Novanex Auto 6
The literature supplied with this amp, describes it as "Professional". I generally take that word fairly seriously, and although this is a brief review, I have drawn attention to certain points which I might have overlooked in an amp intended only for amateur and less demanding use. The deficiencies can easily be put right by the manufacturer; It is basically well designed, reliable, and with the recommended modifications, entirely suitable as a small and portable mains-operated amp for professional musicians.
I also consider it unnecessary to check the maximum output, as it sounds objectively considerably louder than a six watt combo has any right to. This appears to be a direct result of a high-efficiency speaker and a "compressor" in the pre-amp stages which keeps the maximum output below the point of serious distortion.
This compressor is fitted to most Novanex amps. Its advantage is that one can use the output stages to near-full capacity all the time, without the sound "cracking" on chords or the occasional loud note. Most small transistor amps exhibit a sudden change from low distortion to very high distortion at a certain level and to avoid sudden and unpleasant changes in tone, one must play either well below this level, or well above it.
Playing below the level means you are not using all the watts you have paid for, and playing above it (which can be very successful with amps such as the "Pignose", "Axamp", and similar types) limits you to a sort of fuzz tone all the time. The Novanex system appears to compress the loudness range so that the amp consistently runs just below the break point during loud passages. The loss of dynamic range seems to be quite acceptable. The disadvantage of this system is that there is no way you can get a normal "clipped" tone by pushing the amp hard.
A more significant effect of the compressor is that because the output fed to the speaker can never be much more than the nominal output, you can feed bass guitar into a combo the size of a shoe-box without blowing up the speaker! Someone has at last made the bass guitarist's practice amp!
The Novanex Automatic 6 measures just 25 x 40 x 20 and that's centimetres, not inches.
You can lift it with one finger through the handle, and if only it had two clips for the mains cable, it would be as easy to carry as an airline bag. The internal construction and wiring seem sensible, with the serious exception that I consider the mains cable to be inadequately secured, and routed round the wrong side of the mains transformer.
The amp would take bass very much better if the back of the control panel were stiffened with an internal lip and fastened more securely to the cabinet to prevent air leaks and rattles (one screw by each end of the handle).
Finally, I noticed a slight increase in background hum when playing high single notes on the review model; this might be due to insufficient regulation of the power supply, but it was only audible in a quiet room. The Automatic 6 is also available as a 3-watt and a 10-watt with tremelo. Personally, I think the 6-watt, as reviewed, represents the best value for money.
Retail Price £33
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