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A mystery wrapped in an enigma

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by B-Mac, Mar 3, 2021.

  1. B-Mac

    B-Mac Just like Aretha Sang... R-E-S-P-E-C-T Supporting Member

    Since I’ve joined TB I’ve noticed a strong disdain for active electronics whether or not the pups are active or passive. This especially seems true with the traditional P bass and J bass crowd. However, I have noticed that these same two groups are big fans of mm/ebmm and G & L basses which are mostly active.

    Obviously these two makes have the Leo Fender connection, so I get that. So my query is why are these active basses ‘okay’ while others are not? Is it simply the connection to Leo Fender or is there something more to it? Is it because of a ‘too modern’ sound rather than a more traditional sound?

    I like passive and active and both have their place/use.

    This topic is not meant to be divisive nor start a riot. Let’s keep this friendly. I simply want to understand the dichotomy of this subject matter.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2021
    31HZ, fhm555, EatS1stBassist and 11 others like this.
  2. el jeffe bass

    el jeffe bass

    Nov 22, 2013
    New Mexico
    Trying to make sense of what others are drawn to is an impossible task. One hundred different people would possibly have one hundred different reasons. Viva la difference.
    sabre79, Thundertips, lomo and 21 others like this.
  3. B-Mac

    B-Mac Just like Aretha Sang... R-E-S-P-E-C-T Supporting Member

    And I have no problem with that, but I’d still like to hear it from those who own a p and/or j and an EBMM and why’s it okay and not so for other active basses.
    el jeffe bass likes this.
  4. lug

    lug Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    Since I’ve joined TB I’ve not noticed a strong disdain for active electronics.
  5. MIMike


    Jan 1, 2013
    West MI
    I have owned three bases that were “active” from the factory; a 79’ Musicman Sabre, a 98’ Fender American Deluxe Jazz and late 80’s-early 90’s Peavey TL-5. I do not own any of these instruments any more. I have only gigged with active bases twice in my career. For me, I love the sound of active Basses when soloed, or when I’m practicing. Whenever I played one live, however, I felt I was buried in the mix. Clearly I never learned how to properly eq them, but for me, passive always works, especially in a live setting. If I ever feel the urge to activate, I get out my Sadowsky outboard pre and go at it.
  6. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    For me, a StingRay sounds like a StingRay, and a Precision sounds like a Precision - and I don't want to screw around with either one.

    That said, the passive StingRay (short scale, and BFR) are getting a lot of love, and plenty of people swear by the versatility of active Fenders - but I'll stick to the originals.

    I also very much enjoy both Kellogg's cornflakes, and the activity they were invented to suppress.
  7. Bassclef46


    Feb 1, 2021
    i have never come across anyone who says its ok to own P and J and EBMM but nothing else. Im curious where these posts are. As someone who owns a P and J and EBMM and G&L i give my full support to anyone who wants to play active electronics
  8. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    Regardless of make or model, I see two general camps with regards to tone controls:
    1. All in - Many people like to finely hone their tone or want more boost of certain frequencies. This is mainly possible with active electronics.
    2. KISS - Many people are quite happy to have fewer options, and learn how to get as much variance as they need by adjusting their technique.

    I can't say that I see these as camps that are at odds with each other, although there are a lot of "just get a Pbass" folk around. ;^)
  9. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017

    Not sure where I fit :

    2 band StingRay forever - all controls stay at 100% always.

    I'm all in keeping it stupid.
  10. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Why not do both?

    Hasn't worked for me either.
    Wood and Wire and B-Mac like this.
  11. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    It's the whole "Leo is god" thing.
    thabassmon, 31HZ, PsyDocHill and 5 others like this.
  12. I'd only posit that for more than a few, they went down the rabbit hole, and came out and bought passive:

    Take a fairly common 'active' bass with onboard 3-band EQ, run it into a lot of amps with LOTS of EQ on the front panel, and then . . . . 'I got buried in the mix', 'can't find my tone', and so forth (not to mention the rampant White-Knuckle'd-Fear-of-9v-Batteries), and suddenly, a Precision or Jazz seems a much easier proposition to live with.

    Often, less is more.

    ESP uses EMG's on more than a few of their basses, wired up volume/balancer/tone (no cut and boost like BTC or BTS) for exactly these reasons, I'd suspect, and I'd think that would be more approachable for a lot of guys, and me too. Run that into a head with simple tone controls (like the 1st Subway or a Quilter, right off the top of my mind), and it would be harder to run aground.
    B-Mac and Garret Graves like this.
  13. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Fusion Cats Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    ... wrapped in a tortilla.
  14. Garret Graves

    Garret Graves website- ggbassplayer.com Gold Supporting Member

    May 20, 2010
    Arcadia, Ca
    To me, because most ‘active’ basses are only active pre amp, passive pick ups, it’s kind of strange to despise them- especially if there is a standard tone knob on the bass too. Think of it this way-unless the pickups are active too, which is rare, you are playing a passive bass, until you dial in the active pre amp in some way. I rarely dial in anything from my active circuit, usually just passive pups, tone knob, and blending between the pups to change the tone- season to taste on the amp or DI. If the batteries drained quickly, then I’d have a problem, because I’d be going through batteries for something I rarely use.
    groove pump and B-Mac like this.
  15. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    I played active only for over a decade, and have played passive only for years since.

    In the studio, I found the active basses had pros and cons, but it was usually whichever bass' sound fit the track best that got used. This meant I often had to bring both. After most situations chose a passive bass, I usually only brought a good one of those, and it worked.
    Live, I never liked having to continually check/worry about the battery's condition, and too often found active electronics gave me too much to think about.
    A passive bass solves all that for me.

    ymmv, etc.


    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    Well, this is a deep subject. I own several active basses from widely different time periods and price levels. Some i like, some i don't but all have a unique flavour. My fave is my Squier Jazz which i upgraded with MEC actives and passive tone, all jazz with a wider response and zero noise. Coming 2nd and 3rd would be my 79' Ibby musician and my MIK SR505 with stock Barts. Horses for courses i suppose.
    B-Mac likes this.
  17. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    after having fun with the bells and whistle actives it all comes back to basic TONE and I find simple meat and potatoes in a good passive covers that best, the more $pent and knobs twiddled the further away the sweetest natural tones go, I'm into clarity and lows but many prefer myriad options for 'modern' sounds and power. if I want to kick it up my lil Mooer Black Secret does the trick.
    Mili likes this.
  18. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Had an active Sterling Ray 34...yeah, I know, Leo Fender family...and an Ibanez Talman TMB 600, both active. Wouldn't mind having either of them right now.
    My three Dean Exoticas are active, of course.
    Can't say I can remember the last time I switched to active mode on either of my L2000s, though.
    I wouldn't pass up buying just the right active bass, but I simply don't seek them out.
    Nine basses right now.
    Five active, four passive.
    The main thing I consider when buying something is the way it looks.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2021
    EatS1stBassist and B-Mac like this.
  19. Medicine Man

    Medicine Man

    Apr 10, 2015
    I use more of a Pokemon "gotta catch em all" approach.
  20. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    I don't like changing batteries. And more to the point, I have never heard an onboard preamp that doesn't add some uber-annoying HISS when you crank the treble. I once used a rack of Neve V-series EQ that didn't add hiss - but it seems that there are no practical low-noise circuits for onboard bass guitar preamps. My guess is that the ULTRA-low-noise op-amps require much more current drain than most people would like, or maybe that running 20 low-noise discrete J-FETS in parallel requires something like 48V?? I dunno! But I hate noisy preamps :)

    That said, I am happy to resort to running EMG active pickups in situations where "no string ground wire" is a priority (like when using nylon tapewound strings!). I generally do not add their EQ sections, though ( also not immune to hiss...)
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    May 15, 2021

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