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Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by timmerel, Feb 15, 2017.
Who has tried both, and what are pros and cons either way?
Can't speak to the Noll, but the Flexcore is really amazing and customizable. And it seems to work well for the Fodera boys! Plus, Mike Pope is a good dude.
However, I don't think the Flexcore is identical to the one that Fodera uses.
Fodera has some special ordered ones with only three bands and pots specially fitted to the PCB's, that's the only difference.
The Noll has a low mid signature when the Pope is the most transparent preamp you will find on the market.
Go for the Pope, it's maybe expansive, but you won't regret it at all.
Each time I've fitted a Noll to a bass, I ended up by removing it because there is something unnatural to the sound...
Cool - thanks!
I have a different opinion about the Pope being transparent, at least not the 4 band. I had two of them in my basses and ended up removing both because I felt even at the flat setting the hi mid was too "present" and in that "aurally fatiguing" range of sound that I don't prefer. I had a third Pope 4 band waiting to go into another bass, but never installed it and sent it back to the retailer toward a credit for some Delano SBC soapbar pickups. I had to keep the hi mid cut quite a bit on my Pedulla ET5 Thunderbass to get a satisfactory sound, and had similar results with this pre in my Ibanez Prestige 5006. Anything north of the flat setting with the hi mid knob I just could not stand. I wound up replacing the Pope with a 4-band Glockenkllang which sounds much more neutral and balanced at the flat setting. I would argue the Glock sounds better at any knob setting to my ear. Mileage may vary with the 3 band Pope, but I decided I didn't care as much for the 4 band after living with it for a while. I know another guy who replaced a Bartolini with a Pope, and I thought the bass sounded clearly better with the Bart. Go figure.
The only way I have ever used a high mid control on bass, preamp, amp, or whatever is to cut that part of the spectrum. That is where the honk is. I suppose some players may find something specifically useful there; but, in general, I would expect to cut that control. From an engineering standpoint, the designers just put the boost/cut there as a standard control. It's up to you as how it gets used.
I completely agree. I like to cut particularly at 1.7 to 2.5hz. However, even at the flat setting, it seemed to me that some hi mids were leaking into the tone which indicates the Pope is not a flat/linear response or as "transparent" as I've heard some claim. The Glock is more pleasant/useable with the hi mid at flat or even boosted a tad. To use your word, the Pope was honky even at flat and I just didn't like it.
We certainly all have our own prefs. Did you try actually cutting the high mids below flat?
Yes, I mentioned this in my original post. The Pope sounded pretty good with the hi mid cut, but the 4 band Glock I'm running now sounds better with the hi mid flat than the Pope sounds with the hi mid cut. Thus, I'm in the process of changing all my preamps, except for one, to Glocks. I will try a 4 band noll with custom eq points pretty soon.
It's great to hear varying opinions! We all have our preferences!
Agree, no real knock on the Pope, but it's just that I've read so many times how transparent that pre is and it just wasn't my experience. Extremely high quality pre though and it seems to work for so many.
I've got a 4 band Pope in transit right now. I also added the passive tone control. I plan on doing some A/B recording of the bass passive, active set flat, and of course active with EQ. I also purchased the mid frequency selectors so I can change on the fly. Can't wait to see how the bass sounds with the Nordstrand NJ5s and MM5.4 pushing the Pope pre. Nordstrand pickups are usually voiced damn near perfect without a pre...so they typically don't need much knob turning unless you're going for a specific sound.
I've used (and liked) the Pope.
I had a Noll for a while on my bass (volume/tone stack, semi parametric mid stack and bass/treble stack so not the 4 band) and maybe it was because it was Frankenstein'd together when my first choice preamp was unavailable but it was my least favorite preamp ever.
Toggling between active and passive the active mode added a LOT of highs (much more than the normal impedance change does) and scooped the mids significantly even with that control set flat.
I couldn't dial in a tone I liked so I ran that bass always passive until the preamp I originally wanted (an East P-Retro - brilliant design IMO) was available to swap in.
Again, I haven't heard this from other Noll users so it may have been an issue with the way they combined components from two Noll preamps to build mine.
I find the Noll to be more transparent. Not that the Pope isn't, it just seems that the Pope has a distinct tonal character, where as the Noll has not character, it just boosts or cuts the assigned freq. Every bass I have heard with a Pope sounds like a Fodera, or at least can sound like a Fodera. There is something in tibre of the high mids and treble that is distinctly Pope.
My Pope is still in transit so I can't comment on it, but if it is anywhere near as good as the John East pre in my Jazz bass then I'll be happy. And good doesn't mean "same", it just means it sounds good. That East pre has magic in it.
The sound this guy produces at the 7:02 mark and pretty much throughout a good part of the video, but notably at 7:02, is a great representation of why I did not like the Pope Flexcore at the end of the day and why I don't believe it's really that transparent.
I've been playing with mine for a couple of days and I have to say, it's pretty dang transparent. I put it in passive mode and played, then active with all controls left flat and matched the passive level. It sound pretty much the same.
I am using Nordstrand pickups which sound pretty good even in passive mode with no EQ (I also have the passive tone control). All I did was bump the lows a bit and roll in some low mid to give a little punch. Both bass and low mid are just off the center detent, so I'm not adding much.
I don't really judge transparency by how closely the sound of a preamp in passive mode matches the preamp's active flat setting. I think that's a misconception. Rather, I think transparency is technically whether a piece of audio equipment, in this case an onboard preamp, maintains a flat response across its entire audio frequency spectrum such that there aren't any peaks or dips across those frequencies that might result in certain frequencies screaming louder than others or certain frequencies being too subdued / scooped compared to others.
From what I recall from my time with the Pope, that hi mid spike you hear in this video at 7:02 was present whether I operated the preamp in active or passive mode, so to conclude that the Pope is transparent because the passive tone equals the active flat tone I believe is a misleading conclusion. Unless we were to actually measure the response of the Pope or any other preamp with some type of frequency analysis equipment, I think the whole notion / discussion of to what extent a preamp is transparent is relative, so you just have to get to a point where either you like the sound or not. In other words, I don't know technically to what extent the Glockenklang is really transparent if you were to measure it, I just know that it sounded better with the knobs at flat setting than the Pope. That "cardboardy", albeit articulate sound that this guy gets at the 7:02 mark in this video is identical to my experience in bother basses where I had the Flexcore installed, so it didn't matter to me in the end that the Pope is supposedly transparent to some. Of course with all due respect...
Ah...thanks for explaining that. So often people say the same words but they mean something different.
So in essence what you want is a preamp that listens to your bass, pickups, hand placement, plucking technique, etc....and intelligently EQ's all frequencies flat until such time as you move the knobs off the center detents. I don't know of anything that does that, but I bet there would be a fantastic market for it if it existed. The only thing I know of that does something like that is very high end audio gear that has a spectrum analyzer built in it and will EQ a room (or even a car) as well as use digital time alignment to make the space sound as close to flat (if that's what you want) as it can get. You can also program those devices to make a room sound as close as possible to, say...the Sistine Chapel.
My definition of a transparent preamp means it imparts no discernible change in tone to the instrument when set "flat". That is why I mentioned that it sounded the same in passive mode as it did engaged, at unity gain, set flat. From my definition, the Pope Flexcore is very transparent. That's why he goes to the trouble to use separate EQ channels for each band so there is no bleed over into neighboring channels.