Flightcase - Phil Jones Pure Sound
bass gear in review
Phil Jones Bass Flightcase Amp
HIL JONES BASS built their repu-
tation by challenging the status
quo of bass amplification. The
use of five-inch drivers for bass may
seem bizarre, but Jones, with his solid
background in high-end audio, has the
engineering savvy to make it work—
rather well, in fact. The Flightcase is a
prime example of smart design used to
build a remarkably good task-specific
amp. The PJB website has highly detailed explanations of the science
behind his design concept, and frankly,
I’m not smart enough to translate. Let’s
just say that the Flightcase leaves a
mighty big sonic footprint for something that wears such a small shoe.
THE FLIGHTCASE IS a 150-watt combo
with four five-inch drivers, two of
which face forward and two of which
point straight up. The Class D amplifier has a digital-switching power supply. Combined with the neodymnium
drivers, it brings the amp’s weight to
just 24 pounds (upright bassists rejoice!). The five-band EQ boosts or cuts
up to 18dB at 50Hz, 160Hz, 630Hz,
2.5kHz, and 12kHz. A built-in low-cut
filter rolls off the frequency response
below 40Hz, giving the amp increased
low-end clarity. To help manage the
output, a limiter with a preset 3:1 ratio
and adjustable sensitivity is included.
Although it can be turned off, you’ll
probably want to leave it engaged
when playing at performance
volume levels. The input sensitivity is switchable between
active and passive modes,
while an effect loop, variable gain and master volume
controls, headphone jack, DI
out (with ground lift), line out
and tuner out complete a fairly
standard feature set.
LIKE MOST BASS players, my first
instinct was to crank the amp
to see what it could do. I quickly
discovered that the Flightcase is
not designed to go to “11” (its size
might have been a clue, but old habits
die hard). Taking a more reasoned
approach, I backed off on the gain and
found that within its comfort zone, the
Flightcase delivers astonishing low
end, handling the low B like a champ.
The mids are focused and detailed,
and the highs are natural and pleasing.
Though the amp has no tweeter, its
possible to dial in a killer slap sound,
thanks to the 12Hz center frequency on
the high tone knob.
The 4.7M-ohm input impedance is
favorable for piezo pickups, but plugand-playability with upright bass will
depend on your choice of pickup. With
my Fishman Full Circle pickup, using a buffer preamp before the input
produced the best results. I found the
passive input sensitivity a little too
hot for my passive P-Bass, especially
if I dug in. Ultimately, I chose to play
all my electric basses with the input
set for active. Although doing this did
cause some gain loss, it allowed me to
play without overdriving the input.
Another course of action would be to
play lightly. This amp is not a rock and
roll animal, but if you respect its inherent limitations, you’ll be rewarded with
superior tone.
Playing upright bass on a straightahead jazz gig (with drums), I was
amazed at the Flightcase’s firm bottom
end. Even better, I could hear every
nuance of my attack and tone. The key
is to treat the amp like an acoustic instrument, and I found that its response
varied greatly depending on cab placement. Placing the amp on the floor is
critical, as well as finding the sweet spot
LIST PRICE $995.00
Phil Jones Bass,
POWER AMP: 150-watt
Class D, digital switching
power supply
INPUT: Passive/active
switchable EQ: Fiveband, +/-18dB @ 50Hz,
160Hz, 630Hz, 2.5kHz,
12kHz; built-in low-cut
filter with 40Hz rolloff
SPEAKERS: Four fiveinch neodymnium drivers, two forward facing,
two upward facing
CONTROLS: Input Level,
Passive/Active toggle,
Limiter on/off toggle,
Limiter level, Master
Volume, Tone: Lo-Bass,
Hi-Bass, Lo-Mid, Hi-Mid,
OUTPUTS: Headphone
jack, DI out (with ground
lift), line out and tuner
OTHER: Effect loop
The upward-facing
speakers throw the
sound to your ears,
not just to your feet.
Digital amplifier + neodymnium speakers =
no trips to the chiropractor.
between the cab and the back wall. The
amp works in conjunction with its environment, filling the stage with a rounded low end that can be felt, and—thanks
to the upward-facing drivers—heard.
Reports from my bandmates and the
audience confirmed what I was hearing.
The Flightcase kicked butt.
It also excelled on an acoustic blues
gig, where I slapped my best Willie
Dixon licks on a gut-stringed upright.
Placed on the floor in a corner, the
Flightcase produced a bottom end that
was huge but never out of control, The
percussive slaps and string pops cut
through crisply without being harsh.
On an electric bass gig with two acoustic guitars (no drums, no PA), the amp
once again performed beyond my expectations. The low B string sounded
massive, and my sound projected
nicely to the middle of the room.
There is no external speaker jack, so
the amp is not expandable. Too bad. I’d
love to see the power rating upped a bit
and a matching extension cab offered.
FOR INDOOR GIGS at low-to-medium
volumes, low-volume rehearsals,
recording in an isolation booth, or
simply for practice, the Flightcase has
a sonic range that outperforms other
amps in its class. With a street price
of $895.00, it is not exactly cheap, but
the tone is addictive. ✺
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