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Amp reviews: Phil Jones Flight Case vs. Markbass mini CMD121P

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by unobasso, Aug 20, 2007.

  1. unobasso


    Apr 16, 2006
    k/w, ontario
    Hello, everybody. I was at Club Bass last week and tried the Phil Jones Flight Case and the Markbass mini (the CMD121P) and thought I'd share my thoughts.

    Talkbass-regular Jeff Moote was with me and I hope he'll add his input as well. Dave Freeman, the ever hospitable and knowledgeable owner of Club Bass was our host.

    My bass is a Chinese-factory plywood creation of unknown but recent vintage and my pick-up is a Revolution Solo. Currently, I'm playing in two mostly-acoustic drummer-less groups but getting involved in a group with a drummer is very likely in the future.

    What I'm looking for in amp is sub-40lbs., around a $1,000(CDN), at least 150 watts, and doesn't colour my bass' sound.

    The Flight Case blew the Markbass away as far as naturally reproducing the sound of my bass. Jeff would play my bass and I turned the volume up on the Flight Case from zero to about halfway and it sounded like the room was filled with more of my bass. Passed half-way up the volume dial, I thought the amp couldn’t keep up and it started to sound forced. The tone-controls were handy and good but I kept them set flat.

    The Markbass made my upright bass sound like an electric. Playing with the VLE and VPF filters did minimize that sound but it was still there.

    I had played through Jeff's Markbass LMII head and Bergantino HT112 about three weeks previous and loved the sound. I wish I would've had my wits about me to A/B that set-up at Club Bass with the Flight Case but I didn't.

    I brought along one of my electrics (Yamaha BB300 with p/j emg's) and both amps sounded just fine with it.

    However, I felt the Flight Case had two minor strikes against it that combined made it unsuitable: a) there's only a ¼" (i.e., unpowered) line-out and b) imho, it wouldn't keep up with a drummer.

    If was louder without straining or had a powered line-out for an extension cab, I would have bought it. As it stands, you'd need a powered cab for an extension.

    So, the Flight Case is good but not great because it's not potentially loud-enough and I found the Markbass mini lacking in sound quality.

    As a result, my quest continues.

    YMMV. Comments or questions welcome.

    ted harms

  2. Have you checked the back of the Flightcase? On my, there's a xlr D.I....:eyebrow: :cool:
  3. unobasso


    Apr 16, 2006
    k/w, ontario
    I thought there were just two 1/4" jacks on the back but I just took a look at the pdf of the Phil Jones catalogue from his website and, yes there is an xlr jack shown. Maybe Jeff can say if he saw it and I totally overlooked it...

    So, let me ask the stupid question: can you power an extension cab from an xlr jack?
  4. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Its funny how peoples experiences differ. I bought the
    MB 121P mainly because I could get a very pleasing sound
    with my upright bass and Full Circle pickup. It sounded
    woody and organic. I could get a very good amount of
    volume with no feedback standing next to it. Not quite
    as good as my Berg Ht112/Focus combo, but still better
    than any other combo amp I've used. For doubling, the
    121P is very good, especially with a little extra eq of some
    sort. Using the MB 121p with a little eq bump at 100,
    and 4.5 really made the combo come alive with the
    electric bass.
    Its not quite as important for me to have the bass sound
    exactly the same as unamplified because that sound may
    get lost in the other instruments. I want an amp that my
    bass sounds good through when I need to turn it up.
    For its size and weight, I think the MB121p is a good option.
  5. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    +1 B...the weight/volume/low end ratio on the 121P is amazing it is gives up a very woody response with the upright. It isn't quite as natural as the Focus/HT112 but close enough for me. In a way I think it sounds better.

  6. karlgustav


    Aug 30, 2005
    I just got a CMD121P and wonder what setting are you useing for DB?
    on what numbers are the filters set with you?
  7. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Why do guys think that a 7/8 bass with orchestra strings
    and a Bassmax, is going to use the same settings as a
    small 3/4 bass set up with solo strings and a Wilson pickup?
    You just half to start out with the amp flat and find your
    tone. Some will like it flat. Others will only use the filters.
    Some of the fun of playing amplified bass is to experiment
    with tone and volume. Have faith in your ears. The basic
    amp might work for many different guys, but how you set
    it up can be very individual. Enjoy.
  8. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    The Flightcase needs to be on the floor in a corner or at least against a wall to deliver the volume needed for a drummer based band in a small gig for BG or DB. The band can't be very loud, but I think you can do a drummer based gig with it if positioned properly. I liked the sound of the Mini CMD121P for DB when it was off the floor.
  9. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    Interesting Mac...what pickup are you using with the 121P? I'm using a Realist straight in and it works pretty nice.

  10. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    I use Full Circles directly in. No longer have the CMD121P - found that if I was going to bring a 30lb combo, I could deal with a Berg EX112/LMII. Of course, going smaller and lighter, the Flightcase is the choice.
  11. Jeff Moote

    Jeff Moote Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2001
    Beamsville, ON, Canada
    More thoughts later, but just responding to the comments on the Markbass sound:

    We found, without a doubt, in this trial that it made the bass sound too much like an electric bass. I don't amplify my DB, but if I did I would want the acoustic sound reproduced accurately (I'd probably start with one of the mini-condenser mics instead of a pickup). If I wanted a slab sound, I'd play my electric basses - which is exactly what I do for everything but classical.

    Maybe there's a natural sound to be had with that Markbass combo, but set flat/filters off it sounded like a fretless EBG to me.
  12. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I agree that (for me) the Berg/Focus is a better sounding
    setup, but at 39lbs with an extra head and cables to hook
    up, as well as set up time, the 121P is SOOO much easier
    and faster. No dolly, multiple cables, etc. Almost 20lbs less
    weight. I still use other rigs for gigs I care about, but for me
    the 121p is the best "light weight" option I've found. And, it
    gets loud for its size. Could be the 300 watts of headroom.

    I haven't seen any of the Phil Jones stuff here in LA but
    I'd love to check it out. How does it sound for electric bass?
  13. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    No argument here! Even with the few pounds less on the EX, it still pales when compared to a lighter combo. I ended up selling the 121P due to my 3 block rule. I have a lot of small trio bar gigs. Being in the city, I often grab the first parking spot I see and don't double park to unload. So if I can carry the amp in one hand for a few blocks, I save time. The 121P, as light as it is, didn't pass the 3 block rule. :smug: So I continued to look for other options.

    The Flightcase sounds wonderful. But it won't get anywhere near as loud as the 121P. However, it can cut a small room gig with a light-touch drummer if you set it up in a corner.
  14. Jeff Moote

    Jeff Moote Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2001
    Beamsville, ON, Canada
    It sounds great to me. As was said before, it's not very loud but for light acoustic gigs or practice, it is clear as studio-monitors. I'm very excited about the new Neo cabs (6B, 8B) as they should sound like a bigger version of the Flightcase (depending on the amp of course).
  15. Eric S

    Eric S

    Jul 19, 2005
    Paris, France

    Those new neo cabs are too heavy! That 6B is 46 lbs. geeeze.
    I mean, if he can get 4x5in + an amp in the flightcase why can't he do a 6x5in cab with 4 in front and two on top at about the same size and weight as the flightcase. That would be sweet! It's a shame that throwing out the amp and adding two more 5 inchers has to double the weight.
  16. DocBop


    Feb 22, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I'm not a fan of the store, but TruTone Music in Santa Monica has the PJ gear if you want to check it out.
  17. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Thank you. I will.
  18. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I completely understand. Still, putting the 30lb box, small
    bag and a fold up stand on a small two wheeler is about as
    easy as it gets for me with a wheel on the upright. Easy
    one trip. Volume for doubling is a big plus. I can't overstate
    how much better I think the combo sounds adding a little
    stomp box eq for with electric bass.
  19. Steve York

    Steve York Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2003
    Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
    Fodera, Lakland artist.
    Chiming in late on this thread. My standard rig is an AI Focus with one or two Berg HT112's. I also owned 2 PJ Briefcases. I recently sold a Briefcase and bought the MB combo. Less weight and more power. I have not yet gigged with the MB but I have A/B'd it a lot with the AI/Berg.
    I use a Fodera Emperor ll with a Seymour Duncan and piezo p/u, Rob Allen Deep 5 and MB2, and Lakland US and Skyline 5-94's.
    I run my AI flat except for slight tweaks for room acoustics. I used an Auralex Gramma to compare these rigs.
    The MB does not do justice to the Fodera at any setting. It is muddier and not as clear and punchy as the AI/Berg rig and if I hit the low notes too hard it flaps. However, it is still very usable and given the trade off for weight and price it is way better than any other combo I have tried.
    When I use the MB head through the Berg cab the sound is great. The two amps sound close set flat but the AI is a little sweeter and more transparent. The tone shaping knobs on the MB sound very warm and musical through the Berg. This tells me that it it the weak link in the MB combo is the speaker.
    The tone shaping on the MB really helps to warm up the piezos on my Rob Allen basses and helps to nail a vintage sound on my Laklands. I am not sure if this might not turn to mud on a gig though. I'll let you know when I gig with it!
    I would say that if you play a passive bass and/or you want a vintage sound you will be very happy with the MB combo. If you are looking for accuracy and transparency go with the PJ or AI depending on volume requirements.
    I also acquired a MB Micromark and I love this thing, especially the way it follows me around the house on a leash!
  20. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    The speaker and LeSon piezo are the weak link...BUT!
    When you consider that the head takes up about 4 inches
    of the depth, It makes the speaker box just a tad bigger
    than a GK 150mb. The 121p kills the GK for volume and flexibility.
    The Berg Ht112 has a good amount more cabinet space
    than the MB121p. For its size and weight, I'm still quite
    happy with the Markbass combo. My only gripe is no
    volume control for the piezo tweeter. It can be intrusive.

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