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active bass or preamp

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by bassistjedi, Jun 1, 2001.

  1. Is an outboard preamp as good as an active bass? Will I get the same sound out of my passive bass as I would with an active or is it a totally different concept altogether?
  2. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Good question!

    The concept of "active" bass is kind of a general term, oversimplifying the concept. In actuality, you can have active pickups or passive pickups, without regards to the fact that you can have active electronics or not.

    I'll probably get flamed for simplifying it this way, but here I go: active electronics simply allow you more flexibility in tone control. For example, in passive, you can only "cut" the frequency. Say you want to reduce the treble, you just turn down, right?

    On the other hand, passive electronics do not allow you to increase, or "boost", the treble, where an active preamp, either onboard or outboard, will. I think of it like this: active has "cut" AND "boost", whereas passive only has "cut".

    As far as the sound with active vs. passive pickups, there's a reason that some pickups have preamps: one of the theories that some pickup manufacturers have (EMG is a classic example of this), is that pickups, when wound correctly to avoid noise in certain frequencies, do not produce enough signal by themselves, so they need extra power to enhance the signal coming from the bass.

    Because these pickups are wound differently, they WILL sound different. Some people (I'm one of them) believe that active pickups will give you a more hi-fi sound. Others argue that's not necessarily true.

    Does that help?
  3. Yes thank you.

    The reason I wanted to know is because I have 2 passive basses and was wondering whether or not my next bass should be active or if I could just get a preamp and boost any one of my basses. The reason for that is each of them is different. My primary bass is my MIM Pbass, and then there is my semi-acoustic violin bass which has excellent tone, and the third bass will be probably a MIM Jazz that I will convert to fretless and perhaps upgrade the pickups. So I think that I would rather have the freedom to use the preamp for all of them.

    Thanks again,
  4. emg p\u's have creamic magnets with less magnetic pull and need the internal pre-amp to get the signal up to the required ohms...as far as outboard pre-amps go they will make any bass active.the sadowsky or agliar(spelling?) are both good choices as is the sansamp bass driver,they enable the user to make that vintage bass active without modifaction to the bass(therefore retaining it's value)not to mention it can be used on any bass...making all your basses "active" if you like..some players really dig the sound of active pre-amps with passive p\u's for the "best of both worlds" sound.I own a rickenbacker and I sometimes run it thru a k&k sound pre-amp(it came with my rockabilly special for my upright)and I can make it sound rabid(with the bass and treble) or just use the gain to make it more present in the mix.I personally think the out-board pre is more versitile because you can use it with any bass but thats just me..hope this helps..later:)
  5. dytakeda


    Jul 18, 2000
    Well RAM, this isn't a flame, but I wouldn't describe active electronics the same way you did. It is entirely possible to have a preamp on an instrument without an active EQ. EMG's come standard with the preamp, of course, but use only a hi-frequency roll off as a tone control.

    Also, all EQ isn't boost / cut. The very successful Sadowsky preamp is boost only, in two frequencies.

    The question of "hi-fi" is one I've always found interesting. To me, "hi-fidelity" is just what it says: a faithful and true reproduction of the original sound source. A pickup can't be "hi-fi" because it's part of the creation of the sound, not it's recreation. It's almost like saying certain strings or woods are more "hi-fi". I know that's a term that gets used a lot, but to me it's misleading.

    What EMG's do have is better frequency response throughout the entire range.

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