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ACTIVE BASS TONE

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mike_Ro11, Aug 31, 2008.


  1. mike_Ro11

    mike_Ro11

    Dec 17, 2007
    Let me start by saying I haven't been playing to long.

    IMO I have thought passive basses have better. Less artificial sounding. more natural.

    Now I have 2 active basses and no passive basses.

    A EBMM sterling and a an American Deluxe jazz bass.
    I find these two active basses to sound natural. I can hear that they are active but they don't sound super artificial like some active basses do to me. I can't stand most active basses. I'm finding active EBMM, fender and similar active basses don't sound artificial like most do IMO.

    I still would like to own a passive bass or two as well someday. but I won't be bying a bass any time soon. I'm set with these two for a while.
    this is all IMHO.


    So what do you guys think about this? I just thought I would share me opinion on this.

    EDIT: I know many well disagree and I respect everyone's opinion on this.
     
  2. Well, both the Sterling and Jazz use passive pickups with an active preamp. That is different from active pickups, which typically sound more artificial than passive because of their flatter frequency response. (ie. EMGs)
     
  3. I love passive basses, but sometimes they need help cutting through the mix, and they are often noisy to record. That is where the active pickups come in. You aren't going to get that raw, slowly developing tone, but those nuances/overtones are going to get lost in a live venue anyway.
     
  4. RAM

    RAM

    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    It depends on the electronics used. IMO, all "good" preamps should simply allow for both boost and cut without ruining the character of the underlying tone. Fundamentally, boost is really what makes an active bass active. In reality, there's a slew of preamps that color the sound of a bass which produce a more artificial tone and sometimes rob a bass of good tone.

    However, I think there are a bunch of really excellent preamps that enhance a bass' tone, rather than rob it of its tone.

    I own 5 basses, all of which are active; one even has active pickups: my US Spector NS-4. The other basses in my collection are an MTD 535 fretless, a Status Empathy, a Roscoe SKB3005, and a Jerzy Drozd Mastery, the latter two of which have Bartolini pickups and preamps. IMO, they all sound fantastic with active electronics. I've considered many times buying a bass with passive electronics, and at one point even owned a Lakland DJ-5 which came stock with the Aero single coil pickups and no preamp. That bass had a really unique character to it and really sounded organic. However, all of my basses have a fairly organic tone, though the Status and Spector sound very electric. I happen to like the tone of these two basses and wouldn't change a thing.
     
  5. i_g55

    i_g55

    May 26, 2005
    istanbul
    I have to disagree with the noise in the recording thing. This can have a lot of reasons including the pickups being single coil or hum-cancelling, proper wiring, shielding, the mains voltage, etc.

    I'm using Nordstrand NJ4SE hum-cancelling J pickups on my fretless with copper shielding in the cavity and I have no noise issues at all - live or studio. Single coil pickups do have an inherent 60-cycle hum that cannot be eliminated but that kinda hum appears only when there is a hum-generating source (monitors, neon lights, etc) plugged into the same mains.

    The quality of the single coil pickup also affects the amount of noise. I have almost no noise issues with my Ric 4003 with the stock single coil hi-gain pickups in recording sessions.

    I like the organic nature of the passive sound. Therefore, I prefer the transparent preamps on passive basses rather than the ones which have their unique tone color (like the EMG or Ken Smith electronics). I use Nordy Fat Stack pickups and Aguilar OBP3 preamp on my Lakland 55-01 and I find the Aguilar to be very transparent. Then again, if there is a good high-end recording preamp to be used in the studio, I usually use the Lakland in passive mode for the recording. I see no use in leading the signal through two consecutive preamps if there is a high-end recording pre already present.

    These all change according to one's tastes of course. I'm more on the purist side when it comes to using preamps...
     
  6. brianh

    brianh

    Aug 19, 2005
    NYC
    Endorsing: Epifani Amplification
    I'm a much bigger fan of passive basses, and generally in the studio I have found there is no comparison. In fact, most engineers I work with really prefer a passive bass and when I bring in something with a bunch of knobs (even if it sounds good)...they say something like "oh, the bionic bass..."

    That said, I own a few active ones that work great too. My Suhr jazz bass is active (although I want a passive one, too) and it records just about as well as any bass I've tried. However, nothing beasts my old passive P-bass....
     
  7. These days, there is such a rich variety of pre-amps that it's really too broad to really lump them all together fairly. Sure, something like a Kubicki, Spector, Alembic, and Status have their characteristic high end tone, but that's not the only type of tone you can get these days. The argument against active basses is often "tone should be in your fingers". Which is true.....but active basses still allow the tone to be in your fingers.

    Bartolini pickups and pre-amps allow for a very wide range of tones. My CB basically squashed my need for a passive bass. Fretless Rob Allen basses are also very warm.
     
  8. jkudding

    jkudding

    Apr 24, 2008
    Calgary, Alberta
    I have a couple of active basses that I use on a regular basis. Can you define what you mean by "artificial" sounding?
     
  9. dabbler

    dabbler

    Aug 17, 2007
    Bowie, MD
    I like passive sound too. When I modified my SX SJB75, I originally wanted to add a pre that could be turned off. But from experiences of others on HC stating that they were pretty transparent, I tried an Audere JZ3. :hyper: It does sound a little different from the original passive tone, but not enough different that I miss not having an "off" switch.

    I guess some people want their active basses to "sound" active. I just wanted the flexibility of active eq. The Q switch on the Audere coupled with their isolation of the pups (read their site, I can't explain all the electrical stuff) creates a really flexible passive sounding bass (until you crank in extreme eq). I like.

    As usual it's all in what you want. Different strokes for different folks.
     
  10. cbass717

    cbass717

    Jun 30, 2008
    yea i have no idea what you mean by artificial EMG's are sick
     
  11. nastyn8c

    nastyn8c

    Feb 7, 2005
    Tampa, FL
    As a general rule:
    The more expensive the preamp, the more transparent and "passive" it will sound. That said, it took me a while, but I've grown to appreciate the subtle nuances between passive and active on my Dingwall ABII.
     
  12. The best way I can describe it is, as with graphite necks, the sound is more sterile. Passive pickups have a certain frequency response curve which give them their signature sound.

    Active pickups (such as EMGs), from what I know, have a flatter curve, which is actually a fuller, wider range, but can sound sort of unnatural because of this. I assume it's because we're used to hearing wood instruments, which absorb certain frequencies and give a non-flat curve, and we (or at least some of us) expect electric instruments to have a "woody" sound, too, as opposed to a full-range tone.
     
  13. topcat2069

    topcat2069

    Dec 2, 2007
    Palm Springs
    What kind of 19th century engineers are they??
    Good sounding Basses sound good recorded.
    I’ll bet they also believe tube stuff that’s poorly designed and manufactured sounds better than solid state stuff that’s well designed and manufactured just because it's “tube”.

    Engineers place mics, watch the levels, set levels on outboard gear and listen for tuning. Producers make decisions on tone and artists bring the instruments they create with the easiest.

    Bonehead, do it one way, skill-less engineers are a thing of the past. The future belongs to the most adaptable.


    :bag:
     
  14. Along the lines of what topcat said, just because a bass has knobs doesn't mean the bass is going to produce tones that are impossible to mix. My 7 knob+1 switch Conklin has a wide range of available tones and I can dial it in to a very Fender like sound. Volume wise, it's even roughly the same volume as my Fender.
     
  15. AndyLES

    AndyLES

    Aug 25, 2008
    New York
    I agree, but I would still prefer to record a passive bass in the studio only because, with the console's EQ, various outboard, and the infinite plug-in options available, the active Bass' EQ is redundant. But, if the player insists, I can live with it. 'Tis merely a matter of taste.
     
  16. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    Active preamps are just like anything else. There are good ones-there are bad ones. Personally, it isn't a factor for me when deciding to buy a bass. I plug it in, and if it sounds good, I don't really question 'why?' It seems that people make desicions based on a set of 'guidelines,' (all active basses sound this way. All ash/maple basses sound this way.) when in reality, the only guideline that matters is if it delivers the tone in one's head. Once these are overcome, then one's mind, and ears become open to all the tones available to them.

    I admit, I used to overlook each bass' individual charactor in favor of a set of 'must-have design aspects.' However, what sounds good on paper doesn't always translate to what sounds good in practise.

    Adjectives get thrown around. One person's 'Sterile, clinical or compressed' can be another's 'Clean, clear, tight or focused.' Conversely, one's 'Warm, thick or round' can be another's 'Dull or muddy.'

    I try to remain open minded about every decision. In the end, we don't need to 'choose sides.' We can easily switch basses if one isn't working right in the mix.
     
  17. jkudding

    jkudding

    Apr 24, 2008
    Calgary, Alberta
    Well said NickyBass! Spoken with such diplomatic sensibility :)
    I truly couldn't agree more though. I think we could all learn a thing or two about 'objectivity' from this!
     
  18. topcat2069

    topcat2069

    Dec 2, 2007
    Palm Springs
    Now that I’ve calmed down a bit (the rant was written before I left for school and after a chugged “Rock Star”). When I record I have all my Basses out and in tune, passive and active both. The choice may be determined by the sound or playability. Each bass sounds different from each other and they all feel different. I really don’t have a preference be it active pickup, tone or both, or passive with nothing between the recording system and pickup. It's about what I (the performer) believe will be best for the song I'm about to record.

    ;)
     
  19. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Feb 5, 2007
    Hollywood, CA
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    Obviously there are a lot of different sides to this, and a lot of factors to consider (genre of music, role of the bass in a given song, etc, etc), but the overall impression I have is that a lot of producers and engineers would rather work with a passive bass than an active one. It might be laziness: P-basses are simple and standard, and most engineers will certainly be familiar with something as common as a P-bass, rather than having to figure out how to EQ a particular instrument which might have a particularly high output, or a range of frequency that they're not familiar with. Or they're might be something else to it, who knows. When asked a similar question in an interview, Justin Meldal-Johnsen had this to say:

    GibsonBass: Do you find producers today, favor a passive tone?

    JMJ: Unequivocally. I can't bring in an active bass, and the only one I have anyway (besides an RD, which doesn't really count, in my book) is a Wal, and that is a very unique voice, thankfully.


    (taken from this interview: http://www.gibsonbass.com/justinMeldalJohnsen.php )
     
  20. brianh

    brianh

    Aug 19, 2005
    NYC
    Endorsing: Epifani Amplification

    My Suhr J bass is active and it really records better than just about any vintage J I've used (which is a lot). It's preamp is voiced fairly neutral and it's an exact copy of a jazz bass so there arent' too many other factors in the tone. To my ears I can tell it's active, but in a good way. Needless to say, I also have a plain jane passive Fender J that really has "that sound."

    My F Bass and my Elrick are also active basses and record beautifully. Not quite as well as the Suhr, but both have different characteristics that are fitting for certain things.

    However, the key thing for me is that there is a difference in sound between passive and active (and even a passive sounding active...). It just so happens that most of the people I record with prefer the sound (and definately the idea) of a passive instrument.

    Not that one is better than the other, but when was the last time you saw a guitar player bring in an active instrument?
     

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