Monday 11th August 2014, My mini-review of Phil Jones Bass 'BigHead' headphone amp, bass preamp and soundcard
August 11, 2014
I arrived at my hotel in Tokyo last week to be greeted with a new product from Phil Jones Bass, sent to me by Jes Saito of JES International. Jes is Phil's distributor out here in Japan. Over the years I've received a lot of support from both Phil and Jes. Often when I come to Nagoya, where Jes is based, he's is busy and away, but luckily this time he is here and has supplied a lovely rig for our concert at the Blue Note Nagoya.
The PJB BigHead is barely bigger than my iPhone 5 in it's battery case
I first got to try out the BigHead on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) with my laptop, Sennheiser ear buds, iPad and my laptop. There are four continuous controls on the front panel but only one adjusts the aux input - the volume control. So for listening to music, you don't get to use the two-band eq on the right hand side dual concentric knobs. They are for bass (or other mono instrument) input, as is the outer gain pot concentric to the volume. This single volume control boost the available volume considerably without muddying the signal, the first thing to bottom out was in fact my ear buds which are pretty good at handling bass. At this point you don't want to be turning up much louder if you value your long term hearing! My iPod is much quieter than my other i-devices, sometimes way to quiet, so now I have a very portable solution for that problem.
It should also be pointed out that there are two ways to listen from a laptop. The first is by using one of the two supplied minijack to minijack leads, which is the only way to listen from a non USB source. The second way is via the supplied USB cable (which is also used to charge the internal rechargeable battery) and this method uses the BigHead's built in DA (Digital to Analogue) convertor. Not only does this mean less cable when charging and listening from your laptop; you are also leaving out two steps of DA and AD. This takes us to the real genius of this tiny box: it's a high quality mobile recording solution for bassists (and guitarists) on the move. And the sound quality is stunning.
I first used the bass input last night (jet lag can go on for weeks, perfect for trying out gear!) You set your gain with the left outer concentric pot. It's at a very healthy level to start with so maybe best to start with it all the way to the left and then crank up if necessary. Even without touching the eq pots I was blown away by how full and satisfying the bass sound is. And then there's the two-band eq. Now, knowing Phil, he's definitely worked hard on how the two bands interact to give you a super-musical eq with only one dual concentric pot. Whilst 'flat' (both at '12 o'clock') the sound was fat as hell. Then I played with turning the treble control down bit by bit and noticed the tone changing subtly, not just a plain old shelving eq, the whole spectrum was changing subtly in a very pleasing way. I didn't want to put my bass down I was having so much fun!
I haven't got around to recording bass with the BigHead yet by I jammed to music coming out of my computer via the USB connection. I also haven't spent enough time with it to gauge the battery life, though safe to say it's not run out of power yet! For anytime I need to learn something on the road or record a bass part or just jam and practice on my own, I now have this super compact, super high fidelity device that's barely bigger than my iPhone in it's battery case. Thank you again Phil and Jes. FH
w/ Jes Saito of Jes International, distributer of the Phil Jones Bass BigHead