1. Welcome to TalkBass, the Premier Bass Player Community and Information Source. We've been uniting the Low End Since 1998!

    We're glad you've found us. Register a 100% Free Account to post and unlock tons of features.

Mike Pope Flex Core Review

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by GMSweet, Dec 19, 2011.


  1. GMSweet

    GMSweet Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2007
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    Background Info:

    Now that I've spent a few weeks with this preamp installed, it's time for a not so mini-review. Having deliberated over a number of preamps for the past year, a conversation with Chris Stambaugh pushed me over the top in replacing the OBP-3 that I had installed when the bass was built with the Pope Flex Core. The difference...night and day.

    The Flex Core is a 1 to 4-band preamp that is extremely nimble in its configuration options allowing you to choose what fits best for you. The preamp has provisions for 2 different frequency centers for each of its bass, lo-mid, hi-mid and treble controls with the bass and treble control selectable via jumpers in the cavity and the mid frequencies selectable via jumpers or optional switches. According to Mike Pope in a post in this thread, the frequency centers are:

    • Bass +/- 12dB @ 46Hz or 90Hz
    • Lo Mid +/-12dB @ 330Hz or 473Hz
    • Hi Mid +/- 15dB @ 1kHz or 1.8kHz
    • Treble +/- 15dB @ 6kHz or 10kHz
    • Gain pot : 12dB

    More details can be found at Mike's website:

    I'm running a Core 2.2stk with a volume (active/passive push-pull), blend, stacked bass/treble, and stacked mids knob configuration. The integrated circuits attached to the pots are tall needing around 1 3/16" of clearance and my bass needed a few modifications to make it all work out for me, but that was mostly due to some design choices made years ago when the bass was built. Take measurements before you order to make sure everything will fit.

    Onto the sounds...

    I've got the frequency centers set at 46Hz, 473Hz, switchable hi-mid and 10KHz; I believe I will be adding the lo-mid switch shortly.

    Active vs. Passive: Even with the gain change on the preamp, I don't hear an inherent sound with all of the knobs centered. I predominantly play via studio gear with headphones and I could hear an "Aguilar Stamp" when engaging the OBP-3. That doesn't seem to exist here, but I would need to gain match the active and passive setting to really tell. With the Aggie, I ended leaving it in passive mode, with the Flex Core, it's active all the time.

    Bass control: It does what I want it to. It brings up the bottom without getting muddy or overbearing. I can still hear definition in the low notes. I would say that I have 2/3's of the total range available to me before things are no longer natural sounding. Not that I use that much (or anything close to it) but I had to test it out. I've simply never needed 12dB of boost at that level. A little bit of cut at times is nice as well without losing all of the bottom end.

    Lo-mids: My bass, in its current setup still has a pretty nasal peak in the 500Hz range. The 473Hz setting works well to tame this. The frequency bandwidth (Q) is set very nicely where I can do a fairly dramatic cut and still not have the life sucked out of my sound. I had the mid-sweep option with the Aggie, but I could never find a setting that tamed my bass and left the good stuff. Like I said earlier, I will most likely add the lo-mid switch so I can play with the 330Hz setting as well. I can't describe boosting because I have never needed to boost the mids on my bass (I asked for aggressive when it was built and I got it!).

    Hi-Mids: Mmmmm... the good stuff. According to Mike's instruction booklet "The High Mid can be either a very high, snappy frequency or an edgy finger tone “bite” frequency with the jumpers on." The Bart Classic Bass pickups and the 1.8KHz setting are just made for each other. Want some musical cut and articulation, roll it up a bit. Want to emulate the original series pickups, roll it back to knock down those upper mids that the Classic Bass line adds in. Again, the frequency bandwidth is excellent and musical. At moderate settings (up to half a turn in either direction), it just sounds good. It never sounds like there's a gaping hole in the spectrum. This is the most frequently used control on my bass.

    Treble: 10Khz is just a beautiful setting. I was surprised at how much definition this added to the lower notes with just a slight twist. Used in conjunction with a cut at 1.8 put me right in the Bart 57J pickup range using the Classic Bass line up. The biggest surprise I got though was when I rolled it off. The Aggie certainly boosted the presence of the bass, but it didn't work very well at rolling off the highs. The Flex Core does a great job taking out all of the high end if you want it too. I haven't tried the 6KHz setting and probably won't anytime soon.

    Summary:
    I was in the market for a flexible preamp that allows the character of my bass to come through but with the flexibility to modify my sound on the fly, the Flex Core gives that to me. Was it more money than the most of the others I was looking at look at? Yes. Was it worth it? For me, a resounding yes. I’ve never been able to plug my bass alone into a studio channel and dial up the sound I wanted from my bass; not so anymore. I can’t speak to the installation since Chris performed the installation while relocating the batteries and making a new cavity cover, but this installation looks straight forward.

    Bass used: Stambaugh ODB 5-String Neck Through Bart X45K neck, MV52CBJD bridge, DR Sunbeams and Fodera nickels used during testing.

    External Amps/Preamps used for testing: Focusrite TwinTrak, BBE BMax, Ampeg SVP-Pro, SWR California Blonde

    And no, I don't work for Chris or Mike. I'm just a satisfied customer. If I get some time after Christmas, I'll record a few clips to show the "flexibility" of the preamp. I hope this helps someone else who may be pondering this preamp and just needs that little push over the edge...:D

    Matt
     
  2. CashBass

    CashBass

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2000
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Hey Matt - thanks for the info. I'm looking to order a similar setup so this is great info to have.

    -B
     
  3. randysmojo

    randysmojo

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    What other preamps have you tried other than the Aguilar? I'm looking into An Audere preamp to try to leave my bass sounding pretty natural when everything is set flat, which is what it sounds like you got with this pre. Just wondering if you had tried an Audere and can compare them to each other.
     
  4. thepontif

    thepontif

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2004
    Disclosures:
    Designer Fodera Guitars/Michael Pope Design, Inc.
    I can't speak directly about the Audere, but I can tell you that the FlexCore will definitely leave the bass sounding natural when it's flat.
     
  5. Register to disable this ad
  6. GMSweet

    GMSweet Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2007
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    @CashBass - You're welcome.

    @RandysMojo - I don't have any experience with the Audere. I was considering it, but I just didn't feel like the EQ settings were going to be where I wanted them to be. I can tell you that the Pope pre is very natural flat. Just like any good preamp, it only gets "unnatural" when really tweaking the knobs. The only real difference I hear is due to the impedance change in active mode where the highs are "allowed through". But then again I'm still using an old Monster Bass cable that is known to roll off the highs in passive mode so the effect may be more pronounced for me. What type of bass are you planning on putting this in? Your signature and profile only show a Jazz bass and I'm not sure the Pope will fit without modifications. Mike detailed some information about that here.

    @Mike - Great product!

    Matt
     
  7. randysmojo

    randysmojo

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2008
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    The Jazz on my profile picks is what I'm going to be putting a pre into. Unfortunately, I won't be able to afford a Pope for a while, so I will get the Audere and try it out. I'm looking at maybe going for a higher end instrument this Summer, and might go for a Pope in that one.
     
  8. thehess

    thehess

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2011
    +1 on the passive vs active cleanliness. My 2.2stk also has the passive tone module. I use it both active and passive to round things out. I seem to recall Mike mentioning to me that the passive module adds a little headroom to the overall circuit. I'll see if I can find the email with his comments (yes...I did actually get real email from a real person, Mike, when I had an after-purchase tech question!)

    Also +1 on the size considerations. Depending on the orientation of the holes for your pots, and how close to each other and the edges of the control cavity they are, you may have to be flexible (hah) on which control goes where.

    I love it. It's made that bass my go to, I'm considering another one, and so is my bass teacher. I may trade an install for him for lessons. :)
     
  9. LoPhreaque

    LoPhreaque

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2004
    Check out FlexCore on Facebook. There are some sound clips of Mike playing a couple of Ibanez GSR200 basses with a FlexCore and a competitive preamp. He compares the stock Ibanez, the competitor's and a FlexCore by demonstrating the ranges of sounds each can make. He also plays along with the same drum track using all three preamps.
    Search for FlexCore bass preamplifiers and Michael Pope Design.
     
  10. Modulus1906

    Modulus1906

    Joined:
    May 5, 2009
    What's the noise level of this pre amp in terms of treble hiss, say boosted about 3/4? Can anybody advise/ Thanks
     
  11. GMSweet

    GMSweet Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2007
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    I just happen to be sitting here with mine...

    It's very low. I have no need of +15db at 10K, but I could get away with it in my bass if I had to. It's much lower than the OBP-3 had in it prior, but I'm not sure if that is normal with the OBP-3 or just my particular install.

    Matt
     
  12. Modulus1906

    Modulus1906

    Joined:
    May 5, 2009
    Cool, I'm actually getting ready to drop one of the Flexcores into a Pedulla Thunderbass with a set of Bartolini BC5CBC pickups with paralell /single coil / series switching per pickup. Depending on how I like the preamp, I might order one for a Spector bass, but right now I've ordered an EMG BQ system for the Spector. I will delay having the EMG installed until I hear the Pope in the Pedulla. Do you have any experience with the EMG BQ system with a sweepable mid and how that might comnpare with the Pope in a Spector? Thank you
     
  13. GMSweet

    GMSweet Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2007
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    The Bart CB/Pope combo should be nice in the Pedulla. I had a Thunderbolt years ago that I loved, but I sold it since I just didn't play a 4 banger any more. I use a bit of cut at the 1.8k hi mid setting to take me from the CB upper mid bump back to the Bart original series type of sound.

    I don't have any experience with the EMG, but I have to say the Spector/EMG combo is what I think about whenever anyone mentions Spector.
     
  14. thebassworld

    thebassworld

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2011
    Hi all I just want to add that I have put a flex core with a 4 band eq set up into a Marcus miller fender jb and the sound is amazing there is no other pre amp that I have heard that is this nice !!
     
  15. GYang

    GYang

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2006
    Location:
    Touring around Europe
    After many years, I'm firm on conclusion to never record in active mode.
    Active is for gigs IMHO.
     
  16. evilgus

    evilgus Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2006
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Hi folks,

    Does anyone know if the Flexcore has adjustable gain, or would work ok with low output pickups? Would like to fit one in my Pre-2044 Tobias Signature, but it currently has the low output, curved Barts that were in use during early Gibson ownership. (Model MT5TC, or something like that.) I previously tried an Aggie OBP-3, but the output was so low, I had to boost all bands constantly, to get any meat on the bone. :)

    Cheers,

    EG
     
  17. LoPhreaque

    LoPhreaque

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2004
    Hi EG-
    David here, Mike's biz partner and co-designer of the FlexCore.
    The FlexCore has a gain control and can boost your signal if needed.
    Of course you'll have a difference in output level between active and passive if you choose to boost your active gain.
    We've had a number of players use the boost on their FlexCore with good success. You always have to keep the overall gain structure in mind For example if you have a pedal board or like the passive setting on your amp then too much gain from the on board pre (vs. passive mode) can cause you some difficulties is getting it all balanced.
    Is passive mode not giving you enough output to drive your amp?
    Boosting gain with the trim pot should give you better results than boosting gain by cranking the tone controls on most any imaginable bass preamp situation.
    Hope that helps!
    David
     
  18. evilgus

    evilgus Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2006
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Hey David,

    Thanks for the quick response, sounds great! I generally prefer active mode for live use, so not so worried about volume matching. The pickups in the bass are not as hot as the older drop-shoulder Barts, so really benefit from a touch of EQ in the right places. Definitely will keep overall gain in mind, as I do use a few effects.

    I was actually surprised the OBP didn't have enough gain for the pups, but I think they were designed for use with the old Low-Z TCT preamp that I've seen in a few Gibson-era Tobiases. The bass has quite a dark and complex sound, due to the wenge and purpleheart, so I think 2-band mids will work very nicely. And being able to select the freqs will be ideal!

    Cheers,

    EG
     
  19. LoPhreaque

    LoPhreaque

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2004
    My pleasure, EG!
    4 bands with freq switching gives you a lot of tonal ranges to enjoy!
    If you decide to go this way please keep us posted on your experiences.
    Thanks!
     
  20. evilgus

    evilgus Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2006
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Flexcore 2stk.1stk on order, counting the days... :)

    EG
     
  21. evilgus

    evilgus Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2006
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Hey folks,

    I finally got around to fitting the Flexcore to my Pre-2044 Tobias! If I had to use one word to describe the result, it would be "KILLER"! :) Still have to try the alternative frequencies out and see what I prefer, but it already sounds great and really brings out the character of the bass.

    As far as fitting went, it was pretty easy and worked the first time I plugged it in. Only a few slight complications :

    1. My bass has a Switchcraft barrel jack, so I had to snip the wires from the supplied socket and solder to the existing jack.

    2. I chose the dual-pot mid control and the online instructions dont explicitly cover how to connect it up to the EQ boards, so I had to read the fine-print and make assumptions. Wasn't difficult, just worth noting.

    I'll report back later, after trying the EQ settings.

    Cheers,

    EG
     

Share This Page