the Blue as a mate for the S16. I have a few speakers to try with it first. I'd really rather not spend another two hundred in a speaker. Hopefully it'll sound equally great w/ the ASW KTS70, Scumback H75 or Creamback I already own.
 

hacinador

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764
I like the Cub a lot. Primary downside is its weight. I actually ordered a Neo Creamback for it and will install it for me little comparo.

I've seen in several places that Brian is a big fan of the Blue as a mate for the S16. I have a few speakers to try with it first. I'd really rather not spend another two hundred in a speaker. Hopefully it'll sound equally great w/ the ASW KTS70, Scumback H75 or Creamback I already own.
The Blue is just so special... worth every penny :) The Blue is not a speaker, it's an instrument!
 

flcmcya

Gold Supporting Member
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3,538
I had a pair of 1x12's when I had mine...... one had a 25 watt greenie in it and sounded great.....

The other one had a Blue. :hide2
 




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