Active or Passive for Max Headroom, Low Power Amp

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by LowEndWooly, Jan 5, 2018.

  1. LowEndWooly


    Sep 3, 2013
    This might be a silly question.. but would it be better to have an active (maybe even juiced up with 18v vs. 9v) bass or a passive bass paired with a low power amp?

    I just bought the Ampeg PF-50T and love it. I've had many amps before, tube and solid state, but this thing is definitely one of the sweetest. The only problem is the headroom, since it is only 50 watts. I have an 810, so it can be plenty loud.. but I also want to be able to maximize my clean headroom for any reason. So, without suggesting other amps or cabs (this is strictly a question about an active vs. passive bass), do any of you have any advice? I'm playing with a 2006 Skyline DJ4 with Aero pups (passive) currently, but am planning on building a bass, too.
  2. lowplaces

    lowplaces Got Punch ?

    Dec 20, 2015
    Louisville Kentucky
    I have the same amp. A 20db+ clean boost would be my suggestion.
  3. Warpeg


    Jun 20, 2005
    I'm not acquainted with that particular amp or its gain structure. However, a good compressor would probably get you pretty far.
  4. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    "Headroom" in the input signal is useless if the preamp isn't designed to handle a signal that hot. If you're coming in hot, a compressor might be in order if you don't like preamp distortion. If mild overdrive is your thing (and I like that kind of tone) you should be good to go.

    And HPF/LPF might also help that 50 watts concentrate its power on only useful frequencies.
  5. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010

    I'd suggest a de-de-de-delay to get the stutter effect.

    Congrats on the PF-50. I would say passive is better.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2018
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  6. lowplaces

    lowplaces Got Punch ?

    Dec 20, 2015
    Louisville Kentucky
    My approach to it is achieving
    optimum gain staging.

    Dave Barber of Barber Electronics posted a method of achieving this some years ago on a now defunct forum.

    In the case of the Ampeg pf-50t, start with the amp set dead clean and the master volume as high as it will go, and still delivering a clean tone.

    Then take a High Headroom transparent clean boost and boost your signal to your amp until you start hearing your preamp tube break up. Then back off on the Boost until it's clean.

    The result should be that you'll hear that dead clean tone you started with before the Boost has now increased in volume. And you will need/be able to roll back the master volume to the same volume you started with as a result.

    What you have done is optimized your gain staging/signal from your pickup(s). You have not increased the wattage of the amp of course but you have increased your clean headroom as a result of optimal gain staging.

    I took it one step further and use a Radial Dragster to take the load off of my pickup with good results.

    Here is the Barber article if anyone is interested.

    "How To Cook A Tube Amp" by Dave Barber - Amps Discussions on theFretBoard
    LowEndWooly likes this.
  7. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I came here to post the same thing- if you have an 18V Aguilar preamp with a ton of boost, all it’s going to do when driving a low wattage solid state amp is produce really loud awfulness.

    Also, not all active basses are the same. A Bartolini NTMB preamp with the gain not boosted is generally noticeably quieter then a bright passive Jazz bass for example.
    two fingers likes this.
  8. LowEndWooly


    Sep 3, 2013
    Not sure if it makes a huge difference, but this is not a solid state amp.

    That's interesting about the different preamps, though. What do you think about the Nordstrand, Nolly, or Darkglass preamps?

    I do run a HPF to stop those unneeded and unwanted lows. I run the amp with the master on full and use the gain as a volume. I will try some of the boost pedals, though. Any suggestions on those?

    For what it's worth, the build I'm going to do will have the Nordstrand warm and wooly big blade in the neck with a big blademan in the bridge. I'm not sure if I'll do active or passive.. maybe I'll just do both and throw a switch in there.
  9. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    It does actually. A tube amp can compress and make a pleasing overdriven sound when you slam the input as opposed to creating digital distortion. There’s a limit to everything though.

    I can’t help you on the other questions though. I’ve owned a ton of high-end basses but none had any of those three preamp types, and I only use solid state heads so I’ve never had need of a clean boost pedal. You may be better off creating separate threads for each question in the Pickups and Effects forums.
    LowEndWooly likes this.
  10. 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.

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